Medications do not “cure” bipolar. It is a chronic condition. There is no cure. Meds, however, do provide a tool that you can use to do the kind of self-work necessary to manage bipolar symptoms and improve quality of life. As I mentioned previously medications are a part of my treatment plan, as well as regular therapy, a consistent sleep routine, diet, exercise, and the avoidance of known stressors and triggers.
As for living with side effects, they are no joke. Generally speaking, in treating bipolar symptoms the medications are going to inhibit neural function. This has led, for me, in the past, to issues with verbal intelligence as well as the (mercifully brief) development of a stutter. We are always weighing the inconvenience of the side effects with the effectiveness of the meds and making little tweaks here and there.
It can be very difficult to get meds dialed in. Sometimes meds that have worked for a long time seem to stop working. Sometimes side-effects become more problematic and changes in meds and/or dosages are necessary.
I often feel like something of a guinea pig. It is as if we are just throwing things at the bipolar and seeing what works. This is normal. In a way we are. Different combinations of different meds work differently for different people. There is no one size fits all treatment. I’m not saying it isn’t frustrating, but it is normal, and it beats the heck out of the alternative.
Recently I had a med change. We took a medication that I had been taking only in the evening and both increased the dose and started having me take some of it in the morning and evening. This particular med change provides a perfect glimpse into what this routine looks like, as an interesting new side effect developed with this med change.
I wake up at 6:00 every morning and take my morning meds at 6:30. What I have noticed with this med change is that I become incredibly drowsy right at 7:30 every morning after I have taken it. This lasts until about 8:30 and then vanishes as quickly as it came.
This is aggravating. I am a morning person generally am at my most productive around 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning. Obviously if severe drowsiness hits at 7:30 I’m not going to be able to get anything done around that time. But I have also noticed that from 8:30, when the fog of drowsiness lifts, until nearly bedtime my quality of life is considerably better.
Being drowsy right at the time you are used to being your most productive is, to put it mildly, an inconvenience. However, the improved quality of life for the rest of the day more than makes up for it.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what life with bipolar meds is like. It is a consistent trade off.
The hope is that each trade is worth it.