I continually receive comments, posts on social media and direct emails trying to ‘open my eyes’ to the dangers of psychiatric medications. If you look below to the post under this one, you will see a post on Lamictal (lamotrigine) from a few years ago.
I re-posted the entry so that you could see the comments I receive from those who for some reason feel that a balanced blog that stresses management skills with medications when needed would be open to the idea that NO ONE with bipolar disorder should take medications.
I guess they think I just love putting these toxic things in my body! I don’t like what medications do to us physically, who would. But as someone with very severe rapid cycling where I can go in and out of strong mood swings five or more times a day, sometimes a great management plan isn’t enough. When I can’t sleep AT ALL because the mania is acting up, using my management skills often isn’t enough. The latest comment I received gave what I consider dangerous advice to a reader- the advice- Get off psych meds as they are toxic and don’t really work.
Let’s be really clear here.
Medications are TOXIC! But to say they don’t work is ignorance in its most basic form.
Please know that I love a good debate- I love opinions and I often post opinions I don’t agree with. But when the opinion is dangerous to the health of those with bipolar disorder, I will post it, but I will not let the misinformation move forward without adding my opinion. For those out there who are against medication use in mental illness, please know I respect your opinion! If you have a serious mental health disorder and it works for you not to take medications, I am happy for you. If you want to get your message to the world, you are in the right country to do so. But please know that this blog is not the right platform for your views.
The comment that got me going this morning basically said that anyone who takes Lamictal is a fool and should stop it immediately as it doesn’t work and any success a person has on Lamictal is a placebo effect. Here is my reply:
Hello Ellen, I’m posting your comment as I believe that a conversation about medications is important. I also like your balanced approach in writing. I will say that I do disagree with you about the Lamictal for a reason you might not expect. Robert Whitaker got it right in so many ways- but the biggest issue I have with the argument you present is that there are some of us who will die if we don’t have medications such as Lamictal. This doesn’t make the medications any less toxic. Do you think I like the stiff neck, breathing problems and itchiness I get with Lamictal? Heck no! But… when I don’t take it I often go down to 50% functioning because my rapid cycling is so all encompassing, I don’t have the energy to do what I have to do to move forward in life. Just this week my hypomania was so intense I had to take EXTRA medications to get back to baseline. I don’t want to do this! I have to do this.
I have a question- Do you take any medications? Tylenol? Aspirin? A sleep aid? Maybe something for a persistent physical illness? Have you read their side effect profiles? I especially love the bleeding stomach ulcers that come with aspirin. I rarely find people who are against psych meds who are just as against meds for physical ailments. I ask this question with respect- do you go onto blogs that address those who have heart conditions and tell them to get off their medications?
Do you tell cancer patients to tough it out and NEVER use chemo? Would you put people’s lives in danger on sites that are not about mental illness?
If the answer is no, then how on earth can you in good faith go onto a blog such as this one and tell people to stop the medications that might be saving their lives? Think about it.
My coauthor Dr. John Preston and I revised my book Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder to address the medication question more fully. We added a new chapter in 2012 that addresses the dilemma all of us with bipolar disorder face when we need medication.
When people tell others not to take psych meds, they are risking the lives of the other person. If you are ok dispensing information such as telling someone the medication that helped was simply a placebo affect, are you just as willing to talk to the loved ones if that person takes your advice, goes off meds and ends up killing herself?
If you are willing to take this risk- then I say continue your work to make others feel bad about taking medications that are often needed, but be aware of the moral liability. I do respect your right to an opinion- which is why I posted your comment. I do respect that what you described worked for you, but.. and I mean this with the greatest respect- bipolar disorder is a very dangerous illness and anyone who has the nerve to get online and suggest to ill and often fragile people that medications don’t help is a danger to people with mental illnesses. People who are ill often can’t see that they need medications and feed off of information such as yours- ask any parent who has gone through this and they will tell you that it’s the misinformation on the web that causes the most problems when a manic and psychotic child desperately needs help but instead sends the parents links to comments such as yours. I used to be quiet about this, but after five years of coaching parents and partners who are in this exact situation, I’m using my voice to do something about it.
Many of us would not make it without medications. I can’t stand what they do to our bodies- the weight gain, the skin problems, the twitching, the apathy and the memory loss- but, if I have to go through that in order to get myself out of a serious episode I will. You may notice that I have ZERO drug sponsorship on my sites. I could make a lot of money going that route, but I don’t do it. I believe in a full spectrum management plan where drugs are a PART of the system. This is why I am often off drugs for long periods of time.
Please know this simply isn’t the place for scaring and confusing others who are starting the journey to management. Bipolar disorder is not anxiety -it’s not depression and it doesn’t fit into the more moderate type of psychiatric illness that can be treated without medications. Instead, it’s a complicated and dangerous illness that often presents all of the symptoms at once- as you see in dysphoric manic episodes.
In the future, I hope you can find a blog that fits your needs. Bipolarhappens.com is not that blog. This blog has always been and will continue to be a place where those who want and need medication can come for information.
The Bipolarhappens.com blog also offers free information on how to manage this illness outside of medications. This is not a site where we put down the use of medications: ever. This is a site where the balanced use of medications if needed is discussed. No one is blind to the problem, least of all me- ask me again about my three cracked teeth, weight gain, rashes and fibromyalgia- I do get it that having to take these medications sucks. I use a management plan for 75% of my symptoms- it’s called The Heath Cards- when the 25% shows up- such as my continual hypomania- I TAKE MEDICATIONS.