It’s quite common, especially when someone first receives the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, for her to discontinue treatment, especially medication. It’s also common for someone to be hospitalized two or three times, or many more, before coming to terms with the need to continue on medication.
For some people who lack insight into their bipolar disorder, the situation may go like this: They will take medication while in the midst of a crisis or while hospitalized. On the inpatient unit they will reassure their doctors and family that they will continue to take their medication when they go home. Frequently, however, they stop the medication soon after leaving the hospital. So ultimately it becomes a question of finding reasons that make sense to the person with bipolar disorder why there is benefit in taking medication. The reason may have nothing to do with having an illness, but could range from, “they keep me out of the hospital” to “they help me sleep at night” to “they help my nerves.”
For people who do have insight perhaps the most important thing is to become educated about every aspect of the illness, the medications, available treatments, etc. Often the people who manage their bipolar disorder the best are the ones who have fully accepted the reality that this is a condition they have to deal with. They’re the ones who steer their treatment, they’ve assembled natural supports (friends, family) and professionals they can trust, and in general they’ve gotten to where their bipolar disorder does not define who they are, it’s just a part of them.
While this notion of acceptance may seem simplistic, it’s critical, because without it the possibility for change and moving forward with treatment is poor.