Happy Spring Time!
Gosh, how time flies. I don’t know how I’ve let months past by since I posted last (especially since I love writing and find it so therapeutic). But I guess that’s what a hard pregnancy and giving birth to this beautiful boy that’s pictured below will do. Meet Luke; who has been keeping me rather busy and has me wrapped around his little finger already. *heartthrob*
I thought I’d post an update on what life has been like since I’ve stopped taking my Bipolar and Depression medications. Please know that I don’t ever want to preach that you should be doing the same thing as me. It’s quite the opposite- I respect, value and understand that each and every one of us has our own unique journey as we adventure through life with Mental Illness(es). It’s actually kind of a beautiful thing. But, I’m just here, open and honest, about experiences with my own Mental Health in hopes one less person feels alone and it’s a bonus if you end up relating or discovering even one tidbit of information that can be helpful to you.
If you’ve been diagnosed before with any type of Mental Health Illness, you’ve probably done what most of us do and run to our trustworthy-know it all- friend: Google… to find more information to your questions. When I was first diagnosed, I spent hours on end reading other peoples journey with Bipolar and watching countless YouTube videos. That’s when I eventually learned some people advocated for taking medication and some decided to manage their illnesses without. I truly believe it’s up to each person to decide what’s best for them because there is no right way or wrong way. I do think that it’s equally important to do your research though and become your #1 health advocate too. What I mean by that is to try your best to forget the fear that stigma creates and ask questions when you’re with your doctor, pay close attention to the side effects of your medications and build only the best regime and routine for YOU. We all know that healthcare isn’t a “one size fits all” gig, especially with Mental Illnesses. It takes hard work coming from all different areas in your life that are collectively working together to successfully manage Mental Illness. For example, it’s necessary to look for the doctor that truly cares about their patients and fulfills your expectations. Not all doctors become highly invested in you or your wellbeing and it’s hard not to feel like your relationship with your doctor boils down to being just a name in a file that they reading right before they come into your room for your appointment. It takes time and commitment before finding that doctor who will guide you into finding that right cocktail of medications and/or a routine that works for you.
I learned this after being put on medications and anti-psychotics that made my illness worse. Throughout my life, I’ve tried over 8 depression medications, one mood stabilizer, and one antipsychotic medication. After about one week on a mood stabilizer, I was experiencing hallucinations and that scared me to death so I took those out of the picture asap. I managed 8 months of being on Abilify (my Bipolar 2 medication) before I noticed that my moods and depression had not been any better than before I started medications. In fact, for me personally, I was experiencing psychosis and impulsive traits that I hadn’t ever experienced before. The psychosis features alone scared me. I explained to my psychiatrist that I strongly felt the medication wasn’t working and after monitoring some of my symptoms over the last 8 months, I wasn’t even certain I had been properly diagnosed. After talking some more, she wanted to test me for ADHD because both the disorders have very similar features and are commonly misdiagnosed. But, before I could try something else or continue being tested for ADHD– I was reaching a point in pregnancy where they didn’t have enough research on the long-term effects of taking antipsychotic medications while pregnant and so I was given the option to stay on them or wean off them until after pregnancy. I decided to come off of them.
It was after about two months that I began realizing my moods were becoming much more stable. I still have bad days where my moods fluctuate for no reason. But, I had zero psychosis episodes and bouncing between depression and hypomania seemed to have completely disappeared. My family and friends even began to notice a change in my demeanor and commented that I reminded them of the “old Carrie” or I “seemed happier”. After a few months of being off my Bipolar medication, I began to wonder if my depression medication was necessary. I felt confident about weaning myself off only because I had been focusing on managing my triggers and becoming more aware of what stressors triggered my Depressive episodes. So I slowly weaned myself off that medication as well (Cymbalta). It’s been about 4 months since I’ve been off the medications.
While 4 months isn’t the longest time, I have felt more myself these past 4 months than I have in a long, long time. I was terrified to be off medication because so many people have different experiences and there is always the risk you’ll become worst than you were before. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I was setting myself up for a disaster. But nothing changes if nothing changes, right? I was so scared of what might happen if coming off medication, but I’ve learned a lot too. That fear led me to find the motivation I needed to learn and focus hard on finding my triggers. I discovered more about what I can do to ease a depression episode when I feel it coming on.
Our healthcare system for Mental Health is far better than it was in the past, but we still have a long way to go. If I didn’t spend time buying books and researching data on my own– I’m positive I’d still be on a medication that was worsening my Bipolar disorder instead of helping it. The few steps below are what I’ve learned most recently through my Mental Health adventure:
- Building a support team that will be honest with you is key.
- Advocating for yourself – despite the stigma or feeling less than because you’re not the doctor.
- Getting second opinions from doctors, family, people who can relate
- Doing the research and educating yourself on your triggers and stressors are so important. In my experience, I am easily moved into a depression if I have too much on my plate. Sometimes they’re simple things like If I don’t sleep enough or If I say yes to every invite that comes my way. I realized these things and began to make it my job to work hard at managing them. It’s a daily practice, but it’s my version of self-love and self-care. Getting my nails done and hair done is always a great treat, but keeping my mental health stable is so much more rewarding.
- Don’t feel selfish for taking the time to dive into YOU. After all, nobody will love and care for you better than you can.
Until next time,