Meds, Music, Food: Which One Is Problematic?

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I’ve been writing about bipolar here at HealthCentral for more than six years. See if you can guess the topic I write the least about: a) Meds b) Music c) Food.


    If you guessed a) Meds, you are right. 


    Wait a second, I hear you saying, what is wrong with this picture? Aren’t meds supposed to be the foundation of bipolar treatment? Shouldn’t every other post I do here be along the lines “Fine points of titrating Lamictal” or “Things to think about when adding Geodon to your cocktail”? 


    No way, Jose. True, meds are the cornerstone of bipolar treatment, but I view the issue of treatment very narrowly in the whole scheme of things. When all is said and done, we are all aiming at recovery, and meds figure very little in this phase of our getting well and staying well. Essentially, we are looking at things we can do ourselves, which is why you will find me writing way more posts on music here than on meds.

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    This is no mere abstract intellectualizing here. I can’t live without music. Yesterday morning, I did a bit of YouTubing and came up with some fabulous early clips of Louis Armstrong. Instantly, my mood lifted. I felt wonderful.


    I’ve also been playing the didgeridoo for the past five years, and lately I am getting quite good at it. If I miss a day of practice, I feel it. Every breath I take on my didge infuses life into me. It is also a way of connecting with others - I take it to drum circles and make music and meet people. One day, I will write a 1,200-page book on the joys of making music. On second thought, I would rather be making music.


    As for food: I just put up a Question of the Week post that has to do with me making a cassoulet. When I cook, I am happy. Simple, really.


    On the other hand, I do appreciate how vital meds are. If your meds aren’t working for you, then recovery is a non-starter. We don’t do the things others take for granted. Making music? Even listening to music has no effect when your brain is not working. Preparing food? Not when food tastes like cardboard to us.


    On and on it goes ...


    Unfortunately, our meds may turn out to be the greatest obstacle in our recovery. As Donna (who had to switch back to Zyprexa) writes, in response to a recent Question of the Week on coping with meds:


    Yes, the sleeping at night is a welcome change.  But sleeping during the day?  I just get suddenly overwhelmed with sleep and can hardly make it from the living room to my bed before it takes over and I'm zonked out. ... How do I live with it?  I have to take some things out of my schedule.  Like sitting on the porch before dawn and looking at the stars -- I'm sleeping through that now.  Like missing the last half of all the baseball games.  Like putting my painting on hold because on Zyprexa I can't be very creative.  I don't even desire to be creative.  I become like some kind of dumb animal simply chewing my cud and dozing off.


    The Day the Music Died. Alas, we are guinea pigs playing pill roulette. Occasionally, we get lucky. Luck - that’s what treatment boils down to. If that sounds like some sort of oxymoron, you are right: Luck is not treatment. There has to be a better way ...

Published On: May 27, 2012