Let me just come right out and say it: psychiatric medications suck. They just do. Waking up everyone morning with your first thought to choking down brightly-colored circles, ovals and squares is a bad way to start the day. Similarly, having your last act at night be downing medication to induce what used to be the natural process of sleep is equally unfortunate.
But psychiatric medications are a reality for people with a mental illness. They are important. In fact, for many of us, without them we would have no chance at a life at all.
So if we admit we hate them, but admit we have to take them, how does one manage to stay on psychiatric medications?
Earlier, I wrote about medication non-compliance and how even people with the best of intentions sometimes go off their psych meds. For some people, it’s an oops and for others it’s an oof but either way it happens.
How to Stay on Medication for a Mental Illness
Make medications part of your routine –
This is the more important thing you can do for yourself. You have to take the drugs at the same time every day so that you maintain an even dose of the chemical in your blood.
- Set a medication alarm. Most of us check our phones first thing in the morning. Make your phone yell at you until you take your meds. (You could also use a watch, alarm clock, or computer, just to name a few.)
- Put your medication in a place where you literally can’t miss it. The bathroom sink is one of my favorites as I know every morning I’ll be using my sink. As soon as I go to turn the water on, there are those bottles staring back at me. You can do this with bedtime meds too – put them on top of your toothpaste. You can’t miss it.
- Have extra meds on you. That way if you do forget, you can take them as soon as you remember.
I Can’t Remember If I Took My Psych Meds
Ah, completely understandable. It’s a tiny act that you do every day and it’s easy to forget whether you did it or not.
- Get a pill case – fill it up each day or each week (some of them even contain spots for the whole month). Dose out your meds and then you can always check the case to see whether you took them. (Of course, if you followed my first rule about putting them somewhere you would pour water on them, you wouldn’t need to do this.)
- When your alarm yells at you to take your meds do not turn it off until you take the meds! Don’t shut off the alarm and say “yeah right, I’ll get around to that.” Do it now.
I Can’t Remember to Take Psych Meds When I’m on Vacation
Vacations kill routines. It’s sort of the idea. This is great but it means you need to make doubly sure to employ extra techniques to remember to take your meds. If you change your routine I guarantee you will forget to take them!
I Don’t Want to Take My Psych Meds
Yup. I totally get it.
But I don’t care.
Stop being a whiny child. This is something you need to do. You’re sick and you’re trying to get better. You need to make a deal with yourself – I will take my meds no matter what until the next time I see my doctor, then we can discuss making changes.
And please, please, please remember that not wanting to take your meds is part of the disease! It’s one of the things that can indicate you’re getting worse! Do not compound this problem by listening to this self-sabotaging voice.
- Reward yourself for taking meds – have a hot fudge Sundae after a successful week, you deserve it.
- Write out a list of reasons why you are taking medication. For example, to be less depressed, to be less erratic, so I can be there for my partner, and so on. Keep this list somewhere handy like tacked on the fridge.
- Ask others to remind you to take your meds. You may or may not feel comfortable with this, but it’s an option.
- Tell someone if you don’t take your meds. I know you’re not going to want to do this, but it’s about self-protection. If you’re going off meds without oversight by a doctor something is wrong. The people who love you need to know you’re in danger.
Know this: people on chemotherapy don’t miss doses because if they do that, the treatment may not work – well, the same is true for you. Ultimately, you need to make this a priority; because, without your mental health, what else matters?