Bipolar types, how do you manage it?

I’ve tried meds and, frankly, I don’t like they way they make me not-feel. I’ve given up on them and have instead been able to manage the roller coaster by eliminating a couple major stressors and by dissecting my “natural” response to situations, deciding whether the reaction is appropriate, and then proceeding accordingly. And I’ve also noticed that I can largely avoid deep depression if I refuse to allow or encourage a manic state. All in all, it’s an effective approach as long as I accept that I will always endure the crippling “high-energy, low mood” state in January.

Basically, I refuse to get worked up emotionally and thereby avoid mania, which in turn generally precludes depression. The downside is that I’ve had to deny anything that could build my self-esteem. If I get to feeling too successful, I’m terrified it will balloon into grandiosity and thence into a public & belligerent manic episode that will either destroy my career or cement it’s success. I’m not delusional at the moment so I’m reasonably certain the latter effect isn’t too likely.

So what do you do? Anyone here skilled at triggering mania and surfing it to success? What do you maintain an awareness of to make sure your life stays under YOUR control and not your disroder’s?

I exercised a lot. Seriously. I haven’t had issues in a few years now even, but getting on a treadmill seemed to really work at dealing with the excess energy and kept me from bouncing off the walls. When the anxiety hit it also helped because running seemed to satisfy the “fight or flight” emotions too. I was mostly hypo-manic only extremely rarely suffered from depression. But when I did, it was in a “mixed” state (sucks, unbelievably!) Exercise definitely helped along with cognitive behaviour therapy to maintain awareness of my state and monitor my behaviour.

Now I adhere to a regular exercise regimen, and it’s had a strong body-strong spirit-strong mind kind of effect. An exercise regimen is also controlled and disciplined, so I no longer get flakey urges to do something impulsive (well, okay, I get the urge to be flakey, but I now longer feel I need to fulfill them). The excess energy is channeled into something predictable and regimented, with postive effects and predictable outcomes.

Although I’m more likely to throw the “schizophrenic” diagnosis around (hey, it’s more lurid :D), the first time I was placed in the looney bin my dx was “manic depressive” which is what is now called bipolar, and over the long haul it probably more accurately describes me (although I’ve been pretty schizzy on some specific occasions).

• I think that the threat of involuntary psychiatric intervention plus my anger at the coercion tactics used there work together in my head to make me really determined to accept whatever emotional content my brain dishes out.

• Like you, I can’t stand being emotionally castrated by psych meds.

• The whole manic thing is difficult to explain… I don’t know if this will be at all true for you or not, but it seems to me that the really INTENSE!!! stay up all night writing 14 pages of STUFF and then running around missing classes in order to show everyone what I’d written, etc, times, when everything seemed like an earth-shattering revelation that was gonna change the world for everyone like RIGHT NOW!!! … that I had to give it its head, believe it, care about the content, and then explain to myself that the only way to handle this kind of head is to retain an awareness of the possibility that I was stark raving NUTS; but also when I could not seem to get any kind of communications traction with other people, to similarly retain an awareness of the possibility that I really had a phenomenally important idea or concept here. Perhaps one that was more difficult to communicate than I realized. Do you see that there are two disclaimers in there? They kind of worked like ballast. They dampened out the absolute extremes of my fervor and my frustration.

I think that as I got older, a lot of the central content got worked out, got put into words, with less and less of it all bottled up and fizzing over at 3 AM onto hand-scribbled “Earth Shattering Missives”.

• I am less prone to the really dark depression as a short-term follow-up from a manic moment. Sort of a desperate and very frustrated ready-to-scream emotional state, YES, but not black depression. I get the bad dark moments at other times and usually triggered by a failure to have a good time or even by seeing other folks have a good time in a way that makes me jealous or makes me feel left out. (I’m kind of haunted by one negative vision of myself, one in which I’m permanently and profoundly broken or have a piece missing, as much so as with a sociopath, so that I have never and will never really connect to other people, will always be an outsider, etc; and in my really dark moods that’s what eats me). I don’t have a good cure for it except distracting myself, getting all OCD about some activity or project enough to get all wrapped up in it, and that’s not always easy to pull off.

I’m new to being bipolar, but I’ve found lamictal very helpful, with pretty much no side effects. Of course, I’m “soft bipolar” and more depressive than manic. I’ve found managing my sleep by making my room as dark as possible has really helped. I’ve been reading stuff by Jim Phelps in both his book and his website ( that have been helpful regarding exercise and how the particular type of blue light from tvs and computer monitors can affect bipolar.

I’m Bipolar II, so I don’t have such massive manic episodes. I get hypomanic sometimes, but more often than not I’m depressed.

Lamictal is okay, but my husband and I are trying to conceive and I told my doc that I didn’t want to risk any medication related side-effects. Even though Lamictal is “safe” it’s still a drug and still has risks.

I’m not on anything right now, and I’m having some real issues with depression. But I’m working on thinking good thoughts and staying grounded. Exercise helps, too, as mentioned above.

My husband uses ECT ( Electroconvulsive therapy). Although I don’t recommend it for everyone, his mania is quite severe and this type of therapy works wonders.

Let me get this straight…you have a severe, potentially life-threatening illness, which is easily treatable via medication, yet you refuse to take medication because you don’t like the minor side effects?

If you were diabetic, would you refuse insulin because you’re afraid of needles? If you had high blood pressure, would you refuse beta-blockers because they make you dizzy when you stand up?

My advice to you is to STOP MAKING EXCUSES for yourself and take your meds like a good boy. Stop acting selfish and take some responsibility for the hand life has dealt you. Remember, mental illness does not just affect YOU – it affects your family, your loved ones, and all the people who care for you. (Oh, and that “feeling” you get when you take meds. It’s called feeling normal. It only feels strange to you because you’re not used to it.)

Oh great, the master speaks. :rolleyes:

Yeesh, fuzzy.

You seem rather … aggressive and grandiose. Do you take meds? Self monitor? Deny your own issues?

Know why I didn’t hang a roll of toilet paper in the OP? Because I wasn’t inviting anyone to take a dump in the thread. Please do us both a favor and re-read the OP and then decide whether you have any 1st hand experience with reclaiming your life through force of your own will, or else go find the thread where someone’s singing the blues. What I’m asking for is really no different from starting a thread asking about different configurations for motorcycle exhaust systems.

Fuzzy - I had simmilar side effects from an anxiety med once, and, let me tell you… it’s not some minor side effect. It’s like going from watching TV in HD and color, to fuzzy and black-and-white. We’re not talking about about some minor relief from strong feelings, it’s a soul-crushing deadness to your feelings. It would be panic-inducing, if that emotion wasn’t dampened, too. It’s a scary experience to someone who’s used to having strong emotions.

To use your diabetic example, it’s more like you’re diabetic, and you don’t like to take your insulin because you’re allergic to the metal in the needles, and it gives you a horrible, painful rash, and makes breathing difficult. It’s easy to feel it’s just not worth it.

It also explains why so many people who are bipolar, esspecially those who have stong manic phases, go off their meds. On the one hand, you have lack of emotion, on the other hand you have a shot at a high-energy creative phase. Yes, intelectually, you know that you’re going to have a horrible drop-off once it’s over, and you’re probably going to do some stupid stuff while you’re in it, but it’s hard to remember that when you think about all the stuff you got done last time…
Inigo - I’d like to congradulate you for trying! I’ve been “that friend who always listens” to a good friend of mine who’s mother (who is bipolar) has decided to reject modern medicine (It’s a long story, and not mine to share). She’s decided she doesn’t have bipolar anymore, because she’s taking “natural herbs.” It’s been a miserable few years of late night phone calls, sudden cross-country drives, and unpredictable behavior. She, too, had trouble with a lot of medications, but that was better than this. Let me tell you, from second-hand experience, not doing anything is the worst possible choice (Except possibly her last three children - apparently her symptoms went away while she was pregnant, which is why she went for those three). My personal thought, FWIW, is to keep working with the docs to try to find a med that works for you, and start on a good exercize and diet regimine. If you can convince your doc that it will help, s/he may be able to swing meetings with a dietician or physical therapist as “medically neccesary.” They’ll be able to help you more than anyone here will on developing (and maintaining!) a health regimine that will work for you. I’ve also read about CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) being helpful (although, of course, not a cure-all) for those with bipolar.

Good luck. You’re on a tough road, and I don’t envy you, but you’ll make it work.

My take on it, which was with ADHD, is 1:Look only to God and His Love to cure you (He may do it through Dr’s and meds, but it is God, not the Dr’s or the meds.). 2: Pray about the condition to God, tell Him what you want. 3: If you get no immediate answers continue to do what is reasonable, including talking to the Dr’s about different medications, etc. 4: Have faith that God is working on it and waiting for His perfect timing.

The side effect is not feeling, which some might equate with not being alive. That could lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts as what it the point of living.

‘Not feeling’ is NOT NORMAL

I first became bipolar in 3rd grade. The ups and downs didn’t last very long and it wasn’t until I knew what was happening to me that I knew what had happened to me. I went through a long time where my moods would change and then my mind would find a reason for me to feel the way I was feeling. If I was suicidal my mind would tell me it was because I had broken up with some girl two years ago. I finally realized my changing emotions had very little to do with what was going on in my life. Now I just try to be who I am despite how I feel. I take my meds, because they do help, despite the fact that they are far from perfect. Inigo, have you considered taking a lower dose of medication? My doctor into allowed me to change my dose to about 25% of what is considered normal. It was enough to keep me functional but not enough to turn me into a zombie.
As far as triggering mania and riding it to success, I’d say that is a bad idea. Manipulating your emotions requires you to have control of your emotions. Plus when you are manic you lack judgment. Are you riding the manic wave to success or disaster? You might not know until it is too late.
You might want to try a three-pronged approach to the problem. Keep your emotions in check. Live a healthy lifestyle. Take small amount of medication.
Whatever you try, I hope things work out well for you. --figure9–

Well, excuse me for speaking out when I see someone exhibiting irresponsible and potentially dangerous behavior. It’s true, you have the legal right to decide whether or not to be medication-compliant, and it’s probably true that you’re not in crisis right at this moment. But it’s a little disturbing that your OP seems to be seeking justification for your behavior, especially when you drop in lines such as, “I’m terrified it will balloon into grandiosity and thence into a public & belligerent manic episode that will either destroy my career or cement it’s success.”

Perhaps I’d feel differently if I didn’t know several people, including close relatives, who refused to take responsibility for their physical or mental disorders, and ultimately wound up on permanent disability or even killed themselves. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I wasn’t reading daily emails from my cousins about my uncle, who’s been extremely depressed for several weeks, yet he refuses to stay on his meds because they give him a tummyache – as a result, his kids have had to move back in with him, sacrificing time from their own lives, because they are afraid to leave him alone. Perhaps I’d feel differently if my diabetic stepfather had followed his doctor’s advice regarding diet, exercise and medication, instead of blowing it all off for years – now he’s on dialysis, and just last week had half of his leg amputated after he nearly died from septic shock.

On the other hand, I’ve witnessed tremendous success stories by people who have overcome their mental challenges, and have become well-adjusted and productive citizens. The difference? They stayed on medication! Yeah, sometimes they complain, like you do, about how they miss the extreme highs and lows, just like I sometimes complain about having to monitor my salt intake. Let’s face it – normal life can be boring as fuck. But there’s comfort in normalcy, once you get used to it.

Remember, mental illness is especially pernicious because it directly affects your brain. Mental illness distorts your perception and judgment. Therefore, you cannot always count on yourself to make appropriate decisions, especially if you eschew medication. You say, “I’m not delusional at the moment,” but seriously – if you’re wrong, how would you know?

Think about it.

The point is that this thread was not the appropriate place to make that remark. The topic isn’t “How do you think other people should deal with their disorder?” but how YOU do.

If anything, your response makes it more likely that other people who do not choose traditional medical treatment will not feel safe to respond. I know I wouldn’t.

Far better would have been to PM the person you thought was in trouble, or even start your own thread.

And I hope I’m not as guilty as you by bothering to respond.

I’m glad **fuzzy **didn’t say anything about my post.

I’m not medicating right now because I’m trying to conceive. Yes, I’m bipolar. No, I’m not on medication, even though in the majority of pregnancies, the meds I was on are safe for pregnant women. But I don’t want to risk it if/when I get/got pregnant. I’m taking my prenatal vitamins, exercising, and preparing myself every other way for a child. I’m carefully monitoring my emotional state. I see my therapist regularly so she can detect major (dangerous) changes. I am not afraid to go back on meds if absolutely necessary, but I’d rather not.

Is it irresponsible and dangerous for me to consider my unborn child’s health? Selfish of me to want to do everything I can to have a healthy child?

I have been doing okay lately (not perfect, mind you, but okay) and my therapist agrees. Behavioral therapy, observation, talk therapy and such can regulate bipolar (especially bipolar II). It won’t cure it, but I’m not dangerous. And I know I’m not the only one in the world who is being effectively treated without medication.

Fuzzy, thank you for your concern. Really. I don’t mean to throw your sincere and reasonable suggestions back in your face. I’m not going back on the candy, and the mental exercises I run myself through are successful at keeping my keel fairly even. Frankly, it’s qute satisfying to be able feel the swing coming on and to be able to fight it. Imagine being at the mercy of a bully your entire life and then one day discovering that you can kick his ass, or at least fight him off.

And thanks to everyone else for your input. Exercise & diet I know are huge things I can do.

Serenata67, I am sincerely curious as to why you are willing to risk having a child that has bipolar disorder.

This is an unfair question to ask. Does your family have a history of anything? Heart disease? Diabetes? Poor vision? My guess is yes. Every family has something scary that runs in it, if we followed your line of thinking, the whole human race would likely disappear. :confused:

Wow - there’s a lot of ignorance in this thread!


I have no idea about you or your personal circumstances; however, to follow up on your example - I personally know 3 type 2 diabetics that manage their disease through diet and exercise specifically so they don’t have to take the medications associated with that disease. I see no reason, whatsoever, that someone with bipolar disorder could not try the same. It doesn’t mean that it will work, but it certainly seems reasonable to try.

Each of the bipolar people in this thread that have indicated that they are not currently taking meds have indicated they are doing something else to manage their disease. While not 100% effective, being somewhat self aware about your own mental state can be very helpful for people with mood disorders - particularly those that tend towards depression (rather than mania).

Finally, this:

is spectacularly ignorant. Are we to assume, by-tor that you council every person you know who has a family history of mental illness either not to conceive or to abort? How about Downs syndrome? Do those babies get a pass because they will have unique challenges, or should they be given the axe as well? What you’re talking about is eugenics, and frankly, it’s a rather ugly topic to bring up to a woman trying to conceive. I assume as I have a family history of diabetes, hypothyroidism and near-sightedness, I shouldn’t have conceived the baby I’m currently carrying either.

The difference is, for the most part, a sudden spike in blood sugar is not immediately dangerous. A diabetic who experiences sudden changes in his condition usually has plenty of time to reach his doctor, and talk out a new strategy which may or may not include medication.

Bipolar is a different story. Yes, bipolars often experience long periods of remission, but when it strikes – whammo! And it strikes so hard and fast, the person doesn’t always have time to realize that he’s in big trouble, even if his friends & family are screaming at him to seek help again. Remember, a person stuck in a manic/depressive cycle cannot, by definition, think reasonably – that’s the tragedy of the disease, and the major factor which separates it from physical maladies.

I’d recommend the movie Boy Interrupted for a close-up look at bipolar disorder. Be warned though, it’s a powerfully emotional film.

Don’t assume anything about me alice_in_wonderland. I was simply pondering a matter that like it or not has ethical, philosophical and possibly real world implications. I was not and am not counseling anyone to do anything. And your assumptions about my ignorance on this matter are false.