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20 year depression diagnosis changed to Bipolar 2 - meds or wholistic treatment?

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    20 year depression diagnosis changed to Bipolar 2 - meds or wholistic treatment?

    Hello, I am new to this forum having just been diagnosed as "most probably" bipolar 2 as I have been in a depressive episode for the past year after going happy high & joyful in 2016-17 and with ups & downs for the previous 6 years which has spent most of my life savings. Both my sisters have seen me go thru cycles and were suggesting that I might be bipolar. My dad was bipolar. Over this past year, I can see where I get going on a High and feel that I am 'following my life purpose'. I'm now working a very stressful job (3.5 months) and feel trapped in this situation of my own making. I need to work and don't have much time to take care of myself, other than eat well. Without writing my life story - I favour a wholistic and natural approach to treatment and have tried to get off my AD meds off and on over 20 years. I am currently on Effexor (started back on it in May and upped the dose to 150mg in July) and it was Effexor that sent me joyfully spending and travelling in 2017, trusting in the Universe to provide abundance. During that time, I felt really sharp and connected with everyone. I was meditating and writing but going at Mach 14 and not needing much sleep. (All signs of hypo-mania as I have come to learn) I saw a p-Dr here in Courtenay, BC for the first time this week and she 'highly' recommended that I start taking a mood stabilizer - either Epival or Seroquel. After reading the side-effects, I think I would choose Epival but I wonder if there are alternative treatments - psychosomatics, energy work, foods, other. I keep thinking that now that I 'know' about my cycles, I can watch for them and modify my behaviour and spending by choosing Not to buy things or go on trips. Is this possible? Are there successful alternative treatments? or should I just take Epival and see if my joy and engagement in life returns, in moderation? I feel rather 'dead' now - like I have no feelings. Thank you for your suggestions. Is there a support group here in the Comox Valley?

    Hi FindingJoy. This is my own experience, and yours may be different. This condition can affect different people differently, and like with any medical condition there are different degrees of severity.

    For me, both medication and lifestyle are important. I've been diagnosed 22 years. I tried to go without meds for years, and it ended in disaster and hospitalization. Nearly cost me my marriage (I still sometimes wonder why my husband stuck by me through all that!). Without meds I was too sick to work, or function at all really, and my doctors tried to put me on AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped). I fought them, and I'm glad I did because I'm very high functioning now, but without my meds I know I wouldn't be. But medication alone is not enough, and even with it my symptoms are not gone, just reduced. I also have to eat well, exercise regularly, limit caffeine, see a therapist, and be very strict about my sleep routine, and I also take an omega-3 supplement at my psychiatrist's recommendation. Without these strategies I definitely wouldn't be functioning at the level I do. That's in addition to four psych meds - two regular every day and two more as needed for episodes. In my experience willpower does not work. You have to remember that this is an illness that directly affects the brain. I never realize how sick I am while it's happening, everything seems logical and makes perfect sense to me at the time, even though I may not even be coherent to anyone else. It's only when my head clears after the episode that I realize, and by then it's too late.

    With all that said I hope that your experience will be different! I never want anyone to go through what I have and do! But in my experience the medications are a very necessary part of managing this condition. Good luck with whatever you ultimately decide!
    Pressure makes diamonds....


      I should have added that I'm bipolar I, not II. I also don't touch alcohol.
      Pressure makes diamonds....


        Thank you Gossip


          No problem! Hopefully others will chime in as well.
          Pressure makes diamonds....


            Hello FindingJoy and welcome. There are many things that contribute to our overall wellness. I can only speak for myself as everyone is different.Like gossip I have to both watch my lifestyle and take medication.

            For me antidepressants(A/D's) are poison.(bipolar 1 and anxieties) Any A/D in my med mix and I end up manic, about 30% of us are like that, for others A/D's are no problem. I also end up with my moods all over the place if I don't watch my diet, get some exercise, get the proper amount of sleep, drink too much coffee etc. Even when I take what works for me (zyprexa, low dose seroquel and lorazepam) if I don't watch my physical wellbeing they just don't work. I should also mention that I have trouble with stress setting off a mood swing.. As I type I keep thinking of other things, I can't tolerate alcohol in any amount either.

            Watching for your cycles can be helpful, but bipolar is known to throw our judgement off and some docs refer to it as an impulse disorder. Some people have some luck by writing everything down. By the time I write something down it's too late

            I preferred epival to seroquel, but epival had really bad side effects for me. Higher doses of seroquel leave me feeling lazy, sleepy and hungry all the time. It took a lot of experimenting to find what works. I was on lithium for years with very good results, but eventually I had to switch as it was affecting my kidney function.

            Please feel free to ask questions, answer other people's questions, and/or use the forum to vent out some of life's frustrations. Take Care. paul m

            "Alone we can do so little;
            Together we can do so much"
            Helen Keller


              I never commented on the epival/seroquel question. I should note that I'm the queen of super rare side effects. Epival gave me severe peripheral edema. My arms, legs, hands and feet were huge and extremely painful, and my lower legs started weeping fluid at the end before it was stopped. I wasn't on it for long enough to really assess how well it was working. As for seroquel, I had to take a tiny dose (one of the liver enzymes that processes a lot of psych meds doesn't work well in me so they can build up in my body) but it was effective for me for a couple of years. When I relapsed and we tried to increase the amount I wound up so sedated I was literally walking into walls - I'd try to go through a doorway and miss and hit the frame. Literally stumbling around and slurring my speech. That was still on about 1/3 of the "normal" dose. Long way of saying that neither was a good choice for me, but seroquel was somewhat more tolerable... for a while.

              I was on lithium for about 10 years and it worked well, but like Paul it started to affect my kidney function. I was also hospitalized for toxicity at one point... it's a med you have to be really careful with and it requires regular bloodwork. My current mood stabilizer is lamictal. It's another one that you have to be careful with, for different reasons. We're still slowly titrating my dose up, but so far I think I'm happy with it.

              I also wanted to respond to Paul's point about the lack of judgement. I had a bad episode last month. I got very manic for several weeks, and then I crashed into a severe depression. There are still a few traces of it hanging on if I'm totally honest. My doctor looked me in the eye this week and point blank said that if I'd been honest about what was going on she definitely would have admitted me, but I never called her. I was totally lacking awareness of how sick I was. I thought it was a minor blip that I could handle on my own. In hindsight I'm really scared by how bad it was and how close I came, but at the time I couldn't see it at all and thought everyone else had the problem, and that was on meds. Just some food for thought as you're thinking over your decision.
              Pressure makes diamonds....


                I don't have anything to add to what others have said, I just wanted to welcome you to the forums FindingJoy.

                Humans punish themselves endlessly
                for not being what they believe they should be.
                -Don Miguel Ruiz-


                  Just saying hello and welcome to the forums FindingJoy!

                  ~ it's always worth it ~