Why I Don’t Tell People My Bipolar Medications, Treatment Plan

And Why You Shouldn’t Tell People about Your Bipolar Medications Either

At least once a week someone asks me what medication I’m on or what my bipolar treatment plan is, but I have a policy not to talk about my treatment plan or medication. I typically won’t even get specific about my experience with specific medications. I don’t tell people what medications I’m or what my treatment plan is for a good reason – it’s no one’s business but mine and my doctor.

I get a little peeved that people ask me about my medications and treatment plan because it’s private people. But people think that just because I’m a writer I’m a public commodity and people should get to know whatever they want about me. Well guess what, you don’t. You get to know what I choose to tell you, nothing more, nothing less.

People Want to Know about my Bipolar Medication Why?

And really, why is it that people want to know about my bipolar medication? I’ll tell you why – either they want to copy it or they want to judge (like judging ECT) it and I have no interest in facilitating either of those things.

I always, always, always tell people that everyone is an individual and no one should base their bipolar treatment on someone else’s treatment plan. But, nevertheless, some people want mine explicitly so they can copy it. They see it as some kind of “Natasha Tracy” endorsement. It doesn’t matter that I tell people not to do it. Some people just won’t listen. Some people want to “be like me” and so they think a combination of medication will do it. Well it won’t.  (And really, you should reconsider that “being like me” thing.)

I do understand that this partially comes from desperation from people for whom nothing works. These people have my utmost compassion, but hearing about my bipolar medication and treatment plan isn’t the way to help that. In fact, my suggesting that you take something based on my own experience alone would be akin to malpractice (if, indeed, I were a doctor). The risk-vs-reward scenario on any treatment is different for each person and only you know what’s best for your bipolar treatment.

Judging Bipolar Medication Treatment

And then there are all the people who want to know about my bipolar medication so they can tell me how wrong medications are and how wrong I am. They want to tell me all about my damaged brain and my poisoned body. They want to use my bipolar medication against me in some way. They want to use information about me as a weapon. Happens all the time to me and I have no desire to put yet another rock in people’s hands.

Knowing Another’s Bipolar Medication and Treatment Plan

In short, you don’t need to know what works for someone else, you need to know what works for you, and in many cases your combination will stand alone in working for you and not for others – because brains are complicated and medications are like blunt hammers doing microsurgery.

So forget about my medications and focus on researching medications in general and talking to your doctor. Because that’s the way you’re going to find the unique combination that works for you. (Like these new treatment approaches.)

If you’re bipolar and looking for a mood stabilizer, there’s a great table here that lists them all by evidence. Start there. Then move onto other reliable resources I recommend.

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  1. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I in 1989 and I do share details about my medications and treatment plan with others. Everyone needs to come up with their own treatment plan and find medications that work for them, but I don’t mind sharing this information with others if they ask, and I also share those things in my bIog. I see sharing it as a way to decrease stigma. It can be discussed just as people discuss what type of cold medicine works best for them. However, I always share that my treatment plan has changed over the years, and that I’ve tried lots of different medications and have never found the perfect combination. I am a work in progress and so is my treatment plan. What works for me will not always work for others, but it might give them ideas to discuss with their therapist and psychiatrist. Of course, this is a personal choice and no one should be expected to discuss their treatment plan just because they are someone who writes about bipolar disorder.

  2. First off there is no single “winning combination” in my point of view. There are several that change throughout the course of time. There are definitely things that work and don’t work. As what works today may not have worked last year or a year from now. Therapy is also a good way to work on problems so one doesn’t have to expect medication to provide a buffer zone for EVERYTHING POSSIBLE IN THE WORLD!

  3. Natasha,

    I understand, respect and agree with this article. I enjoyed the content and other posts like it. Keep up the good work.

    Oh, BUT ECT???? I am incapable of not forming a judgment about something I consider so inhumane and radical…just sayin’…and of course please don’t let that opinion negate from the kudos!

  4. It depends on the individual. If I know they suffer from the same thing I do, I will give them a heads up about what options are out there and how well they work for different people. I did once and she tried getting on the same combination and the doctor was upset with her for asking for the combination I take because I also have severe ADHD and am on the oldest drug on the market for it. Luckily, none of the modern day ADHD med abusers even know what that is. I keep controlled meds in a safe. I had a woman try to steal another ADHD med I had to take during the shortage once and I learned my lesson.

    It is none of anyone’s business.

    • Also, in pharmacies, the people I tend to see flagrantly screaming at the top of their lungs and bragging and announcing their prescriptions to everyone are the ones picking up Vicodin, Oxycontin and/or Xanax.

  5. Hi Natasha,

    I do not even tell people I have bipolar disorder, let alone if I am taking medicine.

    I think that you should do what you want, just like I do what I want.

    Why don’t I tell people I am bipolar? Well, i have lost friends and even had to

    stop using a lawyer because people seem to think I will be violent or that I am

    retarded. I am not retarded. I graduated from college with a 3.6.

    I don’t have a blog like you, so you know what you are going through. I don’t.

  6. Well, I completely would not want someone trying to “copy” my meds! And it would be disastrous for me to copy someone else’s, as BiPolar Disorder can wear so many different faces. I have BiPolar I mixed episodes w/ psychosis and am ultra rapid cycling. With my form of BiPolar, something like a certain anti-depressants that would be wonder drugs for BiPolar 2 sufferers would throw me into full blown mania!
    Or if a BiPolar 2 sufferer got into my meds, they could go into a coma- lol!
    That would not be a good idea.
    BiPolar is NOT cut and dry.
    The only cut and dry thing about BiPolar meds is that you need a mood stabilizer. Your doctor can say which one and how much.

  7. I agree with not wanting to tell people what medication you take . Telling people what medication you take enables them to offer what they fill is helpful input . Which in reality means you are stuck listening to medical advice from people not qualified to give it . I have experienced it with family members that meant well . One was positive what I was taking was the worst thing to take . The other told me to throw the pills away , suck it up , and deal with stuff the way other people do and I’d be fine . Due to that the only ones that know what medication I take are my Doctors . Medications work different for each individaul . And I honestly don’t know a Doctor that would prescribe a medication based on a patient asking for it .

  8. Hi all,

    Thanks for all the comments. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to get back to each person individually, but I do have a couple of comments.

    First of all, when I was talking about disclosing treatment plan information, I was thinking about public disclosure and not personal disclosure. In other words, it’s different talking about your medication plans with a friend, one-on-one, than it is talking about it in the open, like online where thousands read it. So for those of you who say you would discuss your plans with others you trust, I completely get that and understand.

    Secondly, I didn’t mean to come of defensively, but I suppose defending myself is a reasonable action to being attacked. Which I am. Frequently. Others may not find this on a constant basis but the last person who wanted me to specify my medication only did so because they wanted to pick me apart and whined mightily when I wouldn’t share. Most people don’t react this way. Most people respect my privacy. And that’s all I really want.

    – Natasha Tracy

  9. in the old days, some 100 years back it seems… you were more “like us” and so not “a blogger” of mental illness.

    what I mean is; when you started your blog many years back, it was more of a personal diary – a journal, so to speak – of your day to day life, struggles, med side effects, working trials and tribulations, VNS application – then to get it – then to experience it, etc…, moving from Canada to the US, the kittens, moving back, the men, etc… you know, more “like us”

    you were more forthcoming and less, generalized and informative

    so you have issues with your medication and your readers follow along, maybe someone else does also… maybe someone else feels you are messing with the mechanics.. but it makes you “more like us”

    Many are new to you and many are old to you and whether you now choose to disclose your medications or treatment plan, while blogging about Bipolar Medication and treatment plans… is your choice. It’s your blog. Yet, it kinda lost the “personal and relative” edge to it, IMHO.

    By the way… You are defensive about folks wanting to blast medication but then note it’s like taking a blunt hammer to microsurgery. You are a supporter of med therapy and do argue it’s merits quite highly, and to follow your doc’s blah blah cause the doc knows but then you note that you need to research your own and only you can determine what is best for you and your treatment… (psst, maybe it is not taking so MANY meds)

    you invite guests to blog, you put out studies, and you even note that a pharmaceutical company will provide tuition… not to mention a specialist will provide a assessment for your readers… discuss how/what to do if someone notes suicide on facebook (thereby, you are on facebook), … and well… essentially promoting – yes, promoting merely by blogging it…. people, products, media websites, pharmaceuticals, etc.. that those of your devoted readership will turn to BECAUSE you note it

    but you come across offended and slightly agitated because folks ask for YOUR personal medication/treatment regimen… I, for one, don’t personally care to know – you’ve done your time, in the Bipolar trench, years back… but I gather, apparently, that it is hard being a “informative role model” to so many now, huh?

    • Hi Tabby,

      Well, you are a long-time reader now aren’t you? :)

      To be fair now, I’m still exactly “like you,” I just have a much louder microphone.

      You are correct. In ye olden days, things were very different. Yes, it was more of a journal with some informational articles rather than the other way around.

      I yes, I have no doubt the blog has lost a certain feel. Believe it or not, I miss it too, but it’s a trade-off. You can’t have everything.

      And by the way, it is entirely possible to suggest that medications are the best treatment we have and still note their shortcomings. I can very easily do both. And pardon me, but who are you to say what “too many” meds are for another person?

      And I’m not quite sure your point about guest-bloggers and such. I’ve stated in some articles, like the one on the college tuition scholarship, that it’s not a personal endorsement of any such company but they doesn’t mean that I don’t think people can take advantage of it. I bring information to my readers that I think is helpful, it doesn’t mean I _endorse_ such things, and I’m very clear about that.

      And well, yes, it’s hard being a role model for anyone. I’m not suggesting that I should be, I think people should do what they want, but having a wide audience of people with so many background and opinions is challenging, yes.

      – Natasha Tracy

  10. Hey I totally see your point about not wanting to share your personal information, and I guess you’ve made the right decision given your circumstances. But why suggest that others do the same and keep it private? My personal information is my own and I’ll share it with whomsoever I choose.

    Having said that, it really irks me that people in charge of hiring and firing, people in charge of professional registration, people in charge of welfare, or just people in general, want to know my treatment plan, as though they had the professional skills to judge whether it was appropriate or not. If my doctor says I’m disabled, I’m disabled. If my doctor says I’m capable of working, I’m capable of working. If my doctor says to avoid shiftwork, then there’s no need to call me in for a face to face meeting and independently verify it, especially if you are less qualified to judge it than my doctor. There is no need to ask about medication at said meeting. It has nothing to do with you whatsoever.

    The observation that people who are trying to cope with a chronic illness or disability, will search and search for the magic cure, is all too true. In such circumstances normally rational people are rarely thinking clearly. It’s the same whether it’s psychiatry, nephrology, paediatrics or geriatrics. If that overpriced bottle of fish oil was going to cure your child’s learning disability, you’d give it a go, wouldn’t you? If a friend of a friend said he started taking some special nutritional powder and it fixed his broken kidneys, wouldn’t you want to try it? If your speechless child could learn to talk in three months using the latest new-fangled approach, which worked wonders for this kid overseas… well you get the idea. It’s just what we’re like.

  11. Hi Natasha,

    I’m a big believer in research myself, and have always been a massive reader of texts and articles. However, as a Nurse I can tell you that I learnt just as much from patients’ personal stories of their reactions to medication and side effects as from the scientific data out there.
    In fact I had quite a few patients who told similar stories of side effects from meds their Specialists refused to give credit to, because no studies had published anything remotely close. Then years later such side effects are now in the headlines and meds are being pulled from shelves.
    Never doubt the power of sharing personal experiences!

    I do agree though that it is prudent of you to protect yourself from misguided sycophants and voyeurs, but I don’t think it is the majority of people out there. Most people are simply searching for corroborating stories to help theirs feel more valid or data to be gained from learning everything they can about Bipolar.

    If your experiences are mostly of the negative variety then I feel sorry for you, genuinely. That would bite.

    Either way, whilst I am totally open about all my diagnoses and meds, I believe this is %100 your choice to make, and respect that.

    Kerri.

    • Dear Kerri,

      Thanks for your response and take on this subject matter from a professional viewpoint.

      I very much agree with you as to the importance of researching information and whenever possible collaborating on the subject matter.

      It is impossible to obtain knowledge of all the potential side-effects from drugs within the normal 12 week trial studies and especially in the case of psychotropic medications where now known side-effects often appear after long-term use. Extensive litigation relating to psychotropic medications has taken place as a result of side-effects (cover ups and manipulation of information) as well as the marketing of drugs for unapproved indications.

      So in my opinion it behooves the patient and/or his/her support person(s) to be as reasonably knowledgeable as possible while at the same time I do respect an individual’s choice to privacy but it does not deter me from respectfully asking questions.

      Warmly,
      Herb
      vnsdepression@gmail.com
      http://www.vnstherapy-herb.blogspot.com

  12. Natasha, you are precisely correct. I have bipolar disorder I and my policy has always been not to discuss my specific medications with anyone. If anybody wants to know why, all they have to do is read a few of the responses already posted to your blog. You’ll see words the judgemental use such as “willpower,” “magic mix,” “weird,” “defensive” and even “curious.” I think a lot comes down to education. Not only bloggers on this site – But I would estimate at least 90% of the general population have no clue about mental illnesses. They are constantly curious, always sticking their nose in somebody else’s business. Many of them even put on a veil of good intentions. They could have Ph.D’s in how to perpetuate stigma. Yes indeed, the only reason a person would ask about specific medicines is either to see how many miles to get away from you or to copy your treatment for themselves or someone else. If a friend told me they had cancer, my first reaction is not to ask them what medicines they are taking.

    • I don’t think you allow for “curiosity”, a very human trait. Personally, I am curious to find others who also use Lamotrigine, to find out if their experiences of it are similar to my own. It makes little difference to the World and its oysters if they are similar or not, but I’m interested in finding out anyway.

      • Hello John,

        If I was newly diagnosed with cancer and knew someone had the same type of cancer, that would be my first question. Not to copy, but to learn and have knowledge because knowledge is power. This illness is scary and when you have hope that maybe someone who is going through the same thing as you are and who understands it’s like a lifeline. You doctor doesn’t know how it feels(unless they are diagnosed as well). So I can understand how people would want to discuss and see what meds others are on. I have no problem discussing what I take if that can help someone else great. If not well then there is a lesson learned.

  13. I appreciate your blog and respect your choice not to share the particulars.

    A very dear friend who also has BP2 was a godsend for me as a resource when I finally sought help/answers; and I *did* want to ‘copy’ him because what he was doing worked for him and I wanted that magic bullet.
    He eventually shared with me but only after I told him what I was prescribed, how it made me feel, etc. As it turns/turned out, what works for me *isn’t* his combination, and had I focused on his plan I wouldn’t have found my own. My plan includes a med that was awful for him; and he only shared that with me when I had issues at the beginning and a nurse friend looked at me like I was nuts. Had I known it was a problem for him I likely would have ruled it out or been too scared to try.

    Thank you for what you *do* choose to share (which is a lit) as it does a lot of good and makes me feel supported and less unusual.

  14. Dear Natasha,

    I hope this note finds you doing well.

    I do have much respect for your thoughts and valid comments relating to the subject of sharing or not sharing one’s treatment regimen with others.

    I need not also remind you that you’ve achieved or set out to achieve a degree of personal notoriety in the mental health community. I think you also know by now as I’ve followed your blogging through these many years sharing with us your suffering, family dynamics, your wellness as well as your achievements that I’ve done so with much admiration for your very skillful writings and especially “telling it like it is”.

    But then again, I’ve also at times disagreed with your viewpoint. Now is one such occasion. As you or your readers may not recall I too for several years maintained a website specifically devoted to a very specific therapy option which was one of the newest neuro-modulation therapies to be studied at the time; VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation).

    Unlike you, I chose a position to share my spouse’s treatment regimen. I did so specifically for the purpose of educating those participating in the study and for those having interest in the new treatment option as well as my learning from other study subjects what was or was not working for them.

    When I shared our information I also prefaced the reporting with a statement to the effect that I am sharing this information in the hope of educating others and that we are all unique and our responses whether favorable/negative and potential side-effects to any given treatment regimen are also unique to each individual. This sharing is not meant to encourage anyone to do as we do but is meant for one to take this information and discuss the contents if necessary with one’s attending physician to encourage an exchange of ideas and thoughts or do we endorse any products, treatments, companies or the like.

    Yes, we did receive many disparaging remarks that I was experimenting on my spouse, I’m evil, I’m just zapping her brain and wasn’t ECT enough etc., etc. Be that as it may, the community of patients with whom I collaborated did reasonably well and continues to do so today through our collaborative efforts to share information.

    As you will note from several of the previous responses to this blog, you as a more public figure, draw the interest of your readers in addition to knowing specifics of what you do for yourself in terms of treatment regimen. No doubt all you mentioned in this blog for not sharing reasonably applies for you but if your intentions are noble, which I believe you have always exhibited, there should be under the circumstances no reason for you to withhold this information as you’ve shared through the years far more intimate thoughts of your life and experiences.

    I shall still respect your decision(s) as I do for others.

    Lastly, in Joyce’s case history the use of VNS Therapy has truly proven to be remarkable for her. This December will be 13 years of treatment. Depression is totally absent; we haven’t discussed depression in years.

    As always, I wish you and yours wellness and the same for those who read my comments.

    Warmly,
    Herb
    vnsdepression@gmail.com
    http://www.vnstherapy-herb.blogspot.com

  15. Interesting, would you feel the same way if you were on medication for any other illness, cancer, diabetes etc…?
    Feeling that someone else would copy you seems to be reaching IMO…there are a lot of us who have no resources, I live in a very small town and my pdoc is ready to prescribe anything. An appointment that takes months to get lasts maybe 6 minutes. So yes, I’d like to know what works for other people. I’ve been on Lithium since 1997. I want to try alternatives but he won’t let me, telling me that I’ll end up back in the hospital if I stop Lithium. He won’t even discuss alternatives. I recently found a wonderful magazine called BP magazine and was so relieved to see that I’m not alone. It talks about Brain Fog, cognitive problems, memory problems that other people with this illness experience.
    I’m new to your site and I’m intrigued, but honestly I felt this post was cold.

    Best regards,
    Denise

    • I was just about to comment when I read your feedback, Denise. I agree with you completely, so thought I would just add my 2 cents, briefly.

      First, Natasha, I completely respect your right to privacy. If that is your reason for not sharing, then why not leave it at that? This particular blog post felt defensive to me. And self-important. I just cannot imagine anyone making the decision to “copy” your meds in an attempt to “be like” you. I think that’s absurd and your readers should probably be given more credit than that.

      I also agree with Kalie–by and large, those of us with bipolar disorder are just trying to educate ourselves, and connect with others who are on a similar journey. Having that patient perspective can balance out the info the pdocs give us, and I think that is a tremendous help. IMO that is why people inquire.

    • Hi Denise,

      Well, I respect the fact that you think it’s reaching, but from my experience, it is not. I see people everyday who change their medications based on what they hear on the internet and it only gets worse for a person like me because of the number of people who read me.

      And if you only have 6 minutes then you’re much better off suggesting something with actual research behind it rather than whatever you’ve garnered from others.

      In your case, by the way, it’s quite possible to _add_ something to lithium, see how you do, and then taper off the lithium. I recommend those links I posted in the above article as they are research-based and really can help.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • Thanks Tracy,
        I do understand how you feel to a point, but at this point in my life I just want to be well. I’m stable and have been for a long time. But Lithium scares the bjesus out of me. I’ve had complications with it but nothing else works and my doc just seems to give up and get frustrated whenever I suggest something else. I’d like to try something holistic, but then again IDK…I love what I’ve seen from you so far.
        Thank you!
        D

  16. I see the point in Tracey not saying what she takes because she will be seen by some as “expert” in medication, as a “role model”, and that could lead them into making irrational choices about their own medication, switching to what she takes because she takes it, not because it is the most appropriate for them. So, it’s a good call.

    As for me, I’m easy. Like Tracey, I claim no expertise save for my own personal edition of the illness, but I am not a “role model” to anyone in this area. So, I make no secret of the fact that I’m BP (although maybe I should – folk still run away like I’m the Mad Axeman, and it seems to be one of the hurdles I face for getting a job!) In consequence, I’m not bothered about anyone knowing what meds I take. (Lamotrigine – 250mg a day, BTW! It ‘almost’ works for me.)

  17. I don’t see what’s so bad about asking and/or sharing what medication you’re on and I don’t find the need to be precious about it. I ask out of curiosity because I’m curious about what type of meds people take and whether or not they take the same as I do.

  18. Yeaa i don’t want to be rude but it is just medication names i mean all people can look up all the medications on the wikipedia for all disorders. Yeaa it is kind of weird that you would’t share that but that’s me. And you say if you say what meds you take people will be telling you what poison you take. But you already take poison (and no i don’t think meds are poison just trying to make my point) because you are already taking meds and if you say name of the medication in a funny way i don’t think it will be more poisonous. And the thing you are right is that all people react different to meds and med combos so if you tell them what you are taking is not going to help much. But i think people are curious, everybody likes to know what someone else is taking (An example when weekend is gone and you go back to work and you ask someone how was your weekend, you ask them because you are curious if that person did something more fun than you and to start a conversation) So i think it is similar situation here because you are now public and people look up to you and read your blogs so they are more curious what you are taking than some john elsewhere. That is one thing about being public.

    • Hi Turbo,

      People may be genuinely curious, but that’s not a good reason to tell them potentially dangerous information. I highly encourage that people _research_ medications from reliable sources and not count on anecdotes as people mistakenly think anecdotes are evidence when _they_are_not_.

      – Natasha Tracy

  19. As my son has had very odd responses to some medication, I am very curious to hear from people that has had the same odd reactions, thinking that there can be a common underlying biochemical background.

    So I don’t care very much about who is taking Seroquel or Lithium or whatever in general, but I take a huge inerest in treatment plans and responses to different medications among the rare people who share many features whith my son. Not doing so would be stupid i m h o.

    Not in order to copy their perscription lists, but to make better choices on what to try next.

    • Hi Cecilia,

      In all honesty, and I’ve been doing this for a very long time, your best resources is your _doctor_ because he/she sees cases like you son’t all the time and your doctor will have a _much_ better idea of what to try next than anyone else.

      – Natasha Tracy

  20. This is an interesting article. It made me question why I am open about the medication that I take. The reason is, that although different medications work for different people, I want to stress the fact that I do take medication and that it works most of the time. I am going through a medication change right now and if it works out, I could rename my blog from Lithium and Lamictal to Trileptal and Saphris. I do understand and respect your point of view.

  21. Really!?

    People want to copy your medication plan in hopes that it’ll have the same result? That’s, uuhm, ridiculous… To say the least.

    Healing from a mood disorder doesn’t take some magic mix. It’s a combination of good therapy, sometimes medication but most of all YOUR WILLPOWER.

    If you have the guts to be honest to yourself and face the twists in your head, you’ll be okay. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how much you talk with your therapist and how much bottles of prozac you gulp away. You’ll never get better.

    It’s so weird. This is the first time I heard of this.

    But great job sharing this, hope it makes people think.

    • I think you are angry. If you dont want to say dont… some of us like to know because maybe we are on the same meds and want to know someone elses experiance. I f we dont share with each other we cant educate ourselves. Bipolar people need a connection with others with similar experiences a community. I am sorry u feel the way u do.. maybe u will find a support group someday that u feel comfortable with and are able to share.

        • Why would some people want to copy Natasha’s plan? Because some people find their medication plan isn’t working for them, or at least not in the way they would like. They become desperate for something to work. They see someone who is also BP and who ‘appears’ to be doing well on their medication regime. Natasha, for example, appears to be functioning very well; so, one might assume she is doing well. (That may not necessarily be the case, of course.) Naturally, they want to see if it will work for them, too because they are feeling so ###### up anything would seem better than their status quo.