If you are someone who can deal with your bipolar symptoms without medication, I’m glad for you. I’m not one of those people; without the medications, my life would collapse and I would be in danger. I believe that finding the correct medication is a combination of luck, skill, and uncertainty, and that you are always aiming for a moving target. The bipolar changes and becomes more or less stable whenever the hell it feels like, and the correct medication regime must therefore change in response.
My current psych medications (July 2021):
Lamictal, 300 mg/day – my old friend. It controls my manic swings seemingly without side-effects. It has limitations, though; I need to pair it with something to control depression. I have been taking it since my hospital stay in 2006.
Vraylar – I started taking this in September of 2021 after being unable to tolerate the weight gain from Abilify. It is a newer brand name drug with a brand-name price, but thankfully there are discount cards from the manufacturer. It is a mood stabilizer that is supposed to help with both bipolar depression and bipolar mania. That would seem to duplicate the action of Lamictal, but for now the combination is working. I have had no apparent side effects; weight gain is supposed to be less prevalent, but we’ll see. We are working on increasing the dosage at this time.
My previous medications:
Abilify – I took this since 2010, stopped in 2020, restarted in early 2021, and stopped again last month. It helped stabilize my moods and decrease depression, but unfortunately it also promoted weight gain and increased my appetite. Earlier this year it helped relieve my anxiety and OCD symptoms, reducing both to the point where I can try to control the rituals to some extent. Withdrawal was pretty clean, but resuming it makes me want to eat everything in sight.
Latuda – A short trial from December 2020 to January 2021. It made me manic, twitchy, and tense; elevated my blood pressure; and caused sleeplessness. Withdrawing from Latuda was difficult because the side effects persisted for a few weeks after discontinuing. More importantly, it seemed to kindle some long-term effects in my brain, making my OCD and ADD symptoms much worse to the point of being intolerable. It has taken about 5 months to fully recover from this, although the anxiety and OCD symptoms are still a little elevated.
Wellbutrin XL, 150 mg/day – 2017 to 2021. I don’t know if it helped much. Without the Abilify, it appears that Wellbutrin made me more elevated and anxious, so I discontinued it when I resumed taking Abilify.
Topamax – 2018 to 2020. It was intended to relieve depression, but I don’t think it was very effective. Side effects included brain fog and fatigue. My doctor called it Dope-a-max. It actually helped me lose a little weight, but the other effects were eventually too much to tolerate.
Seroquel – maybe 2011? A short trial. I discontinued it because it made me too sleepy.
Invega – 2008 to 2009. An extended release relative of Risperdal. I don’t think it really helped, but I was so medicated at the time I couldn’t tell.
Risperdal – 2006 to 2008. Didn’t really help
Lithium – 2006-2009. I don’t know if it helped or not, because I was taking several other meds during this time until I changed psychiatrists. I never had a blood test, which I blame on my then-doctor’s incompetence.
Effexor – 2005 to 2010. This was supposed to work on my depression, but eventually I think it made me more unstable. When I went in the hospital the doctors kept Effexor in the mix and added more bipolar drugs.
Ativan – 2006-2010. One of the benzodiazepines. It really helped my anxiety, and while there is a risk of addiction, I didn’t find myself becoming overly attached to it. I would take it on an as-needed basis because my anxiety comes and goes. Unfortunately I don’t think I can take this drug, even with a prescription, due to the federal drug testing requirements of my current job.
Zoloft – 2004 to 2005. This was the first antidepressant I took, prescribed by my general practitioner when I first talked to her about depression. This drug took me for a roller coaster ride. I believe it made my undiagnosed bipolar worse. It got even worse when I took Wellbutrin and Zoloft at the same time.
Celexa – 2005. A short trial. I don’t recall what the results were, but it must not have worked.
Provigil – 2006-2009. I took this stimulant to stay awake while I was taking 5 other drugs. I didn’t need it after my new doctor took a more minimal approach.