Why You Can’t Give Up On Bipolar Treatment, Even If Your Doctor Does

November 27, 2013 Natasha Tracy

When I was first diagnosed, I went through 18 months of medication trials without success. I initially tried a bunch of antidepressants thanks to misdiagnosis and then I went through mood stabilizers when it was confirmed that I had bipolar disorder.

And every medication was pretty much the same. I would take the drug, it would induce horrible side effects, I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the drug and then I would have to try something else. It was unadulterated hell.

After 18 months of that, I went to my psychiatrist’s appointment, sat down and looked at my doctor as he threw his hands in the air and said, “I can’t help you. You’re no longer my patient.”

My doctor had fired me.

I didn’t know doctors could fire patients, but it turns out they can. Basically what he was saying to me was that I was broken, he didn’t know how to fix me and so I should just go away.

So I did, with the thought in my mind that I couldn’t be helped.

After My Doctor Gave Up on Me

I had been seeing a counsellor at the time so I went back and told him what had happened. He continued to work with me, as he had been, on developing skills to manage my bipolar disorder.

It's an unfortunate reality that sometimes doctors give up on patients with bipolar but you can never give up on yourself. More at Breaking Bipolar blog.Naturally, this didn’t work. It hadn’t worked in the previous 18 months and it certainly didn’t work without medication. After about six months, I had gotten much, much worse. I had become acutely suicidal to the point where my counsellor was concerned for my life. So he said to me, “you have to go back to your doctor.”

Of course, I didn’t want to go back to the person who had given up on me, but I didn’t feel I had a choice.

So I went back and basically begged the doctor to treat me again and he agreed to. However, it’s not like he had any good ideas for what to do about my treatment. Nevertheless, he took a stab in the dark and prescribed something that wasn’t being used to treat bipolar disorder but that he thought might, possibly work.

Guess and Check

And that particular guess was my personal miracle. Within about 4-6 weeks, I found myself feeling better. A little bit at a time I slowly re-emerged from the disease. The disease that had been eating me alive for two years was finally losing the battle.

My Doctor Gave Up – I Didn’t

My counsellor, who refused to give up on me, might have saved my life there. His insistence that I go back and get medical treatment might have been the one thing that stopped me from committing suicide; I’ll never know for sure. One thing I do know is that one guess made all the difference in the world. One doctor, who had previously given up on helping me, would change my life forever.

And I learned something – any doctor who gives up on you is wrong. Plainly and simply, they are wrong. There are always more options. Always. Any doctor who says differently just isn’t the right doctor for you.

And I learned something else – you can’t give up on yourself even if your hired expert does. It seems like the absolute and total end of the world when your doctor gives up on you, but it isn’t. You can’t lose hope, even if they do. Because you will get better. It might be long and it might be hard and it might take trying things you would normally never consider, but you will be a success story.

You can’t give up on treatment because it does work, even for people who have been sick for years. I got better. And you will too. Believe that.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, November 27). Why You Can’t Give Up On Bipolar Treatment, Even If Your Doctor Does, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

December, 5 2013 at 1:34 am

Hi everyone,
I was just diagnosed this year out of my 51 years of being either depressed or manic or absent from everything. By the time I was twenty, I was on a manic rollercoaster of overachieving and driving myself to the ground and always having to be the best.
Now that I am older. I feel like I hit a wall and then I finally got diagnosed and felt a bit of relief. It is still happening the depression lingers and then the mania doesn't last at all anymore. So I am also trying to find the right cocktail of drugs to reduce the depressive episodes.
I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for being honest and speaking about their illness without holding back because it helped me feel less alone and a little less broken.
I too have trouble with everyday chores and recently had to leave my job because I was self medicating and we know that is a clear slide into suicide. But now with the hope of my new doctors and a lot of group and one on one therapy, I am muddling through, but I am going and surrounding myself with people with similar issues. I was duel diagnosed with addiction and bipolar, that's to me almost redundant.
But thank you. I feel better just having read a number of the blogs from you and others.

EJ Conroy
December, 2 2013 at 7:59 am

Thank you for a great article that's made me reflect again on how lucky I've been in my treatment. In 20 years, I have only ever encountered one "doctor" who was ready to dismiss my bipolar diagnosis (he belonged to the ancient school of "women can't be bipolar, so it has to be a self-image/weight issue"). Of course, I've also been a textbook case for the most part--the kind no trained psychiatric professional could mistake. Still, I'm outraged that there are "healers" out there mistreating what is a rather serious disorder. Keeping ourselves on our meds is difficult enough, and we hear over and over again of the misadventures of people who've abandoned the meds regimen. Can people possibly believe that this is somehow fun?

December, 1 2013 at 2:15 pm

I have had doctors tell me that I have been on "everything" and that there is nothing left to try. Fortunately I was manic at the time so I just laughed and yelled at them instead of taking it personally which I would have done if I was depressed, and went on trying new doctors.

November, 30 2013 at 11:01 pm

Thanks Maggie :)

November, 30 2013 at 5:03 pm

I should add...lower expectations 'sometimes' not all the time. Expectations to not be perfect, to know my limits, etc. That's what I mean...

November, 30 2013 at 5:02 pm

I live in Canada, and so happy to have found Natasha's blog...
SARAH, it sounds like you are doing such a good job of keeping yourself afloat right now. I have had a couple of angry days too...I am learning very slowly to lower my expectations of myself. This is SO hard. But I am finding it helpful when I can do it. I am so hard on myself sometimes and want to eat right, exercise right etc. I do believe that what we put in our bodies has an effect on our mood, but today my mood craved a McChicken. I had a Happy Meal instead. This kind of eating doesn't happen that much anymore but I chose to eat it, and it was delicious. I am currently paying for it (stomach ache) but it happens and I am over it. I am struggling with my psychiatrist to find the meds that will work and I am trying to meditate (so far I am at 1 minute!!) so just trying to balance, forgive myself, and live. I think you are amazing.

November, 30 2013 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for replying VenusH. I've had several arguments in the last few days which is out of character for me, and a lot more restless energy.
Turns out this is not the only argument I've had where it turns out I am arguing with the wrong person about the wrong thing. Turns out now I can see the wisdom of what you're saying. Maybe I just wanted to push you into saying it.
I'm going to lie down in a dark room for a while then ring the doctor about my medications and my therapist about this sudden surge of emotions. Maybe then take a drive to the beach and walk barefoot on the sand.

November, 30 2013 at 4:11 am

Also... I don't expect anything to "save me" or *shrugs* "correct the imbalanced brain chemistry" or whatever. I know some foods, herbs and supplements help me to take the edge off and some things make me feel worse (such as overprocessed food. But how many shrinks will tell you how overprocessed food can worsen your symptoms? I seen to many people pop their heavy duty drugs over ramen noodles and wondering why they still feel bad...).
I guess for me as nature lover the herbs may have much stronger placebo potential (and hence chance to work) then a pill from bottle. Now to sciencephile and technophile, the pills can have the same effect, just by being all sciency.
And as for yoga... you just go to the wrong yoga clubs. I never went to yoga class that would be disconnected from the other philosophies. All in the west (if central Europe counts as "west").

November, 30 2013 at 4:05 am

You don't know what I am doing. I don't just go to health store. I pick my own herbs and make my own tinctures. I am spend time in nature. I look for good omens. I study various philosophies.
I go and find the best ways for myself.
See, that is the western perspective, pop this pill or other pill. I don't pop pills, my natural supplements are tiny portion of my well-being. I have complex visualization techniques to help myself. I practice mindfulness.
You can get different perspective my living in west. You need to let go the idea you depend on other to save you though (doctors or others).
ALthough I see now why people diss the "alternative" treatments. Cause they see it as merely popping of different kind of pill and depending on different kind of person to tell you what to do... They don't see the healing nature of going to nature to pick your herbs, the healing power of mastering yourself...
No, you don't need a doctor, and sometimes working against your doctor, who'll only throw another AP at you if there's a problem... is the best thing you can do for yourself. The only person you need to work with is... yourself. Doctors, clerks at healthstores, even shamans... they are secondary.

November, 30 2013 at 2:07 am

One of my Psych Doctors gave up on me after I ran my car into a tree head on (on purpose). After I got out of the regular hospital I was sent back to a local Psych hospital only for my Psychiatrist to fire me and sentence me to a state hospital for 6 months. The worse time of my life! 20 years later I am diagnosed as Bipolar. I am resentful of time lost, but grateful that I moved away and finally found a Therapist and a Psychiatrist.

November, 29 2013 at 9:40 pm

The idea of "compliance" conjures up images of the submissive, helpless patient who worships their doctor and does nothing about their own illness.
To combat this situation of hopelessness, you suggest alternative medicine.
But is going down to the local health food shop and spending $74.99 on some shark cartilage capsules, and having two in the morning with your breakfast, really going to make any difference? What you are doing here is really getting a 'second opinion' from a 'natural doctor' (or maybe just the assistant behind the counter). You are taking the capsules just as you would a doctor's prescrition, and expecting them to work just like a medicine.
What is meant by 'alternative medicine' in the west is merely an avoidance of the fact of your terrible illness and you try them within the conceptual framework of traditional medicine.
Take yoga. It's 'prescribed' by western practitioners just like any other treatment. For the majority of westerners doing yoga, it has health benefits such as relaxation, flexibility and strength. Just like any other exercise, you can learn it at your local gym. I was quite surprised when I went to India and found what real yoga was.
Anyway I've run on enough about that, since the point to make is, the best way to be empowered about your treatment is to work with your doctor, not against them. Research what you can, know yourself.

November, 29 2013 at 11:18 am

You can get a better mindset even living in the west, if the western and mainstream one keeps failing you. No need to be "compliant" with it, just because it's the way it is.

November, 29 2013 at 4:11 am

OMG ...
Ive had Drs that have actually told me if my life is so bad,do it kill myself.
My present Dr,I don't really like,but I don't hate her & she does prescribe the right drugs.
My real cheerleader IS my GP.
He's empathetic,highly intelligent,funny,young & just..well..a cool guy.
So cool you can ( most all do) call him by his first name!
He fought for me,prescribed meds for me after my former psych passed away :(
Never gave up on me.
I was also misdiagnosed for most of MY life..
ONLY correctly 2 yrs approx now...very close to right,but that's not the same as being right on target.
I have also many medical problems,as many of us do,as well.
He never believes in letting patients suffer...but not wanting to turn you into a walking pharmacy either..
If he's unsure,he's honest sending you to a specialist,getting the necessary X-rays ,tests,whatever.
Were lucky in Canada,with the OHIP,Ontario Hospital Insurance Plan,there are no fees..for these medical services,incl.hospitilizations.
Of course our taxes are higher here,but....guess old rule holds don't get something for nothing...I consider myself ( usually) more fortunate than unfortunate
Though I'm able to be an adequate mental/ physical health care adequate for myself...
It sure helps to have the right meds,right doses..
And a great GP / friend you know that always has your best interests at heart!!!!
Psychiatrists are hard to find here,since I don't need to see mine that often ...I kinda just put up & shut up.
See a team worker also for an hr bi-weekly now.

November, 27 2013 at 8:14 pm

I'm feeling a little depressed today, a little peeved off at the bus driver who was rude to me just because I was having a fumbling in my purse moment. So I am going to start an argument.
Yes there are alternative medicines. Most of them are inspired by eastern medicines. Eastern medicines work if you are from an Eastern country, you live an Eastern culture and have an Eastern health paradigm.
If you take an element from Eastern medicine, and package it in Western packaging, for people in a Western culture, guess what - it works - for Western people who need a reason to line their hip pockets.
The entire alternative medicine thing is a rip off. It plays on our grief processes.
Mental illness is hard and there is no easy cure. Keep that firmly in mind as you go and look for alternative treatments.
I'm not saying that this Western medicine is exactly fun for me. I have a relative, born in India, who would have been diagnosed bipolar if he was a Westerner. He's done really well on homeopathy and yoga. This is because it matches his mindset. He wants me to give it a go. He hates allopathic medicine, even though he studied biochemistry at uni. But it's never going to work for me because I see homeopathy as a bunch of expensive sugar placebos.
Each of our branches of medicine come with a bunch of facts, treasured knowledge, and their myths. I need to hold onto the mythology of my own culture. I can respect that Eastern or alternative medicine works for others, maybe even for some other Westerners.
But for the most part, I need medicine that packs a punch against my illness, a doctor who speaks gobbledygook and sounds reaaaaly smart, and the paradigm of being the patient in recovery.
(disclaimer - I don't actually know if homeopathy is 'Eastern' or not)

November, 27 2013 at 1:00 pm

Yes, they are options. Also outside of the mainstream treatment. Worth exploring for those for whom medical treatment failed.

November, 27 2013 at 8:11 am

I think this is a wonderful article for so many of the medication-resistant folks out there to read! There is *always* hope and alternative options! I am horrified that your doctor treated you that way, but I am inspired by your perseverance. I'm making a list of alternative treatments on my blog, if anyone is interested in it. Congratulations on your well earned triumph over bipolar.

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