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The Adjustment Period After Starting a New Mental Illness Medication


Many people take medication for mental illness. Medicine can show remarkable and transformative benefits when taken properly. However, it is important to note that there is no quick or magic fix for improving one’s mental health. With or without medicine, it is a daily part of my struggle and health identity. I have just started taking medicine for the second time to help my anxiety and depression, and I want to address an important part of this decision process — the adjustment period.

Have you ever thought about the side effects of medicine? The reality that my body has to adjust before I stop feeling so painfully nauseated I can eat normally again. The brain fog, the withdrawals, the feeling of walking through misty rain with just enough visibility that you wouldn’t know I can hardly see. Sometimes the first medication doesn’t work or perhaps dosage is off. Your physical body often feels sick, yet you know you have to continue the trial and error process to get to the other side.

Importantly, how do you talk about this with others? One of the most difficult parts of the struggle is addressing the needs of others as you are healing. At times, the medicine has made me actually feel worse before I get better. I communicate selectively during this adjustment period, mostly because the uncertainty of others’ reactions can feel overwhelming. The fear of an unsupportive jab poses a threat to derail a recovery. With that said, sometimes loved ones need to hear the truth and see you live it.

I applaud and admire all of those out there seeking help in whatever way possible. I share this glimpse into my story to shed light on the realities of medicine and mental health. No decision in recovery is ever black and white, and adjustment periods happen all the time in this process.

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

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Thinkstock photo via Creatas