The red pill, the blue pill, or neither.

The box of pills has been sat on my desk, unopened, for about a week now: staring at me, tempting me, pulling me closer. I have no reason to resist; up to this point I haven’t taken any medication to regulate my mood swings despite having more than enough reason to, for I only have to look at the lingering scars to remind myself of that. But still I sit here in two minds about it.

I was given the option of two different drugs: Fluoxetine (otherwise known as Prozac), and Quetiapine. The main difference between the two is that Prozac is an antidepressant whereas Quetiapine is an antipsychotic, one more specifically targeted for such conditions as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. For this, and a number of other reasons, I felt that the Quetiapine was far more suitable for what I was experiencing, and as a result, they are the drugs sitting so ominously on my desk.

Why do I keep hesitating then? What is it that I find so frightening?

Probably the most obvious barrier I face is that for a lot of the time I feel relatively normal. I have ups and downs comparable to everyone else, and can get through days without too much difficulty. Admittedly these days are getting fewer and fewer, but it’s so easy to forget how bad things can be when you’re just trying to focus on enjoying the good times. It seems so unnatural to be taking something every day when there are days I can certainly do without it. I understand that’s not how it works, nor do I feel ignorant as to the severity of the matter, I just find it difficult to accept that there’s something so fundamentally wrong with me that this is something I need to take in order to function like an ordinary human being.

There are elements of myself that I’m afraid of losing by starting the Quetiapine; little quirks and characteristics which I fear I will learn were only ever symptoms of a chemically imbalanced brain. There’s even parts of the disorder that I worry I’ll miss; I’ve come to love the spur of creativity and exhilarating spontaneity I become driven by during a manic episode, to the point where I almost yearn after it during long periods of normality. Deep down I know that it must be sacrificed in order to prevent the long episodes of depression that currently dominate my life, but still I’m struggling to let go.

For me, beginning the treatment is indisputable acknowledgement that I am bipolar, and I just don’t feel completely ready to admit that to myself yet. Regardless of this, I’ve decided that I can’t expect to improve without taking steps in the right direction, and this is undoubtedly one of them. I’ll be starting the course of pills shortly after finishing this post, and I will endeavour to keep a diary over the upcoming weeks to document how it affects me. The psychological hurdles are always the most troublesome to overcome, but I only hope that they will also prove to be the most rewarding.


11 thoughts on “The red pill, the blue pill, or neither.

  1. I’m a writer, singer, and musician…I was amazed when I realized I was WAY more creative after I started taking quetiapine nightly for agitated insomnia. I have bipolar one. Prozac made me feel like I was going to jump out of my skin.


  2. Hi, I’m not a doctor just someone who has suffered with Bipolar for over 30 years. If you have never taken anything, I might try the Prozac before the other. The main difference for me with Prozac, which I take along with many others, it works quickly, their are less side effects, easier to stop taken when needed. If you are not ready to admit you’re Bipolar, Therapy would be a good start. Having an outside person who doesn’t know you, can look at you with a blank slate and you can discuss the issues. Depression of any type gets worse with age, I know to well. I’m surprised the doctor would give two and say you decide, it doesn’t sound like they have skin in the game. I’ve never had a doctor let me decide on my own. We always talk through what the changes are and I might suggest something that worked in past or he may think there is a better direction to go. I would strongly suggest going to and reading all the details about any drug. The piece of paper at the drugstore is useless. I understand it’s hard to face Bipolar. I will say, the sooner you take responsibility for your illness and drive the car not vice versa it can get better. I am one opinion and there are probably many others. The bottom line for me is side effects, the two are very different. Please take a look on my site for the post on charting your moods. This is a great tool that helped me many times from going off the deep edge. You may be more depressed than you think or cycling. There is a reason he diagnosed you Bipolar. They don’t always get the diagnosis right. The brain with a complex machine we mortals do not understand. You have to be in charge of your health and the direction it’s going including meds. I apologize if I’ve offended you or sound like a know it all. I don’t have all the answers. I’ve had over 20 ECT treatments and taken over 40 drugs. Bipolar can get difficult to manage and you have to be all in. I’m here if you need to talk. Let me know how your doing and if have taken any meds. 🙂


    • Hello, wow you really do know the ropes of being bipolar, and it takes more than that to offend me don’t worry! I really appreciate you taking the time to explain a lot of the things that haven’t been explained to me by actual medical professionals. It was a consultant that initially gave me the two suggestions in a treatment plan that was devised, which I then took to my GP. Then after pretty extensive research of the two drugs myself over a few weeks I went back to my GP and asked for their opinion. They were little to no help and simply asked which of the two I would prefer. I chose Quetiapine because I was concerned that the extreme high swings that I have might be exaggerated by the Prozac, and also because I’ve seen a few of my family members become heavily dependent on Prozac which concerned me. Perhaps that was a slightly naive of me, but anyway I’ve started on the Quetiapine with a very open mind and I can only keep my fingers crossed that it works for me. As for therapy, it’s definitely something I will consider. Thank you again for your comment, I will be sure to check out your site about charting moods, given that I’m still relatively new to the vicious swings it’s something I find quite difficult so I’m sure it’ll prove extremely helpful. All the best 🙂


      • The mood chart will help a great deal because you can see how your mood changes throughout the day. I will make another suggestion, do not go to GP for mental illness. They have so much going on they can’t keep up with the changes in another field. I went that route when I was first diagnosed at 19. Find a good Psychiatrist who specializes in adult mental health. Keep you’re chart so you understand first what is happening. Sometimes the chart would surprise me. Take your daily charts to all meetings, that is the language doctors understand. You mentioned you were concerned about getting to high on Prozac, are you rapid cycling up and down like that? It a very concerning state to be in and the key is to get a mix of drugs that addresses the low and one to address the high. Cycling like that can be be dangerous. I almost drove off the freeway in a rapid cycling state. The other med a Psych might prescribe is Lithium. This is the life saver for people with Bipolar. I have taken so long I don’t remember. I don’t understand how it works but it levels your mood out and keeps it there. You’ll need blood test about every 4-6 months to make sure the mix is correct. It can be difficult to hold doctors down to get the information you need, it’s you’re life and you want to be as close to even or happy as you can. A therapist would know a good Psychiatrist. You were dumped a lot with very little information. I can see why you’re unsure. Please let me know if yo have any questions.


      • I’ll be sure to start the search for a good psychiatrist, and in the mean time keep on top of the mood chart. I do find that I rapid cycle a lot, but with varying degrees of severity. A lot is still up in the air, which is why I’m hoping the medication will start to help things settle a little. You’re a fountain of information and I’m very grateful for everything you’ve said, and if I have any questions in the future I will send them your way 🙂


  3. I think all of us are different, and have this illness to different degrees. We have to make these decisions in conjunction with our doctors, our own cycles and the way our bodies react to these complicated chemicals. Mood charting sounds like a terrific idea; so does blogging your response to the medications. I’m going to be doing the same because I’m seeing my doc in about a month; my sleep cycles are totally messed up and I think a change of meds is in order. I’ll be looking for your progress; lending support as it goes.


    • Hi Susan, from little experience I’ve had so far I definite agree that the way this illness affects us is very personal and should be treated as such. I wish you all the best if a change in meds is what’s needed and will be sure to keep an eye out for how you’re doing. Many thanks!


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