Every night about this time, I have to take two pills. One, the big round white one, helps me to relax and go to sleep. The little pale green oval is supposed to make the pills I take in the morning work better. To amplify their effects. Supposedly. The pills in the morning, two blue and white capsules filled with tiny yellow balls. That’s the one that makes everything ok. Lifts my mood, allows me to get out of bed in the morning and face the world. And when facing the world just isn’t working out too well, I’ve got the tiny flat round pill to help calm me down.
My wife jokes with me that she’s going to get me a pill organizer like I’m an old man or something so that I can keep them all straight. Totally unnecessary, as I know each one, its brand name, its generic name and my dose. I know what I will feel like if I skip taking any one of them and I know what it feels like if I takes too much of any of them.
I also know what will happen if I decide to stop taking them altogether. That’s the crime that got me to where I am today. I’ll feel outstanding for two, maybe three months. Confident, free and strong. Then life will do what it does, throwing me a curveball that will put me on my rear, defenceless.
When that happens, I will go violently into a swarm of anxiety and depression that will overwhelm and overpower me. Every irrational thought will be turned against me. I won’t get off the couch for days at a time, afraid the world will end if I do. I’ll cut off the few relationships I keep, wanting to protect those few I love from the pain I feel. I’ll feel helpless and alone.
Amazing that five or six little pills – usually just five these days – alter my life so much. More good days now than bad, but I still hate that I’ll be dependent on these pills, or some other combination of pharmaceutical bliss, for the rest of my life. Does it really take this much medication to ensure I can live a “normal” life? At times that thought alone is depressing…
Having to take medication to help with my depression and anxiety has always been one of my big hang-ups. The single thing I’ve always wanted has been to feel normal again. And when the meds start to help and I’m feeling like myself again, I’ve tended to get myself in trouble by thinking I didn’t need to keep taking them. So I would go off them. And I’d go back down the tubes again and have to start all over.
Being dependent on something else to be normal doesn’t feel normal to me. I feel better when I take meds, but it doesn’t feel right to me. Popping those things in my mouth is just a reminder to me that there’s something wrong with me.
Getting used to a new medication can be a difficult process. Many medications aren’t effective until they’ve had time to build up in your body. So you’re stuck there, feeling rough – or worse – while you wait for the meds to kick in, sometimes up to two months. That’s something they just don’t warn you about. For many of us, it’s a big step to go to the doctor or psychiatrist in the first place. Then you play hurry up and wait.
After that you have to hope the medication works for you. Some meds work for some people, but nothing works well for everyone. So it can often be a trial-and-error process until you find the correct medication or cocktail of medications for you.
Lastly, the side effects need to be considered. Once again, this can be a trial-and-error process because all of us are not affected in the same way. Some medications will temporarily increase the severity of your symptoms until an effective dose is reached. There’s nothing worse than having increased anxiety while you’re hoping your new mood stabilizer does its thing.
All this being said – and I’m talking to myself here as much as I’m talking to anyone – it’s crucially important to be patient while you’re taking new medications. No one wants to suffer any more than they already have, but we have to keep the bigger picture in mind.
We wouldn’t think twice about taking pills for a physical condition, so why should this be any different? When push comes to shove, this is a physical condition on a very small level – we’re talking about the interaction of different chemicals in our brains. There’s no more we can do about it than if we had an infection. So you treat it the best way you can, and hope that it relieves your symptoms. If it doesn’t, then we try a different approach.
Almost everyone has to take pills for some reason or another. They are designed to help us. Taking them doesn’t mean that we’re weak or not normal. It just means there’s something wrong with our body and we’re trying to correct the problem. Our doctors are trying to help us correct the problem as well and we need to work with them to get better.
We all want to feel better. When it comes to our medications we need to accept that things might take some time. We need to be patient and intelligent about how we deal with our meds. Ask lots of questions and do some research on what you’re taking. In the long run, a month or two’s worth of struggle will be outweighed by years of better health.
Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted at: https://www.facebook.com/jason.large.12?fref=nf
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