I recently answered a question similar to this, but I’m going to answer this one also, because I get variants of this ask quite often and I just want to shout my response from a mountain top until every one understands.
Medication should make things better. My mantra is that the positive effects of medication should balance out the negative.
Since you used lithium as an example, I’ll go with it. I believe the most common negative side effect associated with lithium is apathy, or becoming a “zombie”. THIS IS NOT OK. This is not the desired effect.
If you’re on a medication and you believe it is doing more bad than good, go to your doctor, ask for a change, do something. This is your body, you life and you have to be involved with this. Your doctor counts on you to know when things aren’t working out to a degree, to be honest with them about feelings and side effects. All you have to do is say “I don’t think this is working” they’ll ask why and you can go over what you’ve noticed and more than likely they’re going to say Ok and start going over other options.
I could go on for a very long time about this topic. I’ll rein myself in and get back to your ask Anon. Doctors can’t make you do anything. They can suggest things, but unless you are currently an obvious danger to yourself or others, they’re not going to force you to fill a prescription or inject you with the drugs. That’s still your choice to make.
I’m pro getting a diagnosis if you have the option. In my opinion education is the number one part of any treatment plan, medication or not, the more you know, the better, and that does seem to be your goal and that I applaud you for that.
All the best
So I got this ask from someones account and I answered privately but I felt like it might be helpful to post how I tried to break this down. I’m going to go ahead and put a disclaimer that I know I didn’t even come close to covering everything, but I really did try to put myself in the head space of talking to maybe a seven year old about bipolar disorder.
Well I can try!
Ok everything I’m going to say is in regards to general bipolar disorder and what is typically dealt with. There are many types of bipolar, it effects everyone different. There is no one size fits all.
In this example, We’re going to use a person named Z and also a number scale, from 1 (being the lowest) to 10 (being the highest). This number scale will represent feelings. A rating of 5, right in the middle, is what most people feel all the time, content and pretty happy.
So Z has bipolar disorder. But it’s not as easy to spot as you might think. Z could go weeks, months or even years feeling a “5” in life. But then Z’s mood changes. Sometimes very quickly, sometimes very slowly.
See every one has mood changes. Whether it’s due to life changes, or too much sugar, or a lot of different things, everyone feels different feelings throughout their day and their weeks. For these people these happy moods would rate up to a 7 on our number scale. And the sad feelings might go down to a 3. But then things right themselves out, usually within a few hours or days and they go back to feeling happily content in the middle.
Z is different though. Z’s body chemistry is quite like the rest of these people. So when Z feels sad, their mood can go all the way down to a one, and it can stay like that for weeks or even months, this is called “Depression”. And sometimes Z goes all the way to a 10, and that would be a “manic” or “mania” episode.
Now it’s a little easier to understand why feeling like a “1” would be a bad thing, but why would feeling all the way “happy” not be a good thing? Some times if people get too happy they might get confused between what’s real and what’s pretend. They might do dangerous things because they feel like a super person, like they can’t be hurt.
Like I said earlier, it’s different for everyone. There are different kinds of bipolar disorder. Some people don’t go all the one down to a one or up to ten. For some people the feeling isn’t “happy” or “sad” but something not quite describable or it might even be a lack of any kind of feeling.
Now the good news for Z is that there’s help for bipolar disorder! Z can go to a doctor and talk about how they’re feeling and set up a treatment plan which might involve some medicine and talking to someone once or twice a week about how they’re feeling. Z doesn’t have to deal with these mood swings because they can hurt a lot and really disrupt someones life.
Once Z gets a successful treatment plan going, Z can go on living out their dreams and having a happy and regular life. Because Z is not a bad person. Z is not broken or dangerous or anything negative. Z deserves to live life uninterrupted by this disorder.
I hope this made some sense and please feel free to ask any clarifying or furthering questions you may have! xx Dev
So there’s really nothing special to expect! In my experiences it’s mostly just been talking. They ask you some questions, you give some honest answers, they use those answers to ask more detailed or direct questions, you give more honest answers and they go from there. In some cases they might do a routine physical exam or send you for blood work to rule out some things. I’ve heard some cases when a paper checklist is given to help the elevator head in the right direction. They’ll most likely ask about moods and relationships, if you’ve noticed any patterns in yourself with your moods, family history of illnesses. It really is just usually a bunch of talking and writing.
If they believe you’re in immediate danger they might recommend an inpatient program if it’s believed that you need to be stabilized before continuing treatment. But depending on your age, if you’re going in willingly for an evaluation, this won’t happen. An eval is nothing to be scared or nervous about, it’s a great step towords a proactive treatment plan and I’m very proud of you for taking it!
This is a topic I can not stress enough, THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. You are totally right that after being on two years of medication you should be getting better, not worse or staying the same. While it’s true that medications won’t stop you from ever again having any symptoms, there should be a noticeable difference in a positive direction. My rule of thumb is that any negative side effects from medication should not out weigh the positive they’re doing or create new problems entirely.
I hope you have a doctor that you feel comfortable going to and telling that you don’t believe these meds are working. If you’ve been seeing a psychiatrist regularly and you’ve been being honest and they haven’t noticed these red flags, I would consider finding a new professional support system.
I get a lot of asks from people that are scared to take medication because they don’t want to be a “zombie”. If medication makes you feel that way, it’s not OK. Medication for every day use for mental illnesses should help you along the way to living a “normal”, productive life, not hinder you further.
This is your life and your treatment plan and you should always feel comfortable to bring up issues like this and take charge of your treatment.
I’m sorry you’ve been dealing with this for two years and I hope you get it all sorted out quickly. Remember that the medication game is not an easy one, or a fun one, but in the end it’s a worthwhile one.