I think it’s time I talk about psychotropic medication. It’s important to talk about all aspects of medications and this will be a slightly longer post so that I can do it some justice. As you will see, we talk about them so much that we have to shorten the term to “meds” just to keep up.
So to the very question: are meds a blessing or are they a curse? I think the answer is very much both. I intend to give as much as I can, a good description of both, but keep in mind that this is an enormous topic, far too big for one post.
A bit of history
The first serious psychotropic medication could be considered to be Thorazine. This medication was given to psych patients at an asylum and it seemed to calm them down. This was considered a victory by the staff, but in reality, all it did was tranquilize the patients and sort of take away meaningful life.
Medications improved after that, and we developed anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers. These had some therapeutic effects, but they also had extreme side effects. Some people started dragging from fatigue. Others started severe twitches in their eyes or face. Some swallowed compulsively. Others got restless leg syndrome to the point that they would get panic attacks from the need to move.
These medications aren’t all bad, however. These side effects were not universal, and often the meds allowed people to feel more stable. They regulated moods. They might hold back paranoia or voices in people’s heads. Some meds actually took away panic attacks and brought a calm to the patients. You see there was great cost and great benefit.
As technology improved over the years the side effects became less prominent, and the therapeutic effect more powerful. But we discovered that medications seem to affect every individual differently. We found that we had to simply use trial and error on patients to find out what worked, and if that went badly, they might wind up with permanent side effects without even getting a therapeutic benefit.
Help or deception?
Doctors prescribing medications often were more able to see the therapeutic benefit than the patients themselves, so they started deceiving these patients and not telling them about side effects. I was once told by a doctor that a medication had no side effects. I said I knew that all meds could potentially have side effects, and I’d like a short list of those that show up in most patients. The doctor insisted that there would be no side effects. Within days of taking it, I found that it twisted my whole body with weird muscle spasms, and I even crashed a car from that. Fortunately, I was not hurt.
The good side
It’s starting to sound like meds are purely bad, but they’re not. I’ve complained about meds, and I think it’s important to know the problems with them, but I want you, Gentle Readers, to know that there are things about medications that I love. I cannot even tell you how much I love having control over my anger and paranoia. I used to constantly get in fights with people, even into adulthood, and now I don’t. Now, largely because of my meds, I have the power to be loving and kind to my friends, and really everyone else, too. I don’t think I’d be able to work without my medications, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to buy my house. I needed stability for that, and that stability came with the help of my meds.
When I am on too low a dose of medications for my anxiety, I become paralyzed with fear. I can hardly get out of bed and even out of bed I feel a turmoil in my heart, just ripping me apart. I can try to work through it, and my coping skills are amazing and powerful and all that, but I just need that extra boost from the medications. Without medications, I am utterly convinced that people who love me and care about me are actually angry with me all the time and look down on me. I expect them to stop associating with me at any time. With medications, I am given the boost I need in my coping skills to know that I am accepted and loved and that I can accomplish things.
Right now I am building two businesses: Cabra Web Services and Healing Student. (That’s right! There will be more to Healing Student than a blog, and I’ll announce more later.) I could not build either of these without help from medications. More importantly, I don’t hate myself. It’s tempting to be self-loathing when you struggle with a mental disorder, and that feeds into itself causing more symptoms. With the help I get from medications, I’m able to conquer that thinking and love myself, which translates into even more success.
The whole picture
I think it’s worth mentioning that all those horrific symptoms mentioned earlier are symptoms i have. The worst is the facial twitching. I feel like I look like a crazy guy with my facial twitching that may actually be a permanent symptom. There may be no way to make it ever go away even after I stop taking the medications that caused it. I decided to wear it proudly, like a battle wound. I got hit pretty hard, and I sometimes get angry with those who deceived me, but at the same time, this gave me my life back. Am I conflicted? Yes, of course. But I think overall, medications have done me a lot more good than harm.
If any of you, Gentle Readers, are considering whether or not to take medications, I exhort you to look at both sides. Always look into side effects and what’s possible. Sometimes a doctor may not tell you the full picture, so feel free to ask me, or another Peer Support, who takes meds. We’ll tell you without hesitation. At the same time, if your doctor feels that medications could help you, consider that they may be the key to taking back a life better than you’ve ever seen before. I will never make that decision for another person, but I’d gladly talk with anyone, either publicly or one on one, and listen to them and help them find their own decision.
My goal in writing this is to encourage people who would benefit from meds to take them and be excited for their life back, but also to discourage people who don’t need them to know what they’re getting into. For any individual, I don’t know myself which you are, but with enough guidance, I’m sure you can learn for yourself which camp you’re in. Never feel that you have to make the decision on your own.