Really Sweating the Big Stuff

Updated on May 26, 2013
G.S. asks from Hopatcong, NJ
12 answers

I was diagnosed bipolar about 20 yrs ago and have been on lithium about the whole time, with the exception of one year I was having kidney issues. They cleared up & I was back on it for the past 6 yrs. This past Sunday I started showing signs of toxicity and from there things have gone to pot. My dose has since been lowered twice and I have had a toxic level twice, but know in my heart that I cannot go off of this medication.

When I was first diagnosed after a 2 1/2 month stay at a country club type of mental health establishment that fed me just about every type of medication available to the open market, I walked out of there worse then ever w/hallucinations, voices, and a souvenir of no memory thanks to the 8 sessions of ECT they gave me. I was then hospitalized at another hospital and put on lithium, I was out of there in a week, no hallucinations, no voices, doing so much better. I look back at how I was and where I am now and I didn't have the life I have now. At that time I was hospitalized during the time of my wedding day, now I have two girls who need me, I can't fall apart like I did I have lived a completely functional life, I had a f/t job for a number of years before getting pregnant w/my 1st, but now I'm so scared my oldest who is 15, she saw that today while she was at the hospital with me. She understands a lot of this because when I had to go for my medication 6 years ago, although she was young she remembers what happened.

At one time during our conversation she asked if I had a choice of living 75 years on lithium or 85 years w/out it, would it be wrong for her to want me to be the me that I am for the 75 because she likes this me. So do I, and I know that people keep telling me that there are so many new medications out there for bipolar & stuff, but the problem being that most of them are anti-depressants, I unfortunately tend to cycle to the manic side. If I'm put on anything like that I spin into a manic episode which has already cost us the down payment to our house, a mini-van, a movada watch, many other things. I have gotten much, much better over the years, but I still cannot chance the temptation. My husband stuck by me through so much already & I know he will again, it's just that each time it gets harder & harder to beat. The best way I can explain it someone is that bipolar is my crack when I'm out of control.

Another concern I have is that since earlier this year I have been a bit on the depressed side & w/Mother's Day having been not so long ago, I still feel pretty blah, not having my mom is a hard thing in my life. She was such a support, having gone thru all of this w/my dad's bipolar. I know that I have to keep moving in the right direction, I have Sami & Haley to think about, but the main focus has to be on me,. I have to be selfish right now, I have to worry about getting better for me, if I'm not okay, then who's going to be sure they are okay. I have to do what is necessary and I will continue to do everything I have to in order that this doesn't get the best of me. The question I have is how do let go of your troubles and put trust in the fact that they will work out. In this past week & a half I have been told by a doctor that they have found something cancerous, I've gone for an MRI of my knee & have to schedule a 2nd surgery then this. I know that there are people that have far worse things to handle and that I should be thankful for all I have. If you have read any of my other posts, I think that I have been, dealing w/my husband's cancer, having almost lost my oldest twice, my husband's job loss, the short-sale of our home, all of that. What I just don't understand is how to stop borrowing trouble as my mom would call it.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I truly appreciate all of the encouraging words and the advice/experiences you have all shared. I am under the care of a new psychiatrist after having been w/the same dr for 15 years. I have met w/her maybe 3 times, however all this has gone on both times on the weekend. I realize I do have to open my eyes a little wider to the possibility that maybe lithium isn't cutting it for me any longer. The rash I have from the second toxicity is getting worse, as are the....I can't even call them tremors, they are much, much worse then that. My kidneys have already taken a hit, this is now the 2nd time.

What I do realize is that you mama's at Mamapedia helped me to open my eyes to realize that I am much stronger then I ever realized and that I am gong to get thru this. My daughters have grown up to know that this is something that i'm not ashamed of so they are very understanding & helpful. There are other medications out there, and I will be okay, or at least my version of okay! I thank you all for your kind words.

More Answers


answers from Hartford on


I don't have the same issues you do. I do have a chronic pain disorder that compromises my immune system, an anxiety disorder, and depressive disorder. Everything plays off of everything else.

I try to remember that the people in my life that I support are also my supports. I use them when I need to because they offer. I've stopped saying "no" to offers of help.

If I think I can't handle something because there's too much on my plate, then I've learned to say "no." I'm the most loyal friend and sister and person you'll ever meet. I'll help anyone who asks. I have trouble saying no to pleas for help. I don't want to disappoint anyone. Except that when I start to feel overwhelmed, I've learned that it's all right to say "no" or "not now."

I've altered my diet. I've had to do elimination diets to see if I would feel better or worse by eliminating certain foods from my diet. By doing so, my digestive health has never been better. By doing so, my pain has improved. I've even lost some weight even though that hasn't been the goal.

I blog. I haven't posted many entries lately because I've had to keep many of the entries private, but journaling is a huge help. Not just mentally, but sometimes when I go back and look at what I've written I can see patterns in health or mood or other things. It also helps me be a better advocate.

Did you know that when you're on a plane, if you need to use the oxygen masks you're supposed to put yours on first and not the childrens? You wouldn't be able to help them the best way possible if you don't take care of yourself first in a crisis situation like a plane crash. Well, if this is your plane crash then you need to give yourself oxygen first. You can't feel guilty about that. It's for your safety and theirs.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

First of all, God bless you, you have my prayers. Second of all I admire your courage and strength. My son was diagnosed bipolar, we have had several episodes and finally over the course of a couple of years he is on seraquel, (sp?) and also a medication before he sleeps, and he is appearing quite okay, quite like his self again and has managed to battle so much. It isn't easy, and you are not borrowing trouble, there are a lot of real life things going on. Those are legitimate causes of depression. In his case his brother was in the service six years, we were scared, I had cancer, scared, sad, I'm okay and numerous family things. These things need to be acknowledged and you need to be recognized for how courageous you are -people just don't know what you are going through. You are one more hero in my life, my son of course and reading your story, he has attempted college for almost six years and when he gets his associates degree I will hold the hugest party! Please know this: I cannot get over your strength and courage. You are battling a very real situation and finally found a solution and then it is causing you pain. So, Back to not borrowing trouble as your mom calls it, you're not borrowing it, you have been carrying it on your shoulders and have managed to get rid of so much of it. Please continue to take something, please continue to reach out. I don't even know you personally but I am so glad you shared this with us. HUG

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You have a disorder that makes you barrow trouble. I am glad you are thinking about things. It's when you don't think, that you have problems.

There are other meds out there that are not antidepressants. Seraquil just went generic so it's much cheaper. It might help. I would not rule out trying other meds besides antidepressants.

See a good therapist. Keep a journal. Do Keep up a good sleep routine. Keep plugging away.

Things wax and wane all the time. None of us is living without a bit of chaos in our lives. You have daughters who really love you. Listen to them.
Listen to your psychologist. Things will get better.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I skimmed thru your post and do not see anywhere that you're being seen by a psychiatrist. There have been many advances in medication in the past 20 years. There are other medications that can be helpful. can also be helped thru therapy. A combination of medicine and therapy will nearly always help.

I know of a woman who blogs about bi-polar issues. Her name is Julie Fast and has become a nationally known expert with regular appearances on with Dr. Oz. I received her blogs, newsletters and bought her books back when she was an unknown. Here is her blog site address.

I have a friend with bi-polar who takes Seroquel. Here is their site that describes the medicine and its use in combination with talk therapy.

Google bipolar treatment and bipolar medications to find many helpful articles.
Make an appointment with a psychiatrist that has experience treating bi-polar and see what they say.

Doesn't sound like you're borrowing trouble. You have trouble, not of your own making. Perhaps you're dealing with that trouble by being extremely anxious. There is medication for depression and anxiety too. You may benefit from being on more than one medication.

I've read most of this authors works and have found them very helpful in my understanding of this disorder. Here is one book I recommend along with an excerpt from the first chapter about medications.

Medications and supplements represent the first section of the treatment plan. This is a difficult and often frustrating part of having bipolar disorder for many people. How many medications are you taking to manage bipolar disorder? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed with the thought that you will have to take these medications for the rest of your life? Maybe you feel it's unfair. Maybe you have trouble staying on medications because of side effects. Maybe you go through periods in which you pretend that bipolar disorder isn't real and that it will go away if you just ignore it ... but then you get sick again and have to restart the medications to find stability, and the cycle is repeated.

All of the above behavior is normal. Accepting the bipolar disorder diagnosis is hard enough. Having to accept that you will probably need some form of medication for the rest of your life can be pretty daunting and depressing.

Many, if not most, patients with bipolar disorder experience a significant amount of confusion regarding medical treatment and often receive very little information about the drugs they're taking. Inadequate compliance with medication treatments is the number one reason that there are often negative outcomes for people with bipolar disorder. The goal of this chapter is to offer concise and practical information on the medications currently used to treat bipolar disorder, how they work in your system, and why you need medications in order to stay stable. There is a good reason why this is the first section of the treatment plan: Medications are an essential part of bipolar disorder treatment, and the more you are willing to accept this fact, the better the outcome can be. This chapter does not make light of the significant problems and frustrations people with bipolar disorder have with medications. When you finish this chapter, you will have a clearer idea as to why you truly need the medications, and will also have some tips on how to manage these medications so that they treat bipolar disorder instead of taking over your life."

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answers from Washington DC on

Girl - I am sorry - you have sooo much going on. It's hard to follow your post. So to be honest - I skipped to the end.

1. If you can't control it - don't. There are things you can control - your bills, health, etc. there are things you cannot control - cancer.

They did an MRI and found something and said it was cancer without a biopsy?

Job loss: he can continue to look for a job. Ensure that his resume is tip-top shape.

Short sale - you did what you could to save it, right? Now it's over and done with. Move on. Learn from your mistakes and from history - don't repeat it.

Your health - if you have bad kidneys - ask for a holistic doctor who can help you with juicing and other nutritional things you can do to make a POSITIVE difference. Continue taking your lithium.

Find a counselor so that you can have someone to talk to and learn to compartmentalize and deal with things so you don't lose it. You can't try to fix everything and you can't control it all.

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Sweetie, you *are* being dealt a lot a real sh*t storm of bad luck. Yes there is always someone dealing with worse, but please don't feel like you have to minimize what you're going through. You sound remarkably strong, centered and sane given everything you're dealing with. I think that for a situation like yours, where the "what ifs" are very real and frightening, I would just focus on one day at a time. Today, your medicine is still working. Today, your family is with you and safe. Today, you have a place to live. And so on, and so on.

FWIW, my husband was on Lithium for his bi-polar and although it worked well, he eventually developed a rash the indicated that it was no longer safe for him. He went on Depakote, which is an old-school mood stabilizer and not an anti-depressant, and it's been good for him. There are some others that don't have any anti-depressants in them but they can have some serious side effects. Lamictal and Seroquel have both been mentioned as possible considerations if/when the Depakote stops working. There are a lot of options out there that have no anti-depressants in them at all because for most bi-polar patients, any type of anti-depressant (particularly the SSRIs that are popular) do trigger manic episodes. I offer this just so you know that there really are options out there that weren't available 20 years ago that are not Lithium that could work for you. So try to not let the fear of the day you need to switch overwhelm you - your doctor will find something else that is safe and effective for you.

Another thing that you can perhaps control would be what would happen to your children if anything were to happen to you and your husband. This is something that we should all think about and plan for, regardless of our health. Do you have a friend or relative who can care for your children if you were unable to? Have you talked to any of these candidates about this and put your wishes in writing? When I was a single mom I really, really worried about what would happen to my son if I were to die or become disabled. It was something that kept me up at night. I was very much afraid of his birth father having rights to him or trying to get custody of him so that he could get my life insurance. I was able to set up an insurance trust, name several tiers of guardians for my son, and structure my estate in such a way that my parents would have had tens of thousands of dollars available immediately to crush his birth father in court and win custody of him and that no matter what happened, his father would have no access to my life insurance so no incentive to try to take my son. Having that taken care of relieved a lot of stress and anxiety.

Finally, when I was going through a really rough time (I graduated college, my best friend died and I moved twice all in one week, then within that same month I moved again, found out I was pregnant and broke up with my psycho boyfriend, who broke into my house, vandalized my property, stalked and harrassed me, threatened suicide and then while I was pregnant faked having cancer) I bought a bookmark with a quotation from Mother Theresa that says something like "I know God won't give me more than I can handle but I sometimes wish He didn't trust me so much." I still have that bookmark and it's something I think of often whenever I'm going in to crisis mode.

I truly wish you the best. We're here for you!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Have you considered finding a hospital you love, not the one you described cause it sounds awful, and working out the med issue?

My younger son spent three one month periods in hospital working out his medications. It wasn't easy on anyone but it seemed like the quickest and safest way to work out the best medication course.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

It truly sounds like you do need to do an evaluation. If you med levels are off so much then you know you do need to fix it or your health will suffer even more.

This is where you have to take care of yourself first then you will be able to take care of your life better.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Wow . Talk about a full plate!
I'm sorry you have so much going on.
I think mental health is something those of us with no issues take for granted.
I have a close friend that suffers with bi-polar.
I know she has taken Depkote for MANY (30) years
She also works closely & regularly with her psychiatrist to keep herself healthy.
Do you have a psychiatrist that you value, respect and like?
I guess my best advice would be to work closely with him/her and talk about medication options moving forward.
As for worry? Think about it. It's the stuff we NEVER worry about that usually happens--you know, the "out of left field" stuff?
So don't worry about the "what ifs" and focus on your health and that of your family.
All the best!

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answers from Burlington on

I didn't even finish reading this entire post as I could see where it was going.With that being said I have a suggestion, and I really think it might help you.My daughter takes an ADHD medication that is holistic! I couldn't believe I found it, but i read a ton of reviews and all praising it. It's called Synaptol. ZERO side effects! Now the reason I'm telling you about this is, the site where I purchase it has several different types of meds for different ailments.If you look at the site I believe,maybe you can find one that will help you without decreasing your quality of life. please check it out, it cant hurt, but could help you so much!I'll also say prayers for you. good luck :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

What does your psychiatrist suggest? Can they treat the toxicity. You sound like a great mom and are doing really well managing your illness. I admire you.

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answers from Los Angeles on

If you are afraid to experiment with different meds because of your kids, are you able to go inpatient for a couple of weeks or a month? That way, they can give you some options while you are in a safe place to see how you handle them.

1 mom found this helpful
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