Medication Alone is NOT a Bipolar “Miracle Cure”

Last Updated: 13 May 2019

Although taking medication as prescribed is one part of achieving stability, it alone is not enough. You also need to work on bettering yourself.

Psychiatrists have been taught that medication will stop the symptoms of bipolar disorder.  We are encouraged to take our meds as prescribed and with any luck our depression and/or mania will go away.

But that is only part of the equation.  Medication can only do so much.  We must do work on ourselves if our situation is going to change over the long term. 

I believe that the cure for any illness, physical or mental, is working on yourself and your issues.  Yes, we need to follow our doctors’ orders and take medication as prescribed but we also need to take a good hard look at our lives and see what is working and what is not working.  Medication will fix 25% of our problems but for the other 75% we need to do a lot of soul searching.  Are we in relationships with family, friends or romantic, that do not serve us any more?  Is our job causing us a lot of stress?  Do we have hobbies that leave us feeling fulfilled?  Are we able to pay our bills each month? 

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar I was married.  I couldn’t even entertain the idea that my marriage was the problem because I couldn’t take care of myself.  I needed a roof over my head and food to eat.  But less than 3 years later I realized that my marriage had contributed, at least in part, to my depression.  I attended a self-help group for people who suffered from depression.  I attending the Day Program at my local hospital after each hospitalization.  Even though I felt at times that many of the things I was learning at this program wasn’t helping, some of what was said made sense.  I began reading self-help books of all kinds.  I read books about depression, bipolar disorder, relationships, boundaries and many, many more. 

When I finally did have the courage to leave my marriage the depression started to lift.  However, it still took a few years before I could truly say I learned to manage my bipolar disorder symptoms.  Looking back now, the many ups and downs I had for a few years were mostly as a result of not being medication compliant.  Luckily for many of us, there are newer and better medications to treat bipolar disorder symptoms with fewer side affects. 

And it takes work; a lot of work, to manage bipolar disorder.  Because I have eliminated toxic people from my life and have a couple friends I can count on my life is 100% better than when this roller coaster started in 1995.

I no longer feel guilty for doing what pleases me.  I am the only person I have to make happy.  It is not my job to make sure others get their needs met.  When I got my voice and began to say “No” to others and “Yes” to me is when my life turned around. 

If you think a pill will cure you, then think again; you have to be willing to put in the work and the time if you want a better life. 

Two psychiatrists told me in 2000 that I would never work full time again.  I am telling you, “You can believe the diagnosis, not the prognosis” (Deepak Chopra).  But you have to do the work.  No one else can do it for you.  These psychiatrists did not know me before I became sick and had no idea how much fight I had in me or what my life was like before the depression.

To conclude, you can heal yourself if you follow this guideline:

25% Medication

75% Work on Yourself and Your Issues

Part of working on yourself means showing up for all appointments and listening carefully to the advice of professionals.  But the biggest part is learning to listen to that little voice inside of you that says “This is Healthy” or “This in not healthy” for me and following through.  Do the things that bring you joy, peace and contentment in your life and leave the drama behind.

About the author
When Lynn Rae was 39 years old two psychiatrists told her that she would NEVER work full time again. She had accepted the diagnosis of bipolar disorder but would never accept the prognosis. After working part time at several different jobs between episodes of depression & mania Lynn was finally able to work full time and has been since 2009. She has now enjoyed over 10 years of good health. Lynn Rae can guide you in making those important decisions in your life surrounding Family, Friends, Fun, Fitness, Fulfillment, Finances & Faith through her Keynote “The Seven F’s to Your Fantastic Future.” She has written 3 books and self-published one of them which are available for sale on Amazon. Lynn received the Marilyn Nearing Award from York Support Services Network for the contribution she was making as a volunteer in the mental health field. Lynn Rae has her own business, GTA Office Services , in which administrative tasks are done virtually for her various clients. She makes her own home in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.
  1. Hello everyone, I have very rapid cycling BP2 (2 episodes a months) so I don’t have alot of traction in my life but at least the down times, awful as they are, don’t last long!! I can’t control the frequency but can help with the intensity of the episodes and two things have become evident. The first is the hugely detrimental effect of stress on my condition and wellbeing. It is easy to ‘blame the other’ when stressed in a circumstance but I am learning to focus on stress reduction instead, which is much more empowering. The second is the importance for me of self-advocacy. I have recently had a hospital admission where the nursing staff (this was a private facility) were bullies, stigmatising and controlling. I wrote a detailed complaint letter to the Director and when that wasn’t answered with full insight, I wrote another – with some modification and increased awareness in her reply. It appears the nurses were writing in my notes about care given without actually giving the care – that is a serious breach in professional standards and I am awaiting a copy of my medical record. I am able to advocate, it is one of the only skills I have left intact and I believe strongly in it. So these two responses give me a small sense of empowerment when the living with a mental illness pretty much takes alot of it away. ALl the best to you all.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more, and I feel it is a disservice to people suffering from bipolar to espouse this opinion. I do NOT have “difficult issues in my life” but I suffer from a severe case of Bipolar II. No “resolving of my issues” will put me into remission. My only “issue” is having this horrible mental illness.

  3. Thanks for the info! I am dually diagnosed, however I have managed both disease separately and honestly, I never delved deeper in the BP other than to be med compliant for 2/ years. In the beginning, before my addiction, I went off my meds cold turkey and had a serious Suicide attempt. I swear I’m the beginning 1990s the drs treated me like a guinea pig?

    Now I’ve had one psychiatrist tell me he thought I was brain damaged not mental. So I went through neurologist and such. Turns out all the meds I took in early stages caused some damage! If I had known to advocate more back to, perhaps I would not be as sick as I am now ? Who cares. I am what I am now. After my 5th psychotic break since 90s I’ve redoubled my efforts with my therapist and the pile of books on management of triggers and warning signs and mood trackers, plus acupuncture and meditation hopefully will keep me more balanced. Unfortunately two or three of my breaks were caused by mom and I having a blowout discussion. When I’m stressed. I can’t stand the thoughts of cutting my ties with her.

  4. Lynn’s story is great, but not everyone can do this. Some forms of BP, like rapid cycling types, and having other complicating factors, can make success stories like hers unrealistic regardless of effort or ability. Everyone’s situation is different.

  5. Good article for me. Just starting the journey to bettering my bipolar. The ratio sounds right. I only found out what my issue really was 4 months ago. So yeah it’s a battle when you identify what you sort of knew all along. My job is a trigger, my relationship is a trigger, worrying about money is a trigger, losing people close is a trigger, toxic people etc. it’s a long way back out when there is no denying that you have to walk away from many things and have to figure out the ‘how’ without exciting a trigger. Even harder when still in the crash zone from mania. It’s a tough game, but I’m finding others stories are such a great tool to find your feet. Then some meds. A good mood tracker app. Then some strategies, which is now the bit I am up to.

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