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8 Things I Want People to Know About Taking Medication for Mental Illness

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

Last year, I began my journey with finding the right medication for me to help relieve symptoms of my mental illnesses. It was a big decision for me to make and I took months to actually go through with it. A combination of fear and stigma kept me from going through with it, but now I am so grateful I was able to find one that worked for me. There are many misconceptions surrounding medication for mental illness and I think this is truly what turns people away from it. These are a few things I want people to know about medication for mental illness:

1. The first one you try may not be the one for you.

There are many different types of medications to treat mental illness and odds are you will have to try a few before finding one that makes you feel good and works! Don’t let that discourage you, it just means you are one step closer to being where you want to be.

2. Talk to your doctor about side effects.

While you should pay attention to any associated side effects, talk to your doctor thoroughly about them to dispel any worries or rumors about the medication. This was a big part of why I did not want to start taking anything, but once I did more research and talked to a psychiatrist about it a lot, I felt more comfortable.

3. If you experience side effects, don’t panic.

Just tell your doctor right away so you can solve it. My first medication made me sleep all the time. My second medication made me lose my appetite entirely and have really erratic behavior. Although it was a little hard to manage, my third medication finally did the trick.

4. Taking medication for mental illness does not make you a weaker person. 

The stigma surrounding medication and mental illness can often convince us we are not strong or have something seriously wrong with us. The truth is, we are just different and that’s OK!

5. If you are close to someone starting or consistently taking medication, try to be supportive.

It can be an emotional and tough time, but it makes it so much easier when you have someone to support you. If a close friend or family member is starting medication, even just being there for them to talk to can change their whole mindset.

6. If you ultimately decide medication is not for you, that’s OK too! 

It’s not for everyone, because we are all unique in our own way. What works for me may not work for you and that’s totally fine. There are many other options you can explore to get where you want to be.

7. Don’t feel pressured to take medication.

Sometimes, medication is seen as a “quick fix” solution, but the truth is, it doesn’t happen like that very often. Don’t feel like you need to be on something or that it will fix you immediately.

8. Don’t assume because someone is on medication, they are cured.

Medication in the case of mental illness is more about controlling symptoms so they no longer heavily interfere with everyday life. They are also often used in combination with therapy. Just because someone is taking medication does not mean they don’t experience symptoms of their mental illness from time to time or that they don’t need help and support.

Whatever you decide to do, your comfort and how you feel is most important! I will admit even my medication now still leaves me with a twitch in my arms and legs that can be frustrating sometimes. I made the choice that I was OK with this, but if you experience any discomfort, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.

The journey of finding a treatment that works for you is one of the toughest parts of living with mental illness, but it can be very rewarding and comforting when you find something that does! Stay strong and stay resilient, you are valid!

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Thinkstock photo via panimoni.

Originally published: March 31, 2017
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