The Mighty Logo

The Biggest Mistake I Made in Taking Medication for My Mental Health

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 12 years old, and was put on medication almost immediately to try and balance the chemicals in my brain.

I took a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant for a few years, but it didn’t help very much and I didn’t understand why. I gained weight and got more unstable as time passed, but I tried my best to stay positive. I didn’t necessarily like taking medication and having to rely on something to get me through the day, but I accepted it and took my pills as I was told.

When I was about 15, I changed medications and was put on another antidepressant, and a medication which I only recently discovered is used to treat bipolar disorder. I was never actually told my official diagnosis at that age (which I find shocking and can’t believe actually happened) and continued believing that I struggled with depression for years. The medication didn’t help me either, and I stopped after a few months because I was frustrated and hated taking medication that didn’t work, even though looking back now I think it did to a certain extent.

I made the decision by myself and didn’t tell anyone I was stopping, which I realize now was a huge mistake.

I think I stopped because I wanted to prove something to myself. I either wanted to prove I was OK and didn’t need to depend on medication, or I wanted to prove I was actually mentally ill and genuinely needed my meds. I think it might have been a bit of both.

After I stopped the medication, I got progressively worse. I had symptoms ranging from extreme mood swings, to very self-destructive behavior, to psychotic symptoms.

Some might say I had it all.

My little experiment didn’t go very well, and I ended up hitting rock bottom, sitting in yet another psychiatrist’s office who was prescribing me yet another set of medications. I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 17 years old. and was put on a combination of three medications.

I was back on medication and despondent, to say the least.

“None of the other medications helped, so why will these?” I thought to myself. “I’m only going to be let down if I get my hopes up.”

I didn’t want to take medication, but at this point it was honestly a life or death decision. As much as I hate to admit it, if I didn’t take my pills I was at much higher risk of suicide. And I didn’t want to do that to my family. So reluctantly, I decided to take the pills.

Over time, I became a lot more stable and I can confidently say that those medications saved my life, even if I did gain some weight in a year and was forced to endure other horrific side effects. It was worth the stability. It was a small price to pay for life.

Since then, I have changed medications again and am still in the process of starting a few others. I’m still working on getting it all just right, especially my anxiety at the moment. I am now on a different medication for my bipolar disorder and managed to lose all the weight I gained from my previous medication. I stopped taking the other two medications and have been doing just fine without them.

I’m slowly getting to where I want to be in regards to my mental health and it is such a good feeling. To be honest, I never thought I would recover or even come this close to recovery, because there was a part of me that didn’t want to get better. There was a part of me that was addicted to the “insanity” that was my life and lived to be unstable. But looking back now, I’m so happy I persevered and got to where I am today with the help of therapy and, of course, my meds.

I never thought being stable would feel this good.

I now understand that I need medication to function and it has become a part of my daily routine — just another act of boring self-care. I’ve come to learn though that acts of boring self-care are incredibly important and should not be forgotten about or pushed aside to accommodate our busy daily schedules. It should be the other way around.

Boring self-care should be a priority in our lives, and mental and physical health should come first. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way and will not soon forget.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my meds.

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

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty Images photo via LightFieldStudios

Originally published: January 13, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home