psychology: What does Independence Mean for a Person with Bipolar Disorder

July 4 is considered the day that America gained her freedom. It is called Independence Day. What does it mean to be independent? Some synonyms for independent are: free, self-governing, and self-reliant. I have heard others with bipolar disorder complain about their medication describing it as a mental straight jacket. I do not think that is an accurate picture. Without medication, most people with bipolar disorder are on a constant roller coaster ride resulting in Dependence on family, friends, or others to take care of them. That is not freedom or self-reliance. I believe and have experienced the freedom that comes with a good medication regimen. This occurs when your symptoms are under enough control to be functional yet not so drugged that you do not feel like yourself. When you finally get to the point where you can strike a balance between symptoms and side-effects, you then feel free and can become self-reliant. 

I know that this process can be hard, frustrating, difficult, and could take a long time, but the rewards of sticking with it are fantastic. How do you achieve this may be your next question. You must first have a good psychiatrist or doctor that specializes in mental health treatment. If you are not getting the attention you need or feel that your doctor is not working well with you, then you need to fire that person and get a good one. To do this, you need to interview at least three doctors that you have good references for. Ask them for 15 minutes of their time so that you can decide if you want to work with them. You are the "customer" in this regard, and have to right to hire or fire someone. For now, I will assume that you are working with a good doctor or psychiatrist. Then what?

Your doctor should have you on a therapeutic dose of any number of quality medications that are available to us today. We have come a long way since Lithium although Lithium can still be a medication of choice for many patients. Next you should monitor your moods and physical symptoms (side effects) for a period of time usually 2 - 3 weeks. It may be much shorter if the medication is causing side effects that are not tolerable which can usually be discovered within 1 week. You should tell your doctor how your mood is, how your physical symptoms are, and if they are improving or getting worse. Based on that information, your doctor will most likely make small changes. Big changes have their own negative consequences, so small changes are best. Again, monitor your mood and side effects for 2 - 3 weeks. You will need to continue this process until you feel good, but not manic, and have no side effects or so minimal that it does not interfere with your day to day functioning.

What then? Once you are on a stable medication track, you should be able to start seeing your doctor less and less to the point where you only need to go in every 3 - 6 months for a prescription renewal. The exciting part about this is that you will start seeing your self-reliance and freedom increase. If you have been living with care givers because you were not stable enough to take care of yourself, now is the time to start looking to striking out on your own. You should be stable enough to hold down a job which will provide you with the income you need to sustain yourself. This should be a fun, exhilarating, and maybe even scary time. But freedom feels great!

I am in the process of opening a store and will have the interview scripted form for psychiatrist and a mood and medication journal available for download. Keep checking back for the grand opening at The store should be open soon. You can also find a FREE article on how to be a happy, contributing, highly respected employee that includes more details on how to be a good employee which in turn will help you keep your job.

I wish you the best in all your pursuits.

Author: Cassandra L. Good