Last week, I introduced the idea of my mental health recovery as a puzzle that has been intricately designed and assembled to bring me lasting healing and peace. The Pieces of the Puzzle was about how my relationship with God has been the most important, foundational part of the whole puzzle. As promised, this week's topic is about the role medication has played in my state of well being.
To be clear, I am not going to be advocating for one medication over the other. In that spirit, I don't plan to share the names of the medications I've been on. Rather I will share the types I've been on and how they've assisted me in living a more whole and balanced life.
I was diagnosed bipolar in 2004. Previously unmedicated for any of the depression, mania and anxiety I struggled with on a daily basis, adjusting to being on psych meds was a trip in and of itself. In fact, had I not been hospitalized in a state of psychosis, truth be told I may not have received the correct diagnosis, nor been put on the right medications. So you might say, that state of psychosis, as traumatic as it was, was the absolute best place for me to be when it came to getting the right assistance.
The medications I was put on to start with were a mood stabilizer, an anti-psychotic, and a medication for anxiety. Having never been on any of these medications before, I felt like I was swimming underwater for a while. It's then that I learned an important role I needed to play in the dance of finding the right medication. I had to learn to advocate for myself by tracking my side effects, the state of my mood and other aspects that come with being on a prescription.
Every time I visited my doctor, if there was some side effect I was dealing with, or if I felt a medication wasn't working the way it should, I spoke up about it with the hopes that I would be heard. Thankfully, I had a good caretaker who did listen to me and worked with me. Eventually, because psychosis had been a one-time event, I was taken off the anti-psychotic and began to feel a bit more normal.
As the years progressed and different events and circumstances developed, a few more medications were added. In addition to the original mood stabilizer I was prescribed, a 2nd was added. Since depression tended to be my state more than mania, an anti-depressant was added a few years later. Across time, dosages were adjusted. I especially struggled with depression after my son was born. At that point, my provider increased the dosage of one of my mood stabilizers as well as my anti-depressant. For many years after, that was my "sweet spot" - the time I experienced the most stability in my mood with fewer of the extreme highs and lows.
If you've followed my story, you are probably aware that I am now down to a low dose of only one of the medications I have taken across the years. I explain more in my post, Mental Health Awareness. I want to make one thing very clear. These days I am not celebrating the fact that I don't take all the medications I used to. Rather, I am enjoying the freedom that comes from not needing to take them. There is a huge difference - a difference I hope you see clearly.
I am a strong proponent of being on medications that are prescribed to give you relief from your symptoms, especially if you struggle with a mood disorder of any kind. I count myself lucky that across the years, I had providers who listened to me and helped me find the right medications for me. Believe me, if I still struggled with the monsters of depression, anxiety, and mania like I used to, I would continue to be on those medications today. Stay on your meds. If they help you live a more full and complete life, they are worth it.
For now, two pieces to my mental health puzzle, have been laid out; my relationship with God, which I consider to be the frame that was assembled early on. Next, the medications that got me to a state of stability and a place where I could enjoy life rather than just trying to survive. These medications worked because I was willing to take a chance on them. In addition, I learned to advocate for myself when I needed to. Next week, I will explore the role that counseling/therapy played in my finding a more complete and joyful life. 'Til next time.