Do I Have to Take this Medicine for the Rest of My Life?

Taking medication for bipolar disorder takes commitment. You may find yourself measuring the pros and cons. For me, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.



By Susie Johnson


Each week I feel like a pharmacist. I pull out my shoe box, sort through peach-colored bottles, and put my medicine into my weekly pill boxes. I have two because one isn’t big enough for all of my pills.

I use a mail-in pharmacy which helps when I’m running out of medicine. I have to constantly keep track of when I need a new prescription. When I take a vacation, I have to be especially careful that I won’t run out.  I have found that using the auto refill is more of a pain for me.

I live in Las Vegas.  My husband and I like to enjoy shows and concerts on the weekends.  I have a routine of keeping my medicine in the car console so after the shows I can take  my medicine when we get in the car. Lucky for me my husband drives me home. If I wait until I get home to take my medicine, then it is several hours before it kicks in and I am able to sleep. The longer I wait to take my medicine at night, the more of a medicine hangover I have the next morning. This is no good!

During the work week I have to take my night cocktail at 7:30 because it doesn’t kick in until 9 or later depending on how tired I am.  I need the magic number of 8 plus hours of sleep.  Without the sleep I can’t make it through the day working at my elementary school as I avoid the puke in the hallways and watch the kids eat their boogers.

Timing my night cocktail is a challenge.  If I stay up and watch TV too late and ignore the first wave of dizziness I feel, I find it hard to walk up the stairs to my bedroom. My heart races as one of the side effects. I hate it. Usually I give in and know when it is time to go to bed in the first place.

People ask how does taking so much medicine feel? Honestly I feel good and am able to work, exercise, and enjoy hobbies. People have also asked if I feel that the medicine has dampened the creativity bipolar people have, especially on a manic high. I still feel creative and productive even without the mania.

As for side effects, I am incredibly blessed I have not had to deal with weight gain or any of those scary side effects listed on the paper you get from the pharmacy.

So is taking the medicine worth it? I have lived with it and without it. My life was a disaster without it. I lost my job multiple times. I ended up in a dead end relationship. I had no friends because I was a hot mess. I bought things I didn’t need. I remember tapping another person’s car in traffic as a result of mania (I should not have been driving!).  My anxiety level was through the roof. I kept replaying things in my mind over and over again. I was as moody as a typical woman with PMS.  I lived in constant mixed manias. One minute I was crying the next laughing. This was no life.

Then I realized I was at the point of no return. I needed help. My mom found the best psychiatrist who worked hard at finding the right mix of drugs for me. My life turned around. I met my prince charming and married him ten years ago. I have been working in the same school as an Assistant helping students with learning disabilities. I have made some of the best friends I have ever had in my life.

I know the medicine keeps me sane and helps me live a fruitful life. So I surrender to it every day. I know my body needs it the way everyone needs oxygen. I have learned to accept that and enjoy a beautiful life. I hope you experience one, too.

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