Dear Honey Bee,
I cannot even begin to tell you how much I can relate, honestly. I'm going to post this reply here, I did notice you posted this in the depression forum as well, I may post some replies there too.
So, I remember when I was dx with bp, I too felt relief b/c I was dx w/major depression initially for about 6 years. And the bp is definitely what I had been dealing with maybe all along. So I felt SO confident that now we knew exactly what we were dealing with.
I know a TON about this illness and depression. I have read SO much and talked so much with nurses, therapists, my pdoc and with other patients/sufferers. When my bp dx came, I thought "Okay now I have to learn about this" so I am as involved in my treatment as possible. When I have appts w/my pdoc, I usually completely understand our discussions and his decisions.
I did not know until I started learning, how complicated bp is. It's a totally different ball game than depression, especially with meds. Way more difficult to find the right combo of meds for bp than depression in my opinion and my pdoc's as well. It's terrible. If you'll notice at the bottom of my posts, I am not on any meds for bp right now. It was too much for me. The reasons I couldn't handle it are
-like your husband, my pdoc only checks with me once a month or so
- the side effects are too much for me, can't sleep or too fatigued to the point that I couldn't even do housework, I felt like a zombie...a lot of the meds do that, put you in a daze, some increased my anxiety so much
-here is the biggest reason-you don't treat bp with only anti-depressants b/c that will cause hmania or mania (so true) so my pdoc took me off the ad's and put me on mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics, in my opinion, I needed at least one ad in there b/c the mood stabilizers etc, made my depression unbarable, my pdoc does not agree and won't include an ad in my med mix
SO I went off meds because the meds were making my emotional state very risky. Honestly they are mood drugs, very risky stuff if you ask me. I don't feel that way about ad's, but all the other psychiatric meds are pretty scary stuff and the researchers and pdocs honestly don't know nearly enough about them. That is the truth. No one knows exactly how these meds/and the illness works. That thought alone to me was pretty scary. Not to mention that I was having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of just wanting to give up (I don't want to hurt myself) on those meds. They really did a number on my depressive symptoms. And the side effects made me so physically ill, I couldn't do that to my body anymore. I had to go to work and function.
Everyone is different of course, and I am not suggesting anything to you about meds or no meds. That has to be discussed with your husband and the pdoc. I was repsonsible when I quit my bp meds, talked with my pdoc, went of slowly and I may try them again someday. But it was a decision I had to make for myself. And I am glad I did.
The result-My moods are very unstable. I still get deeply depressed. But I can function better (symtpoms sometimes make that a little hard) but I don't have any side effects making me sick. When I went off the meds, I got into a bp support group at the hospital that my pdoc referred me to. There I learned some tools to help me manage my sypmtoms better. And it was extremely helpful to interact with other patients. I am now seeing a counsellor which isn't really therapy but at least I can vent there. I feel almost in control of my illness since going off the meds.
My bp is similar to your husbands, mostly depressed. It's so hard. And I live with my bf who, just like your situation, can deal with the highs just fine, but when I'm depressed, it doesn't work. We fight, I feel alone, and it's just actually really hard.
I know you mentioned the health care where you are is lacking. Try to ask about some type of counselling. The pdocs are just there for meds really. I think your husband would benefit from talking with someone about his illness, his family. A support group would be the best, don't know if his pdoc knows anything about that, but definitely ask. He needs to be able to get rest at night otherwise he'll be more sick. Sleep is one of the keys. Exercise helps too. He's probably feeling agitated and doesn't have any energy, but walking can help with that. Depression won't let him want to go for a walk. I had to learn to make myself, and somedays I still can't. You also mentioned stress, major trigger. It sounds stressful about his family. Mine was that way for years, I had to put boundaries in and stay away for awhile and focus on myself. It worked. Easy to say I know. But his health is more important than anyone not willing to support or anyone that can add stress.
You are doing the best you can to support him, and I am glad for that. Love him and hopefully you guys can find some more professional support somehow. The pdoc needs to try to help him sleep and needs to know exactly how the meds are making him feel. I know it's hard, even when you tell them everything it seems they just add on more drugs or put you on new ones. Be assertive and tell her what you want and don't want.
I hope I helped and didn't confuse. Sorry it was so long...Take care and keep in touch, you're in my thoughts both of you. Tell him to hang on.
Bipolar II, Anxiety/Panic Disorder
--currently not on meds for bp--