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Help for chronic severe bipolar depression when all the meds and ECT fail?

Asking this question again – I have exhausted all my treatment options for bipolar disorder – have honestly tried over 2 dozen meds, alone and in combinations, and ECT (electroshock) and they have all failed or made me worse or I am allergic to the meds etc. ( this is over a period of 15 years – not short term med trials). I have severe depression in the morning nearly every day, and for the entire day about half the time and I just can’t take it anymore – my situation clearly became hopeless when my last ditch effort, ECT, failed. I rarely get mania anymore, just horrific agitated depression, the anguish so severe I literally want to claw my face off or slash my chest open with a knife, for hours most days, and often, all day. If I still had fingernails, I would have clawed my face off a long time ago. I don’t know what to do anymore – I have been on the edge of death for years. I have hung on and hung on, trying medication after medication, and now there is (realistically, this is not the depression talking) no hope of any significant relief.

So, since medication options aren’t there anymore, I am wondering if ACT (assertive community treatment) can help with this? My county workers have not run into psychiatric cases like mine, they swear up and down that most patients do get at least some relief from meds, but I am in a tiny, rural county, and am hoping that someone here has gone thru this, or has a relative who has, and can give me some advice. I’m thinking about going inpatient at mayo clinic, but I already tried the university of MN and that was a total failure, and my regular psychiatrist thought the university was better for psychiatry than mayo clinic. It would be hard for me to get to mayo clinic anyway, it is a 4 hour drive, and I can’t find any treatment online I haven’t already tried either, other than “out there” treatments that are very unlikely to help and experimental, like vagus nerve stimulation – weird crap.

Anyhow, I have had the finest psychiatric care there is, and it has utterly failed, I lost my faith in God a few years back, just have nothing left for me except a loving husband, 4 great kitties, and a home I love in rural Minnesota with beautiful maple trees and a lovely pond full of wood ducks and chirping frogs in the backyard, in other words, I have a LOT to live for. But I need to die, because I can’t stand the anguish anymore. It is unspeakable pain, and I feel this way for NO REASON, just endlessly live in agony, due to untreatable bipolar disorder. What can I do to live when I hurt so much, with no relief in sight?

background: I don’t have any personality disorders, already see a therapist regularly, have a social worker and a home worker, see a psychiatrist regularly, am not a substance abuser, excercise a lot, have an excellent diet (we have a huge garden and eat a lot of venison), use a light box, keep busy with hobbies, according to my varying energy level – all that healthy stuff. This is just ghastly, severe bipolar disorder that is ( apparently) untreatable. I do also have a severe sexual abuse history, which I have gotten plenty of therapy for. My workers know I have serious problems, but I play them down slightly, since I do not want to be involuntarily committed – it is hard to get help when you have severe mental illness, believe me. An involuntary commitment would not help me – what i need is a medication that would cut down the despair, and apparently, it doesn’t exist – otherwise, if it worked, I would take it. Please no religion stuff – my husband prays for me all the time, but that isn’t going to make me suddenly find my faith again – a person can’t “make” themselves believe. Great for you that your faith helped you, and I sincerely mean that, but it didn’t help me, tried that already. The question is, is there a way to endure daily agony from bipolar depression that is unending, and I will never get relief for it? Anyone been there, endlessly, and still alive? or have a relative like this? I mean, this is EVERY DAY, except for in May and June, pretty much (strong seasonal pattern, there). Thanks for anything that might help!
lamictal was worthless, antidepressants made me worse, so I have been off them for a long time, and I use a light box a lot in the winter, and took a vitamin D supplement, too – all that standard stuff has been tried, and some helps a bit, but only maybe 10%. Not enough to make life bearable.
oh, and I forgot, lithium only helped me with mania, which I very rarely get anymore, so it’s not worth taking it anymore, and I ended up with weirdo, scary side effects after a few years of lithium.

Filed Under: Chronic Depression Treatment


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  1. Working says:

    Have you tried avoiding antidepressants? Some think that it makes bipolar worse. Sticking with a mood stabizer that makes you at least a little less depressed like lamictal (not actually approved for this use in bipolar, but as you know off-label uses are pretty common for the mentally ill) or even lithium by itself apparently might help too.

    Have you tried light therapy? They use this for people with seasonal affective disorders. It’s like a little lamp that you shine on your face every morning for so many minutes to help you feel happier.

  2. Jerry says:

    Any expertise I may have is in the area of depression, and anxiety states; not bipolar disorder, but I know that there are light boxes which produce plenty of light, but in the wrong end of the electromagnetic spectrum for the production of vitamin D3. I suggest that you check out those at and also enter “krill oil” in their searchbar. In the Northern US states it is not possible to get sufficient vitamin D3 from exposure to sunlight in the winter months, and your levels would be at their lowest for the year, right now, unless being supplemented. People with the lowest levels of it are 11 times more likely to suffer depression. Venison, although a good meat, is high in Omega 6. Most Americans get several times more Omega 6 than Omega 3, when a far healthier ratio is 1:1 View the post on Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the rest of and page B, which contains all the treatments for depression which I have so far encountered Bipolar disorder is addressed on pages C, and 1. Try posting in the chat sites, and forums for both disorders; at CRAZYMEDS the webmaster is bipolar, and very knowledgeable.

    There are probably treatments which you have not tried, yet, such as the version of acupuncture designed to treat depression, which has a high success rate, or hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is merely a heightened state of suggestibility, in which you are better able to communicate with your subconscious mind. 85% of people are suggestible, to some degree, so you could either seek professional hypnotherapy, or has a course on it, and one about overcoming a troubled childhood, and/or has one on re-parenting your inner child, and/or has one on dealing with child abuse. If antidepressants haven’t triggered manic episodes, use the core treatments shown, and at first, for at least 6 weeks, either 200mg of 5-htp, or, if using a RECOMMENDED brand of St. John’s Wort, take a maximum of 50mg of 5-htp with it, as it acts quicker. “I do also have a severe sexual abuse history, which I have gotten plenty of therapy for” – it’s not the quantity of therapy which is important here, it’s the type. See page Q, at and have a course of EMDR therapy.

  3. Conan Of Cimmeria says:

    I’m sorry you have to go through this. I have read many of both your answers and your questions, and I have to say, you seem like one tough person to endure this for as long as you have. I know I couldn’t if I were in your shoes. I wish I could give you an answer that could help you, but I am unfamiliar in this area. The only thing I can suggest is possibly moving to an area that has similar weather that your area does in May and June? Not sure if that’s possible, or any help, but mainly I just wanted to say I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I hope one day you can find relief.

    Good luck

  4. MikeA says:

    i’m pretty much in the same boat; though i refused ect, and my psych docs and even medical docs tried to talk me into it. i take lamictal that keeps me out of deep suicidal depression, though the idea hardly ever leaves my mind. i do know a few of the triggers that push me into despair, and i hide away from them as much as possible. my world is quite small, and as much as i hate it, it’s the only way i can keep half way stable.

    the most disappointing thing for me is when i do have a mild manic episode that lasts for a few weeks or more and i want so bad to tell myself it’s over and i can function as a normal person. i’m usually blindsided when i crash, but when someone in my support system reminds me my life doesn’t work that way, i crash hard. too hard sometimes and i find myself hiding from my support system too.

    i’m sorry i don’t have an answer for you, just wanted to let you know you are not alone. i just try not to think about how useless i am, and i keep working on the self destructive habits (not doing anything for diabetes, smoking, etc.) so i can go without my people feeling like i deliberately left them.

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