“But what if I didn’t?” – A brief note on Po

by Amy Stringer

TW/CW: medication, self destructive behaviour, bipolar

I don’t need no arms around me! And I don’t need no drugs to calm me!

I have seen the writing on the wall. Don’t think I need anything at all

Another brick in the wall, pt 3 – Pink Floyd
http://chemung-valley-curator.tumblr.com Jar of lithium citrate used by Bacorn Company, 1949, from the collection of the Chemung County Historical Society

When you’re told you need to take psychiatric medicine for the rest of your life there’s always that urge. You know, the urge which says “but what if I didn’t? How bad could it get?”

I especially feel this urge because Po was diagnosed very early, almost as soon as she appeared. I’ve never experienced Po’s full wrath, never seen how bad she can get. This makes me… curious. I especially feel this because, even though I’m heavily medicated, I still experience episodes. This makes it feel as if the drugs aren’t even working. I also feel this urge especially when the medicine is actually working. If I feel good for any amount of time, I start to think I don’t need the medicine anymore, that maybe I was fine this whole time and I don’t even need medicine.

These things combined led me to believe that my form of Po was relatively mild, like maybe I could cope without the meds. I mentioned in Po Pt. 2 that I recently had a conversation with my psychiatrist about the different types of bipolar and which one he thought I might have. This is the conversation that told me I was wrong, my Po is not mild at all.

A Conversation

I felt I had to ask my psych about my concerns. The diagnosis he gave me was just “bipolar,” he never specified which bipolar I had, and there are several (as I mentioned in Po’s post). In my last session, I mentioned this and he explained the some of the different types to me. I’ll do my best to paraphrase him here.

Bipolar I

This he described as typical bipolar, which is very much like the bipolar we see in films (he doesn’t care much for breaking the stigma). He said in Bipolar I, we expect to see severe mania resulting in psychotic episodes and also severe depression, but these days bipolar I is very rare because we treat it before it gets to that severe stage.

Bipolar II

Bipolar II is less typical but happens to be where most people sit these days. Patients get manic without reaching psychosis and have severe depressive episodes. Before this conversation this is the type I thought I would fall under (apparently I was wrong).

The others

There are many other forms of bipolar (it really is a spectrum) and these include, but are not limited to, mixed bipolar (nasty stuff!), cyclothymic disorder, drug induced bipolar and rapid cycling. My doctor didn’t have much to say about these.

What about Po?

The next thing I asked him was which of these umbrellas he thinks I fall under. He’s a pretty blunt man, and today was no exception to his bluntness. He didn’t even appear to think about it, he just said “I think you have pretty typical bipolar, but we’ve treated it early.”

He said the very fact that I STILL get episodes despite the level of medication I am on indicates that things are not as peachy as I had initially thought (my words, not his).


Does this make me more curious? You are DAMN RIGHT it makes me even more curious and this is part of the danger of still having episodes while medicated. If Po becomes even a little bit impulsive or self destructive with this thought in her head, it doesn’t matter how rational I might usually be, things can get very dangerous very quickly.

To tell the truth, I have stopped taking my medicine once or twice in the past. It was early days and I don’t fully remember the outcome, but that likely means I became very depressed or hypo-manic. But this is dangerous too… When things get bad, and you get well again, you can’t really remember just how bad it was and so the curiosity remains, just lingering in the back of your mind.

That’s the thing about psychiatric medicine, in order for it to be effective, you need to keep taking it (even when you feel okay), and in order for you to keep taking it you need to want to stay well, and not give in to impulses. If the medicine dose is not right, the disorder creeps out and it can sabotage your entire recovery process by deciding you don’t need your meds.

Will I stop taking my medicine in the future? Look, probably. But I guess I will just have to deal with that when it comes.

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