The Drugs Don’t Work

It’s been eight weeks now since I started on my new medication.  I had high hopes for it; my Consultant said he was confident that I could achieve “complete remission of symptoms”, and having never tried this group of drugs over an extended period before, I was open to his enthusiasm.  I came off the medication I’d taken for 7 years with surprisingly little difficulty, and rushed around to get all the necessary blood tests and the required ECG and other health checks, so I’d be ready and able to get going at my next outpatients appointment.  What a pleasure, exclaimed my Consultant, to have such a compliant patient!

I might not have been quite as compliant as I appeared.  In fact, at the start of treatment I was really quite reluctant to give up the mania I was experiencing.  Although I knew it was a part of my sickness, I mourned the passing of the soaring elation, the generous love for all humankind, the extra intensity of tastes and colours, the increased energy and productivity levels, the sensation that the universe was sending be beautiful and important messages, and believing that I could do or be whatever I wanted.  People pay drug dealers to achieve those kind of experiences, while I was paying prescription charges to get rid of them.  Of course, I knew I was living on borrowed time; my body was becoming exhausted from my mind’s refusal to shut up and sleep, and at any point the mania might suddenly stall and I would free-fall into acute depression.

But I kept taking the drugs exactly as directed.  I accepted the many side effects.  The sleepiness had by far the biggest impact on my life (see my post Yawn of the Meds), but there were other, freakish things that, Gentle Reader, I shall spare you.  I saw it as all worth putting up with, if it bought me sanity and ability to function normally again.

Now I have reluctantly concluded – as has my partner – that the drugs don’t work.  Not these ones, not for me.  Three months after the start of my sick leave, I feel like I have come full circle in terms of my mood.  Since starting the medication, I’ve experienced a period of near-normality, then an unexpected hypomanic phase, and now the pendulum’s swung back and I am depressed again – but now I’m sleepy with it.  All the old feelings of worthlessness and stupidity are beginning to return, with an added layer of self-hatred for failing to respond to the drugs, and mounting anxiety than I might never feel “normal” again.

What now?


About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards 2013. Winner of the World in Mentalists Mood Disorder blog 2012. Regular guest blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation Expert by Experience working with Mind training department. Working on The Incoming Tide, a bipolar memoir. Find me on Twitter @BipolarBlogger or at my Facebook page
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8 Responses to The Drugs Don’t Work

  1. My illness is not bipolar but I do take an SSRI for depression. In my experience it takes at least 8 weeks to really start to feel any real impact and start to get over the side effects. Everyone is different but I would persevere for a bit longer.

    • Hi Richard, I had been on the antipsychotics for about 8 weeks I think when I wrote that post…. still not doing what it should a month later, so my psychaitrist has suggested a med change (see my post, A short history of lithium). I start the new regimen tonight, wish me luck!

  2. Phil says:

    I have only been manic once – a ten day rocket ride fuelled by paroxetine in 2008. It was incredible, unlike any drug, better than love and scorchingly beautiful. At the time I knew it was pathological and fought to stop myself doing anything too OTT such as making sexual advances to folks in the office or singing too loudly. I dreaded the thought that work would notice and send me to hospital, where I’d be taken off the paroxetine and switched to lithium.

    Eventually I began to feel exhausted by my own mind, and thankfully on the verge of it becoming frightening rather than exciting the effect wore off.

    I’ve had similar effects with citalopram, although only for a day or so. Nothing with sertaline, but I’m on a comically low dose right now. I’ve never told a GP about the mania side, and have only ever mentioned it to my counsellor and a psychiatrist I saw through work, who had no power to do anything. I know it’s naughty of me, but I don’t want my doctors to know. Every time I’m placed on SSRIs again, or the dose is upped, there’s a trickle of anticipation in my belly that the mania will return, and for one enchanting week life will be simple, and powerful, and beautiful again.

    So I completely get the reluctance. Even though mania presages depression, even though you make stupid, wild decisions, even though it’s probably poisonous for the brain, whenever I’m close to it I suspect mania might just be worth it; like the man in the pub who decides ‘just one more’ won’t hurt.

    • Thanks, Phil! I have written a lot about the depressive side of my illness on this blog, but relatively little about the mania side…. maybe that should be a future post. I am slightly hypomanic at the moment and it’s carrying me through this crazy week of the suddent popularity of my blog, and I feel full of ideas and plans. If it could be held at this level forever, it would still be too much…. by yesterday I was physically worn out. But it is very hard to let go of.

  3. Phil says:

    Mania’s curious, because so many people have a completely wrongheaded idea of it, I think even more so than depression. They equate it with being happy, or hyperactive. I think what I found most unexpected about it was the childishness, the petulance, the wanting everything my way, and my way NOW, else I was bored and would go do something else. For me mania was delight, but it was also primal chaos. Less destructive than depression, but only just.

  4. SolentSessions says:

    For me the mania is the reason I take Lithium, though it can help with depression too. Whilst hypomania is fun, for a while, it soon brings with it the sinister feeling of ‘can I control this if it goes any further’? I think mania may in fact, for me, be more destructive than depression. Depression for me is about digging a hole and never wanting to get out, although obviously I accept that the suicidal moments are also the essence of destruction. But with mania, when I come down, *life* as it were may be ruined. I’ve buggered my first degree when manic, lost finances, and challenged even my closest relationships. At least with depression, when I withdraw, life remains relatively the same on the outside.

  5. anouar says:

    for me I think mania can in fact be more destructive than depression.

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