bipolar living

with or without medications

Manic episodes occur with amazing regularity in my life, so I surround myself with folk you care enough to support me in avoiding the worst consequences of mania.

I’ve been bipolar all of my adult life. I equate being bipolar, in some ways, with being out in the weather. Some days it is sunny and bright, all things are possible, nothing can get me down. Some days are stormy, threatening lightning and thunder, and I’m afraid to get out of bed. So in addition to having to deal with diabetes, I also have to manage my emotional state. One of the best things about Intermittent Fasting is that it is another way I gain positive emotional feedback, by taking control of my health, as well as my emotional life.

Years ago, after several years of psychiatric medications, I decided that I couldn’t live with the “deadness” I felt while medicated. I felt like I was living in a fog, without any connection at all to the real me inside. I’d given up everything that made me “me” and was stuck inside a pseudo human being, without flavour, without emotions, without any reason to live at all. I don’t want to live that way, and so I’d rather live with my extreme emotional roller coaster than depend on meds to keep life in balance.

Before you decide to abandon your medications, and go it alone, consult with your doctor and make sure that you have a professional to provide you with ongoing care, just in case things don’t go the way you think they should.

Building mastery gives you a sense of accomplishment, Van Dijk said. What activity you choose “will just depend on where [you are in your] life and what will create that feeling of being productive.”

For instance, she said, this might mean volunteering, getting out of bed at 9 a.m. instead of noon or going to the gym three times a week. Or it might mean checking “the mail if that’s something you’ve been avoiding, … gardening or going for a 5-minute walk.”

Bipolar disorder is a serious illness. The illness itself along with treating it can feel overwhelming. But by taking small steps every day, you can effectively manage and minimize symptoms and lead a healthy, fulfilling life. If you’re not involved in treatment, contact a doctor or mental health practitioner. The strongest and healthiest step you can take is to seek professional support.

Self Determination applies to all human beings, and ultimately we are all responsible for our own physical and mental health.

So, what then? I can’t rely on emotions to be an accurate guide, either for behaviour, or commitments. I can’t maintain relationships as an on-again, off-again basketcase. So I decided that my behaviour would be governed by my personal values instead of my feelings at any given moment. Whether I’m happy as a kite, manic and unstoppable, or in deep depression, I choose to respond to external input based on what I really want in the long run. This means that I’m always willing to be supportive and listen to others, whether I feel like it or not. It’s not about me, it’s about them and the kind of a man I really want to be. My actions are governed by my intentions, not my feelings.

That’s not to say that I don’t completely “fuck-up” everything sometimes, either in my personal or professional life. It’s especially true when I forget what’s really important to me, and don’t live up to my higher purposes.

But the other part of living is that I have to be completely accountable for my actions. That’s easier said than done, but I own my mistakes and forgive myself, rather than going over things again and again and again. Instead of being proud of myself only when manic and ashamed of myself the rest of the time, I accept myself, good and bad.

Neither be a God, (as I sometimes thought of myself when in a manic phase), no nobody, (

which is how I often saw myself during a serious bouts of depression. Instead, I’m just a human being striving to live my highest and best life. I no longer live in judgment, either of myself or others.

I feel for your pain, I really do. But live with it, and have a life worth living, regardless of temporary emotional states that come and go without any useful purpose. Ironically, over time you’ll come to be a lot happier with who you’ve become. Self respect and personal accountability trumps bipolar, at least, for me.

25 thoughts on “bipolar living

  1. That’s really well-written and insightful. My brother has paranoid schizophrenia and regularly stops taking his medicine – we’ve never understood him doing that as his life seems to worsen badly when he does. But reading your feelings when you were on medication makes me wonder if he was feeling the same way and didn’t want to. He won’t tell us anything though so we’ll never know his reasons for doing things – unfortunately, he always clams up if you try to get him to talk.

    You sound to have got a good theory for managing your illness – I hope it works out well for you in the long run.


    • I was diagnosed in 1982, and was on medication during the next couple of years before deciding to stop taking it. The next few years were a bit of a roller coaster, but I survived and eventually thrived.

      I still suffer from episodes of mania, and fight recurrent depression, however, I have learned to resist the temptations of the mania and the debilitating effects of depression.
      It has now been many years since my decision to make it without medications.
      It is true that some members of my family would say that my mania has still had a profound effect on my career, allowing me to achieve more than ordinary in business. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that I always check out where I am at with my partner, and have done so for more than thirty years.


      • You sound to be managing without very well – obviously it won’t go away entirely but you’re certainly making the best of your life. I wish we could do more for my brother but he won’t even admit his condition and he certainly won’t let us help him.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Donald, I really appreciated your post, thank you.

    I’m not bipolar, but display many of the characteristics in a less extreme form. I’ve purposely avoided getting it diagnosed as I’ve always wanted to a) avoid medication, and b) thought I was ok really – despite sometimes having a nasty or difficult time.

    I do try and treat myself well – apply approaches that I know work for me. Twice daily meditation, and a ‘hot thoughts’ diary, regular exercise, pilates etc. These, when combined have a marvellous effect. And then I need to not let those good habits slip – always the trick, as I’m sure you know.
    An awareness that I feel better if I have what I call, in my uneducated way, “psychological space” also helps. Be it reading a book or a fun project, work-wise or otherwise.

    What is inspiring to read is the careful, thoughtful and well put together post on this. Thank you. And keep doing what you are doing.

    Liked by 2 people

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  4. Excellent post and thank you for sharing this. Very insightful and I wish my mom would be this way.

    My mom is bipolar and narcissistic personality disorder totally untreated and has no desire to get better. I have always been the great enabler, cleaning up all her messes and over the last year and half I have decided not to participate for my own emotional health and my families. I have limited my interactions with her dramatically. But oh the peace it’s brought me. It breaks my heart though, I’m an only child which makes it even harder.

    God bless you, praying for to keep helping others and getting healthier and healthier everyday! 🙏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh I totally hear you nikhop for I have withdrawn from a close family member for my own emotional health too, and yet it is taking it’s time to get through being okay with this gap. My heart is also hurt from it, but that it is for the best, so I am going to persivier (cannot spell that oh well) .

      Liked by 2 people

      • I recall somebody saying how we have choices when someone wishes to strike us (which is not good for them either) and the choices are: one is to be struck, two to strike back and three to take the stick they can strike us with away. Withdrawing is taking the stick away.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have had to withdraw, mostly, from having an ongoing involvement with my daughter, who suffers from a combination mental illnesses and physical disability. For many years I was her only support, and maintained her and her children in her own townhouse, near where I lived. After about five years of this, she went from being manageable to intolerable, and her abuse of drugs became an endangerment to her two children.
    As a result I had to intervene and have the Ministry of Children and Families step in an seize the children, which they placed with other family members. One of them has been adopted by a cousin, and the other is being raised by his paternal grandmother and his father, on a part time basis. His father also suffers from mental disease and is not capable of raising the child on his own.
    You may be able to imagine the amount of heart ache I suffered, as welll as what she suffered by losing her children, but her behaviour hasn’t improved and she presents a very danger to the rest of my family and myself. So I steer clear of her, at least mostly, and am in contact with her maybe once a quarter to check up on her and make sure she is still alive, and to see if she has made any progress towards stability and drug rehabilitation.
    So far, not so much. So grieve, and stay far far away.


  6. Donald,
    I have found that when my personal reality doesn’t match the experiences of those around me I can easily feel alone. I think it is wonderful that you are sharing your journey and connecting with others through blogging. It takes courage to do this.
    Thank you for visiting my poetry blog. I hope you found some lift.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Was diagnosed and treated for bipolar for years..Had reactions to over twelve drugs and the last one sent me to the hospital for Lithium toxicity. (I don’t over take any drug). It required dialysis to recover.

    No more meds …
    no more dirty looks …
    no more doctors who know little about the meds they prescribe

    and the symptoms they prescribe them for!

    Doen from eight meds to two that I have cut in half. My remaining family doctors looked atmy recent bloodwork and was amazed! He asked,”How did I do it!?”

    I’m approaching 80 but am always mistaken for much younger, like mid-50s!

    The best doctor is the mind and the best treatments, what you




    Liked by 2 people

  8. Here is to wishing you well. I am glad that emotional health is now discussed in open for and not taken as an illness to be hidden. I have a close friend who is schizophrenic and unfortunately, his high intake alcohol has made the condition worse. The way he now acts is quite devastating to his family and friends.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Drugs are often taken by mentally ill people to try to mitigates some of the confusion and emotional pain they experience. Of course, alcohol and drugs both tend to make things a lot worse for them. I have experienced this with a family member who suffers multiple mental and emotional disorders, the pain she has inflicted on her family is unspeakable, and irreparable. The further pain she has inflicted on herself is even more so.
      You have my deepest sympathies.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. When I had a breakdown/burnout, I was on drugs for a while. I felt as if I was living my life from within a darkened echo-chamber with the world only vaguely perceptible. I enjoyed it for a while before realising that I had forgotten who I was. You had a God complex whereas mine was just a Jesus one. After a while, I decided that water was not good to walk on. As for the loaves and the fishes, Christ who did they think I was?

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I had a manic episode followed by depression while trying to take summer classes after my freshman year of college. I was just on Abilify for a few months which Thank God calmed my mind enough to sleep, but I was kind of zombie-like. I’ve not had bipolar symptoms since (more like borderline personality disorder after postpartum depression with my second child), but I am thankful for that time because prior to that my family really was quite ignorant about mental health issues, and I have empathy I didn’t before for those struggling.

    When I was really struggling with postpartum, I tried taking some medication again to help with insomnia and anxiety, but as my husband put it, I “seemed more broken” and we prefer to deal with the struggles we face with my hormonally based (progesterone –the calm hormone–deficiency) PMDD/ BPD without medicine basically as you described it. We feel I am more fully present (and as long as life is manageable and all of our needs are being met at a healthyish level, will continue that way). Therapy and food as medicine has been helping as well.

    Thank you for sharing this very mature perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This post was just what I needed to read. I’ve been avoiding traveling back into a Lithium-induced numbness. My psychiatrist has helped me through the mania and the depressive months. I am currently enrolled in a DBT class which i find to be incredibly enlightening. At first, I’ll admit, I thought it was hokey but hokey works! Who knew? 🤷🏼‍♀️
    As long as I keep a close eye on my symptoms and practice my spirituality with a mixture of DBT practices, I’ve found I can be as close to normal as one could hope to be. Reading your post helped me to become more at ease with my choice to forego the medication

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great response! I hated the feeling of being on Lithium and yet I knew the full consequences of uncontrolled manic depression, which is what they used to call bipolar in the 1980s. It has been almost a lifetime of managing without medications for bipolar, although not without periodic visitations with a psychiatrist and counselors over time. I have crashed and burned a few times, spending months sometimes in the depths of despair, or riding the wave of mania-induced excesses. Still, despite those things, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My life has been and always will be, lived with passion in the presence of very extreme emotional colors. I tend to treat my emotions a little like the weather, interesting but not usually too important, unless completely out of control.

      Good luck and keep reading. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a great post, I agree with you that being medicated can cause you to feel numb – I am on certain medications for my moods too and have had to trial and error some before finding one that’s right, because some made me feel like I was here but I was just a shell of my former self. You are right about accountability, I think that accepting yourself for who you are in good and bad times is so important. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

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