This is a very real challenge! As you know, no one wants to take a pill, vitamin or anything else unless necessary. I can assure you that there are other diagnosis that run into similar issues. People with diabetes can go blind, lose their kidneys and suffer terrible burning pain but, they often eat the very things that will cause these difficulties.
Having said that, I agree with your sentiments. There are a few things about Bipolar Disorder 1 and 2 that seems to cause a person even more difficulties when it comes to taking medication. I think knowing a few of them might be helpful. So let’s go!
Eight Reasons Why Taking Bipolar 2 Disorder Medication is a Challenge
1: This likely isn’t your first rodeo with medications. On average it takes 10 to 15 years before a person with Bipolar Disorder is diagnosed. That means that for years you may have been given the wrong treatment including the wrong medications. Often the medications you were given made it worse e.g. antidepressants. So, you have the right to question why after so many years you should trust “the next pill” you are told may help.
2: The medication or medications you have been given to take may have side effects. In general, the potential side effects of “mood stabilizers” are more common than in medications you were previously given. Also, very often more than one medication is recommended and some of them more than once a day. The “One pill fits all” is usually not available. All of this makes “feeling good” about taking your medication more difficult.
3: The medications very often don’t totally rid you of all of the symptoms, particularly anxiety and a good night’s sleep. There is also something called “processing speed” that tends to take 6-12 months to respond to all of the recommendations you are asked to follow.
4: Given all of the above there are usually plenty of people around you and blogs on the internet that warn you of all the side effects of any medication anyone suggests. This doesn’t make you feel any better about taking medication.
5: There are professionals in a variety of fields that will say that your clinicians have “labeled you” and now are “drugging you”. This can be particularly confusing as they may be quite famous.
6: There are certainly people who hurt themselves, even suicide with the very same pills. This may seem contradictory.
7: Bipolar Disorder involves the part of your brain where you make your best decisions. It usually starts subtly or not so subtly in junior high. The exercise for this part of the brain involves getting along with others. As you think back you may notice that getting along with others was not your specialty during those years. You may have gotten along with others who tended to rebel against the rules. You may have even enjoyed being “a rebel”. It felt good. Unfortunately, now you are being asked, “to obey the rules and take your medication as prescribed.” That may be a difficult “pill to swallow.”
8: The reason that is the most difficult to understand goes back to the “processing speed” mentioned in number three above. Remember, this part of the brain works on relationships. The larger the relationship, generally the more difficult it will be for this part of the brain to come up with answers that work for you.
Think about it. Why is it sometimes so hard to get yourself to do what you know you need to do? You can do many other things! But for some reason even very simple things may simply “slip your mind” or just seem too difficult to think about. And isn’t it easier to argue about something stupid - even when you know it’s stupid - than to have the serious conversation you know would serve you? You may find yourself going on and on defending an impossible position until the other person gives up. The reason for this is that talking about anything that is truly in your best interest requires a lot more “processing speed.” This is also the primary reason why people struggle with work or school. Doing things that aren’t a part of your authentic life are much easier to process.
Should You Still Take Your Bipolar 2 Disorder Medication?
Consider all of the above complications that you have to consider and deal with. Now also consider that even thinking about taking medications “mentally hurts” because you know it is your authentic decision. Cut yourself some slack. This is hard. Make your decision and then let it go. Avoid any conversation or even thinking about whether you should take your medications or not unless you are talking with one of your supports including your clinician. Everyone else is giving you their experience. Trust your experience. If you feel better on the medications…take them. If you don’t, talk to those who support you and your clinician about it.
Medications are only a small part of the deal anyway. Living an authentic life is the big deal. Each day wake up and ask yourself, “How can I make the major relationships of my life one percent better today?” Over time this will help improve your processing speed, your relationships and your life. Isn’t that what it’s all about?