It seems many people with Bipolar Disorder are leaving their treatment plan completely up to their doctors. I often hear about how a med is not working for someone or how the side effects are making it not worth the benefits of taking it. When I ask these people if they’ve spoken to their doctor they often say no. Although I love to advocate for people and am happy to offer my opinions and experiences of the drugs I am aware of, I’m here to ask you to be your own advocate as well.
For me, there is nothing more empowering than knowledge. When I first accepted my diagnosis (approximately seven years after being diagnosed) I dove head first into research. I read every book, article, study and paper on Bipolar Disorder. I also read hundreds of Bipolar medication forums with thousands of comments. I wanted the first hand knowledge of the people taking the pills, not what the manufacturer of the medication told a doctor it might do. When I started talking to my doctor about mood stabilizers and antipsychotics he was not impressed, he was worried and wanted to know if I thought I was manic. ABSOLUTELY YES. I mean, no one does research like manic me. I chose which medications I was going to take and my doctor assisted in getting me those medications and monitoring me for extreme side effects while adjusting to them.
Now, I don’t expect everyone is such a control freak or has the time to dedicate a solid month to researching which meds will work for them. Doctors can be good at suggesting which medications might work for you. Be open and honest about all of your symptoms when you’re talking to your doc and you will likely get a good recommendation. When you go home though, don’t just blindly take this medication. Google it. See what other people that have taken it say, the good and the bad. Know that everyone is different and you won’t have the same outcome as anyone else, but it can be helpful to know things like how long it took other people before they felt a difference in their mood or which side effects were worst. When you go back to your doctor you’ll be able to have a more inclusive conversation about your medication management.
TLDR: Your doctor is not your parent or your boss; they are part of your team. Don’t sit on the bench when it comes to your mental health.