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What Happened When I Stopped Taking My Psych Meds

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I picked up my mental health medications and sat them back down. I wasn’t going to take my medication as directed, but maybe I would take it tomorrow.

“I’m in control. I know what I’m doing.”

When word reached the southern United States that we were on stay at home orders, I panicked. This was the end of March. I started making various plans on how to clean things, dress appropriately when going out and how to limit leaving home. For weeks, I may have gone out once, at the most. Deaths climbing higher terrified me, so I pulled up my covers and hid in bed some days.

Then it got closer. People I knew were dying or dead. Doctors called to remind me of appointments, but I said I couldn’t come. I wasn’t leaving. I didn’t want to die. There was a monster out there, and I was afraid it would eat me on the way to my psychiatrist.

Looking at my medication bottles, there was one more refill, so I was good, I thought. To be safe, I started stretching medications — instead of three a day, I took two. It didn’t seem to make a difference at all, so I felt better. I ordered masks, kept my children out of school and warned my husband that he shouldn’t be going to work. Not long after my warnings, work started to shut down. He was at home for a month straight before gradually returning. When he returned… May was approaching.

Months passed by quickly for me… April, May, June, and I was on my second refills, stretching medications even more and ignoring appointments. Now I took only one of those three pills a day, and some days left the others off entirely. I had it under control, and by the time this thing was over with, I would be back on track and things would be OK.

Panic attacks seemed mild — with just racing heart and crying for a little while. Then it was over, all done, and all was well again. No biggie.

But the virus didn’t end in June or July. The sky was blue, but it started getting dark. I felt cold hands wrap around me. Everything was going wrong and everyone hated me. Phone calls to my son, who lives in Colorado, were fights instead of conversations. When my husband was late home from work, I was hyperventilating, then refusing to talk to him. I started hiding outside behind the house, crying my eyes out.

Then panic ensued full force. I was running out of meds fast. I was taking one pill before bedtime and nothing else. I was scratching my arms until they bled and crying over every little mishap. I hated this, I hated that, and I hated everyone. Then it happened… my last straw.

It was one little thing, then another little thing. One night I lay down and I couldn’t get up. I was trapped. I felt myself curl into a ball and fear ran through me. I was a little girl, back, going back fast into the past. I lay curled and still. He was looking for me again, my childhood abuser, and so I had to be still.

My head started to pound. I saw my husband but he wasn’t looking at me. I cried, screamed even. Help! But no sound came out. I tried to pound the headache from my head with one hand. I scratched my leg trying to get it to move and pull me out of the shell that held me hostage. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk and at that moment, I wanted to die.

For an hour I was like this. Finally, my husband looked at me. He ran to me, pleading to know what was wrong. I was frozen screaming in silence while he hugged me. Taking my hand away from the raw patch on my leg, he said.

“Scratch me instead, OK.”

I clawed at him while crying. Eventually whispering help with all my might. But he held me as I realized no one was coming for me, I didn’t have to hide, and my body was slowly releasing my reality back to me.

The next day, I slept all day long.

The following day, I was angry at everyone.

And then the third day, I called my psychiatrist.

“I need to set up an appointment.”

“Hey, haven’t you run out of medications a long time ago. Are you OK?”

“Yes ma’am, but I made it work.”

“OK, can you come in tomorrow?”

“I will be there. I’m tired. I need you. Help me.”

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* Thinking about stretching your medications? Don’t. Taking your medications, if they are correctly allocated for your condition, is what helps keep your head above the water. Sometimes I talk negatively about some medications, but others, they really help us. If you notice normalcy during your medication regimen, it’s a sign your doctor is on the right track.

Before you go it alone, remember, is it worth it to lose your sanity to be free? I’ve gone off meds many times, hurt myself, hurt others and went missing a few times. If you feel like a “normal” person right now, chances are, you have a good psychiatrist who really cares about your well-being. Just think about it.

Sending love.

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: November 8, 2020
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