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I'm Medicated for My Mental Illness — and I’m OK With That

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Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

I’ve been medicated long enough to forget the time in my life when I was unmedicated.

However, I do remember what it was like when my current medication stopped working.

I was sitting in my therapist’s office watching her face as she gave my screening forms the once over. And then she said, “I don’t think your meds are working.”

That day, I left the therapist’s office with a promise not to harm myself, a referral to a psychiatrist and no solution. And while I was happy to have an answer about my meds not working, I was not happy about the weeks I spent all but pleading with my therapist that I was not OK.

That summer, I lost weeks on the couch waiting for the appointment. I remember my back pressing into the couch cushions while I waited to fall in. I wanted to vanish but the thought of vanishing sounded like it would take too much effort to get off of the couch to do.

At the beginning of August, I checked myself into an inpatient care facility where I spent five days in groups, not sleeping, and watching the general calamity going on around me while my system was shocked into submission with a new combination of prescriptions.

Throughout the next year or so, I spent time in my psychiatrist’s office feeling a bit like a test subject. It’s necessary to find the right combination of treatment that works for you, but after a while, it gets to be tedious and exhausting. I’ve experienced quite a few side effects — nausea, leg twinges, the “crawlies,” memory loss and affected speech.

Yet, it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with ADHD and put on a different medication that I finally started to feel better. The buzzing in my head seemed to lessen and the aggression that came with overstimulation reduced greatly. I didn’t have the shakes anymore and didn’t feel like my mind was zooming down a freeway taking corners at 90 m.p.h. during a Wisconsin blizzard. I felt like myself again and it was euphoric.

I was riding that euphoria while I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). I was starting to feel better and thought I could be “OK enough” to taper off some of my medications. Under the care of a new psychiatrist, I was supported and protected in this endeavor. Being a teacher, I wanted to be off my medications by the time the new school year started. I’d have summer to feel ill and just get it over with. She told me that wasn’t an option because I was going to get sick and set me up with a rigorous, yet manageable titration schedule to drop one medication at a time (aside from my ADHD medication which we agreed was still needed).

I’ve never been great at medication adjustments, but I’m not being facetious when I say I’m surprised I’m still married and still around. My husband would describe me as “unhinged” and I was emotionally abusive. One part of me was actually feeling things again — I was crying at beautiful things rather than being stuck in my misery. The rest of me was picking my face and fingers raw with tweezers, shaking on the couch, and staring at the walls while my husband was at work. I was also taking two grad courses and later on, preparing for the new school year to start.

I didn’t make it through the adjustment. The white flag of surrender appeared on the horizon of a weekend I spent crying and deciding if I should go to inpatient. My husband called my dad to come get me instead of the police and eventually I reached the decision to stabilize my medication until something could be done.

Currently, I’m on an antidepressant, mood stabilizer and ADHD medication. Yes, I’ve been medicated long enough to forget the times where I haven’t been, but I’ve also been medicated long enough to know I need to stay this way. I don’t think the combination of medication I’m on is perfect and I’ve also settled into the idea that the combination may never be perfect. I have to be OK with that because I’ve realized that though this life has been hard, and I’ve been dealt things I didn’t deserve, I want to stick around to see the ending.

If you feel guilty about being medicated, please stop self-flagellating yourself. Life is hard and you don’t deserve it. For those of you who do not fall into the “pro-medication” category, the last thing someone who has to take medication wants to hear is how we shouldn’t be putting that in our bodies. Because our bodies shouldn’t be attacking us, but they are and we’re just simply trying to find our own semblance of homeostasis. Please let us.

Originally published: March 29, 2018
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