There is a building ideology within the mental health community that the approach of life-long medication is outdated. Medications are better utilized in crisis or times of visible active disease. Thankfully, bipolar often expresses itself within cycles, one of those cycles being something like ‘remission’, in other words, where I am right now. However I should note that this ideology is currently not being applied to Bipolar or Schizophrenia. Although with the emergence of non-medication medical treatments like the new forms of ECT, or TMS and even newer technologies about to roll onto the market, we might soon see a dramatic shift away from daily pills as an effective method for treating Bipolar Disorder.
[I should note here that use of a term like ‘remission’ is extremely controversial. There has been a lot of softening on the idea that various mental illnesses are genetic or derived from a chemical imbalance and all that jazz everyone believed was 100% true just 10 years ago. But remission is going the opposite way. 10 years ago you could find several articles pointing to bipolar remission and today virtually none. I can only tell you my experience. I am virtually symptom free, and have been for months. I have days that are up or down similar to a normal cycle but they are very short lived, even if severe. So I understand this is not complete ‘remission’ in the normal sense of the word, but I have no other words to use.]
The problem with bipolar, and the biggest reason for life-long medication is that these cycles can manifest quickly and become unmanageable in a short amount of time. Obviously this is still an omnipresent issue for me. I am aware of that. And the thing that lithium really does well, control mania, is really the scariest part of the disease.
I also know how this stuff goes for me. I am not “up” anymore. My sleep is pretty normal, even falling asleep without issue on most nights, my anxiety is very low or not there at all, no depression, and outside of a few days over the last several months no harmful thinking or actions.
And the big boy in the room, alcohol, the one thing present at most of my darkest times, has been nothing short of easily controlled and essentially gone from my life. And I know that with the new baby, it won’t be around for months to come.
So I’m off my medication. All of it.
Yes, this is a risk, but it is calculated. I am doing a little experiment to see where I am and how I can manage and right now everything looks good. I am trying to be very self-evaluative and really pour my thoughts into my mood and make sure I can pump the breaks if I need to.
But so far so good.
Want a list of the positive things happening that make it so much easier to look forward? Since being off of my pills I have been able to sleep less, be more refreshed, and less tired throughout the day. I have lost 13 pounds without even doing anything, not changing my diet, not exercising, nothing at all. Just gone. I have had greater focus and my memory has improved tenfold.
Those are the things my medication was taking from me. Those things were the price of being on medication. And while I was very sick I was more than happy to pay that price. But right now? Right now I want to figure out if those things just need to be placed aside for the moment and see what happens.
I am certainly not opposed to being on medication. So when the time comes I will go back. And to be perfectly honest, I will probably go back later this fall as just a prophylactic against my usual Christmas time blues. For now I am just enjoying how good I have felt while trying to keep an ear to the fault line.