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Changing Medication as an Act of Self-Love

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

I have to get two things straight before I can tell this story in peace.

First, I’m a supporter of taking psychiatric medication when your doctor
tells you to, when you have a significant psychiatric and psychological condition and only if it is constantly monitored and supervised.

Second, about my experience and about what I’m about to write: I’m being monitored and supervised by both my psychology and psychiatrist and this change didn’t come lightly. They decided it was time after long consideration, and I agree. So yes, they know, yes, they agree, no, the fact that it’s been a painful week doesn’t make them change their minds, yes, they told me it’s all part of the process, no, there isn’t a better/ more peaceful moment to make the change because without the change I won’t be stable and let’s face it, when you have chronic depression and generalized anxiety no moment is peaceful at all.

As you can imagine by the introduction, I’m here to talk about one of the biggest taboos in mental health: medication. Mental health is taboo by itself, but when you combine it with medication or hospitalization, it’s absolutely hard to people to understand it. To be empathic. To forget for a minute all their stereotypes and stigmas regarding the topic. And I’m here to talk about something no one talks about — switching medications.

I have chronic depression since almost five years ago now, and I’ve come
and gone with medications. First, it didn’t work, then they changed it, then I changed psychiatrists, then he treated (finally!) my generalized anxiety
disorder. For over three years, I’ve been taking the same antidepressant and never questioned it, until I had my first major depressive episode (which started in May 2016). With that new element on my life, a genetic study was ordered by my psychiatrist to evaluate how I processed the medication, and which medication could potentially work better.

The results came just last week, and two main things appeared. First, I have chronic major depression. Second, the medication I was on was working well for my anxiety but not so well for my depression, and based on my genetic profile it was best to try a different antidepressant. So what do you do next? Take advantage of the fact that you have information and put it into practice.

As you might guess, I’m right in these “transition” weeks, saying bye to my old medication after a three-year relationship and welcoming the new. And I know, it’ll all be for the best, and I’ll feel better, but boy… it’s so difficult. The transition itself is so, so hard. And no one talks about that. No one talks about the case when the medication wasn’t good enough and you had to change. That’s a hard article to find, so I’m typing it right now, because I know I’m not the only one.

For me, the first week without my regular medication was an absolute
nightmare. Not only physically, but mentally. You never know how powerful this stuff is until you have to drastically change it. I experienced a bunch of symptoms, including constant nausea, migraines, diarrhea, fatigue, insomnia, dry mouth, sore body (which ironically were most of the side effects of the same drug). And if that wasn’t enough, I became the female version of The Hulk, but absolutely anxious. I’m like the love child of Fear and Anger from “Inside Out.” No one can tell me anything. I feel like everything is a direct attack, a missile into my fragile heart. With everyone. With everything.

And the anxiety. Oh, lovely fear. Daily panic attacks triggered by the most minimum events ever registered in human history. It feels like everything will hurt you. That everything is dangerous. That nothing is good.

You can imagine that, 24/7, plus the “common” crisis and ups and downs
you have when you are going through a major depressive episode and have
generalized anxiety. It’s a freaking circus inside your mind. You feel like going through all of this won’t be worth it. You feel like you’ve stepped back 40 miles. You go harder on yourself, and that’ll make you sadder, which will make you feel worse… it’s a vicious circle, you see?

Slowly you start taking the new medication, and of course it’s new. So your body needs time, to get to know it, to learn about it, to accept it, to assimilate it, to work with it. I won’t tell you how this ends because I’m right there, in the middle of the process. But I just wanted to tell everyone who goes through it, that it is indeed, harder than what anyone may warned you about. Physically and psychologically.

I just have the comfort of knowing that I’m doing it as a compromise to myself, of being better, of committing to those things that help me daily to be more stable (medication, therapy, social interaction, good eating habits, getting in touch with my passions, helping others). And as hard as it may seem to me now (because nothing in the mental health world is easy, to be honest), it’s an act of self-love. And that makes it all worth it.

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Thinkstock photo via CHAIWATPHOTOS

Originally published: March 22, 2017
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