I’ve been really struggling with depression lately. And I mean really struggling. Like, can’t get out of bed struggling. Like sleeping more than half the day struggling. Even when I do finally get out of bed, I often find myself back in bed soon after, lying there staring at the wall and the ceiling for unlimited amounts of time. I do still have an appetite at least, but I think a lot of that is the meds, which make me hungry almost all the time. Of course, sometimes with depression I do tend to comfort eat as well. So along with the desire to do absolutely nothing, I am also plagued with anxiety about gaining weight from being hungry all the time. I don’t see the doctor again until the day after Christmas, so I am just having to muddle through the best I can, but it is really hard. I feel like I am constantly fighting just to function at all. Even washing my hair or brushing my teeth seems too much for me most of the time and I have to force myself to do it. This level of lethargy is ridiculous, and sometimes I wonder how I’m alive at all.
It seems that there is this stereotype about Bipolar patients not wanting to take their medicine or stopping medicine without consulting a doctor. However, like most stereotypes, perhaps there is some truth to it. I personally have Bipolar type 2 and often find myself wondering, “Do I really need these medications?” or “Are these medications actually helping or hurting me?”. Why do I wonder this? Mostly due to negative side effects. I can’t help but wonder sometimes if the cure isn’t worse than the disease at times. Weight gain, acne, digestive problems, being pushed further into depression or hypomania, anxiety, jitters, uncontrollable muscle spasms, irritability, crying spells, etc. Sometimes I really do wonder if I wasn’t better off before.
And about consulting a doctor before stopping meds, in my case at least, my psychiatrist is only able to see patients once every few months due to the shortage of psychiatrists in the area. He is EXTREMELY busy. It is unlikely I will hear from him in the interim, even if I have a question. Of course I can speak to his office staff, but that isn’t the same as actually speaking to a doctor. And even if I were to call and tell the office staff I wanted to stop taking the medicine, likely they would just request I wait until my next appointment, which may be months away. If the medicine is truly causing side effects I can’t stand or making me feel worse, why would I want to endure that for months before making a change?
I am not writing this post to encourage anyone to go off their meds or anything like that. I believe strongly in listening to medical advice, but I wanted to explain to those who are outside of the Bipolar loop why this can often become a legitimate issue. And no, right now I am not stopping my own meds, but I have been tempted many times, which makes me sympathetic to those who have.