Adventures in Bipolar Diagnosis - Enter the Antipsychotics - Part 2

June 24, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Bipolar diagnosis and treatment journey of Natasha Tracey, author of Breaking Bipolar blog. After trying every bipolar treatment, I’m devastatingly suicidal. Read more.
Adventures in Bipolar Diagnosis continued from part one...

Lamictal was indeed a miracle for me. It allowed me to finish my bachelor’s degree, get a job in my field, and even become a skydiver. In retrospect, it was an amazing time to be me, to be in remission.

Everything was good, until it wasn’t. I felt myself slipping about two years into the Lamictal treatment. For no known reason, the medication simply stopped working. This is a common problem with psychotropic meds and something else no one likes to mention.

Enter the Antipsychotics

In came the antipsychotic medications. I had refused them up until this point in my treatment because I knew how bad the side-effects of antipsychotics were and I knew how prone I was to experiencing side-effects of all kinds. But after trying every mood-stabilizer, and a handful of antidepressants, my treatment options were very limited.

I didn’t take well to this treatment. Every drug just posed new side-effects and different pains. We moved slowly, increasing the dose on one and then trying another, attempting to see if I could tolerate anything or if anything would work. I mostly couldn’t. It mostly didn’t.

And then one day, after changing jobs, I broke. Shattered into a million pieces. Unable to function. Cries for help were everywhere. No one could put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Enter the Psychiatric Hospital

I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. I had never wanted to go to the loony bin. I had no desire to find out what they did to people in the jail-resembling building tucked behind the hospital - where the shameful crazies were taken. Hospital meant a loss of control, a loss of autonomy, enforcement of drastic measures, and a forced admittance to myself and others that I was seriously unwell.

They did what most hospitals do when presented with a suicidal patient – they pumped me full of antipsychotics. I remember being shaken awake by a nurse the first morning after the Seroquel and not being able to see. I was too drugged to explain this to a nurse whose only job it was to rather violently get me out of bed. Eventually I figured out I could see my feet if I looked straight down. And later, still, I figured out that I had been so drugged that I couldn’t open my eyes. So many things that no one mentions.

After two weeks, I convinced my doc to release me. No, I wasn’t “better”.

And since that time, I’ve had moments of sort-of-OK-ness and decidedly un-OK-ness. I’ve had more cocktails than I can remember, four different doctors, 50 pound weight gain (thank-you antipsychotics), induction of hypertension, and no good ideas. It was, and still is, amazing how uncared-for I feel by health care professionals.

Enter the Psychiatric Treatments No One Wants

I have also tried ultra-brief pulse unilateral shock therapy (electro-convulsive therapy, no improvement, very traumatic), and vagus nerve stimulation (involves surgery, no effect), and mountains of therapy, most of which were completely unhelpful and sometimes made me worse. I don’t blame the therapists of course; it’s just the course of the disease.

And now I sit rejected by a psychiatrist again, and actually in no one’s care. The last one I saw told me she couldn’t help me, I wasn’t going to get any better, although I might get a job, and I should get off the meds because of the side-effects. No, I don’t recommend that for me or anyone else.

I’ve been out of work and devastatingly suicidal for months, and no one, it seems, will even attempt to help. I’m a crazy without a country. And it sort of gets bleaker from there.

12 Years of Learning

So, lessons? Drugs are evil but necessary. Therapy is often good, but not always. My brain is so messed up that no one knows what to do.

And Now

That is where I live today. I really don't recommend it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, June 24). Adventures in Bipolar Diagnosis - Enter the Antipsychotics - Part 2, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

March, 24 2015 at 5:05 am

I love being on the lamictal too. I was on a very low dose to help with depression and anxiety but supposedly ended up manic on it which landed me in hospital where I was given lithium. If I hadn't been harrassed by an ex apt manager for getting him evicted (he was abusive to the tenants and punched a hole in the wall) I'm sure I would've continued to be fine on the lamictal. When I got out I fought to get off the lithium (felt horrible on it) and back on the lamictal. Finally the doctor relented but only if I would take the antipsychotic Abilify. Both are weight neutral and good for depression but increasingly I've been experiencing muscle weakness, especially in my legs and some facial muscle spasms as well so I've reduced the amount of the antipsychotic/major tranquillizer which has helped some. Been too scared though to tell the doctor because I recently convinced him to increase the lamIctal (which has helped with the depression ) and I don't want to end up a lab rat again or gain a ton of weight on some different med. The antipsychotic dumbs me down and interferes with my work. It also makes me extremely tired when I get home to the point where nothing much gets done. I'm fed up and frustrated on this medication. I feel like my life is passing me by

Natasha Tracy
May, 17 2011 at 8:52 am

Hi Kelly,
I am a writer with an expertise in bipolar disorder. I have been studying bipolar disorder, depression and mental illness for more than a decade.
However, I am in no way a medical professional.
Everything I write is to be considered my thoughts around a subject often backed up by medical statistics and studies. Nothing here is a recommendation, and any changes in treatment should go through a licensed medical professional only.
- Natasha

May, 17 2011 at 8:41 am

Are u a bipolar expert? Therapist?

Natasha Tracy
March, 17 2011 at 5:53 pm

Hi Chesca,
Many people have been right where you are right now. Once you receive the right diagnosis it absolutely is a relief, answers. But there absolutely is grief at having to deal with the new problem. What you're feeling is how most people feel. It's an answer with more questions than answers.
The "what ifs?" Those'll get you. Those'll trap you. Try to take things one day at a time. Worry about where you are, this moment, the next moment will be here soon enough.
Trust and lean on the people that you can. And take a breath. It's going to be OK, you just have to slow down and put one foot in front of the other. And give yourself a break. Rest. You've been through a lot. It's OK to be tired.
And it's OK to be mad at god. I'm not a religion gal, but it's normal to be angry at whatever force "gave" you a disease. It's faith-shaking. Maybe talking to someone from your faith community would be helpful.
You're welcome. I'm glad you've found some solace in my words. It's what they're here for. Drop by any time.
- Natasha

March, 17 2011 at 3:08 pm

Thank you for this blog. I was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder two days ago. This year has been hell. I have been on emotional roller coaster after emotional roller coaster. I've been mad at God, and I've been mad at myself. Then, comes the healing for a very short time and then again all of the sudden I plummet. I knew this year that something was extremely wrong especially when I started hearing voices and when after 8 years of living with what was diagnosed as General Anxiety Disorder initially and feeling like I was finally getting a hang on things. I had a panic attack where I was scared out of my mind for no reason. First, when the psychiatrist told me that I was bipolar I was ok with it. I was almost happy. It meant that I was going from 8 anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medications to two (although this won't happen for a while... Of course I have to be weaned off.). It also meant answers. It explained my huge mood swings and all of my feelings of hopelessness then extreme happiness. Now two days later I am in a room away from people at my college and I'm alone trying to process this. I have told those closest to me, but I realize now that that has been extremely emotionally draining. Today after getting another assignment from a substitut teacher I went crazy. All of the sudden I was so angry at this teacher for assigning homework over spring break. I just wanted to throw things and yell "Fuck her" as loud as I could. Unfortunately, none of my friends have been available in this last mini episode, but I have found a safe haven in an empty room to think this through. I cried for a long while. I know there will be more tears to come. It's scary. I'm terrified. What if the meds don't work? What if I loose absolute control just like I did during my panic attack a week ago? I don't want to loose me. I don't want this to get worse. I don't want to hear voices again. I don't want to feel insecure when I know who I am and love myself despite my many weaknesses. I'm so thankful that I'm going home tomorrow, but I am still completely overwhelmed. After working so hard for 8 years at getting myself better, I know the hard work that this is going to take. I'm so exhausted and am ready for a break. Oh, well. I guess I'll have to take your advice and get support from friends and be ok with not being ok with this for a while. I'm so glad that I have God on my side even though at the same time I feel slightly incredibly angry and distrusting towards Him. Again, thanks for creating this. I know how hard it is to share about any kind of mental disorder. I've shared my story many times and it never gets much easier. It does help to be able to type all of this though and to read how other people can relate.

Shoshanna Kovitz
January, 4 2011 at 12:43 pm

I've been reading these articles with great interest, but I find something missing......Why are we forced to take such bad medicines? Theyseem to have an abundance of have horrible side effects, Most add weight gain, which the professionals treat like a minor problem, yet medical science considers obesity to be one the worst epidemics of our time. The excuse given for why we stop taking these drugs is that we feel better or we miss the higshs. Rubbish....Many of us feel that we've just gone through a minor labotomy.
Why is Lilium the only drug actually developed for bipolar? All the others have been borrowed. Why is it that there is practibally no treatment for biplar depressons? Even though a large percentage of women are more likely to suffer from Bipolar 11 than Bipolar I. I've never found Lithium or Lemectil to be effective, usually they make me my depressed far worse. Is it possible that Big Pharm can't make a profit on new drugs strictly for biopolar. Or there might be other drugs, more effetive drugs, that could be adapted for our use. (But then the Pharmacies would mke no profit).
I think that the mental health community is corrupt, short sighted and possibly just plain stupid. We sifer the consequences.
I think we should be asking these question and stop being victums of the mental health system. Whey should be wasting years of our lives?

Natasha Tracy
September, 29 2010 at 7:52 am

Soothing is probably not something anyone has called my writing before, but I'll take it. Glad it's helpful for you.
("Just" clinically depressed? Nothing "just" about that.)
- Natasha

September, 28 2010 at 3:02 pm

Hi... I've been reading a couple of your articles.... They help. I'm not bipolar myself, just clinically depressed and anxious, but my fiance is bipolar... somehow we manage. I just wanted to say that your articles are helpful, and kinda soothing. Thanks.

Natasha Tracy
August, 5 2010 at 7:22 pm

Hi David,
Wow. That's quite a story. Thanks for sharing.
I have some suggestions for you to think about:
1. You have to find _stability_ in your life. This mean a routine and rhythm that can be counted on. It's actually good to be married because sometimes your partner can help with this.
2. Keep a _vigilant_ and _unflinching_ sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every day. - no sleeping in on weekends.
3. If you're drinking, stop. It won't help you.
4. In my biased opinion I don't think the military is for you. It is way to stressful and has too many variables you can't control in it.
5. Keep in mind that some antidepressants (your Celexa) _can_cause_cycling. It sounds like you need to see your doctor ASAP and get that adjusted.
Also, if you haven't tried CBT I recommend you look into it. It's a very specific should-term therapy that does have a lot of success with some people.
Good luck. You can pull through.
- Natasha

August, 4 2010 at 7:27 pm

Ok so here's the deal with me I need some help with this effin bipolar crap. I was diagnosed bipolar as a kid and was in and out of institutions. Then I guess I went into remission cause I was somewhat fine for like 3 years. Then I just started drinking to get rid of it, even though I knew better just didn't give a hoot. I went to see a shrink after quiting the booze. I didn't tell them my history to see what they would make of it of course they said I was dystimich, and later diagnosed bipolar type II. Well I am married now and my wife doesn't enjoy my mood swings what so ever, no do I. I am actually Manic as I am writing this, which I prefer the manic over the depression any day of the week, any how back on track. So I started treatment for the bipolar taking Lamictal and Celexa well then I had to do a tour in Iraq so I kept taking the prescribed doses. The problem was that I was functional not fixed, I had a period where I slept for 48 hours straight in between missions. BTW these sleep stints happen just about every month. I am dieing here, I just want to get better it is effecting my marriage. My wife wants this to go away, and it to be fixed like a light switch. She told me tonight that she thinks that I am actually not trying to get this fixed. I told her she was nutz and that no one would waste there time not trying to get fixed. I just don't know if I should just tell my shrink to change the regimen all together or just go find another shrink. I am currently taking 300 mg of lamictal and 40 mg of celexa btw this was just upped like a week ago the lamictal that is. Up from 250mg, I am cycling non stop up down up down up down nuetral up down up down up down. This sucks can anyone give me some advice.

Natasha Tracy
July, 29 2010 at 11:39 am

Hi Stephanie,
Yes, it can be really tough to write about. I've been doing it for seven years and have almost 2000 posts on the topic so people think that it must be easy. But it isn't.
You can do it though. Just try a little at a time.
Shame is a common feeling. I have it too, although less now. I will say though that you are not your brain, and your brain is what is sick. You mind is yours to keep.
- Natasha

July, 29 2010 at 6:02 am

I just sympathize. Bipolar is shit. I loved reading this story though. I just started writing mine and I wasn't prepared for how hard it would be to write about.
Admitting that your mind has somehow failed you even though you know it's not your fault still carries a lot of shame.

Practice of Madness
July, 25 2010 at 10:54 pm

furlough from loony bin......
I found your entry interesting thus I've added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)...

Practice of Madness
July, 25 2010 at 8:25 pm

A Personal Introduction: My Six Year Battle with Psychiatry...
I found your entry interesting thus I've added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)...

Natasha Tracy
July, 7 2010 at 6:20 pm

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with everyone. I'm sure there's something from it we all can learn.
- Natasha

paul prudence
July, 7 2010 at 2:46 pm

I pray that this true testimonee will be of some use and inspiration to these pages
Paul Prudence

paul prudence
July, 7 2010 at 2:41 pm

Just a word of hope to your readers to say that through our struggles does come hope. I am 48 yrs old and after my first breakdown in 1992 then 6 months later sectioned again, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Having already been divorced my fiancee of 4 years left me and I was forced to leave my employment of 15 yrs due to my condition. I had to cope with the stigma of mental illness and to cope with the loss of my old life and friends.
After the psychosis came deep and morbid despair, terrible side effects of medication and much trial and error. Dark thoughts of self destruction and two failed attempts of self euthanasia were just the start of a very rocky road to some normality.
There were many negative thoughts of worthlessness, no self esteem, certainly no future of a job or a relationship.
Different medications and depots were tried and to add to my lack of confidence and esteem was the massive weight gain. Life was then one vicious circle, no meds = section 28. Sticking to regime = fat bar steward.
I was always very sporty, football, swimming, badmington etc and a very physical and heavy job meant a very healthy looking man of 30. By the ace of 34 I had been sectioned 4 times and was a blobby 36 inch waist. I had lost the ability to shop, cook or care for myself and my only escape from this living hell was a group for people with similar health issues every thursday morning. Slowly but surely i began to learn better social skills and slowly but surely without realising, I was shopping, preparing and cooking for that same group of people and things were a little brighter for me, all except the then status of being unemployable blobby nut case retard paul.
I was by my own make up, meant to work and have a loving relationship and a family to provide for. These desires gave many negative but relivent issues which in turn brought immense stresses upon me and of course hospital a plenty.
The self help group was one successful step along the way to normality along with a couple of voluntary work places I had for 3 to 4 yrs, as well as attending the Thursday group. Positive thoughts were now beginning to take shape which gave me more insight and direction to regaining what I once had, a life.
I started taking my Thioridazine regularly, but as low a maintenance dose as possible and resigned myself to having to take my lithium blubber making tabs. I also Decided to go to the gym even though the meds make it seemingly impossible.
After A few weeks my weight gain stabellised and i wasable to last a little longer in the gym. I was now able to converse to the ladies about my life, my work and confident enough to ask for a date.
The road that I am treading on since then (2001), has been one of adversity but promise. After 9yrs attending the thursday group it felt like a coffee morning to me with nothing more to offer. I was able to ask for job references from the various charity work I had been doing and I have now been working part time for the last 7 years as a supervisor of adults with learning disabilities for a local charity which collects recyclable glass, paper, textiles etc. In 2003 I married my present wife Michelle and we have become grandparents to Dylan who is 6 and Harry who is Just 4 months. during these last 7 years life has not been all blue skys, there has been a few hurricanes along the way too. There has been four lengthy spells in hospital but with my new found faith in God, (Baptised 2005), My new family and my lovely wife Michelle to "monitor" my moods, My life is full of hope and purpose. I am now taking quetiepine and lithium, still fighting the weight but with my new faith in the healing that God has given me I know that should there be a blip then my time in hospital will be
and have been much shorter stay. It is now 29 months since my last visit,
Have faith in yourself, your loved ones and in God Christ Jesus

Natasha Tracy
June, 30 2010 at 6:23 am

Hi Ricky,
Thanks for sharing your story and giving everyone the message "don't give up". It's always good to hear.
- Natasha

June, 29 2010 at 10:00 pm

This is a little of my story.
I started out by going to a regular for profit hospital because of a suicide attempt. From there I was transferred to the county crisis mental health center. From there I was transferred to the county psychological hospital where I was locked up until my Dr. released me. I had to use the county Mental Health agency for Dr. visits, meds, hospitalizations, etc. I spent a total of 5 months out of 8 months locked up. I also was homeless and lived in a half way house for almost 2 years.
These are my diagnosed illnesses.
Bi-polar w/major depression, asthma, hypothyroidism, but also, I am dealing with add, ulcers, severe esophagitis, severe gastritis,Barrett's esophagus, bph, stress induced acne, and lastly I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
Many times I feel like things are never going to get better but I have learned to focus as best I can on the here and now and how things could be much worse. Today I just deal with and endure what I am feeling and thinking and I know if I start making a suicide plan I need to get to a hospital. I tried self medicating and ended up in the hospital needing blood transfusions, acute liver and kidney failure, acute acidosis, seizures and dt's, auditory and visual hallucinations.
I am still suffering from occasional very serious manic episodes but my real problem now on a regular basis is major depression. Three years after seeking help for my mental illnesses after 15 years of denial they still have not found the right combination of meds but we continue to work on it. However, I realize today that I have the will to live again. Something that had become very foreign to my thinking. I am willing to go to any lengths today to continue my recovery, to accept I have a mental disability (even though I am still very ashamed of this fact, although I am working on eliminating that shame) and to be an advocate for myself, researching anything and everything I can to educate myself on all treatment options.
I have suffered the side effects of tardive dyskinesia (which has mostly gone away) lithium toxicity, dissociation, akathisia, dysphasia, and confusion just to name a few.
I am learning to tolerate my illness. Unless I am suicidal or hallucinating I can see that the meds have taken the ultra highs and lows away. I self medicated with alcohol and drugs and all that did was make the disease worse while also making my over all general health worse.
I know from talking w/others with similar conditions it can be a long slow process to get the medication that works the best for each individual and his/her particular symptoms. I cling to the hope that things are going to continue to get better, even though progress is very very slow most of the time.
I just wanted to share some of my story with you to let you know you are not alone, there are many out there that share this disease.
I think writing this has probably helped me more than you. It has shown me that indeed things have gotten better.
Bless you and I will pray for you just as I pray for god to help me get though what I have to get through.
Don't ever give up.

Natasha Tracy
June, 29 2010 at 5:42 am

Hi Maria, that's great to hear. I always worry about people trying to get off meds because of the obvious dangers, but doing it with medical supervision is a good way to give yourself a safety net.
I do completely understand your frustration with drugs and side effects. Believe me, I do understand it.
If you feel comfortable, drop in from time to time and let us know how it's going.
Good luck.

Maria Juanita Rosa
June, 28 2010 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for your concern and advice Natasha. Don't worry... although the DBT therapist did not work out for me, I DO still see my regular therapist and my psychiatrist :-)
I am frustrated with the side effects of meds, particularly since my physical and medical health has declined exponentially over the last 2 years... but I do NOT want to ever be completely out of control again, and recognize the need for some kind of professional help and monitoring during this non-medicated experiment!

Natasha Tracy
June, 27 2010 at 4:11 pm

Maria, thanks for sharing your story. Try to keep in contact with some kind of medical professional while you're making this huge change. You need a touchstone in case something goes wrong.
Good luck with DBT. I hope it works for you.
- Natasha

Maria Juanita Rosa
June, 27 2010 at 4:07 pm

I am nearly 40, and was diagnosed bipolar at age 15 after 4 agonizing years of depression finally flipped to mania and landed me in the hospital. I've been fighting what feels like a losing battle ever since. I DO agree that medicine CAN help... but as you mentioned, the side effects make the benefit debatable. I spent the last 10 years on meds (after many years of running away), and while it kept the highs of mania at bay, it did nothing for the depression, and left me feeling numb and unable to enjoy life at all... not to mention the physical side effects and loss of short term memory. Once a bright and intelligent student whose memory was her strongest asset, I have slowly and steadily degenerated into a forgetful, ditzy woman that no one takes seriously. I apologize that my story is not more optimistic and inspiring! I have NOT given up hope tho, and continue to search for answers. I have recently embarked on a new adventure... NOT taking meds. I am trying to use Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) to change my way of thinking and relating to other people, while removing the meds and trying to learn how to "FEEL" again.
It has been a challenge so far, and I was recently "broken up with" as well, by the therapist who teaches the DBT classes. I refuse to let this deter me from my mission though, and will continue to study DBT on my own. If you care to read more about my adventure, you can find me here:
Good luck to you! I empathize with your struggle and can only say... hang in there!

Natasha Tracy
June, 27 2010 at 3:35 pm

Hi Arlene,
It sounds like this is really hard for you and your son. I'm sorry to hear that. Can a bipolar live a happy life? That's a question I can't answer. Some absolutely do.
It sounds like maybe the thing to focus on is preventing his manic episodes, and the best time to do that is when he's not in one. You haven't mentioned medication but there are many drugs that address mania specifically. If his current medication isn't working, your doctor can try another. If you and your son don't feel like this doctor is helping, try another one. New doctors have new ideas. No one wants to see a bipolar have a severe mania once a year.
And I hope you and your son are getting therapy. You need your own therapy to help and support you through the difficult times and to help you work out the difficult history you've had. Try finding a support group in your area. You are not the only person to be going through this - in fact, you're not even the only parent.
This disorder is extremely difficult and debilitating to us and those around us. But you can make it through this. Your son can make it through this. There's light therapy and dark therapy and in-patient and ECT and many medications. There are options. Take a deep breath, get professional help, and move forward.
And honestly, you can't help anyone until you help yourself first. Don't let another person's illness, even your son's, make you crazy. You can't help him if you do.
Good luck.
- Natasha

Arlene Stute
June, 27 2010 at 3:22 pm

I am the Mother of a Son who was diagnosed Bipolar 7 years ago. He has severe Manic episodes every 10-11 months. I am becoming as crazy as he is in one of these episodes. I don't know how to help myself to get over the agonizing pain of what these do to him and everyone he loves. When is having an episode he does not want anything to do with me. I don't blame him becasue I stress him out more trying to tell him what to do. I don't know how we will learn to deal with this disorder. Can a Manic bipolar ever live a happy normal life?

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