Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thoughts on Wanting Wellness

Susan, the Bipolar Wellness Writer had an interesting post up yesterday about wanting wellness. Her key question to people who are on medication for bipolar disorder or depression but who are not moving in the direction of wellness is "What are you doing besides taking medication?"

It's a good question because so many things feed into our health and well-being, and taking medication is only one of them. I have a friend who has been battling depression on and off for most of his adult life. He takes medication when the depressions come on but other than that has done nothing to change his lifestyle, which is incredibly stressful both in terms of his emotional well-being and his physical health. It is frustrating to watch him lose hope and lose heart when there is so much else that he could be doing for himself. But he is not willing to make any of the changes that might help him.

Or is it that he is not able to make those changes?

I am reminded of the place I was in three or four years ago. Bipolar medications made me so ill that I was unable to do the things I knew I should be doing. I had no energy, no motivation, no clarity of thought. The things that would have been good for my body--like eating more healthfully and exercising--were beyond me, as I literally had not the energy to do them. Planning healthy meals was an exercise that was beyond my mental capabilities...and cooking healthy meals was beyond me physically--because of the 60 lbs I had put on (due to the medications) I was suffering from painful tendonitis in my feet, and was unable to stand for more than ten minutes at a time. The things that would have been good for my spirit were also beyond me--I was too mentally dulled to do much of anything. Writing would have helped me a lot, as that is the way I process things and gain insight...but Depakote took that ability away from me.

I wanted wellness badly at that point. I wanted to have the energy and clarity to care for my family, I wanted to be able to do the creative things I'd always done. But I was not able to do any of the things that would have moved me in that direction. Because I trusted my doctor, I believed that the choice was medication or illness and chaos. There was no middle ground, and I was not encouraged to do things that might minimize the amount of medication he thought I needed. I was not able to make healthy decisions for myself until I decided to trust myself and stop the medications that were making me so sick.

I think that our doctors need to take more responsibility for making sure that we have the ability to pursue wellness. Drugging us into oblivion may make them feel safer, but it is not conducive to wellness.

Writing Prompt: The pursuit of wellness often requires us to make sacrifices. Sometimes it's something as simple as sacrificing some of your hard-earned free time to exercise when you'd really rather be doing something else, or perhaps sacrificing your favorite foods because you know they are not good for you. Sometimes these sacrifices have a far deeper impact, both on yourself and the people around you--like cutting toxic relationships out of your life or making a decision to pursue an alternative treatment for an illness that those around you may not approve of. What have you sacrificed in your pursuit of wellness?


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Great post! As I read what you'd written, I felt like you were telling my story. I wonder if the difference between us and some others is that we both have families whom we love so dearly.

In the worst of times, even when I couldn't pursue the activities that would have helped me--because of a medication-induced stupor like yours--I never gave me thinking that once the depression ended, I would try some other way to help myself.

And, like you, I could only pursue wellness once I was off the toxic drugs that had made me so ill.


Jazz said...

That may well be true, Susan--I knew that I was not able to be fully present for my kids, and they needed me to be present--especially my son, who was struggling through an educational system not designed to accomodate his needs. My husband wasn't too thrilled with the medicated me, either, as I lost the ability to laugh or hold an intelligent conversation. My sense of humor was gone, my sense of self was gone...I did not even have the hope of "once the depression ended" I could be more active in pursuing wellness, because I had been told--and I believed--that I needed to be on medication for the rest of my life. I had to take that leap of faith myself before I got to place where I could really take care of myself.

Gianna said...

I had to take that leap of faith myself before I got to place where I could really take care of myself.

I think I'm still in mid-leap!! Lots of reason to trust I'll be better once off all the meds, but geesh, still so much more to go through before my body can really heal and before I can truly take care of myself. I need the people in my life who help me. Mostly my mom and my husband...I could not do this alone...that is frightening and a reason for massive gratitude.

Jazz said...

I think we need support when we make that leap. It's hard enough to go against the grain of the idea that the doctor is god and knows what he's doing...to do it alone would be much harder.

I'm glad you have supportive people in your life. My husband was great all through it...when I went off Lamictal cold turkey (at my psychiatrist's orders!) and was so sick for a couple of months (not realizing that I had withdrawal symptoms), he was awesome. He did all the housework and the cooking and entertained the kids, in addition to his job.

Those people who support us do deserve our gratitude.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Here, here to gratitude for the people who have stood by us when we were ill. My husband, son, and mother were wonderful.

My brother and sister win some award for being the most terrible people in the universe! But then they were awful to my mother and me when she had dementia. Unbelievable, isn't it?


Jazz said...

It always amazes me how unsupportive some family members can be...I've seen this in my own extended family, too.

I guess we can choose our friends, but we can't choose our family, right?

Annie said...

Jazz- I am so impressed with your posts! You were very honest and it sounds like some of my experiences. It expressed some of the feelings and ideas I have not been able to say.
I am able to do things now that my medication is helping and not overwhelming me. I too gained weight from depakote and lithium. Now I feel I can do something everyday to make things better. Thanks for your message! Annie

Jazz said...

Thank-you, Annie, for your kind words.

I'm glad you've found a place where your medication is helping you rather than hurting you. It's really hard to feel like you're moving towards wellness when your meds dull you so much that you don't even have the strength to care about anything.

Depakote was truly poisonous for me.