May 20

The 50/50 Of Taking Medication For Mental Illness

I’d like to start with some important points about medication & mental illness… This is what I have learned. I am not a professional and do not intend to make it sound like I’m an expert on Mental Health. Much of what I share below are my own personal beliefs based on my journey in recovery and stability, so please don’t take it as ‘gospel’. I have done a lot of research on how to help myself. Hopefully what I share may help you and encourage you to do your own and have an open mind that medication may be of help to you or your loved one.

(my personal experience is at the bottom of this post)

Medication clears a pathway for your mind to get on a stable path. Therapy helps train your mind to keep on the right path and ‘normalize’ your behavior. Both are NECESSARY for successful recovery and management of your overall mental health.

  • it’s important to read about the success stories along with (or not just) the bad experiences…
  • God gave us all talents and gifts that help ourselves and others live our best life. Doctors who come to our rescue to save lives, carpenters who build homes to give us shelter, gardeners who grow our food, etc. Skills, talents, gifts – whatever you want to call them, INCLUDE SCIENTISTS who discover remedies to help heal us and help us live a quality life. You don’t have to be scared of medication. When you’re in serious pain from an injury, aren’t you grateful for the medication you receive at the hospital? Are you not grateful that you don’t have to be awake when you’re getting surgery? What about vaccinations that prevent you from catching a deadly disease? …Even the over the counter medication, isn’t it wonderful that you can get excedrin to help you with a migraine? Don’t rule out psychiatric medication just because there is a stigma about mental illness and the negative reviews about those who tried them. They help the far majority of people who have gone through the process of finding treatment. There will ALWAYS be reports out there of medical doctors and patients who strongly advocate against them. Have an open mind and be willing to pray about what will work FOR YOU.
  • FINDING THE RIGHT MEDICATION isn’t always an easy ride. There can be some scary side-effects that would no doubt want to make you run away and quit the process. Scientists are still studying about mental illness, so there isn’t just “one medication fits all” they can prescribe. All of our brains work differently.
  • Working with medication is a 50/50 risk. It will either work or not work, and sometimes it can make your symptoms worse than they were to begin with. Just because one or two medications don’t work, doesn’t mean that others won’t either. You may even need your diagnosis adjusted. Be patient and willing to continue working with your doctor.
  • COMMON BELIEFS about medication can include some or all of the following: “I won’t be the same person, my ‘creativity’ will go away, I’ll be a zombie”… or, “I don’t want to get addicted or have to depend on medication to function in life… what if I suddenly have to go without medication because I can’t afford it?”… or “I don’t want to support ‘big pharma’ because they just want my money”…

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get treated, because I have learned that mental illness is right up there with diabetes… someone who is diabetic has to keep up with their treatment or they won’t survive. Some mental illnesses require you to take medication or you are a major risk to yourself, society, you risk your relationships, etc… some studies have found that those who have bipolar disorder and do not take medication to regulate their moods, the major mood swings may, over time, damage their brain. (…/study-suggests-bipolar-disorder-may-… ) and their symptoms progressively worsen over time… the same goes for other major mental illnesses.

  • it is VERY important to BE WATCHFUL OF YOUR MOODS while taking medication. The same goes for loved ones who live with you, friends too… you require a team to watch over you – you won’t always see the same symptoms as they do… some medications produce a ‘false positive’, meaning they make you instantly feel better and you can easily assume it works! This has happened to me in the beginning before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and just recently… you get a ‘high’ and then plummet in your moods. If you have bipolar disorder, some anti-depressants can trigger an intense episode of major depression after an immediate manic high. Point being, just because you feel instantly better after starting on a medication, doesn’t mean it will work successfully long term. It can trigger even worse depression within weeks or months after. Some patients have committed suicide because the medication made their suicidal feelings stronger Family members MUST watch their loved once after they start treatment, even if the first reaction is ‘i feel better’. Wait it out and monitor closely for even the first year.

This can be resolved quickly once you notice the shift in your moods. Don’t assume that medication won’t work for you, there is likely one that will – but you haven’t found it yet.

  • FIND THE RIGHT PSYCHIATRIST you feel comfortable with and keep a close relationship with them. Be HONEST in your feelings and don’t hold or hide anything. Mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated based on behavioral symptoms. Your diagnosis may change based on your reaction to medication treatment. Write down detailed notes while you monitor your moods after starting on a medication. Sometimes your body’s reaction may manifest immediately or a few weeks – months after. not all psychiatrist’s are created equal one doctor may be the perfect fit for one person may not be a perfect fit for you. Don’t base your overall experience by one psychiatrist or even two. If you know something is wrong, don’t give up trying to find the right treatment. If something doesn’t feel right working with the doctor, find someone else.
  • if you’re SKEPTICAL OF MEDICATION, or worry about what negative side-effects you may experience finding the medication, look at it this way… you may be having suicidal thoughts – and with those you’re at a serious risk to yourself already… when you get the right medication, that risk goes away… so do you want to continue to live with the burden of those suicidal thoughts, depressed feelings, and being a serious risk to yourself, because you prefer to avoid medication, or work through the process of finding that medication that works for you?
  • Do yourself a favor and READ ABOUT YOUR MEDICATION before you start on it. Be in the know about what negative side-effects to look out for. There will be warnings that scare you, but note that they have to be listed because some (very few in comparison) people have experienced them. The vast majority of patients who take medication have found the medication to work without side-effects or with only the minor non-serious side-effects.
  • HOLISTIC OR ‘NATURAL REMEDIES’ may work for clinical depression or anxiety, and it may be worth trying them first, but they won’t work for major mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or others as your only method of treatment. Sorry. I tried for over 10 years to go ‘all natural’, I tried EVERYTHING, and I have met 100’s of other people who have bipolar disorder and it doesn’t work. Oils, herbs, exercise, sunshine, etc etc will help anyone and can help ease some symptoms – but going holistic as your only treatment Trust me. You’re risking your health the longer you try to make it work.
  • MEDICATION ONLY will not be the best solution and it won’t “cure” your mental illness.

“Medication does not outright cure mental illness. However, it may help with the management of symptoms. Medication paired with psychotherapy is the most effective way to promote recovery.”…/mental-health-medica…/index.shtml

  • Once you start treatment, if you decide you don’t want to continue with it – DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATION without the help of your psychiatrist. You might relapse in a very bad way…

Ok, now my personal experience…

Back in 2015, after over 10 years of trying holistic-natural remedies for my diagnosed [at the time] major depressive disorder and severe anxiety, and none of them resolving all the symptoms I was experiencing (depression, anxiety, psychosis, paranoia, etc etc) I finally braved it and sought out help from my family doctor. She prescribed me Celexa and soon after I felt GREAT! I was so happy with the results, FINALLY I felt free of the pain and pressure of the depressed feelings… after a few months though I CRASHED in a very bad way.

We were on a family vacation to UT when I just couldn’t stop crying and was overly sensitive to everything people said. I was convinced that Clark was happier being with his family than with me and my family, and I felt he would do better without me so he could be free to just spend time with them without any obligation to be anywhere else. Which was totally ‘made up’ but that’s how I felt. While on that vacation, my depression was so bad at the time that while at Church with my parents (Clark was up with his family) I stepped outside the building because I couldn’t stop crying [again] and told my parents I’d be right back, just needed to get some fresh air (a lie), I walked outside, the church was right by the freeway, and I walked to the fence… I was moments away from walking around the fence to go into traffic when My mom came outside and called out to me (She had no idea about my plan). Her calling out to me was just enough to switch my focus away from my current thinking and bring me back to reality. I would have regretted that decision. My dad soon followed my mom out of the building and I told them I have no idea why I was crying. They had wondered if it was something they said, but it wasn’t. I was overwhelmed with emotion that I could not control.

When we returned back home to PA, I sat in our bedroom, again, emotional telling Clark “WHY do you want me? I am a mess, I am CRAZY, I am clearly a burden to everyone because I bring everyone down, I make trips miserable because I don’t want to go anywhere (because I had serious anxiety), I hurt peoples feelings, I’ve damaged relationships with my family, isn’t it obvious that I would do everyone a favor by dying? I don’t want you to feel obligated to be with me anymore.” We felt it was clear that I needed help. Everything we have tried wasn’t working and I was at serious risk to my life. I was my own worst enemy; my own worst bad guy who wants to kill me!

^ example of why it’s IMPORTANT to watch your loved one after starting on medication. It was my ‘false positive’ reaction to the medication I was on.

Soon after we discussed my symptoms with my [new] family doctor and he suggested, based on family history, my personal history of behaviors, and that my current treatment had a severe reaction, that I most likely had bipolar disorder. He, being the wise doctor that he was, recommended I get a confirmed diagnosis from a psychiatrist. Which I did and he felt that I 100% definitely had bipolar disorder. Over time the diagnosis evolved to Bipolar Disorder with ADHD and Panic Disorder.

Finding the perfect combination of medication was not easy. My family members close to me were concerned, but once I stabilized, those like my parents were reaching out to my psychiatrist to thank him with reactions like “thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for saving our daughter!!!” Clark felt that I have been the best I have EVER been with my health. It is a NIGHT and DAY difference. I will always have ups and downs, that is the nature of the illness, but I no longer swing down into the dangerous thoughts and I no longer swing up in the extreme that gets me in trouble. I even had a family member tell me “you’re much easier to be around since you’ve been on medication” which could be taken in a bad way, but I was relieved to hear that.

Not only were my parents and Clark immensely grateful to him, but also to my therapist who has been the other half of the treatment that has SAVED ME. Many praises have been extended to her and Clark is always happy (and sometimes relieved) when it’s a “Nadine day!” She helps me keep on track. I LOVE her SO much! We all do!

Medication clears a pathway for your mind to get on a stable path. Therapy helps train your mind to keep on the right path and ‘normalize’ your behavior. Both are NECESSARY for successful recovery and management of your overall mental health.

I almost immediately started to improve when we started on medication treatment. Usually, with bipolar disorder, you start on Lithium. I did, along with Lamictal, and I began to feel better. But I still had some heavy depression so when we were ‘trying on for size’ the various medications to get the right combination, some of the medications gave me BAD side-effects, such as

  • I couldn’t see clearly. At the time it was Christmas and Christmas Eve is my FAVORITE part of Christmas. I was helping to wrap presents but I couldn’t focus with my eyes, it was so frustrating. I was encouraged to go to sleep, because I was becoming very grumpy Christmas morning my sweet niece Zoie brought a craft kit up to me and wanted my help in opening it and getting started. I couldn’t make out the words and I asked her what some of the sentences said. After a few minutes of trying she said to me, “It’s OK Becky, I don’t really want to play with this right now anyway.” … so needless to say, we stopped that medication promptly after the holiday.
  • Another medication I tried caused me to completely black out and drop to the floor. It was late at night and Clark heard the sound (thankfully) and came to the rescue. I made a mess, which he pointed out was on my PJ’s, and not being fully ‘there’, I said loud (according to his report) “Oh $H!T” dropped my pants and walked away, lol. We stopped that medication the next day.

I always kept my psychiatrist in the know, and my relationship with him is unique where I was able to keep in contact with him almost daily. Unfortunately, most patients will have to wait much longer, so it’s IMPORTANT you have a support team to help you through this process. DO NOT stop your medication cold turkey, you could make things even worse.

  • Another medication I tried made it feel like I was on an elevator going up and down, I was kind of ‘tipsy’.
  • One made my hands shake to where anything I held splashed around or dropped.
  • Another one made me REALLY hyper, I couldn’t sit still and was going a mile-a-minute (it triggered a manic episode basically)

We soon found that my body doesn’t tolerate most medications. Those above ^ are considered allergic reactions. I began with Lamictal and Lithium, and those are the medications my body accepts. The other medications we tried were intended to help alleviate my depression symptoms further, so unfortunately it takes me a little extra work to keep my moods up than would otherwise be possible. That’s why I dip down more often, and I’m extra sensitive to triggers.

Rare, but you could be ‘treatment-resistant’ where medication doesn’t respond well with you. This does not necessarily mean you don’t have a mental illness. Your psychiatrist will be the judge of that.

It’s been several years with successful stability when we found that those two medications have been my ‘perfect fit’ and have helped me manage the high’s and lows and keep me away from the dangerous thoughts and feelings. Again, therapy has been the other half of the solution.

Now it’s maintenance. Sometimes you’ll need some adjustments in your medication (increase or decrease in the dose). I began with weekly check-ins with my psychiatrist, progressed to every other week, than once a month, and now every few months (or as needed) check-ins. Therapy was the same way, we began with twice a week, to once a week, and now we meet every other week (or longer if necessary, like if one of us is on a vacation). But I’ll always keep in touch with both of them., More often with my therapist. But the point is, as you stabilize, you can manage yourself and not need to depend on them as often because you’ve learned how to ‘navigate your boat’ on your own.

I’ve tried medications to help with the ADHD symptoms, but we’ve been unable to find one that works for me. All have given me an allergic reaction. We just recently found that one I started a few months ago gave me a ‘false positive’ and was in large part of why I had a manic high (mixed episode) the other week and the really low moods this last week (much more intense depression than I’ve had in well over a year). Clark, my Mom, and I all noticed that my moods have been unusually low. I was sleeping A LOT and extremely tired. The kind of ‘crawling on the floor because it’s too much work to walk’ kind of tired (I wasn’t literally doing that). I was also drifting to those dangerous thoughts. I shared those feelings with my doctor and we stopped that medication. It’s a bummer, because it really helped me focus easier… oh well. Like my depression, I just have to do the extra work to manage. The important thing is that I have help with the extreme ups and downs as top priority.

The last thing I’ll mention is sometimes you have to weigh the pro’s and the con’s. A few months after I had started on Lithium I gained 40lbs It’s one of those side-effects that if that’s the only or one of the few that you experience, but it’s helping you with your depression, it’s worth the extra work in having to manage your weight more closely if you can prevent the suicidal thoughts and feelings. I hate the fact that it makes it even harder to lose weight. But I much rather deal with this (Because it’s not impossible for me to lose weight), than have those dark thoughts and feelings.

This was a VERY LONG post and if you read it all, WOW – you are awesome. Thank you It helps so much to know that people really care about learning about Mental Health There is so much to be said about medication, because there is so much fear (and understandable caution) about taking it. It can be a scary road in finding the right medication that works for you – but it’s WORTH it when you do find the right treatment.


Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression

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