Bipolar Treatment Failures Feel Like Personal Failures

November 23, 2010 Natasha Tracy

I have been through more bipolar treatments than I care to recall; probably everything you’ve heard of plus a bunch of bipolar treatments you haven’t. And yes, obviously, I have failed the vast majority of these bipolar treatments. And while not getting better is certainly nasty enough, it always feels like it’s my fault that the treatment didn’t work.

Bipolar Is Completely Treatable

As I’ve mentioned, a large-ish number of people with a mental illness are not successfully treated. In spite of the popular cultural (not to mention online) meme, bipolar is not completely treatable. It is treatable. For most. At least some of the time. I know, this isn’t nearly as rose-coloured but then the truth usually isn’t.

I know this. I understand this. I educate about this. I espouse this. And yet it doesn’t stop feelings of failure.


I Genuinely Feel Bad

Really. I genuinely feel bad about the lack of success. I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I feel like if I were just better, if I just did more, if I were just a better patient, it would have worked. It’s all my fault.

That’s the Bipolar Talking

And perhaps more annoying is that I completely understand that the whole reason I feel like a guilty failure is because the treatment didn’t work. Bipolar makes me feel bad about stuff. The treatment didn’t fix the bipolar and therefore I feel bad that it didn’t fix the bipolar. I know that seems a touch circular but that doesn’t make it untrue.

I Didn’t Fail the Bipolar Treatment, the Treatment Failed Me

Before someone out there complains about verbiage, let me remind you that the medical community refers to treatments in this manner: “patient X has failed four treatments…” If you think rearranging the words is helpful, feel free, but I don’t find fantasy wordplay particularly useful.

I Know Everything About Treatments for Bipolar Disorder and Treatment Failure and That Changes Nothing

The kicker about having my intellect and my knowledge is that I know the reality, I know the numbers, I know what a therapist would say about it, I know what a doctor would say about it, I know what a Swami would say about it and none of this makes me feel any better in the least. I still feel like a failure. I still feel bad about a treatment not working.

Bipolar Really Grips After Treatment Failure

I find there is a depression right after a treatment failure; a depression longs to wallow in failure. And if I’m moving on to some new treatment then I might not feel so bad about it, but sometimes there’s no upcoming new treatment. Sometimes there’s failure and that’s it. I’ve been through the pain and suffering of a treatment and it didn’t work. It’s heart-breaking. Psyche-shearing.


Look Forward to Treatments Future

Ah. Look forward. There’s always another treatment around the bend. Does that make you feel better? It doesn’t make me feel better. All it makes me think of is science-sponsored torture. Yay.

So I don’t want to look back at the pain of the treatment, I don’t want to look at the failure of the present and I don’t want to look towards the suffering of the future. I suppose I’m stuck looking for a fourth dimension. One where none of those places exist.

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

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, November 23). Bipolar Treatment Failures Feel Like Personal Failures, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 22 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.

Natasha Tracy
February, 18 2011 at 1:16 pm

Hi Cathy,
Well in my case, you would just request to be my Facebook friend and I would show up like any other friend, Natasha Tracy.
If you're not using Twitter, you probably don't want to for just little old me :)
- Natasha

February, 18 2011 at 11:43 am

So now I've got a question you may be able to answer. I don't want to go totally social about bipolar. Can my facebook page reflect the pages I follow in facebook? If not how about twitter, etc. Because I'd love to follow!

Natasha Tracy
February, 18 2011 at 7:43 am

Hi Cathy,
Well thank-you, I'm glad you're enjoying my writing.
Laughter is excellent relief whenever you can get it. I totally agree.
Feel free to look me up on Twitter or Facebook for updates on all my work (links at the bottom of post).
- Natasha

February, 18 2011 at 7:32 am

Impressive to say the least! After looking for a year for personal bipolar blogs I finally found yours! There aren't many out there that are truly personal. Because of this I finally started my own.
I really like your description of your feelings. I've booked marked yours and as soon as I start a blog roll on mine I shall include it. After all we are the only ones who truly understand us!
My only relief is humor and laughter, a form of the world accepting me and caring about me for who I am! Thanks for sharing!

Natasha Tracy
November, 28 2010 at 8:00 am

Hi Lou,
Thanks so much.
- Natasha

November, 26 2010 at 9:03 am

even worse when the police routinely belittle and abuse the mentally ill, and national "advocacy" groups for the mentally ill and their families, who have bona fide contacts within the police dept. will do NOTHING to get the abuse to stop!!!
it's almost as if the parents of some mentally ill individuals, who are in key positions in national mental health organizations, are playing a sick game themselves!!!
sad to say, this is all too common.

Sandal S Talk Blog
November, 25 2010 at 5:13 am

You Feel Like...
[...] therapist would say about it, I know what a doctor would say about it, I know wh [...]...

lou bolich
November, 25 2010 at 1:13 am

Hi Natashia
Just wanted to thank you for you'r blog.&that i really like you'r audio programs .

Steve L
November, 24 2010 at 4:55 pm

PLease!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep fighting on, everyone. I know the holidays are hard. I have been on a couple of dozen medicines, O.D.'d many times, has ECT, yada yada yada. What I realized was keep trying new things til something works...and the process will be much shorter than mine was. Tell a good friend or relative how it REALLY feels to be depressed. (I've been injured in sports, had migraines, cluster headaches, almost died. NOTHING is like being clinically physical pain can compare.) Read about your disease and find a doctor who will really listen to you. It CAN be done...I have not been in the hospital for 4 and 1/2 years. Very stable right now. You can do it.

November, 24 2010 at 6:21 am

So sorry not to address anyone personally, but you weren't there when I first looked in on Natasha's article. Hello beautiful beautiful people with BP.

Natasha Tracy
November, 24 2010 at 6:07 am

Hi Jake,
Oh yes, the disease is very complex, and that is why it's so hard to treat, you'll get no argument from me on that one. Treatment, therapy and strategies is the best most of us can do.
It's interesting how we want our doctors to feel better. It's backwards and yet we all seem to feel it.
- Natasha

November, 24 2010 at 6:06 am

One time, I was sitting at the bar of my favorite restaurant. I'd bought myself dinner and was sipping on a glass of homemade beer. Sweet success was my friend, and I was proud. I'd bailed myself out of a serious depression and a jobless bind. At last, I worked a week at a new job and romance was blooming. I was a little manic and delusional. The new antidepressant I was on began to react violently with the half beer I drank.
This would be the last night of sleepless torture. I actually blacked out at the top of my stairs. The loud noise scared me to death. It was my body dropping like dead weight from fatigue. I didn't have a phone. When I went back to the restaurant, they said I looked fine, I didn't need medical help. When I called 911, they said I looked fine. Go home, you'll feel better in the morning.
Of course, I'd failed. Full blown manic swing. Bottom line, I thought I was successful. I thought I finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. Only to be hit by the train. The glimmer of my successes vanish as quickly as they come. But, the quicker I move to the next and the next and the next, the darkness of failure also fades.
It takes lots of small successes to keep me believing that I know what I'm doing. As we use to say in college, everything you know is wrong.

Natasha Tracy
November, 24 2010 at 6:00 am

Hi Cat,
Thanks. Yes, I think a lot of people struggle with this and yet others never seem to think of or understand it. It's great that your husband has you to help him through it.
- Natasha

November, 24 2010 at 5:38 am

The fourth dimension is not so bad. You are right treatments are just that, treatments not cures. I do not think it is possible to cure bipolar disorder because it is a complex illness and the diagnosis is so subjective. That is why treatments don't work for all people.
Treatments(meds and therapy) keep me alive but I still get depressed and I still get manic. In lieu of the effectiveness of medication and counselling I have strategies to protect myself and my family. Thats the best I can do.
Regarding being a better patient, I have told my doctor I feel good when I really feel like hanging myself. I think I have a pathological need to validate my doctors skill by claiming wellness. I do not think I am uncommon that way.
cheers Jake

Cat Wilke
November, 24 2010 at 5:28 am

u hit it right on the head --- and it is what i see with my husband when meds fail and depression hits -- am always trying to redirect without heaping on to the depression -- it is a balancing act for sure --- this time of year is so bad with change of season and the holidays -- can't wait until January LOL. Thank you for the realistic and insightful article -- you are a blessing!

Practice of Madness
November, 23 2010 at 10:08 pm

A Hate Blog About a Hate Blog...About a Hate Blog....
I found your entry interesting thus I've added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)...

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