Life Without Mental Health Medications

bipolar, depression, featured, lifestyle, love yourself, mental health, Mental Illness and Recovery, mental stigma, personal development, personal growth, self care

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*

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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 d623ab2de42d17ec1c0ac4153d5bd845.jpgand 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 7d080dcafe04bdd69543a82b4384d31flong 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,
    Namaste
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My Interview discussing Addiction, Bipolar, Stigma and much more with “The OD Movement”

Avoiding Small Talk., bipolar, contribute, featured, guest post, lets talk, mental stigma, new post, personal development, Stop the Stigma; Mental Health., story, your story

It’s no secret that my Bipolar has changed my life in so many ways that I can’t explain it to even my dearest loved ones. But,  when the OD MOVEMENT reached out and asked if we could collaborate on a post about Addiction, Bipolar, Stigma and so much more; I didn’t hesitate twice because I know sharing my experience with people who can relate or need to hear it can save a life.

I was fascinated to find someone I connected with so well. The OD “Open Discussion” Movement is more than just another podcast. They aim to provide a platform where people can share their vulnerabilities and stories with the goal to reduce overdose fatalities. I’m honored to take part in the brilliant, life-changing campaign by sharing my story.

Click the link below if you want to hear my own story and experiences with these topics.
My Interview on OD Movement

I’d also encourage you to check out the website. It could change your life!
Link below:
https://odmovement.com/

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This Is What Taught Me How and Why I Needed To Become The Leader Of My Own Life

anxiety, bipolar, courage, depression, empathetic, featured, inspiration, life changing, lifestyle, mental health, Motivation, New Year Resolutions, personal development, personal growth, self belief, self care, strength, transformation, your story

DSC_0008 (1)Last year around this time, I reflected hard on my year of decisions and memories in 2017 to create a promising vision for 2018 and even hosted a mini party with my sister to create this vision board. I saw that board every morning on the way out the front door. Sometimes it kept me in alignment with the best version of myself, it inspired me. Sometimes I’d blow it off or completely fly by it when we were running out the door.  Either way, it was the first time in a long time that I shifted my habits and did something outside my comfort zone, like holding myself accountable to take action. And to think that this tiny step in holding myself accountable in a fun, creative way (like making vision boards, crafting…)  was just practice for what 2018 had in store for me.

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I’ve had some major shifts in my life, I’m sure you’ve had years like this before too.  They kind of sting and at the same time, provide you with this confidence and deep inner strength that you didn’t know existed before, right? Well, that feeling is what I grew into (or should I say grew from) over the last 350+ days.  Nearly a full year and trip around the sun.
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From the feeling of losing my mind and being petrified that I’d never come back to reality to the epiphany of seeing the larger picture in life and ultimately understanding my mind more, understanding me better. From so many “this is a first” experiences like car crashes, new friends, home invasions, loss of friendships, pregnancy… to the new endeavors, vacations, and adventures that came like planned.   Life keeps shifting as soon as it was about to get comfortable and for the most part, I actually didn’t mind it.

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It was one of the hardest years, I can’t even try to deny that. But it was also so rewarding all at once. It was constant noise, movement, and change and yet I still feel so content, calm and empowered by the end of each hardship or adventure. In summary, 2018 has led me to live my life incorporating one of the many new lessons that I learned. One important one, which is this simple truth:

Life will not always go as planned, fact number one.
Life will not always go your way, fact number two. 
The way you deal with life’s uncertainty is your choice, fact number three.

You will realize when you become the leader of your life that:

1) you’re going to be okay, one way or another during life’s uncertainty

OR

2) life is going to go even better than planned; either by chance or because you have an opportunity to make it better.

I share this because it’s taught me how to battle through the deepest depths of my mental illnesses. It’s helped me step outside my comfort zone and experience growth in such big ways. It’s helped me find like-minded people that help me grow, pushing me to become better. It’s helped me finally take action towards making some of my goals come to life and ultimately, it taught me to be the leader I needed to be in my own life. None of this would’ve been possible without realizing the power of being optimistic, empathetic and positive.  Being positive is much more than presenting a happy face to the world: you need to develop a strong sense of balance and recognize that setbacks and problems happen – it’s how you deal with those problems that make the difference.

eb1cb2a2f74b68c91811ca20c7962b29I hope this year has been easier for you in the sense of hardships or setbacks, but I also hope you had the chance to live the life you envision living and stepping into the blueprint you have for yourself, which requires uncomfortable moments and vulnerability. I believe everyone is capable of extraordinary things and each of us has unique skill sets that set us apart from each other. I hope that in some way, shape or form: you realized that you play a significant part in your life story. Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. It might not always feel like that, but when we become the leaders of our life instead of letting life lead us wherever it wants; we will learn to grow through the pain, not just go through it. On the other side, you’ll see a remarkable, courageous, strong and significant person standing in the mirror that realizes you are capable of anything you put your mind too. 

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