Do Not Self Medicate When You Have Bipolar Disorder
I would dare say that most of us with bipolar disorder have used self medication at one time or another to handle our mood swings. What does it mean to self medicate? It means using any substance other than specifically prescribed medication to control our emotions or maybe intensify them (mostly to get manic). Alcohol is very common for calming our emotions as well as many other drugs. The problem here is that many of these substances create a bigger problem with addiction and they are not as effective as medications made specifically to handle our bipolar symptoms.
Many of you may have tried going down the path of getting on bipolar medication only to determine that “It’s not working”, “I don’t feel like myself”, “I feel drugged out”, “I miss being manic because that’s when I feel my best”, or “I’ve lost part of myself”. These may be common feelings, and I’m sure there are many more to go along with them. Part of thriving is finding the right medication combination for you. The dosage, medications, and frequency will need to be tailored specifically for you. This can be a lengthy process, but well worth it.
Like most of you, I used self-medication, mostly alcohol and marijuana, to feel better. It worked temporarily, but I was caught in a cycle that complicated my bipolar diagnosis and even masked it. Once I decided to stop drinking and using drugs, then the bipolar cycles were more noticeable and detectable by my therapist. It was at that point in time that I started the quest of the right medication. This was a very lengthy process for me as it can take up to 3 weeks to notice a difference in your mood, and if it’s not working then you have to make a change to the dosage, the actual medication or frequency. All of this takes time. However, if you can persevere through this process you will come out feeling like yourself, only better because you don’t have the severe ups-and-downs that take such a toll on us, our families, and our jobs.
I will warn you that you may not find the perfect balance, you may have to choose between feeling a little dopey but have complete stability in your emotions or not feeling drugged out but having some minor ups-and-downs to contend with. As for me, I have chosen to be more alert, but deal with some minor ups-and-downs during the year. This combination has served me well. I have maintained employment at the same company for nearly 18.5 years. I have stable relationships with family and friends. I honestly live an abundant life and consider myself to be thriving in spite of having bipolar disorder. Getting your meds to work effectively is the number 1 step toward thriving with bipolar disorder.
You can do it and never, ever give up on your dreams.