This is the million dollar question. If you're newly diagnosed, the idea of being on medication for the rest of your life can be terrifying. If you've been on medications for years and now they have stopped working, the possibility of no medications can also be terrifying. So what do you do?
I've grappled with this debate for over a decade. I was finally properly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Disorder over 10 years ago. My family wasn't very understanding of what I was going through. So, they immediately said, “Oh, you don't want to take medications. You don't want people to know you...have...a...metal illness.” Even after my parents and husband went through the educational course offered by a national non-profit, my parents still thought I didn't need medication. I ended up deciding to take the medication cocktail...because only one medication just wouldn't do. These worked for a while. I stabled out, but I lost so much of who I was that I wasn't entirely certain that the medications were worth it. I had lost all desire to do any of the things that I used to do. I had checked out of being a wife, mother, and educator. I had given up. My children were young then.
For the sake of my family, I kept trying new medication combinations. I even remember waiting for the first day the new medications would become available so I could try them, in vain. This went on for years. The constant rapid mixed cycling took its toll. I did have several attempts and hospitalizations. I finally decided to try ECT. I did not come to this decision lightly, but the first time I did it...It worked! I felt like my old self again. This lasted for about a year, maybe two. So, the medication roller coaster began again. After a few more years of this, I tried ECT again. It did not work so well this time for me. In fact, it made things worse. I'm not knocking ECT. It can be a very effective form of treatment. These were just my experiences with it.
So that brings us current. I am now medication less. There are no more medications that I can take. I used to think this is what I wanted. I never wanted to take medications for my entire life, not to mention all the weight I gained as a result. Now that I'm on the “other side”, the grass is not so green. In fact, it's brown and brittle. I cycle between mania and depression so fast and often that I cannot keep up. It is really wearing me down. I never thought I'd long for the day that I'd find a medication that would take all this away, but here I am. I've done the medication roller coaster and I've done the no medication thing. I'm not entirely sure which is better. I guess it depends on the person. I have increased my exercise. I've improved my diet. I've increased my creative outlets. I'm doing what I'm “supposed” to do. Yet, I still cycle daily.
I think if anyone is considering whether or not to take medications, you must first do your research, talk to your doctors (they need to know your intentions), make sure you have really tried EVERYTHING. I feel that I have done everything, but I'm now hopeful that something will come along to help. I'm hopeful that something will make life a little more bearable. I just have to be patient and do all I can in the meantime to keep myself healthy. My advice to anyone with the medication question: Do your research. Really think it through.