As you likely know by now, I am an open book when it comes to my mental health. That being said, I frequently get asked about medication (or maybe I just talk about it unsolicited a lot). Either way – before I began taking meds at 20 years old, I didn’t even want to consider them. Now, at 25, and having been on meds for 4 of the last 5 years, I’m here to share with you what I’ve learned.
Please note: This post is not about me pushing medication; medication is what was right for ME. And I can only write my own truth. Talk to your doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or another professional to begin to find a path that will work best for you!
1. There are many categories of medications and your doctor will work with you to find the right one
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety and mood swings, oh my! Okay, that doesn’t really work as well, but you get the idea. As many young adults go through, I battled with depression for a long time. Over the years, I’ve been on Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, and currently Zoloft. Yes, it was frustrating trying so many different types and yes, it was frustrating having to build up and let down from each type, but it was 110% necessary in finding what was right for me.
I found that I didn’t feel much with Prozac and my doctor switched me to Lexapro, which felt much better. After a while, I was feeling better and came off of the Lexapro, only to move onto Celexa about a year later. Three years on Celexa and I felt my anxiety and my OCD increasing due to circumstances I was dealing with and was then switched to Zoloft in June of this year. Some of these medications treated depression only while some treated both depression and anxiety and some even treated OCD. It can be discouraging and it can take a long time, but the importance of working with your doctor to find what is right for you is immeasurable for your mental health.
2. You can be on more than one medication at once
Just a few weeks ago, I was prescribed Abilify. What’s Abilify? Well…”It can treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and Tourette syndrome. It can also treat irritability associated with autism.” (First Databank).
So. Imagine my reaction when my psychiatrist ordered that up for me.
Yeah. Nick gets it.
I was initially taken aback because I hadn’t even realized the severity of the problems I had described to my psychiatrist including intense mood swings, major irritability and anger, and was beginning to adopt some violent tendencies. In my case, the Zoloft was given to me for my anxiety and depression and the Abilify was given to me to help with my mood swings.
It’s been one week, as of me writing this anyway, that I have been on both and so far so good. At least…I haven’t punched any walls in 7 days, so it’s a start. (LOL is my humor coming across? I mean, it’s true, I’m not lying about the wall punching, but I’m trying to make my reality digestible for my readers).
3. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATION WITHOUT CONSULTING YOUR DOCTOR FIRST
This was easily the biggest mistake I’ve made when it’s come to my meds. After a year of being on Lexapro, I felt I was in a good place. I wasn’t feeling as down, my anxiety was mostly under control, and I felt like I didn’t need that “crutch” anymore. (PS, taking meds is NOT a crutch. That’s just how I felt about it at the time). So, without consulting my doctor first, I stopped taking my medication, cold turkey.
Yikes. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.
The side effects I experienced from this stupid decision were debilitating. I was off of work for almost an entire WEEK. I was dizzy, I was nauseous, I couldn’t see straight, I had cold sweats…I was literally coming down off of a drug that my body had come to depend on.
So please – if you ever get to a point that you want to stop your meds, that is fantastic and can be such an empowering feeling, but don’t do it alone or without a professional.
4. When you first start medication, it’s helpful to be seeing a therapist as well
Your therapist knows you best when it comes to your mental health. If you are considering taking medication, I would suggest starting with regular therapy sessions first so you know what you are treating and why. It was helpful for me to talk about my problems out loud and how I felt about those problems to really understand the ins and outs of my mental health and what might help me overcome some of the struggles.
If you start medication, continue to see your therapist, or start seeing one. I cannot encourage this enough as it almost feels necessary to have someone go through it with you who can see and hear the progress you’re making, or in some cases with the wrong meds, taking steps backward. Seeing a therapist is both a safety net and a teacher. They are there to catch you and they are there to push you forward. If you feel uncomfortable being on meds for the first time or need someone to talk through it with, your therapist will be your go-to.
5. You are not going to be labeled as a crazy person for taking medication to help with your mental health
Sometimes I am definitely that one friend, but it’s not because I’m crazy!
When I was 20 and first prescribed medication, I was so adamant about not wanting to take it because I didn’t want to be “a crazy person”. I didn’t want others to know and I didn’t want to have to think of myself in that way every day. Honestly, I think this came down to a maturity issue. As we grow, both physically and mentally, we pretty much learn to give the finger to what anyone thinks of us and we start to do what is right for ourselves. At 25, I’m not even the least bit ashamed of being on medication and in fact, as I’m obviously writing this, I’m completely transparent about it! There are so many people in this country who are in the same position as I am and I eventually came to realize I could overcome the stigma surrounding antidepressants. The funniest part is, we enable the stigma ourselves.
I sincerely hope this brings some relatable comfort to at least one person reading this. I hope it also opens the minds of others to consider their own mental health and what is right for them.
Until next time,