Robin’s Story

Bipolar Story Posted March 11, 2011

I have been diagnosed since 1988 with bipolar. I have trouble sleeping. Have tried all the sleep medications that are monetarily available to me. My doctors do not seem to think sleeping 2-4 hours a day is dangerous for my mental health. I also have PTSD due to childhood problems when this sleeplessness started. I have tried Ambien 10mg 3 pills get an hour and a half of sleep and Clonazepam (Klonopin generic) for 2 hours sleep. My doctors feel that all the sleep medications are addictive. How can they be addictive when you cannot sleep with them let alone afford the ones that do work?

Psychiatrists do not take my bipolar manias seriously. I am often up for 2-3 days and at that point I am in such a state I could scream. I inherited my bipolar and, as one semi-concerned doctor said, I can expect my bipolar to get worse the older I get. To sleep is my goal. To stop the mania. I am best controlled by Neurontin, but my Part D will not give it to me as there is no proof that it helps bipolar mania. Would some psychiatrist out there be brave and write a paper. But doctors are out for only themselves, not the good for the patients.

My world is hard to live in. I’m usually in manic state rather than the depression part.

Anyone with any ideas, please post them here.

Thank you.


  1. Hi, Robin–

    That’s surprising. Most doctors are well aware that 2-3 hours of sleep per night is insufficient. Maybe you need to see a different doctor.

    I’m no doctor, but from my observations, mania contributes to lack of sleep, and lack of sleep contributes to mania. The most effective approach seems to be to treat both.

    I think your doctors are right about neurontin. It’s not a first-line anti-manic. Lithium, Depakote, and perhaps Lamictal are. Atypical antipsychotics, including Seroquel, are often useful, especially as an add-on during acute manic phases. In addition, Seroquel may help with sleep.

    Please see a doctor or change doctors and be persistent in getting treatment that’s effective. You’re obviously suffering tremendously and needlessly. You deserve better. Do you have a friend or family member who can help you advocate with your doctor and other treatment professionals to push for what you need?

    Wishing you all the best.

  2. I have tried all other remedies you mentioned. I have and will not try seroquel has I know others on it and they are worse off than before. All are now insulin dependent diabetic and some psychotic. I am finally getting Neurontin in May. But am changing doctors who may help.
    Thank you for your reply

  3. You make a good point about Seroquel. Many people have that problem with it. I wouldn’t normally mention it, but I do think it’s useful short-term, as an add-on to something like lithium, to speed up the process of recovery from a full-blown mania.

  4. I was diagnosed when I was 23, although symptoms started in my late teens. The first 2 years after diagnosis are blank – I don’t remember anything because instead of trying to treat me, the Drs whose care I was under just put me on so many meds in order to incapacitate me – easier than putting in the time to hep me work through my illness.

    It took my mother, who did in depth research on my illness and found NAMI, to get me out of that situation. Still, it took until I was 27 to find a halfway decent Dr. Because I have bad reactions to most meds, it is difficult to find the right combination that will work for me.

    Another note is that a “going through the motions” Dr doesn’t really take into out the patient’s concerns regarding side-effects. I cannot tell you how many times I have hears “Would you rather be … or crazy/insane.”

    More years down the road (5 to be exact) and the right combination is still elusive. However, I have a great Dr and therapist now, who work as a team, when needed. I signed consent for this, was not pressured, but saw the potential gains that could come of this team approach. I am on the best combo of meds ever, though as I noted at the beginning of this paragraph it is not “perfect”.

    Nevertheless my Dr does really tries, he listens to any concerns I have regarding side-effects. There will always be side-effects, but the ones that really upset me, he actively works to avoid while providing me with the best medicinal care.

    There are tons of psychiatrists out there. DO NOT STICK WITH A LAZY/BAD/INCOMPETENT one. Have a list of questions, concerns, or what you expect to get out of your medicine and treatment (goals). This means you have to do your own research! If the answers you receive do not make you feel comfortable, or if you just do not feel like it will be a good fit, move on. I do not mean to say that your caregivers should bow to your every whim and always agree with you. But you should feel confident that they are doing what is best for you. Basically, you should be able to trust them.

    Having had experience with ones you do not like will help you in finding one that will take the time to work with you, as an individual and make recommendations that will work for you, not just do for you what they do for any other person with your “same” illness.

  5. One more thing I wanted to say: what has really helped since last January has been adopting a dog. I don’t know how to describe it, but she is such a comfort, I can’t stay in bed all the time when I am depressed, even if I want to because she needs to be walked, played with, fed etc… This has helped hold a serious depressive episode at bay. I have been outside more since I adopted her than before during the whole course of my life.

    Just petting her makes me feel so relaxed. Whenever I have a panic attack or have a nightmare, she just calmly lays on my torso and it helps me regulate my breathing (and wakes me up during a nightmare). fyi She is a lap-dog so she doesn’t crush me! When I cry, she just comes and sits on my lap and honest to goodness it really helps.

    Having her also helps me with my manic episodes. She is an indoor dog – i.e. I do not put her outside when I leave the house. So I cannot leave the house for hours on end to go on wild shopping sprees because I need to get back to her.

    I am an ultra-rapid cycler, so I have multiple ups and downs during the year and even within a day. In this passed year the ups haven’t been so high and the lows haven’t been so low – normally I am REALLY UP then REALLY DOWN, over and over.

  6. Hi,
    I hope this doesn’t seem silly, but have you tried melatonin? It’s a natural supplement available at any drug store or grocery story, over the counter, sold by the vitamins. I don’t have bipolar, but I do have insomnia since I was a child, and the melatonin is the only thing that works for me. You take it 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep. It doesn’t really make you sleepy, so you have to take it and lie down and relax, maybe read a boring book, then turn off the light 30 minutes later. It helps shut your mind off, which is my major problem. It comes in doses of 1 mg or 3 mg. Hope it helps.

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