I am guilty. I have gone off my meds against my doctor’s advice more than once. So I will speak from my own experience here as to why I sometimes refuse my meds. Maybe someone trying to understand “why” can see through my experience some of the reasons. While I know it is not good or healthy to stop taking my meds, sometimes the choice is based on emotions and feelings that I can’t explain.
In my opinion, without a great doctor who is willing to work closely with a patient who has bipolar, failure is imminent.
There are all sorts of reasons and trying to explain them is difficult. My most recent abrupt med stop was due to an extreme case of scatterbrain. I know, bad description - but it’s all I have.
I was confused at times and disoriented. My memory was terrible and my mood was stale. I was not irritable but I was irrational. I was craving energy and enthusiasm that I no longer had. I almost felt like I was in a fully awake and functioning emotional coma. It was horrible.
I abruptly stopped my meds before even talking to my doctor because I could not handle one more day of the zombie I was. I’m not certain is was the best decision but it was all I could do to keep myself together. It was a very bad time for me. When I got in to see my doc I explained why I stopped them and was surprised that she supported my decision.
She was concerned though and tried to make sure I got on another medication pretty quickly. Currently, because of the fear of those feelings returning I am only on an antidepressant. This is bad and I know that, but I just can’t get back on a mood stabilizer. I am terrified.
I also know that not being on a mood stabilizer will allow me mild hypo-manic episodes. With that comes happiness, joy, energy, great sex, and just an overall awesome life.
Try to understand this though. When you live every day struggling with identity issues and craving happiness a small hypo-manic episode is welcome. I am not proud of where I am standing right now but it is better than where I was doped up on meds that lead to a major identity crisis and a bad case of scatterbrain.
I know that some people crave the mania, it is a high. It is a pure and natural high that doesn’t come down unless it is forced down, or one has a major crash. It can be compared to a high on drugs that crashes into withdrawal. When one crashes off of that high it leaves one craving for another high to save them. There are folks with bipolar who live for the manic episodes. Often a severe manic episode leads to a hospitalization. The patient will become stable, go home, take their meds for a while and eventually get tired of that “zombie” and go off the meds to feel alive again.
I struggle with all of this. I understand it, I live it, and I struggle with it. People sometimes do some really crazy things when they are manic and those who are left in the wake of a manic episode are hurt the most. I know this too which is why I am trying so hard to overcome whatever fears I have of meds.
I am one of them: I am the bipolar woman who is terrified of the mental state the meds bring. I hope soon my doc and I can agree on a med that helps me to stay sane and stable. I want to be without the emotional need for that high, because I am able avoid those terrible lows.
If someone is bipolar and refuses meds or treatment there is really no answer I can give for their current (or previous) reasoning. I can say though, it wasn’t long before I was reaching out to my doctor (maybe a week) to try to get things back in line. The biggest thing to remember is that someone with a mental illness has to want to get better as much as their loved ones want them to get better. If they don’t want the help, there is no help that will be effective.
If you know for a fact someone you love is experiencing a manic/hypo-manic episode it is critical to understand that mania has many faces and can bring on personality changes that are incomprehensible. All that can be done is to put a support system into place for when the person experiencing a manic episode needs help. If they are so far into their episode that they are a danger to themselves or others, involuntary admission to a hospital may be the only other option. It is important to pay attention.
That is my best description of the reasons I myself have decided at times to discontinue medication treatment.
These are solely my opinions and assumptions. This is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
Blue pills photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 20 Feb 2012