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What It's Really Like Taking Antipsychotic Medication

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Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Sedation is a reality of my life. I take an antipsychotic. I take a lot of it. In the morning and the evening.

It’s understood that taking antipsychotic medication limits your functionality. Take above the maximum recommended dose, like I do, and it’s a sacrifice few understand.

For those who do, it’s an unfortunate reality; unfortunate, but often inescapable.

I could tell you stories of what looking “drugged out” does when asking a girl out at the grocery store, posing for a family picture, being in a business meeting, trying to get a job, meeting new people. Hell, taking a Tinder selfie.

Chances are if I know you, I don’t need to tell those stories. Why? Because you see my face.

First comes the visual part.

I smile in public, surely, a good thing. While I smile at you, one eye appears alien from the face I make. It’s as if I were smiling at you and half my face wasn’t participating. One eye is alert, the other, my drugged eye, is startling. People probably wonder, “what’s he on?”

Well, an antipsychotic. Though look, the answer is complicated. I am binging pills. I’m doing so for the right reasons.

I happen to believe in the twin pillars of recovery. One is therapy and the other is medication. So, let me establish, I’m in support of my own sedation. I wanna be sedated. Also, I am taking an antipsychotic to mitigate psychosis. This is not a vacation from life. This is a penance.

After morning meds I get the “antipsychotic face.” It is abhorrent. To describe the face I would use words like: overtaxed, pummeled, cracked-out, purged of vigor. The hardest part of every day is to start my day. Some days I never really wake-up.

OK, the visual element to the sedation is there.

You may be wondering…

Well that’s on the surface. What does it make you feel like inside?

Good question.

It’s answered by how much coffee you drink. The preferred measurement here should be in “pots.” Some do energy drinks and count on two hands.

Then there’s “brain fog.” It’s a peculiar word concerning your mind in the morning. Some say, “my head feels three sizes too big.” Some have problems with clarity for hours upon waking. Phrases that fit brain fog and the accompanying sedation are: paralyzed, inert, dulled, down. The best way I can put it is, imagine it like gravity. Sitting in a chair at 11:30 a.m., you feel this force more acutely; it’s pushing down on you. You feel this physical immediacy to climb out of it and do stuff. You know you need to go. You can’t.

Let me say, it’s different from the person with the coffee mug on which is printed on three incremental lines: asshole, annoyed, myself. It’s not the person who hates mornings but more like, oppression by oral tranquilizers.

“Drink a tall cold glass of water and go for a run,” honestly, not altogether bad advice. However, if you really want to say that, it’s kind of like, “Try a cold dose of my meds…” I’ve witnessed it. I would never share antipsychotic medication. It’s cruel.

Of course, mental and physical health quickly become an issue. Mainly, to the cigarettes and the need for stimulants.

However, are any of these things really the worst of all? Is there something else? How does sedation weigh on the spirit? This is the part where Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins steps in. The real sad part. The loss of vitality of life.

When someone consumes antipsychotic medication, trying to hold a conversation with them is unappetizing. We’re often shown the model of a young person as vigorous, assertive, even domineering. Yet, this person might as well walk around with a hunched back. In the grocery store they are eyed warily. For visual reasons, but also the slowed speech, slow walk, slow on the uptake, spacey, generally just not “with it.”

There are high-functioning and low functioning people. You might be high functioning and pass this phase of your day. Yet, you might be low-functioning and put up with judgment and ridicule every single day. In fact, I say things about these people being in waiting rooms. A friend refers to low-functioning people with psychotic disorders as “med mutants.” It’s abhorrent but inescapable. This is what the drugs are doing. Moreover, what it’s doing, but also how it is alleviating symptoms.

At one time I would feel beauty surround me. I would be invigorated and excited to share my thoughts with the world. Be a wild traveler and adventurer. Squat in apartments. Drink with strangers and bang on the bar for more.

I was all these things. The antipsychotic medication took it away in a large part. It destroys desire. It destroyed the feelings in me that drove me to write. It takes away what is beautiful.

This is starting to sound like a big oppositional ad to antipsychotic medication. Let me say, I would have nothing without it. Without it, I would be stuck hallucinating and in psychic pain. The meds helped with that. I would tell you all these things and then go on the corner and perform seedy tricks to get my meds. That’s a crazy oscillation in attitude, but all true.

My brother calls them, “horse tranquilizers.” I say, “at least I have a horse in the race.”

”Why do it?”

And I answer.

The thought of going back. I would sacrifice the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Relinquish the alertness. I would do it to make room for a chance at life.

I get it. It’s another barrier. You’ve got mental illness and heavy sedation as a side effect. Exercise helps. Eating right helps. Stimulants help. Taking your meds all at night helps. There are always things to assist. However, some take such high doses that it is an all day issue.

I don’t expect all my smiles to be returned, but I’ll take a couple. In my malaise, I’m still shootin’ ugly grins of warmth.

But what of it,
Still smile,
Meds are just another thing,
In a list of things, making us weary,
That if we live with, we cannot live without.

Getty image by Nithid

Originally published: March 17, 2020
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