Thursday, April 22, 2010

Medication for Bipolar Disorder and TV Shows

Disclaimer - I am not saying people should be forced to take medication. I am talking about my experience with one drug and my objections to how my situation (and part of my life) is portrayed on TV.

I have bipolar disorder.

It's never been formally diagnosed, and I haven't taken an internet test to "prove" it. I just know. It's more than "just" depression.

I started a new medication about a month ago. My doctor said it was anti-seizure, and he wanted to see if it would work on my pain, since my pain is most likely nerve-related, and I'm pretty sure nerves have something to do with seizures. (But I'm not a doctor!)

I asked at FWD if anyone had any experience on it. (I know, I won't look up a new drug, but I'll ask people online. I don't understand it either. I'm weird.) One person said it had been prescribed for their moods, not pain, and it was working. *file info away for later*

It's done zilch for my pain. The last two weeks have been hell, as has the last month and the month before... the pain's getting worse.


It has worked on my mood swings. I saw the prescribing doctor today and I was trying to describe the continued effects and one word I used was "stable" as in, I'm stable. He said that was key, that was very important. It makes me happy to see and feel the results of a medication, particularly a daily one. (I can tell when the benadryl workzzzzzzzz.)

I've been on anti-depressants for a few years, and Clonazepem, which is a something or other.

But this is the first time I've noticed a real change. Actually, I didn't notice until Mom pointed out that I had changed, and then I was like huh, so I have.

Before, it was like... possession. Now, when I get angry or sad, it's organic. (Weird way to put it, it's all in my head anyway.) In 2006, I had my first bout of suicidal ideation. The best term for the thoughts was "alien," even though I still don't fully understand what I meant or what those thoughts meant.

But with my mood swings, the "alien" idea made more sense. A better metaphor is a switch. A switch is flicked, I get so pissed off. Switched again, I don't want to do anything. Switched again, back to baseline. No control. Which got a bit annoying, because I'd be mad at somebody. They'd get mad at me for being mad at them for no reason. Then I'd get mad at them for being mad at me when I had no control over the original anger!

Now, the part about TV. People who have bipolar disorder on cop shows never want to take their medication because it puts them in a fog, or they can't feel anything. (Also, people with "TV schizophrenia" do this as well.)

I can't speak for anyone but myself, because nobody is alike, and no brain is either. You may react to this same drug in a horrible way, I don't know.

I just don't like the dominant storyline that medications for bipolar disorder are inherently bad. One blog post won't dispel the myth, but I really wanted to write this.

Another metaphor - I was the rope in a tug of war, being jerked from side to side. Or I was in my sister's car. Zing!

ETA: Another problem with the dominant cultural storyline is that it leads to fear of medication (again, not pushing it for everyone), fear of even trying it, and assumptions made about bipolar people who do choose medication. Perhaps if the narrative was more realistic, people would be less afraid to admit they have bipolar disorder. I mean, I'm taking a big risk by saying it here. Depression is gradually being accepted, I feel, though some people will say one day, "I understand" and the next tell you to just smile. Sigh.


Meredith said...

I have bipolar disorder, and I agree: the extremes feel like possession. I've always felt that way. Bursts of rage just come out of nowhere when I'm having bad days. Suicidal thoughts feel like someone has hijacked me, like it's not really me, and I know it's not me but I can't do anything about it. Medication has gone a long, long way though. I know it's not for everyone, but it has done amazing things for me, and I know I wouldn't be functioning or having normal relationships (or possibly alive) without it.

Kaitlyn said...

Thank you for commenting, Meredith.

No, really, even if you'd been pissed off because I wasn't formally diagnosed or seemed like I was pushing drugs for everyone, I'd still love the comment.

The only one I'd hate, and the reason I didn't name all the drugs I've been on for moods is a spam bot. Bah.

I'm glad you've gotten some relief through medication. Sometimes it can't be worked through with JUST therapy - it is something else in charge and a part of you is going oh shit, not again, please stop while the rest of you is all tense (sometimes I'd feel like a piano wire, strung real tight, I needed to snap) or whatever and then you do express the mood and whoops, no, mom, you didn't cause this, I can't help it. Sorry?

I can imagine that it's hard to live with, even if you know it's not me, it's something borked in my head. Because after one such bad day, my mom ordered me to be happy the next time she saw me (in 2 days). Luckily, I was just plain happy and goofy and normal. It's all luck.

Wow, that's long.

If you ever come back and don't mind, can you tell me where you found me/the blog? I'm always curious because I can count the real comments in the last year on my fingers.

Evamaria said...

Hi - here via FWD. Just wanted to say thanks for being so open about your positive experience with medication.

I personally have depression and am now on antidepressives, but it took me a while after my diagnosis to get over the 'drugs = bad' thing.

Now I make a point of always being open about it in conversation, because I think it's important to fight the stigma and "normalize" medication as one possible way to deal with mental illness. After all, if someone has a cold, no one thinks twice about suggesting they 'take something'...

arbitrary said...

Dropping in from FWD...

I just don't like the dominant storyline that medications for bipolar disorder are inherently bad.

Oh how I wish this were the dominant storyline. I am very happy for you that you found this medication helpful. But you really should know that there are a lot of people out there, including me, who really are strongly encouraged (and in some cases legally forced) to take medications that we don't like or benefit from, that may in fact do serious harm. I am very happy that I have the legal option to refuse medication, but disappointed that I had to do so on my own and against medical advice.

We mental patients, we are not a unified front, we do not have one view on medication or anything else. I have seen people who got into a rage at information presented against certain meds, saying "but my life was miserable for 10 years before I found that drug!". And I'm looking at the same thing thinking, finally someone is bringing up these issues!, because I was fine for 10 years with the exception of one brief episode, but due to that episode was put on heavy drugs and had a hard time getting off. It really is different for different people, bipolar is not just one thing.

Although the psychiatric paradigm is not fully accepted by all, and although it does have some appeal compared to the unrealistic "just get over it and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" approach, psychiatry can be very dominating once one gets sucked into it. If you're interested in disability rights, be aware that rights of those considered seriously mentally ill are violated routinely and legally.

I don't watch much TV, but on the cop shows, the people with bipolar who refuse their meds usually go crazy and often hurt people, right? That's not a message against meds, that's a message against people labeled bipolar, and it does a massive amount of harm.

I highly recommend the book Mad in America by Robert Whitaker about the history of all this, it's horribly depressing, but well balanced and enlightening.

Kaitlyn said...

Arbirtrary - thank you for your perspective, and the information.

And you're right - the other part of the narrative is that people with BPD must be medicated, or we're like wild animals.

I do remember hearing somebody getting medication they didn't want (I could hear their screams about a shot) and seeing them zoned out later on. (at a psych ward)

I know about the other side.

There needs to be more honest discussion about bipolar disorder from people living with it - people on medication or not.

More information is what we need.

And I'm sorry if I have offended you, that was not my intention, but intentions are meaningless.

Margeret said...

Kaitlyn, I completely agree with your description of the highs and lows as possession. When I am at these extremes, I feel like I have lost control of myself. I have found sites like to be helpful in maintaining some control when going through the manic and depression stages. I hope this is helpful!