I Don't Take Medication for My Mental Illness, and That's OK

Let me start by saying I understand why people take medication. I understand there are good medications, and a time and place when they are helpful. But I also know, from experience, the turmoil that prescription medication can put a person through. And that sometimes, the risks outweigh the benefits.

I can remember the first doctor visit I had. I was just a child, maybe 7 or 8 years old. Back then, nobody, including myself, knew the reasons for my “outbursts.” I would cry and refuse to go to school, ran away from school, refused to leave the house, tried to jump out of the car, locked myself in my room — anything I could do to stay in my “safe place.” The only way I could explain it was that I felt “sick.” I didn’t know why or how, I just felt “sick.”

I learned to bottle things up for a long time. On the outside, people thought I was OK. They thought I was better.

I kept up my persona for years until I was 17, when close friends noticed the dangerous ways I was letting out my fears and frustrations on my body. I tried my best to keep it hidden, but eventually it snuck its way out. Because my friends were caring, they let my unsuspecting parents know, and of course I was taken back to a doctor, who without question put me on my first dose of medication.

From there, small doses grew. Therapist to psychiatrist, referral after referral, repeating the same thing over and over. Prescription after prescription, year after year. Xanax, Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor, Clonazopam, Lorazopam, Alprazolam, Pam, Pam, Pam….and then it hit.

I had my first seizure. I went into the hospital. That week was a blur, but one thing I do remember was giving a list of my medications to the ER doctor and him turning to me in disbelief and saying, “You’re taking these all at once?”

Eventually, I was able to wean myself off of them, and I felt such a sense of accomplishment! With a lot of work I was able to be clean of all medications. Functioning with panic disorder, but prescription-free. Then, another seizure.

I went through a period of depression because I thought I had gotten through the worst part. I thought I did the work, and I thought I was better. But it turns out that I will continue to have seizures, and ironically will need anticonvulsants for the remainder of my life. They act up under stress and severe anxiety so I will continue to work on myself, but I don’t want to go back to the cocktail of prescriptions that threw me in the spiral that I was in before. I feel lucky to have gotten out of it and to still be standing.

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

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