Thoughts on Medicine Cocktails and Quality of Life

I was lucky; my first prescriptions for treating bipolar disorder was a mix of Depakote and Zyprexa (whose clinical name is actually Olanzapine, but is marketed in a variety of different ways). That didn’t work for me. I gained over 60 pounds in 60 days, and ended up ballooning from 110 pounds to 177 pounds with no sign of slowing down.

I was taken off the Zyprexa and put on Lithium. So my cocktail was 1250mg of Depakote, plus 900mg of Lithium daily. That worked pretty well for me. Over time I have been able to reduce that dosage down dramatically, but that was only possible due to (literally) years of actively, consciously, teaching myself how to handle my own emotions and swings.

Still, I know that I was lucky. I have corresponded with folks who have been looking for medications that will work for them for more than three years and have still not found anything suitable. They are still looking.

I would say, however, that how “religiously” one takes one’s medications could have a really big impact on how well they work. That is to say that if you don’t take them exactly as prescribed, you’re going to find it a lot harder to get a working cocktail. I’ve got no proof, though, just an impression from speaking with many people about it.

That said, I think it’s important not to put up with side effects that are too negatively impacting your quality of life. What constitutes too negative an impact on your quality of life is, of course, subjective. The basic idea, though, is that something that works for you is supposed to increase your quality of life. It’s like if you stub your toe. You’re not going to stub your other toe just to make you forget about the first one.

Another important point to make is that medications are in fact limited to increasing quality of life. In that sense, they are just as effective (and sometimes far less so) than various simple things you can do every day. Whatever makes you feel better is, for all intents and purposes, a medication or treatment for bipolar disorder. And that’s not even a far-fetched thought, considering bipolar disorder is something we have to live with and deal with every second of every waking moment of our entire lives. Writing, computing, and getting some fresh air can very often have just as profund an effect on me as taking a pill might. That’s actually been the key to being able to reduce my reliance on medications while not relapsing. Modern medical science has very little to do with cures and a lot to do with quality of life. Afterall, we still can’t cure viruses.

(Somewhat tangetially, antibiotics and other medicines you may be given do nothing more than help your immune system fight off the infection and symptoms of viruses. But once you are infected with a virus, you will have it for the rest of your life. And on a even further tangential topic, that’s precisely the point most people seem to miss when they scoff at safe sex practices.)

13 replies on “Thoughts on Medicine Cocktails and Quality of Life”

  1. What made you think I was implying that? No, I didn’t mean to imply that in across the board all it takes is a certain amount of “re-education” to not need medicine. There are many clear cases where someone is absolutely dependant on a chemical supplement in order to maintain a healthy, functional, “good” life.

    What I am saying, however, is that there are cases (myself being one of them) where part of the role medications are originally intended to play can be taken up by one’s own mentally-aware processes instead. Like I said, that’s how I’ve managed to reduce my reliance, and my dose, of the medications.

    I stress that reducing a medication’s dose is not something to take lightly, as it has serious, strong repercussions. But for those who don’t feel comfortable with medications for one reason or another, and who have the necessary mental faculties (whether through trial and tribulation or through some other means), it is possible to reduce the dosage of medications taken, without losing any of the health, functionality, or “goodness” of their lives.

  2. :) You and your insights. I like tehm to say the least. But i wanted to coment on somethign else. When I get down to the end of this post the link for polyamory covers up some of hte words. Dunno if it is just the way it loaded this time or if its me or what, or if you care much (;)) but I thought I would let you know.

  3. I’m not being accusatory. I was seeking genuine clarification of your message based on this passage: “Another important point to make is that medications are in fact limited to increasing quality of life. In that sense, they are just as effective (and sometimes far less so) than various simple things you can do every day. Whatever makes you feel better is, for all intents and purposes, a medication or treatment for bipolar disorder. And that’s not even a far-fetched thought, considering bipolar disorder is something we have to live with and deal with every second of every waking moment of our entire lives. Writing, computing, and getting some fresh air can very often have just as profund an effect on me as taking a pill might.” I understand better now what you were saying. Peace :-)

  4. I am fascinated by this exchange… I am not sure though how your perception now, that you understand better (?) differs from your previous perception. I would like to know.

  5. Thanks. :)

    Yeah, the polyamory link is placed “wrongly” because of the CSS I’ve got going. I’ve been intending to fix it for a while but just now got around to fixing it, because you spoke up about it. So, thanks. I really do appreciate that you mentioned it.

  6. *wuggles* I know that you are concenrned with looking proffesional and having your site work in lots of browsers; and that you like to tinker. So I wasn’t sure if you were aware of it. *more wuggles*

  7. Hello Nick. Didn’t realize that you were Meitar’s dad :-) Very smart son you have there (May – I was always wondering who this other commenter was. Now I know :-)) Because you stressed that reducing medication is something not to be taken lightly and that to do so requires conscious “support”, as it were, from one’s own mental faculties. I jumped into this commentary because of incidents in my own life at the moment, and both hope for and fear a reduction in my meds. Your stressing of the seriousness of the issue of reducing (and not eliminating) meds let me see that you weren’t comparing a literal walk in the park to steady doses of atypical anti-psychotics.

  8. I will try again. – PLease know that there is a limit to the number of comment on comment…. I was UNABLE to post this one for some reason….

    Dear Zilla (May I?)
    1. Thanks for responding to my question.
    2. I had a different experience with my own dad. THe thought of letting my dad into my thoughts, never crossed my mind when I was May’s age. NOt so much of fear privacy wise, but of knowing that my dad lacks the sophistication required to be part of my life. NOw I know that sounds arrogant, but that is the truth. I am saying that because I am proud of the fact that my relationship with May is marked first of all of mutual respect. I have heard in the past, and thought myself that there might be something weired and utterly UNCOOL about my involvement, but that never came from May’s direction. And I say, screw everyone who thinks that I am not cool, or that I should keep distance. Why should I? May is fascinating, and I learn a lot. WHen time comes, May will tell me to back off, and he knows I will.
    3. As for the issue of meds… I never saw in May’s writing that he equated anything to a walk in the park, if anything, he wrote mostly the opposite. Inspiration is one thing, but a perscription is another. As of now, I vote for Prescription. Obviously, the more you learn, the more you can participate , and ultimately control your own destiny.
    4. THat is a mere shadow of what I wrote before…. THings happen.
    5. Your blog is gonnabe on my menu. Sharing is so important. THat is what I call “enabling Diversity”… so You are a teacher too. And very smat, allow me to add.
    THanks

  9. Your comment wasn’t lost. It was being held in my moderation queue because you used at least one very common spam words in your comment, namely “prescription.”

    For the record, there isn’t a limit on a size of a comment, but exceptionally long comments may get held in the moderation queue. Additionally, should a comment contain any of list of common spam words, it is held in moderation, or if a comment contains more than 5 links (for now, though I may change that setting in the future), it will be held in the moderation queue. Spammers like to link to their own site for publicity and Google page rank reasons.

  10. I’d be honoured, Nick, to have you read it. And I must say I’m envious of the parent child relationship you have, both of you. While I don’t have anything approaching that with my own parents, I am quite close with my son and hope that as he ages (he’s 13) we maintain that.

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