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“I don’t need to go to a therapist, I’m NOT CRAZY” I screamed at the top of my lungs as my mom pulled me along.
I’m not sure how old I was (maybe middle school age) and I don’t remember where we were going exactly.
But what I do remember was the overwhelming rage I felt when my mom suggested, once again, that I go to therapy. I was already unpopular enough in middle school, I didn’t want the stigma of “being crazy” too.
And I definitely didn’t want to go on medication.
Fear of The Unknown
Doesn’t sound like me, I know! But it’s true, I was once adamantly opposed to therapy and medication.
The resistance came from fear of the unknown.
You see, at that age, I had a very, very narrow view of mental illness and even more limited view of what it meant to be mental healthy. The only real experience I’d had with it was watching my brother struggle through severe bipolar disorder.
I had no idea there were different classes of medications or even different kinds of mental illnesses. I was afraid if I took meds or went to therapy, people would judge me or I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself through the medication.
Let me Be Your Guide
Sadly, this fear and ignorance kept me from seeking help for a long time.
It took me until my 20’s to even see a counselor. And it wasn’t until 8 years later that I broke down and started taking medication (and only then it was because I had no choice). It ended up changing my life and I’ll always kick myself for not accepting the help sooner.
Unfortunately, my experience isn’t uncommon. Many people I speak with are fearful to start medication because they just don’t know enough about what’s going to happen.
So if you’re questioning going on medication here’s a little guide for you. It’s based partly on my own experience and partly on research. I can’t say what’s right for you, but I can share what’s happened to me and hopefully that’ll help.
Here’s what Happened when I went on Anti-Depressants:
Now not everyone needs medication to combat mental illness, but I sure did. Here’s what happened after I started a Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) for OCD and depression:
- I was able to regulate my emotions so much better. This helped me see things clearly for the first time in my life.
- The SSRIs made the tools I was already using more effective. The meditation, mindfulness, and CBT practices I was already engaged in now had a greater effect on my life.
- I wasn’t chronically depressed anymore. I have had anxiety, OCD, and depression my entire life so I just thought it was normal to always feel like emotional garbage. What I didn’t know was that’s something called dysthymia and that it could be lifted by taking SSRIs. I still have issues, but the daily battle is so much lighter without the persistent weight of low grade depression.
- My relationships improved tremendously. Since I’m able to regulate my emotions a lot more effectively now, things have improved drastically with my immediate family and my husband.
Here’s what didn’t happen when i went on anti-depressants
- They didn’t change me. Sure my behavior was changed, but these meds didn’t alter who I was as a person. Actually, they brought out what’s arguably the best version of me.
- I didn’t become a zombie. In fact, I’m more active and energetic than ever. Yes, there are drug classes like anti-psychotics, barbiturates, and some older anti-depressants that can make you sluggish. However, SSRIs, the most commonly prescribed drug class for depression and anxiety disorders, aren’t known to zombify people.
- The didn’t work overnight. Medications that affect your brain chemistry often take a while to work. Even something as mild as what I’m prescribed (Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac) can take up 5-6 weeks on average to start working.
- I wasn’t “cured” by the medication. I honestly do wish I could say I was cured by taking meds. Life would be a lot easier that way. But that’s not really how it works. Instead, Prozac, in combination with diet, exercise, therapy, and mindfulness help keep my symptoms manageable. It’s not a cure, but it definitely does help!
If you do feel that medication is right for you, check out these important considerations to remember before taking your first steps.
- It takes a while to find the right meds. I got lucky. I did very well on the first medication I was prescribed. Most people have to go through several different drugs, dosages, diagnoses, and sometimes even doctors to get to the right combination. It’s a journey and not one for the faint of heart, but it is worth it at the end.
- You may need a combination of drugs and therapy in order to find relief. As I said above, drugs don’t cure mental illness, they just help manage the symptoms. To get the best benefit from any medication, it’s strongly recommended to pair it with therapy of some kind. (Not sure what kind of therapy would be most effective for you? Check out Therapy Quest on mysoulbalmcomhome.wpcomstaging.com/2019/07/31/therapy-quest-finding-the-right-type-of-therapy/)
- Do your research, ask questions, and be honest. It’s critical to ask questions about any new medications your psychiatrist prescribes. I suggest also researching potential side-effects, interactions, and effectiveness. And be honest with your shrink about how a medication is (or isn’t) making you feel. It’ll help you and your doctor find the right combo for you that much faster.
The Three main Psychiatric Drug Classes
It’s important to know which drug classes do what so I’ve put together a little primer for you. If you’re still curious you can always look deeper into this on your own at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml
What they are: Anti-depressants (SSRI’s and SNRIs) work to keep the brain from re-absorbing Serotonin too quickly, thus helping with depression on a chemical level.
What they treat: Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, panic disorders, and OCD.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs from this class: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), and Fluvoxamine (Luvox) among others.
What they are: These are drugs that have moderate to major tranquilizing effects on patients. They work by affecting the production of dopamine in the brain.
What they treat: They treat paranoia, hallucinations and delusions caused by Schizophrenia and can be effective in managing psychosis induced by Bipolar mania. They can also be used in conjunction with anti-depressants to manage severe depression.
Commonly prescribed drugs from this class: Olanzipine (Zyprexa)
What they are: These are drugs that keep your moods from fluctuating too quickly or too strongly.
What they treat: Certain mood stabilizers are effective in limiting the rapid cycling associated with some types of Bipolar. Others can help with mania and still others help stabilize severe depression.
Commonly prescribed drugs in this class: Lithium (not actually a drug), Depakote, and Lamotrigine among others.
And there you have it folks, a little guide on how medication could possibly affect your life.
After all that, my advice is this: deciding to go on meds is always a personal choice but don’t let fear affect your decision like I did. Do your research, know what works for you, be your own best advocate and trust in the process.
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