Why You Don't Need to Know What Meds I'm Taking for My Mental Illness


I have actually written quite a bit about the meds I’m on. I’ve done a whole saga on Abilify – about its price and how impossible it is to get without decent insurance.

I’ve written about how various meds have caused me embarrassing memory lapses.

I’ve written about all the different categories of drugs I have taken, and how long it was before my psychiatrist and I found a “cocktail” that actually works for me. I’ve written about how it feels when you’re running out of your pills.

I’ve written about how close to electroshock I came when none of the meds seemed to be working.

I’ve written about the side effects I have and haven’t had, and the way psychotropics are advertised to consumers, and natural treatment vs. psychotropics, and animals that take psychiatric meds, and crimes that are blamed on psychiatric meds, and needing a new psychiatrist to prescribe them, and whether psychotropics affect creativity and being embarrassed when someone at the pharmacy recognized me when I was picking up my meds.

But what I’m not going to tell you is exactly which meds I’m on and what the dosages are. You don’t need to know that.

Here’s why.

I see a lot of comments and questions in online support groups telling what meds a person is on, and asking if anyone else is on the same medication, and what their dose is, and what side effects they have and whether they should stop taking them or take a different one or a different dosage.

You’d think I have something useful to say. After taking psychotropics in every category you can think of (except lithium), usually multiple drugs at the same time in various combinations, I know a lot about how drugs affect me.

Me.

Yes, we are all the same in having bipolar disorder. But we are not all the same in how we have it.

I have mild to deep depressions, occasional hypomania, which sometimes comes out as anxiety, rapid (or maybe ultra-rapid) cycling, and a couple of complete breakdowns. I have never been hospitalized.

But that’s just me.

You may have more dysthymia, more manic episodes, four or fewer cycles a year, no anxiety or any other combination.

My medications are ones that relieve my depression, calm my anxiety, level my moods and allow me to sleep. That may not be what you need. And even if you do have the same symptoms, at the same severity, my drug regimen still may not be right for you.

Bipolar disorder, you see, is all about brain biochemistry. And no one knows exactly how their own — or anyone else’s — brain chemistry works. What are my levels of serotonin? Dopamine? Norepinephrine? I have no clue. My psychiatrist has no clue either. And neither of us has any clue about your brain chemistry.

When I started seeing all the requests for drug information on the support group boards, I was tempted to answer. I even did once or twice, but I found I had only a few things to say that could be helpful. And those apply to anyone and everyone. So here’s the advice I can give:

1. Stay on your meds. It may take some time to feel the effects.

2. Stay on your meds; I mean it. Stopping your meds without advice from your doctor can be dangerous.

3. Stay on your dosages. Do not change your own dosage. That’s your doctor’s job. Ask your doctor if you think you need to change dosages.

4. If you can’t find or get to a psychiatrist, your primary care physician may be able to prescribe your meds. But keep looking for a psychiatrist. They have more training in the specifics of psychotropics.

5. You can track your side effects, but then report them to your doctor. She or he should have advised you about any ones to watch out for.

6. If you have questions about your medication and can’t see your doctor, ask your pharmacist. She or he may be able to answer some questions about side effects and drug interactions, but not dosages.

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

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Thinkstock photo via Liderina


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