There’s this underlying idea that taking medication for brain disorders is okay if it’s a short term solution. To give your time to sort your life out and get it together and get back on track.
This was the mindset that I had. When I had postpartum depression with my second child I was relived to be prescribed Zoloft. Everything I understood about PPD led me to believe it was a temporary condition that would correct itself once my hormones were balanced and the medication simply let me weather the storm. I didn’t feel shame, though I did feel like I fought the fight and then threw in the towel. But I was okay because this was not going to be forever.
A year later I weaned off Zoloft.
November 2016 I went on Wellbutrin (I didn’t love Zoloft because it made me feel too flat). Again, in my mind this was a temporary fix for a problem directly related to a situation that I needed help weathering. A few months before, in August my long term relationship and marriage to my husband had ended. This was not a “neat” and “tidy” separation. It was “messy” and “enormous” and built on lies, partial truths, deception, anger and hurt. Storms had been brewing between my ex and I for quite a few years. We lost the ability to communicate and rather than coming together to find common ground we became angry, retaliatory and distant. Looking back I can see that my mental illness played a huge part in this break down and of course my ex had his own issues to navigate.
The breakdown event was a trigger for what was diagnosed as Depression, Anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder. A misdiagnosis for Bipolar I disorder, which I wouldn’t uncover for another year and a half. So after fighting the good fight for 3 months I took the meds. This time there was more shame attached and eventually I went back to the Dr. because it wasn’t working. I had Celexa added and then this past January the Celexa was removed and Effexor was added, and Wellbutrin reduced. I was also in counselling. All of this treatment was only going to be short term. Until I got it together, adjusted and accepted my new life as a divorced mom of two.
Except it didn’t get better. It got worse. Much worse.
As it turns out the medication I was taking to treat Anxiety/Depression was making me worse. Because I was misdiagnosed and actually I had Bipolar I disorder. after a correct diagnosis was given my medication was switched to a mood stabilizer. In my case, Lamotrigine. I felt a sense of relief and hope. With a correct diagnosis I could educate myself and learn about the illness. With the correct medication I could take the edge off, get it together, become adjusted and accept my life as a divorced mom of two.
But then she said it.
The psychiatrist on the inpatient mental health floor. “You need to understand that you will need to be on a mood stabilizing medication for the rest of your life. If you come off of it, your manic episodes followed by the crash into depression will return.” I told her I understood but that night I cried myself to sleep.
Pharmaceuticals are bad for us. They are suppose to be a temporary solution until you find the proper diet, exercise, lifestyle, essential oil, meditation, organic food option to actually keep you well. The aren’t suppose to be forever.
But it’s not true. That might be the truth for some people. But the truth is a combination of all of this is wellness.
What works for me works for me and that’s it. I shouldn’t feel shame because I’m going to need a mood stabilizer for the rest of my life. Because it will keep me alive. I may have side effects (brain fog, sleepiness). There may be long term harm caused (I’ve heard it harms your immune system) but the reality is the medication is keeping me alive. It’s taken away all passive and active suicidal thoughts. It is slowing down my brain so when the mania builds and I’m about to make an impulsive decision it gives time for to make more reasonable decision or at the very least turn to my support network.
Don’t assume that because I’m medicated that I’m not allowed to have bad days. I’m still going to have days that are challenging. I’m still going to feel the euphoria of a manic episode going on. The medication will not make Bipolar Disorder disappear. It’s not like an infection that will clear up with a good round of antibiotics. It’s one piece of the wellness puzzle. For me, I need therapy, I need to run and work out, I need to snuggle my dog, I need to journal, I need to sing, I need people – the people who love me because being lonely is a major trigger for my mania. I need a good budget and savings plan. I need to learn boundaries and respect the boundaries I’ve established for myself. I need to write this blog and be upfront and open and honest. I need to become a mental health advocate. All of these things are what will help me manage my illness.
So I’m accepting that being on medication is going to be for the rest of my life. And i’m okay with that.