A Well World: Cycles and Swings

Susie* bounces through the door, greeting all the members with great excitement. Maybe too much excitement. She encircles me with a robust hug. Yes, for sure, too robust. And then come the words. Very, very many words. Words about a rock musician she used to date and how he’s going to come see her next month and how he’ll bring some of his rock star friends and how maybe she will marry one of them or go on tour with them.

Susie’s medications aren’t doing a good job today or perhaps she’s not taken them in a while. It’s a tricky thing getting the dosage right, remembering the daily routine, putting up with the side effects. For members at The Well who, like Susie, deal with bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions, medication is a fickle friend. When it works, it’s amazing. When it doesn’t, it’s devastating.

Today Susie is experiencing a manic cycle. When she stops for a breath I ask her about her medications. Sure enough, the prescriptions ran out last month and she hasn’t had the money to pay for the refill. We can help with that, I assure her.

Meanwhile, Alvin is sitting alone. His stare is glazed and his hands are listless. George, another member of The Well, tries to joke with him, but instead of smiling, Alvin turns his head away. Alvin’s mood has swung to the depressed side of the bipolar cycle. I ask him about his medications and learn that his doctor changed the prescription last week. I suggest he let her know how he’s feeling and he promises to call her. I promise to remind him in case he forgets.

Severe mood swings and medication complications like what Susie and Alvin are experiencing are just some of the challenges that face those who deal with bipolar disorder. Broken relationships, risk-taking behaviors and self-medication with alcohol or drugs introduce related heartaches.

As I walk down the hall I see that Gretchen is helping Theo read a letter from his cousin and Esther is playing bingo with Mattie. I am reminded that medication alone is not the answer. Companionship is another tool toward health—companionship and a place to belong.


*Though not about specific people or incidents, these stories represent real experiences.

To learn the truth about myths surrounding bipolar disorder and those who suffer with it, click here.

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