Am I, or Am I Not, My Medication?

By May 27, 2014Blog

A very dear friend of mine is battling depression. Her doctor recently increased her dose of Cymbalta and she had an adverse reaction: she couldn’t stop sleeping. Since being tired all the time was not acceptable, her doctor slid her dose backwards to her original dose. Because of this recent adjustment she wondered, out loud to me, whether she should just go off the anti-depressant all together. She wondered if her “real” personality would come out if she was drug free.

I realized quite quickly, although I kept it to myself, that I think the opposite. I am not a doctor and am very careful with the information I pass along. Speaking only for myself, I think the medications I take allow my personality to flourish.

I have looked at the question by my friend who thought her “real” personality might come out if she was drug free; I’m sad that this friend doesn’t seem to know what her personality is. I do understand how it’s possible to feel like being under water when first taking psychiatric medications. In the beginning, the drugs can make us feel separate, sick, tired or sometimes too up. Getting used to new medication can be a real trial. Everyone has their own physical reactions and most of the time those initial reactions leave over time. Some of the newer medications work right away. I’ve been on several meds over the past 15 years. What I’m on now works. When I first went on a mood stabilizer and an anti-depressant my reactions to these drugs were quite dramatic. I’ll never forget when, about a month after first taking the two medications, I all of a sudden felt better. The change was dramatic but, with the drugs that were available back then, it took about a month.

I’ve had some real trials with medications. Some made me sick, others almost killed me but I have persevered because the meds allow me to function. Why would I go through drug trials if there were no healing on the other end? I thought, when I was un-medicated and so sick, that I would never find myself again. I thought I’d never write or draw again or be happy again. I was sure that I would commit suicide because the pain was just too much to bear.

If we’re given the right medication we can subdue the negative symptoms of mental illness. I used to not be able to get to sleep until between 1AM and 4AM. Now, with medication, I’m able to get to sleep around 10PM. And I wake up with no residue in my brain. I used to not be able to control mania or depression but it’s been several years since I was controlled by either.

Medication is not for people who want instant results. Taking medication can be difficult but, unless you can find results in talk-therapy, there is no other way to quiet the mind of a mentally ill person.

I’m ready to talk to my friend who is battling depression. I’ve known her when she was down and out and I’ve known her when she’s alright and I can only say that the symptoms of depression are not her ‘real’ personality; they are symptoms of depression.

The latest example of mental illness on a rampage is Elliot Roger, the 22 year old who killed in Santa Barbara. He was able to fool his parents, the Santa Barbara police, a therapist. This is yet AGAIN an example of a shooter who slipped through the cracks. This is yet AGAIN the work of a mentally ill person who should have been taken into a locked facility not because he was a danger to himself or others but because he NEEDED TREATMENT!! His parents knew he needed help but Roger slipped through the cracks. If you can, please write your congressional representatives and/or senators and plead with them to do what’s needed to change the law. I’m writing these words on Memorial Day and it occurs to me that not only are we remembering our troops but we should also be remembering the many many young people and others who have died because of shooters in our own country. When will this END??

Chris Martinez, a 20 year old victim, has died at the hands of Elliot Roger. Chris’s father is very angry and is not afraid to show his anger. I applaud him. I have a mental illness and I support changing the laws to at least try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. We must allow families of the mentally ill to get help when their loved one NEEDS TREATMENT, not because he/she is a danger to herself or others. This criteria is too precise. We need a criteria that’s vague to allow our loved ones to get NEEDED TREATMENT in a lock down ward. We need to stop tiptoeing around this problem. I hope Chris Martinez’s father keeps yelling.

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