Recently I was asked what to do when you don’t want to take your bipolar medication. What do you do when you’re battling medication noncompliance (also known as nonadherence) within yourself? I thought this was a good question as it’s something that many of us battle with. We know we need to take the medication, but some part of us doesn’t want to take the medication. I guess it’s a need vs. want scenario. This scenario is trickier than many people think, as not wanting to take medication is common and a very understandable impulse. So here’s what to do when you don’t want to take your bipolar medication.
Why Don’t People Want to Take Bipolar Medication?
Ah, the only people who would ever ask why people don’t want to take bipolar medication are people that have not been on bipolar medication. Where do I start? Do you want to feel exhausted, foggy, and pukey? Do you want to gain ungodly amounts of weight and not be able to lose it? Do you want to undeniably not feel like yourself? Well then, do I have some medication for you!
Weight Gain Makes People with BIpolar Medication Noncompliant
Seriously, though, the side effects from bipolar medication can be brutal. Take just the side effect of weight gain. Weight gain is so frowned upon in our society that it’s no wonder that people want to avoid it. People look at those who are overweight like they’re lazy, undisciplined, or even stupid. And I don’t have to mention that women, in particular, are judged by how they look and, more specifically, how small they are. And these medications can cause a lot of weight gain. People don’t understand this, and they don’t have empathy for it. People think it’s as “simple” as eating less. It isn’t. Not only do these medications make you gain weight, but they can also cause wicked cravings that are almost impossible to deny and change the very way your body metabolizes food. Yes, some people manage to fight these forces, but most just can’t.
Not Feeling Like Yourself Makes People with Bipolar Medication Nonadherent
And not feeling like yourself is a real problem with bipolar medications too. This is not inherently a negative, but it can be. For example, if a bipolar medication blunts your emotions, that’s awful to live with (and likely indicates that you’re not on the right medication or medication dosage). But even if the medication does exactly what you want it to do — which is remove the extremes from your moods — that can feel very weird and foreign to a person with bipolar disorder. And all of us want to go back to what we know even when what we know isn’t healthy.
So, what we have are people who are overweight and thus, perhaps don’t feel great about that and people who don’t feel like themselves and have a series of other side effects too. Many people would go far to avoid being in such a state, and this is completely understandable.
When You Don’t Want to Take Your Bipolar Medication Because You Don’t Feel Like Yourself, Try This
I understand not wanting to take your bipolar medication because you don’t feel like yourself. But there are two things to remember if the bipolar medication is blunting your emotions or making you feel not like yourself:
- You may not on the right bipolar medication or the right dosage of medication. When the medication dosage is too high, it often blunts emotions or causes other strange feelings. Talk to your doctor about this openly. It doesn’t have to be this way. If he/she doesn’t take you seriously, find someone who does. How you experience life is important.
- Not feeling like yourself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now, if your feelings are blunted to an extreme extent or something else unacceptable is happening, then you likely fall into the point I made above, but if you’re just not used to having a more even mood, then what I would say is — you need to give it a chance. Taking psychotropic medication is hard. Changing your life is hard. Removing the unhealthy parts of your experience is hard. Don’t give up now because better things are coming.
When You Don’t Want to Take Your Bipolar Medication for Other Reasons, Remember This
- Remember why you started medication in the first place. Typically, people begin bipolar medication because their life is out-of-control. Their life is completely unmanageable, or they’re in unbearable pain. These are the states you likely will go back to if you stop your bipolar medication. Do not allow this to happen.
- Remember that we all have to give to get. Nothing comes for free. I’m not saying you should stick with side effects that you find intolerable — those should always be addressed by your doctor — but I am saying that no medication is perfect. But if your life, overall, is better on medication than off, then it’s worth staying on it.
I also recommend making a list of all the things that medication gives you. These are the reasons you should stay on your bipolar medication. These could be things like:
- Medication allows me to see my kids and parent better.
- Medication enables me to keep a job and be a better employee.
- Medication helps me continue and succeed at school.
- Medication enables me to make a living and choose to live in a home.
- Medication allows me to be a better friend.
- Medication keeps me from experiencing suicidality.
- Medication keeps me out of the hospital.
- Medication keeps me alive.
These gifts that bipolar medication give you are no small things. You should hold those gifts close to your heart because, honestly, they are miracles. Keeping people with bipolar disorder alive is a miracle. Keeping people with bipolar disorder off the street is a miracle. Staying at work, keeping your kids, maintaining friendships — these are miracles, and these are things that bipolar medication gives you.
When you don’t want to stay on your bipolar medication, when you hate bipolar medication compliance, when you’re angry about bipolar medication adherence, remember those things. I’m the first to admit that medication can be very, very hard. But life without it is so much worse for most people with bipolar disorder. Remember that.
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