Category Archives: mood disorders

Medication – My story

Ok, I promised I would tell a little bit more about myself especially when it comes to medication. I hope I can make this entertaining and worthy of reading.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II at 18. I’m currently 23, so I only have 5 years of the medication trial and error process under my belt. Looking back, I had this disorder early in childhood. My mom used to take me to doctors and counselors because I was depressed, anxious, couldn’t sleep etc… One of them that sticks out more than others was not being able to sleep. I would lay in bed for hours and not sleep. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. I was put on sleep medications and my body would somehow still be awake! Now I realize that I was probably manic. That would have been so nice to know then.

The other thing that stands out was how irritable and frustrated I got. Being a little kid I had no clue what was going on. I just knew that I got angry fast and it had to come out. That got me into trouble a lot. Again, looking back it was most likely due to my disorder. I was either manic or having mood swings that I wasn’t able to handle.

Bipolar never popped into my mind as a teen but depression did. My primary care doctor gave me different anti-depressants. Not being able to stand the side effects she referred me to a physiatrist. At my first appointment I had to relate months worth of experiences. She came to the conclusion that I was Bipolar II. That shocked me but it made all the puzzle peices fit. That’s when my official medication trial and error process started.

After many tries I finally found an antidepressant that not only works but that I can also function on. Since the day I was diagnosed I’ve gotten married, moved and have had a couple different jobs. That’s thrown off having insurance at times which has made my process a lot slower. What I currently need is a mood stabilizer that I can stand and possibly something to supplement my antidepressant.

In 5 years I haven’t given up yet. Surviving the headaches, increased/decreased sleep, zombie like feeling etc of medications is enough to make you want to quit. But when you find the one that actually helps and gives you glimpes of normal that’s when you realize it’s all worth it.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that glimpes of normal might be all I’ll get. I have been completely refined due to having this disorder. I look at the upside, depression makes you stronger and hypomania makes you brilliant.

~CMc~

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Guest Post! A Personal Journey of Treatment – Medication

This was written by one of my readers. We started talking one day and I realized that she has a lot of experience and insight. She was particularly interested in sharing her story of finding the right medications and what a difference they can make;

“After a suicide attempt at age 16, I was diagnosed with unipolar depression. I was on and off tranquilizers and anti-depressant medications, which, along with serious self-medicating, resulted in a couple of other suicide attempts and some really bizarre behavior. After being un-medicated for many years, in my early-30s I was diagnosed with post-partum depression after the birth of my second child and was, once again, put on an anti-depressant (Prozac, which was new at the time). Life was good again. Then I had to stop before I became pregnant with my third child. While I don’t recommend it, and there was next to no information on the subject at the time, I nursed my third child while on Prozac. It got me through the days and nights and allowed me to cope with three young children. Fortunately, my daughter seems to have suffered no ill effects from it, but there is much more information available now and it’s a decision each person must make with their doctor. I was a better parent while medicated than I was when un-medicated.

After a few years of increasingly up-and-down roller coaster moods, I went into peri-menopause. What a nightmare that was! My moods were all over the place and I was so irritable all the time. Really, I was a bitch on wheels. I wanted to say and do inappropriate things. I wanted to run away. Some days, when I was on my way to work, I thought how nice it would be to just keep on driving down the interstate to wherever. I was still on an anti-depressant only but it wasn’t helping with the mood swings. I was getting increasingly irritable, angry, and my spending was out of control. After one particularly bad anger outburst I called a referral service to find a therapist. It felt like I was losing what little sanity I had. I began seeing a therapist but was still seeing my primary care physician for medication. At this point, my doctor told me she thought I was bipolar and added Abilify and low-dose hormones to my anti-depressant. She also suggested I see a psychiatrist. I strongly resisted the bipolar diagnosis and the psychiatrist — for two years. Finally, after having to make an emergency visit to my doctor, I had a serious meltdown. I broke down in tears in her office and she told me she could no longer manage my medications. I was having side effects from the Abilify; although it was working on some levels the side effects were intolerable, and the mood swings were not improving.

What I considered my “so-so mental health” began to become a full-blown mental illness so I took the suggestion of my doctor and got a referral to a psychiatrist. This was very hard for me because I had some terrible experiences with psychiatrists in my younger days. The new doctor took an extensive history and told me that anti-depressants may cause mania in someone with bipolar disorder. That one statement made everything in my life make so much more sense. She changed my medications, put me on a new “drug cocktail” and sent me on my way, telling me to come back in a couple of weeks. The new medications helped, but I was still having manic days which were interfering with my ability to work and manage myself appropriately.

After a month of the new medications, and at my psychiatrist’s suggestion, I agreed to go into an Intensive Outpatient Therapy program at a local hospital. This allowed me to learn skills to manage myself and my moods and, at the same time, have my medications “tweaked” while in a safe environment. During this month-long program I still worked half-days and was able to avoid hospitalization. Through a few hits-and-misses in the medication department, my doctor and I have found, for the moment, a medication regimen that seems to be working very well. I no longer have the crazy, wild-eyed look of someone in manic mode and I don’t have the “doom cloud” hanging over my head. I stopped thinking about death 24/7 and have stopped having debilitating panic attacks. A caring, compassionate doctor along with the right medications (for me) have saved my life. When I look back on all those years when I was mid-diagnosed and treated with the wrong medications, it’s a wonder I made it through raising three kids, going to school and working full time.

It has been a difficult trial-and-error process and not side-effect free, but I am a now a strong believer (a) learning about and accepting my diagnosis (b) taking medications for my illness, and (c) staying on my medications. Therapy and the study of my llness have given me enough insight to know when something isn’t working well. At my doctor’s suggestion I do a twice daily “denta health/mental health” check-up. I learn all I can about my illness and the medications I am on. It’s a never-ending learning process.”


Treatment & Therapies – Medications

Okay here’s the big dog, medication. It’s the main treatment for Bipolar/Bipolar II disorder. Some embrace it, others loathe it and some are still on the fence. Whether you are for or against it, we still need to talk about it.

There are several types of medications that are used for treating this disorder. Mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, anitdepressants and sleeping aids. Let’s touch base on each of them.

Mood stabilizers These are usually the main type of medication prescribed to those with this disorder. They greatly help with mood swings and delay or minimize the up’s and down’s, sometimes both.

Antipsychotics – These help with mania/hypomania. Sometimes they’re only given during a manic episode and sometimes ones are given them to take full time as maintenance. It mainly depends on how severe your mania is which of course varies greatly from person to person.

Antidepressants – These of course help with your depression. Depression is a constant factor with this disorder. When mood stabilizers don’t quite do it with the depression, antidepressants come into play.

Sleep aids – These aren’t typically thought of as a treatment for this disorder. At times however ones experience constant insomnia and these are needed. I’ve talked before about how important sleep is when it comes to stabilizing yourself. So at times sleep aids play an important role.

I’m by no means recommending a certain treatment or drug. I’m just putting all your options out there. However, medication has been key for me personally. I can’t stress how important it is to find the right doctor for you and be open and honest with them throughout the medication process. It seems like a long, hard and never ending journey at times. Soon I’ll talk about my personal struggle with it (I’ll try not to bore you). How is your medication process going?

Tomorrow we will have a guest post. She talks about her personal journey with her disorder and medication. I think you’ll enjoy it.


Treatment & Therapies – Exercise

I apologize for not blogging for a few days! Life happened and I’ve been busy taking care of it. So I should be getting back on track. I wanted to start a series of posts on treatments and therapies for Bipolar/Bipolar II disorder.

Let’s talk about exercise first. I’m going to be honest with you, this is not my strong point. However, this is very beneficial for your overall management of this disorder. When I do have an exercise routine it helps me tremendously. Everyone knows how great exercise is for your health. When you are healthier, everything in your body improves and feels better. Including your mood. So here’s a few ways in which it can help…

Routine of exercise helps with your overall routine. Routine is a big help with managing your moods. So including excerise and having a certain time set aside a few days a week helps concrete your overall routine.

Sleep. Regular physical activity will help regulate your sleep. When I regularly exercise, I actually want to go to bed and it seems like I get a more restful sleep.

Therapeutic. Excerise can be a thereapeutic distraction from problems, worry and guilt. It gives me something to concentrate on and goals to strive for. If I’m exercising outside I find it very peaceful and mind clearing.

Gets rid of excess energy. The added muscle activity helps to discharge your extra energy. When there’s extra energy it sometimes comes out in anger, frustration or hostility. So it’s a great way to get rid of that energy in a more positive way.

When you are in periods of depression exercise can become really hard. Especially since most experience fatigue and lack of energy along with their depression. These are typically the times when I slack off and lose the whole routine. Don’t force yourself or feel guilty during those times. Just do your best and focus on the benefits that you can receive from it.

Currently I am not exercising. So this post has inspired me to get back on track! I will keep you posted on my progress and let you know how it’s helping me. How has exercise helped you? How have you maintained you routine? I want to know!


And More Support

Sorry that I’ve been MIA for a few days. Life has been crazy! Now we’re ready to talk about support you can aside from you family, friends and doctor.

Therapy- Going to therapy is helpful in that you can talk about your issues with a third party. This person is not involved in your life and doesn’t know the people of the circumstances that you talk about. Sometimes this makes it easier to talk to that person. They can help you recognize signs, symptoms, triggers and help you work through it. The more involved you become in therapy the more it can help.

Local support groups- Depending on the area you live in there may be a local Bipolar support group. Your doctor, therapist or your local library may be able to direct you to one. Shared experience is an amazing support. The people that you meet here have had very similar experiences that you’ve had. The benefit of these groups is obvious. If you live in a rural area like me, there may not be a local group. Due to this I’m currently checking into how to get one started up in my area. Has anyone ever had to do this before?

Online support groups- There are a multitude of Bipolar support groups online. There are forums where you can be yourself and discuss your disorder. Many people gain a lot of support and friends by joining these communities. The first place I would check out is at nami.org. They have several support communities, including Bipolar.

So what about you? Have you found support in these areas? How have you benefited?


Your Hand-picked Support System

Do you have someone to catch you when you fall? When you’re Bipolar/Bipolar II you need a support system in place when a manic or depressed episode hits. The great thing about it is that you get to pick your team members! So who do you need and want on your team?

Family– Most likely, some of your immediate family is aware or your disorder and they have seen you go through your up’s and down’s. So by picking a team member from this group is great because they’ve seen you personally deal with it. You can choose your spouse, parent, sibling or any other type of extended family that you’re comfortable with. Be open with them about your disorder and ask them to help you when you’re having any episode. They can also help you watch for mood changes to help you get a heads up on any mood swings.

Your doctor– This is the person that understands you chemically and some what emotionally. You have shared a lot with them so they are in a great position to help you. When having an episode it’s a good idea to have them on your call list. They can go over your symtoms, medications and preventitive measures you need to take.

Friends– At times we have great friends that can help us through thick and then. They like your family can be of great help. They can offer the love and support you need during the difficult times. They again, can also help you look out for changes in your mood.

These were the three main types of support that you can utilize. You have to ask for help in order to get it, so don’t deprive yourself. Your family, friends and doctor want to help you. In my next post I’ll go over a few more areas you can look for support system team members. See you then!

~CMc~


Recognize & Support

Can you recognize your triggers? I admit that I still have a hard time with that. There can be dozens of them and once you have them down, a brand new one sneaks up on you. So what can you do?

I great way to help recognize your triggers is to track your mood. You can do this with a journal or if you go online there are some mood tracking tools available to you. There’s even mood tracker apps for your phone. When you track your mood you need to keep track of several differents things:

Your mood from day to day

Medications- what you took, how much etc.

Daily events- work, school, home life etc.

Over time, tracking these things helps you to a see patterns and changes. You can also possibly pinpoint when you have beenb triggered. Having a more detailed account of the last 6 months is a lot better and easier than trying to think back.

Now that you can recognize some of your triggers what do you do? You need a support system and back-up plan in place. Steps need to be taken to protect yourself during a manic episode. Your job, relationships and finances can be severely impacted during an episode. Take a step back and look at things to see if you can make a couple of changes to prepare and protect you from mania.

What about when you go into depression? What gets neglected the most in your life when depression hits? See if there are some preventative measures you can take here too.

For either mania or depression you need a support system in place. I’ll talk about this next time. In the meantime, how do you recognize your triggers? Do you currently track your moods? Have you taken preventative measures for the up’s and down’s? Let me know!


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