Medication is not an instant solution
We have all heard the stigmatized phrase, “They are off their meds.” For many people suffering from a mental health issue, medicine is a key part in their road to recovery. There are some people who choose not to use medication as part of their recovery support system; for others, medicine helps battle the symptoms of their illness. However, as with most medicines, there are side effects to be considered with these medicines.
Medicine, for me. helps take away enough symptoms so that I can live a fulfilling life with my diagnosis. I am on a combination of two second-generation medicines. This combination of medicines has its side effects. Both cause weight gain, and one of the medicines I am on makes me hungry all the time and no matter how full I am, I will continue to eat. After I was put on this combination of medicine I gained 70 pounds in just over three months. I have to get blood work done annually because of the risk of high cholesterol and diabetes that are associated with these medicines. I have been and should be exercising more to counter the weight gain associated with these medicines.
Another side effect of one of the medicines I take is that it causes drowsiness; it must be taken at night. When I take this medicine. I have about 30-45 minutes until I need to lie down and go to sleep. I have to be careful in that if I take this medicine late at night, it will cause me to sleep later into the morning the next day. I have to be disciplined in taking this medicine at or around the same time every night so that I can wake up at the appropriate time in the morning. When I first went on this medicine, I slept through the days continually for many months. It has taken time to adjust and learn to fight past the fatigue that this medicine brings on.
When I was first diagnosed, it took a year and a half to find the right combination of medicines that worked for me. The doctor would gradually taper me up on a medicine. If the medicine didn’t work. I would be gradually tapered off of that medicine and onto a new medicine that would then be tried. After a year and a half of this, I ended up on the combination that has been effectively working for the past five-plus years. I had only a small “speed bump” in my coverage when one of the medicines I am on went generic. Although they are supposed to be the same medicine, I started to have symptoms come back and eventually I was put back on the brand-name medicine.
Second-generation anti-psychotic medicines are newer medicines that have been recently developed. While first-generation anti-psychotic medicines can produce a higher risk for tardive dyskinesia, which can cause restlessness, tremors and stiffness, the side effects of second generation medicines are weight gain, high blood sugar and high cholesterol.
Although it only took me a year and a half to find the right combination of medicine, could you imagine what someone who is newly diagnosed goes through with the news of their diagnosis and then the roller-coaster effect of trying to find the right medicine or combination of medicines that effectively eliminate symptoms? How frustrating to be battling the illness, then the side effects of medicine, and then the wondering if the medicine will work and help you get back to the life you want to live. After all of that, there is the stigma that is out there about medicine. Medicine is not a crutch to hang onto but more of a boost up to make it where you can live a fulfilling life.
Mindfulness is brought to you by NAMI Montelores, the local NAMI affiliate. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI recognizes that the key concepts of recovery, resiliency and support are essential to improving the wellness and quality of life of all persons affected by mental illness. NAMI provides support, education, and advocacy for individuals and families through community classes, in-service trainings, support groups, and more.
Randy Davis is a member of NAMI Montelores . He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.