Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Treatment. Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?


There several things I could talk about in this blog post, but I feel that the most important thing for me to talk about right now is about trying to find balance. During her treatment, my wife has been confused about what is normal for someone living with bipolar disorder. 

Unfortunately this disorder can bring out some very self-destructive behaviors. The illness can change their perception and cloud their judgment. This can lead to impulsive decisions that they would not normally make. They still have their ability to choose between right and wrong, but it can become extremely difficult to make the best decisions.

We have only known that my wife has bipolar disorder for a year and half. In the 18 years of our marriage my wife was able to keep much of her pain hidden. Before she received her diagnosis I never really knew how hard it was for her until she recently began to open up and confide in me about her private struggles. I was aware of some of her struggles, but many others were shocking for me to hear.

We are in an early maintenance phase of her treatment. We know she has type I bipolar disorder. We know how it affects her. She is actively seeking treatment. She is developing a support network. She even has a safety plan in place for times when she is feeling suicidal. Her treatment involves some of the best medication and therapy that money can buy. All of these things are positive steps in the right direction. Unfortunately at this time there is no treatment that cures bipolar disorder. It never goes away. It is a progressive illness. In the future, her treatment will need to be adjusted.

Jane and I regularly talk about how her treatment is going. We ponder if the benefits of treatment outweigh some of the risks. Some of her medications can have harmful and long lasting side effects such as weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. The health risks are significant. On the other hand being non-compliant to treatment has significant risks like self injury, hospitalization, incarceration, and suicide. 

While we are discussing the complexities of her disorder my wife often asks me if she was "that bad" before she received her diagnosis and if I think treatment is really necessary. She wishes that her life could go back to how it was. She has lived most of her life without knowing that she has bipolar disorder. She wants to go back to what she considers to be normal. She resents that she has to take medication because the outside world considers her behavior to be abnormal. When I tell her that she was really "that bad" it makes me sad to see the look of disappointment on her face. She easily remembers all the positive aspects of her disorder and does not recognize the impact of how the negative parts have affected her life. She doesn't realize how much her behavior impacted the people around her. 

I wish I could take away all her frustration and anger, but I can't. She will always have bipolar disorder and I can't make her better. I can't heal her no matter how much I want to help. 

There are only two options; choosing to follow treatment recommendations to help her take control of her life or choosing to ignore treatment and let her disorder take control her life.
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