There have always been many taboos surrounding mental health; if you go to therapy that means you’re crazy, or if you self harm you must be dangerous, or if you hear voices, that must mean you’re Norman Bates in the making. But one of the biggest qualms we all seem to have with mental illness is medication. Whether you’re a sufferer or not, medication seems to be the thing that solidifies the fact that you are “sick”. Yet ironically, people still don’t value mental health as a real problem, even when there is medication as a sort of “proof” of the illness being real. Crazy right?
When I was first diagnosed with depression at eighteen I refused to take any medication for it. Luckily at that point in my life Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was enough to help me make it through the really tough time I was having. But as I got older and life inevitably got tougher, I eventually had to succumb to the fact that I needed medication to help “stabilise” my moods and get me on the road to recovery with my BPD. However, it did take me a few tries on different medications to find the best one for me. It was a long and tiresome process over the course of about three years.
I was first put on Sertraline which I found really awful; it gave me terrible acid reflux and I lost a lot of weight due to the pains in my stomach. I also found it made me more jittery which obviously didn’t help with my crippling anxiety. I was also given Diazepam (Valium) and Zopiclone to help me sleep as I was also suffering with severe insomnia. Unfortunately with these medications they can cause addiction so the doctors never gave me too many at one time. They were a “quick fix” and they shouldn’t be used long term. The next antidepressant I tried was Seroxat/Paroxetine, which did an okay job for about a year and a half. Then finally and currently, the doctors put me on Mirtazapine, which is an anti depressant and Quetiapine, which is an anti psychotic. When I first started taking these meds, the side effects I had were drowsiness and just generally feeling “zoned out” like a zombie, but these along with DBT have helped me the most I think.
Another thing I would like to say is that with regards to coming off your medication, you should be really careful and obviously discuss this with your doctor or someone from your local mental health team. There are side effects of coming off medications and sometimes they can be quite severe if you come off them too quickly or go “cold turkey”. People can have whats called “brain zaps” or you could get night sweats. Worst case scenario you could really unstabilise your mood to the point of feeling suicidal. Obviously everyone is different but it’s good to be aware of these things when taking or coming off medication. If you do things properly and take advice from your doctor, side effects should be minimal. I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t had too much trouble with lowering doses or changing medication, the main thing for me was the change in my mood and night sweats to the point I would have to change pyjamas three times a night.
Just remember everyone has different side effects and different meds work for different people. And yes it is a tiresome and life draining process (sometimes), and you may or may not have to try lots of different medications to find the right one for you, but all I can say is that be patient and don’t give up. The majority of the time medication isn’t there to cure you but rather there to help you “level out” and be able to cope with things a little bit better. You WILL find something that works for you eventually, I promise. I have to also point out therapy is a GOD SEND. If it wasn’t for the six months of intensive Dialectal Behavioural Therapy I’ve just undergone, I am not entirely sure medication would have been enough for me, but combining the two together has quite literally saved my life. Just try to find what works for you and stick to it. It will take some work and commitment but if you want to get better you have to try. I’m not saying it’s gonna be easy, but trust me it will be so fucking worth it.