After I was diagnosed as atypical bipolar II in 1993, the psychiatrist whom I've long since thought of as Ice Maiden (given her lack of empathy), prescribed Zoloft. Despite how horribly depressed I felt, she told me the medication would take two weeks to "kick in" if it worked at all.
When I asked her for information on Zoloft, she said she was out of the pharmaceutical brochures. When I asked her to recommend books about bipolar disorder, she said all her books were too technical, and she had no suggestions.
The next two weeks were the longest ones in my life. Perhaps William Styron describes it best in his book, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, when he writes:
"In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come--not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul."It was truly a miracle when the Zoloft kicked in. You have to have undergone this yourself to know what it's like to feel alive again after feeling so melancholic that it was not only difficult to get up each day, and to pretend to feel "normal" so I could be with my husband and son, but even to physically "speak."
The Zoloft continued to work. While my doctor wanted me to remain on it all the time, I chose to go off it after each six-week semiannual depressive episode ended. My reasoning made sense to me. I wasn't comfortable taking psychiatric medication. And even with Zoloft, I could feel the depression beneath the surface, and thus I knew when it was over.
In 1994, in addition to having a depressive episode in April and another in October--which had been my pattern for 25 years--I had a third depressive episode in December. This time I agreed to remain on Zoloft for six months, but in February it pushed me into my first and only full-fledged mania. Stay tuned!
A Word of Explanation: Many of you probably know that ordinarily psychiatrists are supposed to prescribe mood stabilizers before antidepressants because the latter, by itself, can and usually does lead to manias or hypomanias. In retrospect, it was fine for Ice Maiden to have prescribed the Zoloft first because I was so terribly depressed, but she certainly should have known that after the depression ended, she should have prescribed a mood stabilizer. It was bad medicine not to have done that, and it had frightening consequences.
* * *What was the first medication(s) your doctors prescribed for you? Did it (they) work? How did you feel?