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To the Person Struggling in the Midst of Medication 'Trial and Error'

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Some people with mental illness may be struggling right now with medication trial and error. If you are one of those people who are starting to think there is nothing out there that will work; if you’re starting to wonder if it’s even worth all the hassle, you are not alone.

You might be exhausted. You might be frustrated. And maybe you’re just not sure you want to keep trying.

But you are not alone.

If, in all the world, you feel like you are — know that at least one person is right there with you. Me. And for what it’s worth, I hear you.

I have been on one particular medication for about a month and a half now. I just adjusted the dosage for the third time because the entire dose was too much and I couldn’t function. Half was too little, so now I’ve entered the world of compounding pharmacies to get a random in between dose to see if that works.

This is lucky number 16 for me. Or is it? I have tried so many things, both natural and pharmaceutical, and now I am trying a combination. Will this one work? How long before I get there? How long will it be before that magical day when I finally feel good again?

And did I ever really feel good? What does good to the rest of the world feel like?

For some people, finding the proper treatment can take a long time — a long time on a roller coaster of never-ending side effects and confusing twists and turns. And if you happen to be a highly sensitive person like I am, it can be even more tricky. I don’t feel as though I was fully prepared for the road I was about to embark on. Sure, I heard it wasn’t an exact science — everyone is different and it could take a while. But I wish I had been told all the details. I wish I would have known it couldn’t just take “awhile,” that it could take years. I wish I had known that there were so many random things that could arise during this process, and what to do about them. 

I am knee deep in medications that didn’t work, and I am onto lucky number three of medical professionals who prescribe me my medication. There are days I just feel like quitting. I am frustrated beyond belief. I don’t feel like myself. Sure, my symptoms are lessening — but I don’t feel like “me” anymore. What is the trade off? Will it pan out? I am exhausted. I find myself losing hope of ever finding the right thing to continue my road to healing. I find myself ready to walk away and go back to the “old” me. At least I knew what I had there. I find myself thinking all sorts of things.

It is in these moments I have to rely on the good things.

The truthful things.

The unexpected things.

The hopeful things.

I remember the moment my primary care physician, who has had me as a patient since I was 7 years old, had a look of utter frustration and sorrow, wondering if maybe she couldn’t help me anymore, that I was beyond her expertise. She apologized for not knowing sooner that I needed help. I know that was hard for both of us. I was very upset at first, but now I know she just wants the best for me.

I remember my former psychiatrist simply saying, “I’m sorry,” because he knew this was a hard road and he didn’t have all the answers and that more side effects were likely. The honesty in that statement was one of the more powerful things I have heard in this process. Plain and simple truths are sometimes far easier to swallow for me than candy wrapped platitudes when it gets rough.

I remember the pharmacists who were willing to talk to me at length about my meds. The ones who worked with me on getting the right manufacturer, or took the time to explain to me anything and everything; asking specific questions about side effects in the hopes of helping me avoid them in the future. They didn’t have to take the time, but they did. This reminds me that I must be more than a last name and date of birth.

And most importantly, I have to remember the things my phenomenal therapist has said to me, and the hope that she holds for me. I have to remember that I have this woman who fights for me to “be me.” She has walked closely with me every step of the way, and I know she will continue to do so until we get it right. She allows me to speak my mind about it, discuss it until we’re both blue in the face, and then discuss it some more if necessary

She has consistently stated that she will not, under any circumstances, allow any medication to dull the “real” me. She keeps promising me that the goal isn’t to just “dope me up” so everyone else can deal with me. She pushes me to keep going.

She reminds me that I can be well.

That I will be whole.

That I am worth this seemingly endless trudging through the medication swamp.

This gives me hope. I may be having a really hard time believing any of that. Or that there is something out there to help me “be me,” without all the chaos my brain comes up with. Or that I will be able to work through the things I need to work through. But I have to rely on the good things, especially when it gets tough.

If you are sitting here reading this and think that there is no hope for you, please know you are not alone. You are worth it. There is hope. I don’t always see it for myself either, but I am told by the very few people I trust in this world that it is out there. It is possible. We can do it. We can make it. It might take awhile, but we are worth it.

There are people out there who “get it” and who are willing to help you “be you.” If you haven’t found the right person or team, keep looking — it is so worth it. Ask questions. Be honest about where you are in your search. Even if that means you simply don’t know what to do. Reach out, say something.

I will keep wading through it, and I hope that you will too.

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Originally published: June 30, 2017
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