It has been 28 years since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I finally feel like I have figured out how to stay well for the rest of my life. It has been almost three years since I was  last hospitalized for mania. In the time since, I have made wellness the focus of my life. I work in the mental health field and my job is not too stressful. I work 37.5 hours a week and have good benefits and generous vacation time. It is never hard for me to get time off for doctors' appointments. It is a very good, healthy work environment. Having an interesting job that is easy to live with is very important to my mental health recovery. I have other health conditions besides bipolar disorder: PCOS, sleep apnea, psoriasis, allergies, and high blood pressure, and these health conditions are all well controlled by lifestyle changes and medications. I have found that keeping these conditions under control helps my mental health.

I am taking the lowest effective doses of my medications for bipolar disorder and they are working well: 200 mg. Lamictal and 100 mg. Seroquel. I have no complaints about side effects besides having to sleep a little bit more than I would like. It is much better than struggling with insomnia, psychosis, and mood instability as I have in the past though. When I think about the days when I was heavily medicated, being on such low doses of medications and doing well seems like a miracle. I also take the following supplements: a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D-3, and biotin. I take them because I believe they contribute to my overall wellness.

I stick to a routine. I have a regular bedtime and wake time. I believe that prioritizing quality sleep is the most important habit that keeps me well. I take my Lamictal and Seroquel between 8 and 9 p.m. and usually fall asleep between 10 and 11 p.m. I wake up at 7 a.m. on work days. I usually stick to the same routine on the weekends, but I occasionally stay out late with friends. Staying out late always requires sleeping late the next day because, with my medication, I always need 8-9 hours of sleep to feel rested.

I exercise every day. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I do a full-body strength training routine using dumbbells and a kettlebell. I have realized that I feel much better when I feel strong. Lifting weights also helps me to sleep much better. On the days that I don't lift weights, I at least take a walk, but I also enjoy cycling, hiking, and swimming.

I make time to spend time with friends and family. I am also friendly with my neighbors and people I encounter while out running errands and shopping. Having good relationships with people in my community is important to me. I eat well, limit my caffeine intake, and drink lots of water. I have made a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and I follow it. I meditate twice a day -- in the morning and at night. I also take deep breaths as needed. I never realized how much these habits would help me until I incorporated them into my life. I go to therapy once a week. My therapist is encouraging and helpful and understands the challenges I face living with bipolar disorder. This kind of support helps me stay motivated to stay well.

Staying well is fairly simple, but it takes attention to detail and commitment. Doing all of these things regularly and keeping a routine is what keeps me well. Life is good. The things I am currently working on to improve my life are losing weight and decluttering my home, and these things are much easier to focus on when I am well.

Working Full-Time Again

I've been working full-time for the past 16 months. I work for a Behavioral Health Service Organization. I started out working part-time as an Adult Peer Support Specialist (APSS) leading therapeutic groups such as Healthy Cooking and Eating, Lifeskills, Movement For Life, and Coping with Hearing Voices for individuals like myself who live with mental illness. Now I'm working full-time as a program coordinator in my organization. I schedule and provide continuing education for Adult Peer Support Specialists and their supervisors in my state. I also collaborate with other APSSs to write a monthly educational newsletter and to hold webinars and conference calls to disseminate educational materials about providing peer services.

It has been challenging to work full-time again. I struggle with my work-life balance like I always have when working full-time. I go to a weekly therapy session on Tuesdays after work and take a group singing class on Thursday nights. The weekends are for spending time with friends and family, cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and going to the gym. I like to rest after work on Mondays and Wednesdays. I try to fit in walks on most weekdays at lunch. If I socialize during the work week, it has to be early because I have to be home by 8:30 p.m. to take my medication. Taking it that early is the only way I can wake up for work at 6:45 a.m. I usually fall asleep between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. My medication, 200 mg. Lamictal and 100 mg. Seroquel, takes a while to kick in, but once it does, I sleep very soundly most of the time. When I have trouble sleeping it's usually because I'm worrying about something or I haven't gotten enough activity during the day. So, I try not to worry too much and I strive to get enough exercise each day.

I've developed a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) that really helps me to stay on track with my self-care, and I've managed to stay out of the hospital since June of 2015. I've taken great measures to lower my stress levels and take better care of myself. When I was on disability, I worked with my psychiatrist to fine-tune my medication and I worked hard to change my lifestyle. Most of the time I was on disability, I was hoping to return to working full-time again. People asked me why I got up so early even though my schedule didn't demand it, and I always told them I wanted to get back to full-time work someday so I didn't want to be in the habit of sleeping late every day. I do wake up a little earlier now that I'm working full-time. Most of the time I was on disability, I woke up at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. That allowed me to take my medication as late at 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. Sometimes I miss staying up later and having more time to socialize, but being able to earn a living and save for my retirement years is worth it.

I don't earn as much money in my current job as I did as an elementary school special education teacher, which was my job before I went on disability, but it is much less stressful and I have really good benefits compared to most of my past jobs. So far, I haven't had any mental health crises since I've been off of disability, although I have had to have my medication adjusted a few times. I have a lot of vacation time, so I plan breaks several times a year. Because I work under a yearly contract from the state, I make a yearly plan of work activities, so I always know what is coming up next. That makes it easy to decide when I will need to take vacation breaks. All of my vacations have been either weekend getaways or staycations. Since I can't afford long vacations, I splurge and do nice things at home every once in a while like going to plays, concerts, and museums.

It has been really therapeutic to work in the mental health field and to get to know Adult Peer Support Specialists, therapists, nurses, and others working in the behavioral health system. I am happy that I can use my recovery experience to help others. It is a satisfying way to earn a living. Working in a therapeutic environment where everyone is striving for good mental and physical health continues to be helpful to my recovery.

Reclaiming My Health

When I was diagnosed with manic depression (now called Bipolar I), at the age of 19, as a student at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1989, I was told that I would have to take lithium for the rest of my life. I started taking it the summer before my sophomore year, and my athletic performance was immediately negatively affected. I quit the soccer team because my coordination had become so poor. I could no longer quickly visually track the ball on the field and I couldn't handle the ball or pass or kick as well. My body felt alien to me.

I spent my sophomore year focusing on school and trying to get used to my new life on medication. I had some friends on a cycling team who knew that I had quit playing soccer, but not really why, and they asked me to ride with them the upcoming summer. After a couple of rides they told me that I was really good and asked me to join the team. So, I joined the team, but something was still off physically, and I knew it. After not performing as well as I would have liked in the first few races, and also having unpleasant problems with dehydration, I decided to quit taking lithium. I told my teammates that I had manic depression, as it was called at the time, and that I had decided to quit taking my medication because it slowed me down too much. My athletic performance improved almost immediately. After discontinuing lithium, I usually placed first, second, or third in my races and was ranked third in the Midwest in women's collegiate cycling. My team also won the Women's Little 500 bike race, which was very exciting! However, I was having trouble concentrating, and feeling very restless, unstable, and pulled in different directions, and also experiencing psychosis at times, so after not graduating on time, I decided to start taking lithium, quit racing, and focus on my studies. Of course, I ended up gaining weight and suffering physically. I did not enjoy feeling slowed down, but I thought it was the price I would have to pay to get on with my life, and I finally graduated.

After graduating, it seemed like the best thing to do would be to continue to take my medication, even though it felt like a weight was tied to my feet when everyone was encouraging me to swim. I was not only physically slowed down, but I also experienced cognitive dulling. When I moved to Louisville, where I still live, I started seeing a new psychiatrist. I remained in his care for 16 years because he had a good reputation, my parents had chosen him for me, and it is really hard to find a good, or even decent psychiatrist. He seemed to believe that I needed to be heavily medicated.  At my most highly medicated, I was taking 1800 mg. lithium, 400 mg. Lamictal, 600 mg. Seroquel XR, Ambien to sleep, and Provigil for alertness (which didn't work for me). It felt like way too much medication and I was exhausted all the time. My life was out of balance. Work was my focus because I had little time or energy for anything else. My psychiatrist was resistant to making changes to my medication, insisted that I take lithium, and told me that he would not continue to treat me if I quit taking lithium, as he considered it to be the cornerstone of my cocktail of psychiatric medications. I consulted with a lawyer to discuss filing a lawsuit for malpractice, because I felt I had been turned into a zombie, and she did some research and told me that I was taking enough medication to knock a horse over. Instead of going through with the lawsuit though, I let it go and quit taking my medication without consulting with my psychiatrist. I lost 60 pounds in a year without trying that hard, and felt better, but I ended up becoming manic and being hospitalized again. After that hospitalization I told myself I would take my medication no matter what, and I did. I still had severe mood episodes and I developed serious side effects: hypertension, borderline metabolic syndrome, and sleep apnea. I also gained a tremendous amount of weight. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I weighed 130 pounds, and after taking medication for close to 20 years, I was up to 278. I had gained 148 pounds. My weight had more than doubled.

After suffering a terrible depression, having ECT, and ending up on disability, I finally decided that the seemingly substandard psychiatric treatment was just too much for me to handle and I couldn't take it anymore, so I found a new psychiatrist. She is a woman who is a few years younger than I am and she understands my concerns about weight gain and side effects and agreed to help me change my medication since I knew I could not just quit taking it myself without serious repercussions. I had educated myself about withdrawal from psychiatric medication and I found that many medications have withdrawals that mimic symptoms of bipolar disorder. She agreed to let me taper off of lithium. When I did, I experienced a bout of hypomania, but I also lost weight, was not thirsty all of the time, my hair became thicker (it had been falling out for years at that point), my psoriasis began to clear up, and I felt sharper and had more energy, and started becoming more active and taking better care of myself, and with alternative medications, my moods began to stabilize.

I have kept regular appointments with my new psychiatrist since 2010 and my health has improved a great deal. I no longer feel extremely slowed down by my medication and it is easier to work, cook, clean, exercise, socialize, spend time with family, go to doctors' appointments, and to appointments with my therapist. I have realized that in the past I waited too long to seek treatment too many times. Mania, psychosis, anxiety, paranoia, and depression can overwhelm me pretty quickly both mentally and physically. I need to take action and get help from my psychiatrist and therapist before I get swept into a downward or upward spiral.

Now that I have time to live a balanced life, because I am appropriately medicated instead of overmedicated, I focus on taking care of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. I do not live a perfect lifestyle, but it is greatly improved from how I lived after my first breakdown, and for many years afterward. I work part-time and try to keep my stress levels low. I exercise, meditate, spend time with friends and family, and do volunteer work. Wellness is the focus of my life because if I am not well I can't enjoy anything or be of service to others.

My Current Cocktail

Since the start of this blog I've wanted to write about the medications I take and try because it has been difficult for me to find detailed information of this sort online. The difficulty in writing about medications is that they can often change, and what works for one person probably won't work in exactly the same way for someone else, and a dose that one person might be able to tolerate might be intolerable for someone else. Still, I've wanted to share information about the medications I've taken and am currently taking. Something peculiar that I've noticed is that whenever people discuss these medications they use the brand name, but most people I know take the generics. That is how I have written this blog. I have only taken brand name medications when generics weren't yet available.

As it turns out, Latuda didn't work well for me. I took it for five months and tried to be optimistic about it, hoping that it would have miraculous effects. The biggest problem with taking it was that it made me tired shortly after taking it, so I ended up taking it at night, before going to bed (although I tried to take it with breakfast, lunch and dinner), and I took it with a 350 calorie snack as directed by my psychiatrist. I can't be sure whether the weight gain was a side effect of the medication, or happened as a result of the nighttime snack, but I ended up gaining 10 pounds in the five months that I took it. That was unacceptable to me because I had just spent two years losing 54 pounds. Also, it didn't help me with sleep at all. In fact, it made me quite restless at night. I would fall asleep and then wake up after about an hour and a half. I tried to stay still and fall back asleep, but I ended up staying awake and just tossing and turning in bed. So, I decided to discontinue it. I have now tried Latuda, Geodon, and Saphris, and they have all made me restless. They are similar medications, so this makes sense. My psychiatrist said that Haldol would probably have the same effect because it is similar to those medications. I never noticed that with Haldol because I've never taken it outside of a hospital, I took it a long time ago when I was doing extremely poorly, and I only took it for a short time, but I thought I would mention it here because someone who is sensitive to Haldol might also be sensitive to Geodon, Saphris, and Latuda.

So, my current cocktail is 200 mg. Lamictal, 1200 mg. Trileptal, and 200 mg. Seroquel. The combination of Lamictal and Trileptal has been a good alternative to lithium for me, preventing both mania and depression. I no longer experience extreme thirst and frequent urination, my hair has grown back and thickened, I no longer have a tremor, I've lost a great deal of weight, my thinking seems much clearer, and I don't have to worry about becoming dehydrated when working out. I don't miss taking lithium at all. 200 mg. of Seroquel helps me to sleep very well and my psychiatrist said that it also may be helping me with anxiety. I'm a little slow to get going in the morning, but I definitely have more energy than I have had at higher doses. Besides being a little tired from Seroquel in the morning, I'm not having any noticeable side effects, although I am possibly having metabolic side effects. (It is impossible to know whether my borderline metabolic syndrome is due to my medications or my weight gain, although I feel sure that I wouldn't have gained so much weight without the help of bipolar medications). I take the Lamictal at night, the Trileptal twice a day (one 600 mg. tablet in the morning, and one 600 mg. tablet at night), and the Seroquel at night. I've tried both lower and higher doses of Seroquel and 200 mg. is the least I can take and still sleep well. Over the past two months of taking this cocktail, I've been very productive, my symptoms are under control, I'm getting along well with my friends, boyfriend, family, and coworkers, and I'm exercising a lot, eating well, and steadily losing weight. I've lost the weight I gained while taking Latuda and am now down 55 pounds from my highest weight. I really hope that this cocktail continues to work and I won't have to change it anytime soon if at all. I've been working part time for the past five years and I still have hope that with more stable time under my belt, I will be able to get back to full time work. Of course, I will need to have a job with a flexible schedule that will allow me time off for doctors' appointments since I am being treated for quite a few health conditions now.

In my last few blood tests, my potassium level has been low. I tried eating more potassium for a few months, but that didn't raise my blood level, so my doctor prescribed a potassium supplement, and will be monitoring my potassium level. I've learned that having a healthy level of potassium should give me more energy, be good for my blood pressure, and may even help me have an easier time losing weight. Also, potassium level can affect mood, so having the correct level might also help my mental health. Having just the right blood level of potassium is important because both low and high potassium can cause serious health problems, so, besides trying to get enough potassium in your diet, any kind of supplementation should be monitored by a doctor.

Trying to stay healthy while taking psychiatric medications has been a challenge. The extreme weight gain I experienced raised my blood pressure and gave me sleep apnea. Treating my blood pressure and sleep apnea has made me feel better, this new combination of medications has made me feel better, eating right and exercising has made me feel better, and being able to steadily lose weight has made me feel better and has given me hope that I will be able to get off of my blood pressure medications and CPAP when I lose more weight. So, for a lot of reasons, I am feeling much better than I have in years, and I am very optimistic that my physical and mental health will continue to improve.


I've been taking Latuda for almost two months. I started out taking 40 mg. for 10 days and then my psychiatrist gave me 80 mg. to take. 40 mg. wasn't hard to take, but 80 mg. is more challenging. I think it's a good medication, as far as antipsychotics go, but learning the best time to take it was tricky for me. It makes me feel good during the day if I take it at night.  I tried to take it during the day at least 8 times, and each time I felt terrible. A couple of hours after taking it, it became hard to focus, concentrate, and do work. It also made me feel anxious.

The reason that I struggled with what time to take it is that it is supposed to be taken with 350 calories in order to be absorbed properly. That is a small meal, and I'm trying to lose weight. I tried taking it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that bad feeling came on after a few hours and I knew I couldn't tolerate it at those times. The only other time left is later at night, close to my bedtime. If I take it at night I feel good the next day. It doesn't help with sleep, so I'm taking 200 mg of Seroquel  for that purpose, with the goal of slowly cutting that dose down. My psychiatrist believes that I need an antipsychotic along with my mood stabilizers, and I have found that if I take Latuda at night, I feel energetic during the day and tend to ruminate less and I also feel less anxious. But, if I take it any time before bedtime I have a very negative experience. So, I've been taking it at night with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after dinner, and I'm trying to eat less during the day to make up for what feels like an indulgence, although it's necessary.

The most challenging part of my treatment for bipolar disorder has been deciding which antipsychotic to take. The closest second to Latuda that I have tried is Seroquel. Seroquel helped me to sleep at night, and made me feel calm, but it is very sedating when taken during the day, and also caused quite a bit of weight gain when taken at higher doses. So, for now, my regimen is 200 mg. Lamictal, 1200 mg. Trileptal, 80 mg. Latuda, and 200 mg. Seroquel.

Latuda is very expensive, and that makes me nervous. If I ever lost my Extra Help with Medicare, I would not be able to afford it and would have to take something else, and I think that would be Seroquel. It would definitely be an adjustment.

Weight Loss

From the beginning of my treatment for bipolar disorder, I've struggled with weight gain. Gaining weight has been my most bothersome side effect, with excessive thirst coming in second. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was an active, thin nineteen year old. I had been playing soccer since the age of five, as well as doing other sports off and on, and I was always fit. When I started taking lithium, the only medication that was prescribed to me at the onset of my illness, I gained 40 pounds in three months. Because of that, I quit taking lithium and promptly lost the weight. I had gone from 130 pounds to 170 pounds and I could barely run. I couldn't imagine living without running, although now I can.

I wouldn't take medication again until I was twenty four and realized that medication would probably help me move forward in my life, which it did, because about a year after that decision, I graduated from college and got a job. When I decided to take medication again, I knew I would probably gain weight. I fought hard against my appetite, and I always exercised as much as I could, and even participated in sports, but I still gained weight. I was considered to be a compliant patient. Gaining weight was really hard. Not only did I feel different and apart because of my diagnosis, I also felt that I had lost control of the body that I had taken good care of for my entire life, and that had always served me well. I became plus sized and had no idea how I should dress anymore. I also worried about my health. I lost my lifelong identity of being a fit athlete. It was depressing.

I quit taking my medication a few more times over the years, always to relapse and end up in the hospital. Every time I quit taking my medication, it was because I could no longer stand the weight gain, and I always lost weight when I quit taking my medication. When I was thirty two, and hospitalized because of mania, I told myself I would never quit taking my medication again because of gaining weight. That year I had quit taking my medication when I weighed 220. I was off of my medication for about nine months before I became manic, and I got down to 160 in that time, but then I ended up in the hospital.

Even though I quit taking my medication several times over the years because of weight gain, I took it long enough and consistently enough that I was always told that I was a compliant patient. I really hated the idea of being compliant. I felt like it was killing me, but I didn't know what else to do. I had the same psychiatrist from the age of nineteen to the age of forty, and he always asked me what was more important, my weight, or my mental health. He treated my concern about my weight like it was an issue of vanity. I was scared of what my weight was doing to my health, and the weight gain was also terrible for my self esteem.

Finally, the only rational thing to do seemed to be to find a new psychiatrist. I found a young woman who I thought would understand why I wanted to lose weight. She was reluctant to take me off of lithium, but by the time she decided it would be okay to do it, my weight had gotten up to 278 and I had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and sleep apnea. This seemed to be rock bottom as far as my weight was concerned. I never thought I would weigh anywhere near 300 pounds. Lithium was interfering with my weight and my sleep. My sleep study showed that I drank six cups of water during the night. I would wake up thirsty and drink water all night long. I don't think my psychiatrist took my reports of this behavior seriously until the sleep study showed how much I was waking up and drinking water, because of the intolerable thirst caused by lithium. She agreed to take me off of lithium slowly.

I had a bout of mania when I was coming off of lithium last fall,  but I stayed out of the hospital. Last spring I was hospitalized for a suicidal depression. It was debilitating and awful, and dragged on for almost two months, but I'm glad I didn't end up taking lithium again. I've been off of lithium for about a year and I've lost 54 pounds. I now weigh 224. I'm glad to be losing weight. 54 pounds lost is significant, but I still have a long way to go. I gained 148 pounds in the time since I decided to start taking medication for bipolar disorder. I always get mad when I think of it. I complained about the weight gain the whole time I was affected by it, and not much was ever done about it until my current psychiatrist decided to take me off of lithium. I knew it was medication that was making me gain weight, but my old doctor blamed my habits for the weight gain. My appetite increased. I was always hungry and thirsty, and I was also lethargic. It's terribly hard to fight those side effects. Now that I am no longer always hungry and thirsty, and I have more energy, I'm losing weight.

I 'm doing a lot of exercise - usually the equivalent of walking five miles or riding my bike twenty miles most days, and some days walking 10 miles or riding my bike 50 miles. I'm also eating well and eating less and less. I'm focusing on eating less fat, less sugar, less sodium, more fiber, and more potassium. This kind of diet is recommended for weight loss and also for control of blood pressure. So, I've lost 54 pounds, but I want to lose 84 more because I'd like to reach my target weight of 140. I'm very happy to be losing weight, but it's hard not to be upset that my medication wasn't changed until I became very overweight and developed health problems because of it. I try really hard to focus on the positive, on the progress I've made, and I'm glad my health is improving.

I was losing weight before I met my boyfriend, but it helps a great deal that he has a mental illness and also had the experience of being an athlete who gained weight because of his medication. He understands the struggle to tame an artificially insatiable appetite. His psychiatrist has also changed his medication to something that allows him to lose weight. We exercise and eat together almost every day, and we really help each other to stay on track. He became fed up with his weight gain after he had gained about 50 pounds and his psychiatrist worked with him to change his medication. His psychiatrist told him that he wasn't going to sit back and watch him get diabetes. I asked my old psychiatrist what would happen if I got diabetes, and he said I would just have to treat it. He didn't take my concern about my health and weight gain seriously.

I'm so glad that I decided to change psychiatrists. I'm currently taking 1200 mg. Trileptal, 200 mg. Lamictal, 300 mg. Seroquel, and 2.5 mg. Saphris. I'm slowly tapering off of Seroquel, down from 400 mg., in the hope that it will decrease my metabolic side effects, and allow me to lose weight faster. My blood pressure is lower, but my LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are still high. I will continue to eat well and exercise, and work to reduce stress, and hope for medication that works without negatively affecting my health. It might take me another year and a half to reach my goal.

Sleep Study

I've been having trouble sleeping for years. I'm 42 now and my insomnia started when I was about 14. The diagnosis of bipolar disorder at 19 explained my sleeplessness at the time. About 10 years ago, I started having sleep problems again. I had gained a lot of weight because of bipolar medications, and my psychiatrist suspected that I had sleep apnea. He referred me to a sleep specialist and I had a sleep study. It was determined that I had mild sleep apnea (too mild to treat) and I was told that I would get better sleep if I slept on my side, so that is what I did.

This past summer, I started to suspect that my sleep apnea had gotten worse. I was waking up about 6 or 7 times each night, that I remembered, and I didn't feel rested. Part of the problem was that I was taking lithium, and it was causing extreme thirst, which was compelling me to drink huge amounts of water, and I was in the bathroom all day and all night. I was so thirsty that I would drink more water each time I woke up at night. Whether because of my extreme thirst, or suspected sleep apnea, I wasn't getting good sleep, so I asked my general practitioner to refer me to a sleep specialist, and I let my psychiatrist know about it. My psychiatrist was very interested in learning the results of my sleep study.

My sleep study in October was disastrous. I got out of bed 7 times to go to the bathroom and drank 6 cups of water throughout the night. I only slept for 1 hour, although it seemed like I didn't sleep at all. During that hour, I stopped breathing 16 times because of sleep apnea. That qualifies as moderate sleep apnea and is considered serious enough to treat. I went back for another sleep study in November, and this time I wore a CPAP, a device that blows a gentle stream of air into the nose during sleep to keep the airway open so that you can breathe properly. I slept 7.5 hours and was getting at least 90% oxygen all night, which is in the healthy range of oxygen. It was determined that I would get my own CPAP, and I did.

In December, I met with a respiratory therapist and was fitted with a mask and learned how to use and care for the CPAP. At first, I was given a full face mask. After three weeks of sleeping with it, I decided that it was too uncomfortable, so I went back for another mask. This time I got nasal pillows and they are proving to be much more comfortable.

I was not really excited about using the CPAP at first, but now, at the end of January, I feel so much healthier and more energetic since I've been using it, that I believe it is worth the expense and awkwardness. Also, it is thought that if you have sleep apnea and bipolar disorder, using a CPAP can lessen your experiences of both mania and depression. As an added bonus, I even look better. My eyes look much more rested and my skin looks radiant. Now, in addition to considering it necessary for good mental and physical health, I consider it to be a beauty treatment, and that makes me feel more excited about wearing it.

Unfortunately, many people with bipolar disorder gain weight from the medications, and that causes other health problems, like sleep apnea. There is a possibility that if I lose weight, I will be able to sleep well without the CPAP. Getting to my ideal weight is my next quest. When you get good sleep, you have fewer stress hormones in your body, so it is easier to lose weight.

Since I've been using the CPAP, I've lost 23 pounds. This is probably also the result of a medication change. When my psychiatrist learned, from the sleep study, that I was waking up and drinking water all night, she substituted Trileptal for lithium. I've been asking psychiatrists to take me off of lithium for years, but this was the straw that finally broke the camel's back. I'm also taking Lamictal and Saphris to control my bipolar disorder and I'm doing very well. I'm stable and alert and feeling much more optimistic about the future than I've felt in years.