Bipolar Medication, What Works?

In my ten plus years since my diagnosis, I have been on so many different medications. It has been especially hard for me to keep an anti-depressant for more than a year at a time. I will talk in this blog post about my medications associated with my diagnosis of Bipolar One and what was given for depression.

One of the questions that a blogger asked of me recently was about anti-depressants. The blogger wanted me to discuss if anti-depressants have gotten better. The other part of the blogger’s question was this. Can Bipolar medication help someone get to a point of normalcy? The blogger wanted me to share my experience in this area.

So here we go.

Have Antidepressants Improved?

In my personal opinion, and my experience, anti-depressants have improved. Since my first diagnosis of severe depression, it was always anti-depressants that were given. It was the first medication I was ever given. It was about three weeks before my second diagnosis. I honestly don’t remember my first anti-depressant but it lasted only about three weeks. It was before my diagnosis of the Schizoaffective disorder, and then to my diagnosis of Bipolar One that my anti-depressant that was changed by my first real psychiatrist. These diagnosis‘ came on the heels of my first suicide attempt.

I can remember my second anti-depressant, Zoloft. I took that off and on for a year. Since then I changed anti-depressants at a rate of once a year until about two years ago. My doctor gave me a new medication called Venaflaxine that has been my most consistent anti-depressant. Of course, I don’t take just an anti-depressant for depression and my Bipolar Disorder. I take other effective medication that I have found balance.


Lithium, My Most Consistent Medication

Lithium has been with me since the beginning but there was about a year when I went off of it. But, for the most part, I have been taking lithium as my main mood stabilizer. It has some bad side effects like making me thirsty 24/7 and the uncontrollable shaking of my hands. But, my psychiatrist says it is the most effective medicine to treat Bipolar disorder.

Since going back on lithium I have seen myself gain better control over my depression. It’s not the only reason. Its a combination of that help like my anti-depressant, my mood stabilizer, and my anti-psychotic medication. Seroquel is the other medication that I take for Bipolar disorder. I have chronicled my struggles with this medicine, you can find it here.

What Does it all Mean?

To put everything into perspective, my level of anxiety that I track daily has seen a steady decrease. Over the last twelve months, I have seen my depression levels, on a scale of 1-10, go from high levels to manageable. Over the last six months, for example, I have been registering more in the 4-5 and 2-4 range for my depression most days.

There have been days where my depression will spike, but that never lasts. It has been good to finally get my depression in a manageable range. I can even see my depression disappear for weeks at a time.

Medication is a big part of it. There are other factors like diet, exercise, and the time of the year. It helps to write about it.

To answer the questions posed by my fellow blogger. Yes, anti-depressants have improved. I see them improving even more in the coming years. They now have medication that does the job of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers.

As for the question if Bipolar medicine can help you achieve some normalcy? The answer for me is yes. It’s never going to cure you, but the right combination of medication means you can feel normal most days. That in my book is a win.

So talk you your medical provider. Whether it be a psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, or wherever you get your meds. Find what works for you. Sometimes it will take trial and error. That’s okay. That’s life, to be honest. Keep working at it.

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logopina messina

27 thoughts on “Bipolar Medication, What Works?

  1. I was on Abilify for quite some time and it worked wonders but then my insurance decided they didn’t want to pay for it so I was switched to Lithium. WOOO BOY, the excessive thirst and dry mouth nearly drove me crazy! So I was put back on Abilify when I received Gap Medicaid insurance because they pay for it. It does cause weight gain which is starting to get to me but I just have to work harder at losing and keeping off the weight.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been on so many medications, and it took years before they finally found the right combination. I’ve reached “baseline” for signification periods while on meds, but after my breakdown, I haven’t been at baseline very much. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you’re feeling better, James Edgar Skye! It sure is nice when you finally stumble on a good mix. But I agree with you that self-care plays a part, too. And just having the opportunity to recover.

    I have been on a huge number of medications in the past, too. I will admit that antidepressants never did me a lick of good. Either they switched my moods quickly, or gave me mixed episodes. It finally got to the point where I could never have them added to my mix anymore, though I know many people with bipolar benefit from them greatly. Nowadays my small dose of Lamictal and my Seroquel XR are my “antidepressants”. Seroquel XR is actually pretty darned helpful. I use it also for mania control, along with Tegretol XR.

    It would be nice if they could find more medications to help with depression. Particularly ones that don’t switch people with bipolar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be tough road with medicaiton. Every person is different and with anti-depressants in my life it was always a struggle for effectiveness. I am even considering a change this year because I don’t really like my current anti-depressants. Thank you for sharing your own experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m still attempting to get a grasp on my preferred form of medicating. I spent a year on Celexa, 3 years on Paxil and after a horrendous withdrawal after my insurance lapsed, I am now on my second week of Buspar with Xanax–all I can say is thank God for Xanax. The Buspar triggered some insomnia and more intense panic attacks, initially, so the Xanax was all that could get me calm (aside from binge drinking, which I have put away for the most part).

    I’m hoping I will get leveled out soon, on the Buspar, but for the last month I have taken a secondary approach with exercise, sharing my thoughts, and cleaner eating habits–I’m not sure it is doing much on a mental level, but my general outlook on life has improved. Although I really miss carbs…

    Thanks for sharing! I am so happy you are getting somewhere after so many years of trial and error.


    1. Be careful with the Xanax, as it is highly addictive, but not so much so as Klonopin. That almost killed me coming off it. I found, in my own case, that Ativan was something I could stay on long term (which I did) and still be able to come off it a couple of years later). Some people take low doses of Ativan their entire lives.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I will definitely bring this up in my consultation next week. I don’t enjoy having to take any medication, in general, but I have daily, debilitating attacks and Xanax is the only thing I’ve been prescribed—that seems to regulate my attacks. Thanks for the information!!


    2. I wasn’t a fan of Buspar. I had a really bad reaction. Not insomnia but increased anxiety on extremely high levels. It’s good to hear that your trial and error is working. It can be tough but at least you are getting somewhere. I just know you will level out because you are strong person.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an excellent account of medication that has been effective for you. I was on Seroquel once. It can have some crazy side effects, like getting up on morning and careening into a wall. Eventually I went off it and am now taking Trazodone for sleep, which is what I was taking the Seroquel for. In your case, you are using it to control your bipolar condition.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I tried out different antidepressants and I was never consistent enough to see much improvement. Since my diagnosis late last year, I have been on lithium. It’s only been three months and I have been feeling a lot better. I just don’t know if it is the lithium or the ECT.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lithium from what I hear is the best drug that someone with deperession can be on. It is, acccording to psychiatrist the most researched drug on for mental illness on the market. Good luck in the coming months in finding some balance.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was borderline suicidal, about 12 years ago, I was prescribed sertraline for the first time and it was literally a life saver. It also helped my anxiety much better than the high doses of Diazepam they had been giving me for my amphetamine psychosis. I started on 100mg of sertraline and within a month I was taking the full 200mg dose. I’ve been taking it on and off ever since but take much smaller doses now. Sometimes medication is the only answer, but if I feel I can manage without for a while I try. I know the longterm effects of most medications can have dangerous side effects, but quality of life is much more important. – When I was very young, pre-teen, I was on high dose tricyclics like Amitriptyline, and I can tell you anti-depressants have drastically improved over the years.

    I’m glad to here things are stable for you at the moment and hope that one day you don’t have to rely on the medications so much. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great that you found your antidepressants that worked. I have taken sertraline but with not the same results. It proves its different for each of us. After all it’s about the chemical imbalances in our own brain. I hope o don’t have to rely on the medication but that’s way in the future. It’s been a limited sample years compared to the past. It also effected me last time I tried to lower my doses in hopes to get off completely.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey James, I fully understand, bipolar sounds like a real beast and I can only begin to imagine how bad it must be for you when its really kicking off. But I’m so glad that you can write about it in a way that other people can understand it, honestly, some of your posts have really touched me, and I really hope that in the future you’ll find some kind of equilibrium. You deserve it. I won’t say “be well”, you know what I mean, but take care brother, and stay as strong as you can.

        – Much love, E

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you E. That means the world. I think in some ways I am heading towards the equilibrium that you speak of. It is always a process but I love the fight and writing is something being Bipolar can never take away from me.


  8. This taking or not taking medication is operable for situational depression, but clinical depression is another matter. If your brain chemistry is out of balance, then you need to get it back in balance, and that’s usually an anti-depressant or some off-label medication. To say, “Oh, I’m not going to take medication for awhile and see how it works,” for one in clinical depression is like a person with Type 1 Diabetes saying, “Oh, well I’m not going to take insulin for awhile and see how it works.” Clinical depression is a disease, not a temporary condition. I’ll be taking medication for the rest of my life, and doing so, along with healthy habits and a life predicated on reducing stress, keeps me free of depression. For James, a Bipolar disorder is something that will need medication in one form or another for the rest of his life. Finding the right balance of medication and lifestyle is the key to a fulfilled life. It can be controlled but not eliminated. It is that way with some depressions. Do I like taking medication? Absolutely not. But then I don’t like living in hell either. I tried to come off medication three different times, all with terrible results. So now I have a new life, like a person after a major heart attack has a new life of medication, exercise, good nutrition and staying away from high levels of stress. It’s that way with me as well, and I have finally accepted that.

    Liked by 1 person

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About James Edgar Skye

I am a novelist, screenwriter, and blogger. I have written a screenplay entitled “Memory of Shane” and working towards the completion of the novel version. I am also writing my memoir “The Bipolar Writer" which also serves as the name of this blog. I also write feature articles on other members of the mental illness community on my blog.