What Keeps a Person Sick with Bipolar Going When Treatment Doesn’t Work?

What Keeps a Person Sick with Bipolar Going When Treatment Doesn’t Work?

Some people with bipolar disorder are lucky in that when they get treatment, they find something that works for them within some reasonable period of time (and this might be in a year or two, maybe not altogether reasonable, but on the whole, good). However, not all people sick with bipolar are so lucky. Some people with acute bipolar symptoms don’t find anything that works for them for prolonged periods of time. In fact, for many people sick with bipolar, it seems like they will never find any treatment that will work.

So if you’re in this latter group (and I am) what keeps you going? If you still suffer from acute bipolar symptoms and the treatment isn’t working, how do you keep trying to get better, day after day?

Giving Up on Bipolar Treatment

Some people give up on bipolar treatment. And sometimes bipolar treatment (ie. A psychiatrist) gives up on them. And while I understand this situation – why wouldn’t you give up after years of something that didn’t work – I don’t think it’s where you want to be. I believe that bipolar treatment can make you better no matter how long you’ve been sick. (And bipolar treatments can make you a little better, if not necessarily completely well with zero bipolar symptoms, and a little better is preferred to nothing at all.)

For many people, bipolar treatment doesn't work quickly, but how do you keep going when you're sick with bipolar and treatment isn't working?My Story of Being Sick with Bipolar

When I tell my story in presentations about my experience of bipolar disorder, it entails detailing many years when I was very sick. Yes, many years. But through all those years, I didn’t give up on treatment. I tried one thing after another, after another in the hopes that something would work.

And the sad fact is, the more treatments you have failed, the more likely the next one is to fail too. It’s this horrible law of bipolar illness. But nevertheless, even though the odds are long, I believe that people do get better and people do get their lives back. But not if they give up.

And, in my story of being sick with bipolar disorder, it all turns around when I add a medication, that I had tried before, into a new medication cocktail. I didn’t think it would do anything. The medication hadn’t worked before. But, miraculously, in one, specific combination, that little pill made all the difference in the world.

Don’t Give Up on Bipolar Treatment Even if You’ve Been Sick Forever

Here’s the thing about bipolar treatment: even though you may have been through the painful, horrific, brain-destroying wringer, you can’t give up. And the reason you can’t give up is because with treatment you have the chance of getting better, without treatment you likely have none. (And I’m talking about intractable cases, not those who have time-limited episodes.) When that medication worked for me I thought it was the end. I thought nothing would ever work. But it did. It was a miracle. And you deserve your own miracle too. There is hope for treatment-resistant bipolar disorder.

Tips on How to Keep Going When Bipolar Treatment Disorder Work

  • Remember, people do get better every day. You can be one of these people.
  • Remember, long odds still have winners at the end.
  • If I could get a miracle, then you can too. There’s nothing so special about me.
  • When things get good again, and they will, it will be worth having hung in there. The good times make all the horror worth it; you just might not be able to see that right now.
  • Make sure you talk about your feelings about bipolar treatment with someone like a psychotherapist. They can support you when bipolar treatment isn’t working.
  • Try treatments that you consider unlikely to work (but that have evidence) like mindfulness meditation. Open yourself up to new ideas that might help. Even if you remain sick with bipolar, these techniques can help you get through the every day.

The moral of the story is simple: don’t give up. You deserve better and even if it takes a very long time, you can get to better. I promise.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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