Facing the Terrors of New Bipolar Medication

January 24, 2013 Natasha Tracy

I have been on every bipolar medication you can name and likely a few you could not. I have been on more medication combinations than I can remember. I have spent years dealing with medication side effects. There is very little medication pain that I cannot tolerate. I have taken medications that have made me feel amazingly well and bipolar medications that have made me feel intolerably ill. I’ve seen treatment miracles and treatment devastations. And still, I feel nothing but terror when I think of taking new bipolar medication.

What Bipolar Medication Can Do

Whether you are taking a new mood stabilizer, antipsychotic, antidepressant or anything else, new bipolar medication can be a godsend. It can pull you from mania, it can lift you from depression and it can make your life worth living again.

Or, then again, it can make unbelievable amounts of pain and suffering worse. It can pile horrendous side effects on top of an already very sick person. It can make walking through life unbearable.

I’ve had medication make me feel such acute, unbearable pain that sleep was the only escape. It’s the kind of pain where bugs dance across your bones and work to escape from your insides by burrowing through your flesh and skin. It’s being so drugged that your eyes won’t open and yet you’re so amped up that your brain won’t stop screaming and you can’t stop moving. It’s the kind of pain that even with all my words, I cannot describe, and if you have not experienced, for which you have no frame of reference.

Taking a New Bipolar Medication Anyway

And the medications that do the very worst of the worst things to me are invariably antipsychotics. I’m not saying that these are bad medications – they save lives every day – but my experience with them terrifies me. In fact, I have found them to be so horrible that I’ve sworn off them completely.

Until, well, this afternoon.

It’s a desperation thing. There is a moment where the pain that you are in because of the disease outweighs the terror of the new bipolar medication. I have lived this moment many times. I lived it just yesterday.

And so I’m looking at the new medication in a blister-pack “for my convenience” and I feel shakily scared. Like, really. Like, hands with tremors. Like hands that make water jump from the glass when I attempt to drink it with the pill.

But here’s the thing kids – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: change nothing and nothing changes. In other words, the pain you’re living with today cannot abate without some form of treatment and, for me, that treatment is a new medication. I have to face the fear and use my logic to overrule the terror in order to have even the small opportunity for improvement. It’s the roulette wheel we spin in an attempt to get better. It’s the price we have to pay.

And I will pay it in the hopes that I it will bring about a better day. And maybe, just maybe, all the fears won’t come true. Maybe it will work as advertised. Maybe it’ll make bipolar its bitch. I don’t know.

But I’ll be brave, because that’s what it takes to face bipolar disorder. That’s what it takes to try a new medication.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, January 24). Facing the Terrors of New Bipolar Medication, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

January, 24 2013 at 8:59 am

Couldn't have said it better...brilliant

January, 24 2013 at 10:36 am

Starting new meds today and couldn't agree more. Just praying I adjust and things get better!

January, 24 2013 at 1:34 pm

what was the new med then?

January, 24 2013 at 2:40 pm

Hi Natasha! You're doing really well and staying strong. It takes strength to share that with us all too and I really respect that.

January, 24 2013 at 6:08 pm

The anti psychotic medicine I'm on is the one originally prescribed for me only the dose has doubled over the last 18 months it's an A typical, and it's given me lot's of side affects, massive weight gain, oversleeping, tremors occasionally, inability to stay on focus not infrequently, and more subtle ones to. To me this is a huge price to pay for trying to be like other people that live without a mental illness, why do I take my meds ?, because I don't want to be in that place of terror if I stop taking them, such is our lot, it sucks, but it's better than that alternative.

Marco Dante
January, 24 2013 at 8:56 pm

Sounds all too familiar. I've been drug free for several years and seriously doubt that I will ever put myself through that trial and error program again. As much as I hate to admit it, I have to navigate this world using diet and exercise and whatever else I can think of. I personally don't know anyone who has had long term success with pharmaceuticals. For me, my last cocktail induced suicidal thoughts. That was the side effect that made me realize that I had to learn to live with my disorder. I know that desperation, that need to find some relief, and fast. I also know, that at least for me, that relief is not to be found at the bottom of an orange vial with a childproof cap. I hope you find something to relieve the pain. I also hope you consider the notion that you're likely stronger and more resourceful than you think you are.

January, 25 2013 at 8:36 am

I have been on a lot of medications as well. I have had everything from a 50 pound weight gain to devastating hair loss.
On top of that, every year my HMO gives me a new doctor. The new doctor will then want to ask about my history of symptoms. If I go in the hospital, yet more doctors want a history of every hospitalization, etc. They have most of my charts here. The doctors not wanting to read is no reason to make me relive some of the horrors I have been thru. I wont do it anymore. I have met other patients who feel the same way.
This year when I got a new doctor I said nothing. Doctor said I probably didn't have bipolar. I let it go at that. Of course he was wanting to try some new things. Why would you suggest that if you think there is nothing wrong with me. I wont take a new med and I want to get rid of some I am taking.

January, 25 2013 at 9:14 am

I was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and spent the night in jail. When my bloodwork came back clean, the prosecutor said she would check into the type of medication that I was taking in order to decide whether I should be allowed to drive. This case is still pending in court. My lawyer told the prosecutor that if she doesn't dismiss the case, he will take it to trial and win. I hope that happens. This is one thing bipolar medication can do.

Victoria D Christensen
January, 26 2013 at 1:15 pm

So I need to talk to someone who will understand me, I was diagnosed with bipolar late last year. I went to a short term medical place and that is where I was diagnosed. Here is my problems at the end of this month I run out of nnmy lithium. My health insurance I get from my new job won't kick in for three months so I'll be off my meds for two months before I can go to a Dr and get a new prescription, my other problem is with my meds itself they make me break out horriably. P.S. I'm in the best relationship of my life and when I'm off meds I'm a horriable person especially to the ones I love and that are closest fuck me but my bf doesn't understand this illness, he wants to but any time I've tired to explain he misunderstands what I'm saying and I'm afraid if I'm off my meds fortoolong I'll push him away

January, 26 2013 at 8:35 pm

Hi Victoria,
Try your best to get a supply of Lithium if you can. I can't help you with that because I don't live in your country and don't know how it works.
What I can help you with is how you might be able to survive as long as possible without the lithium.
1. Keep your circadian rhythms stable. That means strict routine, especially sleep and bedtime.
2. Avoid things which may be stressful or a trigger for you. This includes bad stressors such as seeing people you don't like, and good stressors such as a big party.
3. Identify your early warning signs of a manic or depressive episode, write them down and give them to your family and close trusted friends. For example, if my husband notices I'm getting a little excitable, he tells me, and I will cancel plans and have some quiet time. If I start getting teary over nothing and develop a negative outlook, it's time to whip out the cognitive behaviour therapy book and challenge my negative thinking, be gentle on myself and do something I enjoy. Your warning signs and strategies will be specific to you.
4. Watch what you put in your mouth. forget dieting - just eat plenty of healthy, nutritious food. some people find supplements like fish oil help (I don't personally though). Obviously no alcohol, caffiene, drugs. No self-starvation and no bingeing on junk food. Plenty of clean water.
5. some kind of spiritual practice, whether it be prayer, meditation, yoga, or just your favourite music - whatever is comfortable and right for you.
6. Foster your important and close relationships and forget about the stressful ones. I'm an introvert so I cut out most unnecessary relationships, but extroverts may prefer to have light socialising.
7. Enjoyable moderate exercise
8. Careful attention to your hygiene and to your environment - doesn't have to be perfect, but a comfortable and clean and organised home does a lot for your moods.
9. Anything else which grounds you.
All of the above strategies are in my own management plan along with medication. Meds are essential but they wouldn't work without these strategies.
In regards to your bf: congratulations on being happy! It sounds like he loves you for who you are so don't worry about him leaving you, and I guess if he does it is his loss. The thing about bipolar is that it quickly sorts out your real friends from the pretenders.
Bipolar is very hard on our loved ones and there's not much we can do about that, but I think your bf would prefer you manic than not at all so stick with him!
It's also very hard for other people, even loved ones, to understand our bipolar. If professionals don't understand it that well, if we don't understand it ourselves, than we can hardly expect someone with no experience or frame of reference to really get us and what we're going through. The point is that you can persist with communication - explanations, answering his questions and so forth, or by giving him written information, but don't expect that it will be easy for him to really get it.
The important thing for a partner to understand is how to identify your early warning signs and assist you to get help when you need it.
The other important thing for a partner to understand is that it's not personal - it's the bipolar talking. His job is not to fix you but to love and support you. He may also need to ask for help at times.
Well, that's all for now and good luck. Maybe a local person can help you to navigate your health care system and get your meds back.

Dr. Tali Shenfield
January, 27 2013 at 9:25 am

There are a lot of factors that psychiatrists take into consideration when prescribing medications. No two patients are equal and deciding on the type of medication and dosage is always a puzzle. Even the best psychiatrists make mistakes, that's why you often start new medication from half-dose (the one-week transitional period depends on chemical compatibility with your previous medication) and you should contact your doctor as soon as observe any serious side effects. Your feedback helps to identify the medication and dosage that works best for you.

January, 28 2013 at 5:03 pm

Sarah, what excellent advice! I really enjoyed your feedback here.
Marco, I really appreciated what you shared too.
I do not take meds, although I suffer from depresion, anxiety, and ADD. I just can't take meds, and I haven't tried too many. I am extremely sensitive to them, and they only make my symptoms worse. Therefore I go natural as possible, and try to manage my life the best I can as I am. I don't work, and live off disability, so that is probably the hardest part. Living under poverty income is the hardest part, because I am so limited financially. That is another type of illness it seems. But I am glad to be able to try to manage my life just as Sarah described, and I have to try to remain thankful that I can try to live a controlled life as it is. :)

February, 3 2013 at 4:20 pm

I tried many antipsychotics, and they all gave me the clawing inside feeling that I am calling akathisia, but really don't know. That was the worst part, but on a practical level, I honestly don't understand how people can take those drugs and succeed going to the bathroom. I chugged Miralax etc. and it was a painful struggle no matter what I did. I have permanent injuries from tegretol and antipsychotics. They are torture drugs! Maybe these things do not happen to everyone.

Phil Jordan
March, 5 2013 at 5:58 am

I've taken meds for a long time. I think at last count I've taken 40.
For most of the three decades, when I started a new med it was no big deal, just take it.
In recent years while taking antipsychotics that changed. Any med can cause serious SE's but AP's seem to excel at it.
Because of weight gain I would like to drop Seroquel and go with something else. I'm not ready to take that chance. The game has changed.

March, 5 2013 at 11:59 pm

The movie "Side-effects" is a fictional movie. It seems to increase the stigma of mental illness by increasing fear of the illness and the treatment, and by promoting ignorance through misinformation.

March, 4 2016 at 5:43 am

I've been on some pretty tough meds Saphris was hell I had muscle spasms for hours and i felt like i was floating it got o the point that I wanted to stab my legs to make the spasms stop, then there was Latuda made me horribly sick and extremely tired that I felt what's the point of living if I'm going to feel this way all day. Then there are the mood stabilizers that gave me horrible rashes. Finally my psych doc has found a good combination but now I'm struggling wig headaches but I'm hoping they will go away with time. It takes guts to try new meds...

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