Happy Days Halloween Fans, welcome to ‘How to Manage and Understand Bipolar Disorder: Withdrawal.’
I would love to say good morning Halloween Fans, but I have not been to sleep yet! After a semi-successful experiment in withdrawal went spectacularly bad, I decided to go back on my medication. Bipolar is an unusual illness in that survivors do tend to take themselves off of their meds. Now, everyone understands that bipolar is allegedly a mental or psychological illness, but some of the symptoms are physical. These symptoms range from joint pain, fatigue and headaches to muzzy perception and confused vision. Everything seems messy and blurry. So, coming off of the medication will create the onset of both these symptoms and the psychological symptoms and, wait for it, medication withdrawal symptoms.
How to Manage and Understand Bipolar Disorder: Withdrawal
When you first start taking medication the prescribing physician will neglect to discuss the withdrawal symptoms, and they are bad! Nausea, sleep disturbances, tremors and shaking are just a few withdrawal symptoms. The absolute worst symptoms are brain zaps, lightening-bolts of electricity that shoot through the body and out of the extremities. It is a nasty business.
Readers may wonder why a survivor would even attempt to withdraw from desperately needed medication. After all diabetics cannot just decide to stop taking their insulin! To understand the reasons, consider why medication is necessary in the first place and what that medication does. Bipolar survivors experience deep, complex and continuous emotions, the medication stabilizes and seems to numb these emotions. However, bipolar moods can be euphoric and creative, so survivors try to withdraw to feel those sensations, to alleviate the pharmacological numbness.
How to Manage and Understand Bipolar Disorder: The Importance of Medication
Throughout my blog I have offered ideas in managing mood disorders. I cannot stress enough the importance of medication. Ask me in two years-time however and I may say quite the contrary. This is the nature of a mood disorder. The fact is I will most likely be on (and on occasion off) medication for the entirety of my life. That is part of managing the illness.
I came off the medication in January, my rationale was that it would give my writing a nice creative boost, and it did. Unfortunately, over time I started to look and feel washed out. I passed the nasty brain zaps and I got a ton of work done. I am pleased with that. However, I found an old nervous twitch was returning, my sleep pattern fell into disarray and I was becoming easily stressed. So, after talking to my inner circle at length I decided to go back on the medication. I am taking a smaller dosage than before and monitoring my progress. As said, I have had many years of trying to objectively deal with this condition. I would not recommend that anyone stopped their meds.
How to Manage and Understand Bipolar Disorder: Retaining Creativity
My biggest concern is that my work will suffer without the creative wallop of the illness. That is why I am trying a smaller dose, finding a balance or as Buddha would say ‘a middle way.’ I must stress that I have a strong inner circle and plenty of social support, so any concerns will be raised with me without worry. If you glance back to yesterday’s blog you will notice that I was in an irritable mood, triggered by sounds and people entering my personal space. It is certainly easier to feel crowded off the meds or, as my mum pointed out, I can deal better with nonsense on the meds. In case anyone is wondering I take Lexapro and Lamictal.
How to Manage and Understand Bipolar Disorder: Another Anecdote
I was in a hurry last week, and I got stuck behind a lady in the queue. This lady decided to pay for a trolley load of shopping with coupons and shrapnel. I could feel a certain agitation in that situation, especially when towards the end she decided to buy some more bits and pieces and pay with a separate section of money. She should have done a full house and ordered twenty lotto tickets and insisted on scratching them there and then.
How to Manage and Understand Bipolar Disorder: Trigger Warning
Anyway, once again I digress to make my point. Whilst thinking about writing this blog I realized that I had missed an important factor in yesterday’s blog. That is that some sounds can trigger the illness through association. For example, a certain song playing may remind the survivor of memories with someone who sadly died. This would bring those memories to life and with those memories a sense of deep loss. Situations like this would of course trigger the sadness the underlies depression. I have a number of trigger songs, some create positive sensations and some negative sensations.
I am not in a position right now to share those particular songs, having just kick-started the meds. As you may imagine this particular topic is very, very hard for any survivor.
How to Manage and Understand Bipolar Disorder: Talking Therapies
In addition to meds some survivors have one to one counselling, psychotherapy or behavioral therapy. I have had counselling but did not find it as effective as the medication. Fortunately I have studied psychology since I was sixteen so have an understanding of the processes. I think because of that, for me, it is like experiencing Christmas when you know the secret about Santa. Counselling proved effective for Declan and has proved effective for many people. I think my poems were a form of journaling therapy, and I found an outlet in that process.
Anyway, survivors, carers and family make sure that medication does not lapse, and I look forward to chatting again soon.
Love as always,
Valkyrie Kerry Kelly