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The Biggest Mistake I Made in Taking Medication for My Mental Health

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 12 years old, and was put on medication almost immediately to try and balance the chemicals in my brain.

I took a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant for a few years, but it didn’t help very much and I didn’t understand why. I gained weight and got more unstable as time passed, but I tried my best to stay positive. I didn’t necessarily like taking medication and having to rely on something to get me through the day, but I accepted it and took my pills as I was told.

When I was about 15, I changed medications and was put on another antidepressant, and a medication which I only recently discovered is used to treat bipolar disorder. I was never actually told my official diagnosis at that age (which I find shocking and can’t believe actually happened) and continued believing that I struggled with depression for years. The medication didn’t help me either, and I stopped after a few months because I was frustrated and hated taking medication that didn’t work, even though looking back now I think it did to a certain extent.

I made the decision by myself and didn’t tell anyone I was stopping, which I realize now was a huge mistake.

I think I stopped because I wanted to prove something to myself. I either wanted to prove I was OK and didn’t need to depend on medication, or I wanted to prove I was actually mentally ill and genuinely needed my meds. I think it might have been a bit of both.

After I stopped the medication, I got progressively worse. I had symptoms ranging from extreme mood swings, to very self-destructive behavior, to psychotic symptoms.

Some might say I had it all.

My little experiment didn’t go very well, and I ended up hitting rock bottom, sitting in yet another psychiatrist’s office who was prescribing me yet another set of medications. I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 17 years old. and was put on a combination of three medications.

I was back on medication and despondent, to say the least.

“None of the other medications helped, so why will these?” I thought to myself. “I’m only going to be let down if I get my hopes up.”

I didn’t want to take medication, but at this point it was honestly a life or death decision. As much as I hate to admit it, if I didn’t take my pills I was at much higher risk of suicide. And I didn’t want to do that to my family. So reluctantly, I decided to take the pills.

Over time, I became a lot more stable and I can confidently say that those medications saved my life, even if I did gain some weight in a year and was forced to endure other horrific side effects. It was worth the stability. It was a small price to pay for life.

Since then, I have changed medications again and am still in the process of starting a few others. I’m still working on getting it all just right, especially my anxiety at the moment. I am now on a different medication for my bipolar disorder and managed to lose all the weight I gained from my previous medication. I stopped taking the other two medications and have been doing just fine without them.

I’m slowly getting to where I want to be in regards to my mental health and it is such a good feeling. To be honest, I never thought I would recover or even come this close to recovery, because there was a part of me that didn’t want to get better. There was a part of me that was addicted to the “insanity” that was my life and lived to be unstable. But looking back now, I’m so happy I persevered and got to where I am today with the help of therapy and, of course, my meds.

I never thought being stable would feel this good.

I now understand that I need medication to function and it has become a part of my daily routine — just another act of boring self-care. I’ve come to learn though that acts of boring self-care are incredibly important and should not be forgotten about or pushed aside to accommodate our busy daily schedules. It should be the other way around.

Boring self-care should be a priority in our lives, and mental and physical health should come first. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way and will not soon forget.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my meds.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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Getty Images photo via LightFieldStudios