Bipolar Disorder and the Complicated Nature of Management

Misconceptions about the treatment and management of mental illness stem from incorrectly associating it with traditional treatments. That causes mentally ill people and their supporters to draw poor conclusions on how treatment will progress and what benefits management can provide.

As an example, consider a headache. You can down a couple over-the-counter pain relievers and it’s normally gone within a half hour. It’s pretty consistent for most people. Psychiatric medication, on the other hand, can be very random in the benefits it provides because it is dealing with a much more complicated problem.

A majority of mentally ill people that take psychiatric medication will not have a “perfect” experience with it. It may include side effects that are difficult to manage. It may make the person too numb to function or unable to think, essentially mirroring the effects of severe depression. It may only control a limited number of symptoms or not have as powerful an affect as needed. There are so many factors that influence how well psychiatric medication works that it’s just not possible to know ahead of time what exactly it will do from person to person. Brain and body chemistry are incredibly complicated.

Just swallowing the pills doesn’t mean they are going to fix everything or even eliminate it completely. Effective mood disorder management usually includes several other facets, like reducing stress, changing diet, giving up other chemical substances, exercise, and a consistent sleep schedule. And even after all of that, the person can still have bad reactions to certain situations and triggers.

Balance is an important choice as well. Some of us choose to stay on medications that provide a great deal of benefit with minimal side effects rather than pushing for an ideal solution that may bring more severe side effects with it. Why? Because there is no guarantee that we will ever reach that ideal place with our medication.

It’s all trade offs. Are these side effects worth the benefits I’m receiving? Should I keep pushing for something better or settle for how I feel now?

Mental health wellness can be a very messy affair. Even when taking medication, the person may still experiences symptoms of their mental illness that can be disruptive to their life. It’s rarely as simple as just taking a pill.

It’s important to maintain reasonable expectations. We, as mentally ill people, cannot just assume that our mental state and the damage resulting from it is going to be fixed with medication cocktail. Supporters and loved ones of mentally ill people need to understand that wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long-term endeavor in which there can be many obstacles and bumps in the road.

There are times when the only choice you have is to ride out mental unwellness, whether you’re on medication or not. And for a supporter, that may mean needing to have a bit more patience as the waters calm in the mind of their mentally ill loved one, even if they are taking medication.

Sometimes all you can do is have patience.


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6 Responses to Bipolar Disorder and the Complicated Nature of Management

  1. Dee says:

    Thank you, Dennis, for this information. It helps me understand much better.

  2. M says:

    I agree with you completely, my ex fiance was diagnosed BP, we went through the throws, she became manic(while on medication) cheated and broke of our engagement. Its been 6 months and havent heard from her at all, changed her numbers, kickef me out of our appartment, changed her email. But im patient that eventually she will have the heart to want to talk, atleast to say goodbye.

    • Dennis says:

      Don’t hold on too tight to those beliefs. Let yourself create distance and heal. It’s hard telling if/when she will want to talk. You don’t want to dragging yourself along through that for longer than you need to.

      • M says:

        Thanks Dennis!

        I find it easier said than done but im trying, i really am. I find it hard to leave a place of hope though, any pointers?

        • Dennis says:

          Everything is easier said than done, my friend.

          A therapist might be able to help you come to terms with that kind of loss if you feel you need it. But really, getting out to do new things and experience new things, some place else to devote your thoughts and energy would probably help a lot as well. Particularly, something that includes other people; like a sport or art class or something. It’s easy to nurse pains and hurts for a long time. You want to make sure you don’t stop living while dealing with the loss. It’s okay if it will take some time. It took me almost three years to get over losing the woman I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. But it’s alright. There are plenty of other great people out there to get to know as friends or more.

  3. Julie says:

    Thank you for telling it like it is. Will definitely be sharing this.

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