Medication: the good, the bad and the ugly.

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.

Every day is a new day.

Today I would like to share one of my coping strategies. It’s also a big hobby of mine and I try to do it at least three to four times a week. It’s a healthy addiction (believe me I’ve had many, most of them VERY unhealthy ones) and it really helps with my depression and anxiety. Can you guess what it is? That’s right… it’s THE GYM! Yes I am one of those annoying fitness people (sometimes).

I’ve recently started having personal training sessions with a guy at my local gym and it has been one of the most empowering experiences of my life. He’s teaching me and training me on how to lift heavy weights, correctly and carefully. I have to say it’s pretty damn amazing. I can feel myself getting physically fitter and stronger every time I go and I feel incredible for it. Strong independent womaannn 😉

However, I’m yet to discover any abs (extremely disappointing) due to the fact my nutrition is probably not 100%. I struggle sometimes with binging and overeating, mainly sugary and extremely delicious foods that are quite bad for you if not eaten in proportion to a healthy diet. I never used to struggle with this but my medications seem to make me crave sugar and carbs. Oh the joys of being on antidepressants and mood stabilisers*. Even though they do wonders for my mental health, they’re not so great for my physical health. Although I am slowly getting there with dealing with my cravings, it still feels like a bit of an uphill battle with this one. For any of you that has the same problems, I really feel for you cos it isn’t fun. Especially in today’s society where the need to feel perfect is so strong, people resort to starving themselves and worse. I will elaborate on this further in another blog, so hold up.

Anyway, sorry for rambling on, I sometimes feel the need to say a billion things at once! But the jist of what I am trying to say is that where there’s a will, there’s a way and if you want something bad enough YOU ARE CAPABLE of getting it. You just have to be patient and persist. I know this is easier said than done because when you suffer with depression it’s hard to sometimes even get out of bed or wash yourself or even eat. I know, I’ve been there and it’s a dark and soulless place. It’s all about those baby steps. I have faith in you. You might not see the light yet but it’s there; just behind those dark grey clouds, it is there. I promise.

So when all else fails and you feel like punching someone or hurting yourself? Go to the gym. It works wonders. Even if you struggle to get yourself there or get going, once you do you will feel a new sense of purpose. It might even clear those clouds. You just gotta hang on, it will be worth it.

xxx

 

 

*Mirtazipine and Quetiapine