I have touched on the topic of taking psychiatric medication forever in a previous post but it deserves more attention. It’s a complex topic and something we all think about when diagnosed with a mental illness.
My Experience Taking Psychiatric Medication
I really don’t like talking about myself a huge deal in this blog. I tend to do this too much in other areas of my life (my poor mother!) but sometimes my experience with specific things makes it real both to myself and to those reading it (I hope).
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of twelve–it wasn’t much fun—and taking new medications was frightening. I have tried so many medications I could write a novella and perhaps it would extend to a full novel–I assume this would be an entirely boring book.
It took three years to find medication that worked. I was fifteen before I could enter the world again, sort of clear headed, but still terrified. I wondered: What are these pills doing to my body? Why am I so tired? Is it worth it? Twenty-seven years old now I can state– with absolute certainty–that it is.
I have changed my medications many times. More times then I can recall. Sometimes they stop working and sometimes they never did work. In the winter months, or when my stress level is high, I slip into depression and things need to be changed around. It is exhausting.
Psychiatric Medication Side-Effects
Have you ever seen those prime-time commercials on psychiatric medication? Example: You’re watching some stupid reality show (or the news; sometimes these can seem like similar programs). You get hit with commercials. Hopefully you press mute, usually you do not. A commercial advertising the new Triscuit crackers! Maybe you make a mental note to buy them or to avoid them entirely.
And then…an ad for an antidepressant! These commercials usually include a beautiful person with a lovely purse sized dog. She is smiling and telling you how this medication has changed her life. Great. Good for her!
A few seconds later, once she is done chasing her dog around her beautiful yard, a voice states very quietly and spoken like an auctioneer: This medication may cause weight gain, lethargy, strokes or death. Consult with your health care practitioner if you experience swelling of the limbs, a sudden rash or an inability to move.
Among other things. Fun stuff! Swelling of the limbs? Well, if my serotonin level is higher I guess that’s a small price to pay (sort of).
I love these commercials as much as I love decaf coffee–not at all. But side-effects are part of recovery and usually they go away. If they don’t you try something else. You keep trying until you find medication that keeps you well and allows you to function. It isn’t fun but it’s a heck of a lot better than not having medication that can help us recover from mental illness.
The Waiting Game…When Will These Psychiatric Drugs Work?!
Waiting is the worst part. Side-effects usually go away within a few weeks, or months, but waiting to find the right medication has no timeline. You never know if they will work, and if they do work, how long it will take for them to become effective.
Every medication is different; some work relatively quickly and some take months. It varies from person to person. But once you find medication that works you quickly forget how long it took. Being able to live again is more important!
The Reality of Psychiatric Medication
We probably need to take psychiatric medication for the rest of our lives. Ask yourself: “Is this such a bad thing?” “Does the benefit outweigh the risk” More often than not, it does. People get sick, not just people with mental illness, and they take medication to become well again or well for the first time.
The bottom line? Medication is both a blessing and a curse. I try to vote for the former, all things considered.