Mental health

Back on medication – have I failed?

Some of you will know, this time last year I was gradually coming off my psychiatric medication. I’d been on medication most of my adult life, I was still in therapy but I felt it was the right time to give it a go. If you’ve been on medication a long time it can be hard to tell if you still need it. The only way to be sure is to try coming off them in a controlled way and see if symptoms return. I did this, I came off everything very gradually, keeping a careful track of how I was feeling and what thoughts I was having. Soon after, my therapy came to an end and all seemed to be going well.

Unfortunately, my physical health in 2016 has taken a bad turn. I’ve had to see specialist after specialist as one organ system after another started going wrong. I was having numerous tests, appointments and procedures. For a time I was managing to keep positive and take it in my stride but there was only so much I could take and I started noticing symptoms of mental illness creeping back in. In an appointment with my GP I was updating her on all the hospital appointments I’d had and talking about test results etc, I was trying to hold it together but eventually the tears started falling. I then explained the other symptoms I was struggling with.

female resting head on hand

We had both been keeping an eye on my mental health as it’s common for physical health problems to take their toll on ones mental health and so at this point we discussed going back on medication. I felt disappointed about the prospect but I made the tough decision to give it a go and see if it could help. Starting on a low dose, of course, and stepping it up gradually until I felt a benefit.

Initially this felt like a failure, I’d worked so hard to remain stable but I’ve managed to re-frame how I see it and I now don’t see it as a failure. In fact, noticing my symptoms and flagging up the problems earlier rather than later is an achievement for me. If the chemicals in my brain are out of balance again, surely it’s sensible to try and put this right? My old habit was to ignore it for as long as possible and hope it would sort itself out but this landed me in hospital too many times! If someone breaks their leg, you don’t expect them to walk around on it, ignoring the pain, we’d all advise them to have it x-rayed and put in plaster. It’s the same with mental illness, it’s important to find the right treatment.
Fortunately, this time, it seems we’ve spotted the signs early enough and the medication is helping.

Like all medications it’s important you’re not on them if it’s not necessary. We’ve all heard about the antibiotic crisis, over treating can have a devastating effect. It is important that anti-depressants and the like are not taken lightly without thinking about therapy and lifestyle changes as well. Also, we need to give careful consideration to any unwanted side effects. It’s also been much trickier for me this time as we’ve had to consider the interactions with all the physical health medication I’m now taking.

I do not want to be on psychiatric medication longer than necessary so when things settled down I will consider coming off them again. Unfortunately, this doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon. But, I’m not going to beat myself up or apologise for putting my hand up and saying “I need some additional support just now”.


01/02/2017 at 05:11

I’m really looking forward to reading more of your blog. I just started back on my anti-depressants today, and here I find your post, with all of the same thoughts going on in my head… Thanks again – keep doing what works best for you. Be well <3

02/02/2017 at 12:08

It’s good to be aware that medication doesn’t have to last forever. For people like myself, who have bipolar, it is a lifelong protocol but for many other’s it isn’t. People with debilitating anxiety may need medication until they learn skills to handle it without medication, but then some may need it always. the same goes with depression and other issues.
Allowing yourself additional help is a far wiser place to be then stubbornly not doing what would help, just because of principle. 🙂

    02/02/2017 at 21:33

    I know people with bipolar and schizophrenia who have developed management techniques that do not include medication, the diagnosis does not determine whether medication is needed for life. With all illnesses, physical and mental, my point it, medication is just part of the picture, it should not be seen as better, worse, greater or inferior. Just as lifestyle changes shouldn’t been ignored either! People with physical illnesses are (sometimes/often) all too ready to pop a pill rather than change their lifestyle but I’m thinking that’s a story for another blog!

      03/02/2017 at 00:53

      That’s so true. But sometimes it isn’t the persons fault. There are a lot of people in health care who would rather give out pills then education. Some people simply don’t know how to live a healthy lifestyle sad to say. Interestingly, the VA has comes leaps and bounds in that area and have an entire program dedicated to teaching people how to care for themselves better through food and exercise. When I was in school they had health education. I don’t know if they have that anymore. If they don’t it’s too bad. They ought to have nutritionist education in middle school and again in high school. That would give young people at least a chance when they venture out on their own.

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