Psychotropic medications are powerful tools – some of the most powerful we have. But do they fix everything with a pill? Sadly the answer is quite simple; no they do not. There is no medication that will simply make everything better and solve the problems.
Why try meds in the first place?
When I was a child, my parents looked deeply into how to help me overcome my issues. They knew I had problems other kids didn’t have, but first they figured they were the only problem. They figured they had just raised me wrong and they looked into how to fix it. Now my parents are far from perfect, but in their investigation they found that I had potentially chemical problems. While my parents put a lot of work into improving themselves and becoming better at parenting, they were advised very strongly to give me medication. The idea was that by fixing the chemical imbalance in my brain, I might have more success in adjusting to my world.
The basic problem with medication
Now, medication is amazing for fixing chemical imbalances, but the problem is that a chemical imbalance isn’t just fixed by throwing different chemicals in. If brains were bags of chemicals, that solution would be perfect, but our brains are far more complex than that. Medication is imprecise. It definitely helps balance things, but it doesn’t magically fix the problem. Many people are sad to find their problems mostly remain even after taking meds, and the imprecision of medication also means they create side effects which can be unbearable at times. I actually am currently looking at reducing a medication that does wonders for my stability, and I want to do this solely because of side effects.
The problems go on…
But even more important is the fact that no one gets better from a mental problem by tossing chemicals at it. Mental illness is complicated and a lot of it revolves around learning bad coping skills. Once it goes on for a time, we can find that we’re developmentally behind. I, personally, struggled deeply with this as a child. Fortunately, as an adult, I’ve managed to catch up due to my monumental efforts, but it wasn’t as easy for me to do as it is for one without mental illness.
A lot of religious people view mental illness as a sort of “sin pattern”. While I don’t find it to be so simple as that, I definitely think that maladaptive behaviors quickly become a struggle. These can certainly be seen as “sins” from a religious perspective, and it contributes to the problem, eventually just as much as the chemicals, if not more so.
So what help does medication provide?
I describe medication as “taking the edge off” of a mental illness. I have a huge list of coping skills for my anxiety because of my high anxiety, but without medication, those skills just aren’t enough. I get paralyzed by my anxiety and lie in bed and suffer and beg friends to sit with me and get me through. I need the medication to provide the chemical change in my brain to calm the anxiety so I can function. It’s worth it. But medication doesn’t make the anxiety vanish. I still can have high anxiety, and no amount of medication can make that entirely go away, partially because I developed fears and insecurities from my past with mental illness. I was removed from groups of people I trusted. I was even shunned. People were afraid of me. This creates an anxiety that is with me to this day. Medications help the chemicals, but I must do the work to soothe myself about my past.
Medication as a part of the plan
Medication solves some chemical issues, but there’s more to mental illness than just chemicals, and beyond that, the chemical solutions we have are imprecise. Medication is a quick, helpful, tool, but we must put in the work to get better. You could take the highest doses of medications, deal with the worst of side effects, and not get better if you don’t put the work in. That’s why I write this blog. I want to share what I’ve learned so that others can join with me in our efforts to overcome our hardships. You can do it. Medications can help, but you’ll need to put in the work. Gentle Readers, I believe in you. I don’t even know who, exactly, you are, but I believe in you because I know enough about humanity. If you are sick and need meds, you will need to put in the work, but I know you can because humans are absolutely amazing.
That’s what I’ve learned.