Bipolar Treatment: The “Quick Fix”

treatmentA young woman came in to see me today. She was in a hurry. She wanted to make a change in her medication, and she wanted to make that change now. She told me that medication she was taking for bipolar was making her sedated and sluggish. She said she thought the medication was a “trap.” The medication was why she was having trouble getting motivated and moving on in her life.

As I was talking to her, I found myself reflecting on the lure of The Quick Fix. There are many examples of this idea in life and literature.

A classic example is found in fairy tales (and now Disney). It’s the notion that there will be a perfect love who will come into your life, and will not only make you happy and be a good partner and friend, but will actually resolve all the doubts and insecurities that you have about yourself. This is the story of the brave knight or of the beautiful damsel and it is significant that the story never goes much beyond the words “and they lived happily ever after”. Probably because that’s as far as we can realistically see down the road for that couple.

How, as a practical matter, can one imagine another person solving all of those problems? In my life experience I can’t think of a single example of that ever happening, and yet the story is hard to resist. Even now it pops up occasionally in my thinking – “If only my partner were more understanding then life would be good…”

Another example of this is the notion that a drug, like cocaine, some other substance, perhaps a smart drug, will have the same effect. Most of us, are wise enough to see that that won’t happen, but some are snared by that “Quick Fix.”

But here this young woman is, and she wants action. And, really, I don’t begrudge her that. In fact, I want action for her as well. I think she has great potential, and I want to see her achieve it as soon as possible.

Indeed, there is a recent example of something quite like this happening in her life. She took on a position as a counselor in a summer camp for inner city girls a few months ago. She was inspired by the experience. She began waking up early and throwing herself into the job with a passion that was startling. I can’t remember her having that level of enthusiasm, and excitement, and aliveness at any time in the preceding year. (Mind you, I can’t help but recall that she was all the time on this same medication…)

Wasn’t that, in fact, a quick fix, I thought to myself?

Then it occurred to me what was different about that experience That quick fix involved a lot of work on her part. She was inspired, but she was inspired to action, and it was not just the inspiration that changed her, it was the action.

The dangerous quick fix in our imagination is something that’s entirely outside of ourselves that can be changed with no effort and that will have a similar dramatic result.

Perhaps changing her medication will give her an opportunity to flourish. I hope so. But if it is to make a lasting change, it will be because it allows her to make other changes in her life. It will be because it gives her a chance to find inspiration.