The Experience of Taking Psychiatric Medications
I was afraid to try it because I was ashamed of what people would think of me if they found out…
“I hate him because he’s always so freakin’ happy… Always smiling that cheesy smile…” It’s hard to see others be so naturally happy when you’re just naturally sad. It all seems like it’s some crazy fantasy; to imagine being that happy is a possibility for everyone… but me? Why do I need help with it more than others do?
It’s obvious that there is a stigma surrounding using psychiatric medications. Movies often portray those with mental illness as people who cannot function “normally” in society and that we all belong in some asylum. I’m here to tell you that there are many high-functioning people with mental illness, that’s to include myself. Am I high-functioning? I’m not really sure, I just want to feel special. Regardless of that, I take medications and I’m no longer ashamed. I’ll take my gigantic pill, very neatly organized pill box to work and pop it like it’s nothing.
When you have cramps, or you strain a muscle, it’s so easily asked, “do you want some Ibuprofen?” or “do you want a Tylenol?” When someone has a heart issue, it’s easy to place them on blood thinners or blood pressure medications. All of which can be lethal in increased doses. So why is it odd to hear that someone is on a medication that affects their brain? Why are we suddenly treated like delicate flowers that will wither as soon as something presses against it?
I take a couple of different medications that help control my mood and the symptoms that I get from my illnesses. I’ve had to trial and error with other medications because some would make me feel sluggish, others would make me feel sick to my stomach, and others made my depression and mood swings much worse. I feel like I’ve reached a point where I can take them without feeling awful.
These things take time to make any change. You start at low doses and work your way up to what helps you best. It’s very important to not abruptly stop taking the medications because the repercussions could be much worse than the original signs and symptoms of your illness. If you’re at your wits end with your mental illness, don’t feel shameful to ask your psychiatrist about medications that could best help you.
There’s nothing wrong with taking medications. It just means you’re intelligent enough to use the resources provided to you to help you feel a little bit better each day.
I ask that if I know you personally, to please do your best not to treat me differently. I have put myself out there bare bones to try and help reduce the stigma around mental illness. I have already accepted the fact that some of you cannot help it, so if that’s the case, please do not talk to me about it.
There’s this crappy situation that I have to re-write this blog due to a mishap while switching to our new layout. But I think it’s okay, because when I first wrote the blog, I was afraid to post it. It sat in my drafts folder for way too long. The things I wrote about had changed by then. In the previous blog, I focused on how the medications made me feel more than anything. I guess, this time around I have more to talk about, but I’ll try to include the content I can remember from the last post. I don’t understand the stigma behind taking psychiatric medications. I used to be so ashamed to ask for help, let alone medications… But starting them, I’m happy (haaa…) to say that they are starting to work. It was a rough first time go around. I’ll be more open on what I was taking as well.
My own experience in taking medications
I was first started on Effexor where I worked my way up to 150 mg. I felt nothing but nausea the entire time. Going on car rides was the most painful thing because it just made me want to yak all over the windshield every time. I was weaned off of Effexor, and started on Mirtazapine. Mirtazapine is something I still take, and it makes me the groggiest person in the morning. I always feel super slow and super heavy when I wake up. Sometimes I feel like I’m coming out of sedation. It makes going through my work day really difficult, although I do get some pretty legit sleep out of it.
On top of Mirtazapine, I was started on a low dose of Propranolol. It’s typical use is for cardiac medications, but at low doses, can be used to treat generalized anxiety. So far, it’s been very helpful in keeping my anxiety attacks at a minimum, and I have less time spent trying to “catch up with my heart”.
As you may have read, I also hear voices. I have become open about having auditory hallucinations, and if you want to call me crazy, then do it. But fair warning, you should never mess with crazy people, especially the ones that hear voices, ;). So I was started on a low dose of Abilify. I was extremely hesitant to take this medication since it is an anti-psychotic. It made me feel like I had officially been diagnosed psycho - which wasn’t the case. There’s a lot of things that have happened in my life that have required me to push the emotions down into a deep, dark box… That box was let open little by little, and everything started to pour out of me. Abilify really helps keep these dark thoughts in check.
Be patient, they don’t work instantaneously
The side effects are what will make you want to stop in the beginning. They’re awful, I’m not going to sugar coat that. You get nauseous, you can’t sleep, you get night sweats, nightmares, etc. The thing is, I was already having all of these symptoms before I started medications, so it’s not like it was any different. It was just more persistent. Nightmares got really intense to the point where I’d act out. Sean won’t tell you, but I’ve punched him in my sleep before, and he couldn’t do anything about it. But once you get past all of that, it’ll stop being as often, and you’ll start feeling better.
Break through the stigma
We’re so quick to offer Tylenol for fevers, Ibuprofen for sore muscles, and Midol for menstrual cramps. As soon as someone has something going on in their head, something you can’t see, then a negative stigma rises around it. The mind is the strongest organ you have. It’s ability to connect, retain, and create information… You’d be a fool not to take care of it the way you take care of every other organ. Just think of it as putting neosporin on your brain cells. Those synapses need some love too.
Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for seeking out treatment. I’m a very functional human being. I’ve gotten through nursing school, I’m a Commissioned Officer in the United States Army, and I’m a successful person. Don’t ever think that taking medications for your mental health will set you back.
You aren’t a fool for seeking help. You’re smart - because you’re utilizing the resources given to you to get better.