Nothing felt worth all these medication changes. The only positive was that, although low, I was no longer suicidal and I had clarity of mind. I knew something was changing for the better but the side effects were a lot to bear. I was being looked after, had lost my social life and was barely leaving the house.
After another assessment it was decided to increase another mood stabilizer to try and tweak the balance. I was pleased because it worked, but as ever I was hit with side effects. I had itchy skin, a racing heart and was constantly thirsty.
I am pleased to say after two months I feel a lot better, and I am hoping with the combination of regular assessments and psychotherapy I can work towards feeling well long-term. Early stages of recovery are always very hard because you leave behind the crisis and face reality.
I have lost three months of my life, struggled to cope and feel traumatized by some of my experiences. This is all due to three medication changes.
It is impossible to list all the side effects from medication — some can be mild and others very serious.
In my eight years of medication trials I have lost weight, put on weight, felt depressed, anxious, slept too much or slept too little, heart racing, itchy skin, headaches, nausea, muscle aching, seizures, weakness, sedation, sensitivity to noise, light, touch, paranoia, fear, blurred vision — and so many more.
What is interesting is that most of those side effects are symptoms of bipolar disorder in itself. Changing medication can feel as though we are having another episode and the effects can feel never ending.
Side effects are completely underrated and the perception that a little pill will immediately fix you is naive and unrealistic.
Arming Ourselves With Information
Some people would rather not look at a list of side effects they may experience because they can be overwhelmed. I personally like to be aware of how I might be affected.
I find it less scary when I have an idea of how I might feel. If a label frightens you, speak to your psychiatrist or doctor and ask for a list of the most common side effects so you can prepare yourself and reduce fear of the unknown.
I cannot tell you how much I have had to rely on my family. When I go through major medication changes my mum becomes my full-time caretaker and makes sure I get up and eat, and provides emotional support.
I find it easier to tell people exactly how I'm feeling and forewarn anyone I meet socially that I might find things difficult and to be patient. Now I don't receive any stigma from those around me. They care and want me to be well but they only know how I'm doing if I speak out.
Patience is a virtue but we know that psychiatric medication can take weeks to work. It is realistic to expect some sort of mood or physical changes, but keeping regular contact with our doctor or psychiatrist can manage this.
I find completing a mood chart to be incredibly helpful and provides insight into what is happening. It also helps you see how long you've been on the medication for, how you're being affected and if you're seeing improvement.
The last three months have been horrendous for me medication-wise, but as I am feeling more stable, level-minded and positive, and I am starting to believe it has all been worth it. I think where medication is concerned the saying 'short-term pain for long-term gain' is appropriate. Just remember keep connected with the professionals and communicate your progress with those around you.