Well, so I had filled this post and then wordpress ate it all and digested it so I can’t find it anymore. I’ll try and make it as good as before.
I have been reading articles about why people who have bipolar disorder tend to have difficulties taking their medication as instructed by their doctors or psychiatrists. I find it interesting how often people -and doctors- just put it aside as if the only reason why someone would do that is because they are “stubborn”. I mean the only “good” reason to stop is the side effects right? Wrong. I can say from experience that more often than not the reason is much more complicated than what people think. Yes, the side-effects are a big reason. Yes, sometimes the person IS stubborn. I guess the best way to explain it would be to talk about why I stopped, more than once.
The first time I took lithium I was 12 years old. I could not stand my psychiatrist and my parents, although supportive, did not know a lot about bipolar disorder, much less what it’s like to live with it. I was young, with my life in front of me and I was confronted to a horrible idea. The idea that I had an incurable illness for which I’d have to take pills for the rest of my life. I mistrusted people in general and wouldn’t accept the idea that my brain wasn’t right, that what makes me me isn’t really myself and I can’t control it, therefore I need medication. The dosage was too low and it wasn’t working; since I didn’t know what “working” looked like I just decided that I didn’t need those pills and stopped taking them on my own. The same thing happened again a couple years later.
Later own, when I got really tired of the dark moments and the suicidal thoughts got too hard I decided to seek help again (my previous doctor was only for children so I could not see him anymore). I was put on anti-depressants, which worked to a point, quite surprisingly. I refused to accept that I was bipolar and thankfully the anti-depressants didn’t send me into a full-blown mania, but they could have. Later on though, I decided I was better and stopped going to therapy (it wasn’t the right type for me anyways). The psychiatrist left the city and I was once again left with no doctor. I stopped taking the medication because I had no doctor and they were giving me bad side effects.
Less than a year ago, I finally accepted what I have and decided to start lithium again, with a new doctor. I know that I need them. I hate that I need them. Every night, I am reminded that if I don’t take those little pills, my brain will take it upon itself to make me and other people live hell. And that is hard to accept. But I do it because I’ve seen hell. Because I really, really, don’t want to go back there. But sometimes, it’s hard to remember. You see, when you’re finally feeling good, you’re still bipolar. You know you’re well only because of the pills, but your head is already so full of so many things that you forget that you are sick. You’re so exhausted from just being that you forget to take that one dose. And the next. Because the meds may help, they don’t make it disappear. It’s still so much work, every day, to just stay sane and focus on the right things.
The doctors should understand that. When they ask you why you stopped taking your meds, they shouldn’t judge. They should understand that there is no one magical reason. It’s everything and it’s nothing. And it’s “I don’t know. I just stopped. It felt right”. Because it did.
Healthy Place has an interesting article about it. It’s a great website where you can find information about mental health and in-depth descriptions of mental illnesses as well as blogs and articles written by people who live with them. They also have a Facebook page where they have discussions and you can participate. You should definitely check them out.
And you, do you have trouble taking your medication as prescribed? If yes, why?