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  • Writer's picturethe bipolar talker

Managing Bipolar naturally - Is it possible?

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

I always read detailed discussions around this topic and the answer I have found in my own life is yes and no. This topic isn't about being pro-meds or anti-meds - it's about having a holistic approach to medication and managing bipolar.


I have currently been managing without medication for (almost) two years now and it has been a long journey filled with ups and downs ( I do experience bipolar after all, haha). The main things that have helped me stay on top of my mental health was:


A) early intervention: I started seriously taking care of my mental health after my first episode - this meant cutting down on all 'the bad habits' and creating healthy routines (so boooring, yet effective and exciting). As the doctors told me the more episodes I had, the lesser chance there was of me living my life without meds - I wanted to do anything to avoid a second episode. I was also so appreciative of everything the early intervention team had done for me - in the hospital and as an outpatient. We are very lucky here in Australia.


B) Gathering medical opinions: My first questions to the psychiatrist were "How long do I have to be on medication?", unimpressed he said that not taking meds was out of the question for me and that most people with bipolar have to take medication for their life to maintain it. I now know that taking medication isn't bad but I had grown up seeing my dad take so many pills for his physical health and naturally built up a hate for medication. Everytime I saw a medical professional, I asked them about whether life without medication is possible? Nine months into treatment, I had just moved to a new clinic due to my postcode changing and the mental health nurse told me that recently they had seen new cases where a lot of people had just one of two episodes of mania in their lifetime but other than that had been able to live relatively normal lives. The day I heard it, it was like my birthday all over again and I was honestly the happiest girl in the world.


C) Long term goals, short term actions: Whilst I didn't have a stringent plan, I also didn't go into it blind. I was on a few different medications and after six months, I was able to successfully transition to lithium - I always liked lithium because it was just an element and that appealed to me because I thought it was more natural than some of the other things. I was on lithium for about six months through which time, I reduced my dosage to the minimum level needed. During this time, I also started to hate getting blood tests because i got them done so often.


D) Waiting for the right time: I remember when I moved to Melbourne at the start of 2019 - 1 year and 2 months after my episode and being told that I had presented significantly low-risk since my episode and that I had the right to choose to medicate or not. When I got treatment in 2017, it was under a mental health order so I practically was forced to take medications. Realising this opportunity, I started to try being off medication. At the same time I started a job which had me walking outdoors all day and doing sales. I thought this was really good because it was a positive environment I had put myself in and The repetition of the sales script was a great way to build my cognition skills back up. I am a psychology student so I had a 'recipe' of the things that would help me build myself back upto my awesome confident self before bipolar.


E) The balancing act: I always always have a script of Abilify and Lithium handy in case I had an uncontrollable episode of Mania and everyone in my life knows the signs to look out for if I am becoming manic. I make sure I exercise regularly, try and eat well and try and reduce consumption of alcohol etc. as much as possible. The deal I have with myself is that I will get 10 good months out of a year if I manage well without meds but to me that is better than having 12 months a year on meds. To be honest, being on meds sometimes is quite hard and I also have Bipolar Disorder II where the mania isn't as bad as type I so maybe it will only work for me but I think that it is worth a shot for everyone.


I will write more on this topic and specifics in the future but I hope you enjoyed reading this post.


Disclaimer


This blog is a lived experience article for additional reading and does not substitute professional advice. If you are experiencing any symptoms of bipolar and feel concerned, contact your GP or call the Mental Health Access Line on 1800 011 511.


In the case of an emergency, call 000.


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