Can you lead a fulfilling life with bipolar WITHOUT medication?

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I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a little over five years ago. At the time, I was only two weeks postpartum with my daughter so medication was off the table. I was breastfeeding & had no intention to stop until we were both ready. At the time, I thought living with bipolar without medication would be a temporary thing. But, now I am wondering if there was something to it…

My original psychiatrist told me to take fish oil & she had my Vitamin D levels checked & put me on that as well. The other thing she had me start immediately was talk therapy. I guess, getting the chaos out of your brain is a good thing, no matter which form it takes on! LOL.

I stayed unmedicated for almost two years. Then, during a particularly frustrating depressive slump, I finally was able to get into a psychiatrist again. By that time, my daughter was almost three years old & we had moved to an entirely different state!

I tried meds for just over three years.

They did help for a while. An anti-depressant paired with a mood stabilizer plus a sleeping medication. That was my “cocktail.”

In hindsight, I was in a particularly stressful season of life.

I started on medication almost exactly when my grandma moved in with us. Blending households is difficult no matter who you are & how much you love each other! Let me tell you…

Less than a year after that, my grandma was diagnosed with inoperable, incurable lung cancer. So, I was helping her manage treatment & such.

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I wouldn’t have identified as a caregiver back then, but I pretty much was.

Long story kinda short, a little over a year after my grandma’s lung cancer diagnosis, she passed away.

It was hard to deal with on so many levels! I was devastated! It felt like I lost my mother (my grandma’s only daughter) all over again.

There were times I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe…

But when COVID hit us, I gained SO MUCH peace about it…

God’s hand was THERE.

In so many ways, He was there. My grandma’s condition was deteriorating so much that it just wasn’t safe enough to bring her back to our house after her last hospital stay… There is NO way she would have understood why we couldn’t visit her in a long-term care facility.

It was during the COVID lockdown timeperiod that I realized the side effects of those medications were more gnarly than dealing with bipolar disorder.

I was a flipping’ ZOMBIE. A total airhead. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t read. And those are two of my FAVORITE hobbies!

What kind of life is worth living if you cannot do the things you enjoy?

I don’t say that in a suicidal way; sorry if it can be taken that way… But, QUALITY OF LIFE *is* still important.

Those of us with bipolar disorder deserve a fulfilled existence too. Sometimes medication helps us obtain that; but sometimes it’s saying NO to medication that gives us that chance…

I have one word of caution about living with bipolar without medication, though.

If you have bipolar disorder, do NOT try to be medication-free without a SOLID support system.

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One of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is that we do not always see ourselves through REALITY. We sometimes think things are WAY better (or worse!) than they actually are… Having someone close to you who you trust is key. They can be your sounding board & your lighthouse in any storm….

I am better equipped to be able to watch for my triggers & adjust my habits & routines when I am ramping up or about to take a nosedive.

Knowing your triggers & indicators of a swing into mania or a dip into depression is key.

Medication doesn’t keep you completely stable anyway. You still have the ups & downs.

Some people’s ups & downs are SO severe, medication is a MUST.

But I also believe that, if your swings aren’t majorly life-altering & you have a lifestyle that allows you to take a day OFF when you need to (or to zone out on a project when your brain won’t let up), then why go through the stress & agony of medication?!

I argue that you can have a fulfilling life with bipolar, without medication; you just need to be more diligent about managing your triggers…

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