Medication compliance and those with Bipolar disorder happens to be a difficult subject. Why is it that we are not willing to continue taking out meds? I think if we were force-fed the pills, we would still manage to throw them up to get them out of our system.
So why are we this way?
Why doesn’t being compliant have anything to do with whether or not the medication is working or not?
Why do we fight so hard to be med free?
I do not have the answers, only my own personal reasons which I will share later, for now, I have found some interesting information that I will share here.
*Medication noncompliance or medication nonadherence is the failure to take prescribed medications.*
What I found to be interesting is that many individuals with Bipolar disorder do not take their medication as prescribed because they are in denial about their illness. This is referred to as anosognosia: Real or feigned ignorance of the presence of disease)… and this is the first reason why those with bipolar and Schizophrenia stop taking their medications! While researching this, I found this to be VERY interesting as I found it to be true for myself, and treatment of my disorder. I spent many years seeing different Doctors, being prescribed different medications, and eventually removing myself off of the medication because in my mind, “The doctors had is all wrong” and nothing was wrong with me. I spent a little over NINE (yes, you read that correctly, 9 years) in complete denial. In the beginning, it was easy to have myself fooled because everyone around me was on the same band wagon… “nothing’s wrong with you”, “doctors just diagnose anything to make a buck”, “you don’t have anything wrong, you just make bad decisions”… etc. Everyone around me supported my idea that the Doc was a quack job and that I was perfectly healthy. So I certainly related to this reason for noncompliance. This reason beats out medication side affects which is next.
Another reason we don’t take our medications as prescribed is because of medication side affects. Are they annoying? YES. Do our bodies adjust? MOST OF THE TIME. Personally I loathe dry mouth, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, racing mind, sensory sensitivity, and the worst… sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction is a very large reason, especially for men. It causes some to have the inability to achieve orgasm and in men, sometimes it also causes them to be unable to get an erection. Horrible for someone who is finally coming out of a depressive episode and WANTS to engage in some sexy time with their partner… yet they can’t. In fact, one man told me he would “rather be a raging lunatic with a hard-on than a normal person with a limp noodle”. Can you blame him? Even for myself personally, the sexual component was difficult to get over. However, after a few months, my body became use to the medications and my bodies ability to achieve orgasm returned…. which was perfect timing because I was finally to the point where sex of any kind was welcomed.
Of course there are many other reasons why we tend to go off of the meds that are intended to help us to feel better. Maybe they are not making us feel better (in which case it is important to get into the Psychiatrist pronto), or suicidal tendencies (again, GET INTO THE DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY, OR TO A HOSPITAL), *maybe you cannot afford the medicine*… lets talk about this one for a moment.
If you are unable to afford the medicine there’s a couple things that can be done to help you. For one, ask your doc for samples. Most can do this if the medications are new (and still horribly expensive). Another option, which I opted for, was to “tinker” with my medication cocktail and try to replace the newer expensive medications with the older (just as effective) options. I remember one med (literally only one, I was taking four at that time), for a month supply, was almost $1000.00… Guess what happened? I stopped taking my meds.
Then I went to AZ who had a nice program for those with mental health problems (they have since changed some of the rules and NOW can only get assistance financially/medically if you have a dependent)…. there, I received therapy and saw a Psychiatrist on a regular basis. This PDoc assisted me in getting assistance for my primary bipolar med (Lamictal) [and have not had to pay for that medicine over a year now] and switched out my anti-psychotic med. First we tried Resperidone, which worked “ok”… definitely nothing to write home about. Then we gave that up for Haldol, a very old anti-psychotic. We started out with a very low, low, dose and then increased it to what is still a very low dose. Klonopin was also prescribed and I used the generic Clonazepam. This “drug” cocktail as they like to call it was perfect for the affordable options I had. These three medications currently cost me approx. 55.00$ a month… That is a huge difference.
Currently, starting this next week, I am going to apply for adult mental health service… and hopefully they can get my medications for me.
Even after acceptance of this disorder, I battle staying on the meds. One day… it will come naturally.