Drugs make my bipolar mom a shell of herself. She says it's worth it.
December 26, 2012 6:33 AM Subscribe
Extremely medicated mom: My mom has struggled with intense bipolar disorder for most of her life. She attempted suicide twice and has been hospitalized 3 times. For the past 3 years or so, medication has stabilized her moods, but at what appears to me to be a heavy cost. She's dulled and flattened to the point that she seems like only a small fraction of the person she was. It's hard for me to see her this way, but I don't know what I can do.
She used to be a smart, fiery, energetic woman (when not in her depressive phase). In her current (medicated) state, it's as if she's running at 1/5 speed. She has no facial expressions. She shuffles very slowly around the house. It takes her 10 seconds to bring a fork from a plate to her mouth. She stares off into space most of the time and there's a good 3 second delay before she acknowledges in any way that you've said something to her. She speaks in a slow, weak monotone and rarely follows the thread of a conversation thread than a few exchanges. She has no interest in anything but also expresses no boredom. It feels to me like she's gone.
She lives in a rural town with my dad and sees a psychiatrist in a city 90 miles away every few months. I live across the country and come home to visit a few times a year. When I ask my dad how he feels about her condition, he says he sees it as making the best of a bad situation... at least she's not so miserable she wants to die. When I ask my mom how she feels, she says "I feel good... much better..." (while her expressionless face stares off into space). I think that from their perspective, they feel like they've reached a small shelter in a long and terrible storm. They're not interested in adjusting medication any farther. According to them, the psychiatrist is satisfied with leaving things as they are.
I don't know what to do. Do I press them? How much? Purely selfishly, I want some semblance of my mom back. If it were me, I think that I wouldn't want someone to just let me live out my life in a haze. Yet I know how much she (and in a different sense, my dad) has suffered because of the bipolar and she's telling me that all things considered, she feels better than before. What if the alternative really is jumping back into the fire that made her try to end her life twice? Yet still, I can't help but feel that the person I knew as mom is no longer with me just the same.
Any suggestions or experiences to pass along are welcome.
FWIW, each day she takes 12mg of Xanax (Internet suggests that's very high), Abilify, and Wellbutrin.
Added difficulty: She may soon need heart surgery for a problem with a valve. Yeah.