I'm Bipolar. Now what?

Not sure what forum this should be in as I’m looking for facts, opiniions and any anecdotes.

Anyway, when to see a doctor today to be screened for adult ADD. Turns out it’s actually bipolar. Great, just what I wanted to hear. But at lest now, after over 20 years of knowing something was off, I’ll get some help for it.

So what kind of meds are we talking? He said I’d get something but not sure what yet. Anyone else have this or know someone that does? What was done for it? Meds, therapy, etc? Is it hard to treat, or have the docs gotten a pretty good handle on this? Will it always be a problem, or is it unnoticeable if properly treated?

Any help on this would be great.

Often it means meds which take a while to get calibrated to work both dosage wise as well as type.

Sometimes this is also combined with ongoing therapy.

It’s variable.

I have epilepsy ,but before doctor told me about it I felt also deprssed and sometimes suicidal and stuff. I’m on medication now and is OK my mood has improved too.Epilepsy by the way sucks big time I passed out many times on the street it feels like I was dying. :eek: Hey! I’m nonpolar :smiley:

Right. Much of what it comes down to is finding out the right meds -for you-. It’s variable. Don’t get overly frustrated, just take what you need to, and communicate with the doc about any side-effects you’re having. Of course, also let him / her know if it’s working or not.

Also, and this is very important… Stay on the meds. Many depressives or bipolars will stop taking meds when they ‘feel better’. This is a big mistake (I know from experience). What you’re taking, you’ll probably take the rest of your life. But hey, it’s a pill… Not a big deal. And believe me, if you’ve knew ‘something was off’ for that long, you’re gonna feel like a million bucks once your meds finally even you out.

Some epilepsy meds are approved to treat bipolar and depression like Tegretol and Depakote. This site has a pretty helpful list of drugs used to treat bipolar.


On a side note may i suggest in addition to meds learn everything you can about bipolar disorder, try finding others who are afflicted on the internet or in some sort of community. My best friend who is bipolar took some medication for a few months which really seemed to “even him out”, for some reason however he ran out of medicine and health insurance and hasn’t been on any medication for it since…however being the bright guy he is he was able to learn as much as he could and communicate with people who knew what he was going through, as a result he has made great strides in preventing and even controlling his bipolar spells.
He is by no means “cured”, but he has a developed a significant amount of control and his quality of life is better for it.

On a day-to-day, practical level, it means you can swim with the Polar Bear Club, and still be a member of the Opus The Penguin® fan club. I’d also go with GPS instead of a compass.

I actually am in the Polar Bear Club. :wink:

Thanks for some suggestions. From what I’ve learned, it looks like Lithium is the most used med. I’ll keep searching for stuff, and if anyone else can think of any advice or things to prepare for, all the better.

I’ve got a bipolar spouse and a kid who is being diagnosed at present. I really like crazymeds.org for info on meds – there’s a messageboard there as well.

Getting stable on meds can take time as other people here have said. Lithium seems to be used less these days. Most people I know are on drugs like depakote or tegretol as a mood stabiliser and/or an atypical antipsychotic such as risperidone or seroquel. My husband was stable very quickly on a small dose of depakote and has remained stable for 2+ years now. My kid’s been a total nightmare to medicate and we’re still not there by any means with him. Compliance with meds and being educated about your meds is really important IMO.

Therapy can be useful as an adjunct.

It means that you wish to have sex in both the Arctic, and Antarctic regions. :smiley:

It means you’ll be on a medication for the rest of your life. Like diabetes, bipolar affective disorder can’t be cured. It can only be managed.

Lithium carbonate was, last time I checked, the most common med used to treat manic depression. If that’s what you’re prescribed, watch for any side effects (and tell your friends to do the same) during your first few weeks. With lithium, the standard dosage isn’t that far below the amount required for overdose. You’ll also want to carry plenty of water or other low calorie beverage. Cottonmouth is a very common side effect.
If you have some problem with your medication, talk to your doctor! NEVER stop taking a medication without consulting with a doctor. Many manic depressives decide that ‘I’m better now and can handle myself without pills’ or ‘I miss the highs’ and stop taking their pills. This often leads to spending sprees that eat up money needed for little things like rent and food. Of course, when you’re manic you don’t worry about these minor details. Then, a depressive phrase hits and may bring another suicide attempt. Then, the psychiatrist has to spend another month or two slowly building up the dosage. Stay on your pills.

On the downside: Different doses are effective for different people, and different variations on the medication are successful with different people, so there’s a little bit of trial-and-error at first, with doctor supervision. And, as others have noted, you may not be the best observer of your behavior, so if your friends tell you that you’re too easily aggravated (for instance) LISTEN to them. Once you’ve got the mix that works for you, you’ll need to see a doctor regularly, and have blood tests every so often to ensure that medication levels are right.

On the upside: this is a chemical imbalance that causes significant behavioral problems, and is easily solvable. My wife has been on various medications for bipolarity for about 25 years, and her life turned around completely once there was succcessful diagnosis and medication. She’s productive, creative, and happy. She’s able to make and keep friends (when she was manic, she’d drive friends away). So, be hopeful.

ASIDE: Yeah, this probably doesn’t belong in GQ, but I’m deliberately leaving it here so you’ll get (we hope) more facts.

Decreased libido is a common side effect of some drugs. However, just because a medication lists ‘sexual side effects’ does not mean that you’ll have them, or that they’ll be negative.

I remember a discussion specifically about sexual side effects when besides the negative effects, one man mentioned that his current meds meant he would only have an orgasm if he really tried. He was quite happy about this as it meant he could have sex for hours.

First off get a second diagnosis and maybe even a third. Doctors are human and before I trusted anyone’s expertise that I belonged in a specific category of the constellation of metal disorders I’d damn sure want confirmation.

Out of curiosity I always thought the set of behaviors typically associated with being truly bi-polar were a lot more involved than those attached to being ADDish, although distractability is common to both. What makes him (or you) think you’re bi-polar. Do you really have huge, out of control mood swings?

I was diagnosed bipolar in 1994. I was treated for chronic deprssion 7 years before that, lithium carbonate changed my life.

Avoid quacks that presrcibe meds and don’t ecourage therapy. Depending on drugs alone is a bad idea in general, accept that drugs are only a crutch. Find a therapist that will help you learn to “think” yourself out of conflicts: i.e., depression, mania.

If you drink, now is a good time to stop. Alcohol works against most psychiatric meds and will also incite mania on its own. Besides, drinking doesn’t make you any smarter or more attractive.

Take a look at Bipolarworld it is a website with a variety of good information and it has a message board with some experienced members, I post there frequently.

If you want, please feel free to email me with any questions

I was diagnosed “manic-depressive” (the old name for “bipolar”) in 1980 before being diagnosed schizophrenic in 1982. Over the long haul of decades, bipolar is probably a more accurate descrip, but:

• Both diagnoses, like all psychiatric diagnoses, are made on the basis of observed and reported behaviors. They don’t do labs. Therefore it’s significantly more subjective than diagnoses made w/regards to medical conditions that can be lab-tested for.

• To be charitable to a profession I dislike: I think psychiatry has, over the last century, observed the general catchall category " people whose behavior is weird or disturbing to us or themselves", subtracting from that category phenomena such as tertiary syphilis or epilepsy once we understood those things, and the behavior they’ve observed does tend to fall into nichelike categories – it isn’t just “any weirdass behavior that need not resemble any other weirdass behavior”, although [charitability momentarily off] if you disturb people with weirdass behavior that doesn’t smoothly fit these niches you’ll still run a heavy risk of acquiring a psychiatric diagnosis [/charitability momentarily off]. Whatever else I could say about them, I will acknowledge that they’ve tried to make sense of the phenomenon of disturbing behavior, their field was born in an era where ambitious and optimistic faith in scientific medicine yielding cures and answers was waxing strong, and their generalizations, as reflected in their diagnostic categories, have a lot of validity as generalizations, i.e, these patterns, as opposed to random weirdnesses, do exist.

• Slapping a label on something is not the same as understanding it. This is a gripe I have with medical practice in general but it’s particularly pervasive in psychiatry. A pattern is noticed. Good, patterns are how we start to understand things. Creating categories. And categories require names. “Schizophrenic”. “Bipolar”. “Paranoid”. “Depressive”. But doctors know damn good and well that the general public thinks of a diagnosis as an explanation for the symptoms: I have ulcers and that’s why my stomach hurts sometimes. Psychiatric diagnoses are like saying to someone who comes in complaining of their stomach hurting, “You have gastritis”. Gastritis is not why your tummy hurts, it’s a restatement of the fact that your tummy hurts. Bipolar means that your moods swing from elation to depression. It’s not an explanation. They don’t know why. They wish they did. They are immersed in research. They have a better idea of the mechanism than they used to (i.e., what changes in neurochemistry correspond to and are necessary for the bipolar experience to occur). Cause? Nope, not yet.

• [/charitability]. They are reductionistic. They have for a long time now assumed that all of these constellations of behavior-and-feelings patterns are caused by something physiologically wrong with the brain in the medical sense: neurochemistry, neurostructure, congenital defects in the brain due to genetics, whatever. They have no evidence for this. They are doctors, not sociologists, not philosphers, not counselors – body-based pathology is what they do. But heck, the box of behavioral/feelings disorders was full of stuff in 1900 and the patterns that were observed and eventually traced to body-based problems (e.g., syphilis and epilepsy as I mentioned before; hypothyroidism; vitamin deficiencies; etc) have generally been removed from the box, leaving them with “that which is not yet understood”. (A latter-day nominee, Alzheimer’s Disease, is still often dealt with as a psychiatric disorder – no telling whether or not it will continue to be categorized as such if a solid pharmaceutical cure is found or not). Bipolar doesn’t have the same astonishlingly long history that schizophrenia has as an Unsolved Phenomenon, but it’s been in the box for awhile. You should question the premise that the often-observed feeling-and-behavior pattern called “bipolar disorder” has jack shit to do with the brain or nervous system being messed up. All they know is that there are some correlations. (Of course there are. The brain is where you feel and think things and it’s made of neurons. But saying that’s an explanation is like saying the local condition of your neurons is why you like to read the Straight Dope).

• Their pills tend, in general, to be somewhere between “less than entirely benign” and “brain poison”, although for some folks there are positive tradeoffs. The general experience of mental patients seems to range from “wow, this saved my life, I can cope with things again” to “I’d rather be dead and I’ll either kill you or kill myself if you try to force me to take that shit ever again”. Lithium carbonate does very little permanent brain damage but does have a high propensity for screwing up your liver and possibly your kidneys – the therapeutic dose is very close to the toxic dose. Other psych drugs to which bipolar folks are exposed are more likely to do various kinds of brain damage. The pharma companies that do psych meds constantly come out with new ones, and every generation of new meds is touted as free from nasty side effects, permanent and otherwise, and then a few years down the pike it turns out it just ain’t so. All of them are designed to intervene in neurobiochemistry, and all of it is geared towards research on symptoms since there is no real understanding of underlying cause. Some of us think that the pills muffle the symptoms therefore extending the cause by virtue of the fact that you are given less reason to make changes that might ameliorate the causes, whatever they may be.

• Some bipolar people do function without psych meds. You wil hear otherwise. You will hear that bipolar folks in their “manic” phase want to go off their meds and soon get into trouble. You will be told that it’s always a mistake for bipolar people to go off their meds. Well, you made it this far, didn’t you? There are others who have chosen to do life without psych meds despite the roller-coaster careening. They feel more “authentically who they are” unmedicated and learn to cope (a support group of other folks who know what it’s like REALLY helps).

• It’s your body, your brain, your life, and ultimately YOUR RIGHT TO DECIDE these things, an unalienable right even if not sufficiently recognized and protected in most places. If we’re intrinsically biologically different, we have the right to be respected in our difference, including the right to be proud of it and the right to go untreated. If we’re handicapped or disabled by it, we have the right to choose the least restrictive accomodations and to be granted access to societal participation based not on the extent to which our disability can be hidden away but rather the extent to which we can nevertheless participate. If we have a medical condition, we have the right to make informed decisions as adults, meaning that the decisions rest in our hands until and unless we commit crimes or are found to lack fundamental decision-making capacity, and that we have the right to make decisions that are not necessarily the ones our doctors, relatives, or other concerned folk think are the ones we ought to be making.

• Coercion still exists. Learn up on it. You’ve been officially called one of us now. Forced psychiatric incarceration and treatment is still a reality in most of the world and changes are you’re vulnerable to the possibility of it. Make contact with your local mental hygiene legal services organizations in case you ever need to contest forced treatment/incarceration. Find out what you do and do not have to report about yourself on forms and applications if and when they ask if you’ve ever been a recipient of mental health services or received a mental illness diagnosis.

I have to agree with everything AHunter3 said. I was going to write about the horrors of modern psychiatry, but I’ll share a story instead…

In the summer of 2000 I was diagnosed as Bi-Polar. Up to that point I had been depressed most of my remembered life, but I had never attempted suicide. In February of 2000 I lost my job, and had racked up 12 involuntary hospital stays. Around May of 2001, I was still unemployed because the medication made it VERY difficult to work, and during a suicide attempt, and officer stopped me and I attempted to kill the officer (something I would NEVER have even thought of before then or since). I was sentenced to “a period not to exceed one year” in a state run mental hospital. It was actually 4 months, but when the judge gave his order I felt like killing myself again. Anyway, I was unemployed and refused SSI until May of 2004. I am now OFF of the medication and haven’t had suicidal thought in 6 months. I am working again (although the job sucks), and I can think clearly again. I still get depressed, and VERY angry (the anger is began occurring while on Paxil and Seroquel).

So there you have it. I would like to re-mention that Bi-Polar does NOT have a cure, and there is NO medical test to confirm you have it (EVERY other medical condition can be diagnosed with x-rays, blood test, biopsy, autopsy, etc.). If you chose to try medication, be prepared to try A LOT of medications. My last count was 23 different medication (not at the same time) and none of them made me feel any better (some made me MUCH worse).

The one thing I can suggest is a journal. Make notes about your mood, medication, dosages, appointments, etc. I wish I had kept a better account of everything I went through, since the medication has caused me a severe loss of memory. I have also lost a lot of concentration and my ability work in the field I trained for is gone (Mechanical Engineer).

Oh and if you do research, don’t only visit the sites that promote psychiatry. Make sure you read the information about the dark side too.

Take everything your told with a grain of salt, and don’t believe anyone that says the medication is not addicting or habit forming (IMO anything with withdrawal symptoms is addicting). And question anyone that tells you that the new medication is proven, or doesn’t cause side effects. Doctors also like to tell people how Bi-Polar functions, with lost of stuff about neurochemistry and how blocking the uptake of serotonin is a good thing. Don’t trust them either, NO one knows what causes Bi-Polar, or the best way to treat it, although there are many THEORIES about it.

The best medication I have found, happens to be illegal in the US, but pot does make me feel much better when I’m really down (or maybe I just don’t care if I’m depressed?). I don’t smoke it anymore because I really don’t want to be put back in another hospital.

So, about 4 years after I was diagnosed, I’m left with a memory that doesn’t always work, a severe anger problem, and a crappy job that pays about 50K a year less than I used to make. The choice is yours, but if I had things to do again, I would tell my first doctor what he could do with his diagnosis.

I happen to know of such a person. He writes a wrestling column, but talks about a lot more than wrestling, and a lot about his disorder, meds he’s taking, siccing (sp?) OSHA on employers who thought differently about mental health issues than physical ailments, etc. You may want to read through some of his past columns and see if there’s info there that can help you. He’s posted letters that he’s gotten from other sufferers and his responses, so I think that he’s the kind of guy that you can write to with questions. Everything that I know about being bipolar I’ve learned from reading his columns.

His name is Eric Szulczewski and he writes a column for this website once or twice a week.

You can look through recent columns here: http://www.411mania.com/wrestling/columns/

At the bottom of that 2nd link is a link for older columns. Unfortunately, this site is laden with popus and banner ads.

I agree with KillerKatt about any doctor who tells you not to worry about side effects. Any competent, honest psychiatrist will tell you what side effects to expect and any serious side effects that mean you should immediately stop the medication.

Some of the medications are physically addictive. The company that makes Paxil denied that it was addictive until the FDA forced them to admit it. Now they have a misleading disclaimer. However, my psychiatrist (and from what she told me, plenty of other shrinks as well) knew this the whole time. She simply tapered patients off Paxil rather than simply stopping it.
Liz Spikol of the Philadelphia Weekly does a column that is often about being bipolar. www.brainsoap.com

There’s also a mailing group for Dopers who suffer from depression. I know it goes by the name of Cecil’s Place. I’ll post the details when I get them.

I’d run a mile from any doctor who claimed there were gonna be no side effects from meds. A journal is a fantastic idea – I’ve just had to pick back through 4 years of meds and side effects using memory (hah) and old emails. Sucked and it is not accurate, even remotely.

I used the word compliance in my previous posts. To clarify what I really meant was if you decide to use meds, then don’t bugger around with them. Either be properly medicated or choose not to medicate. When your blood levels are all over the place, it can be a nightmare.