The Psychiatric Medication Misconception

When People’s Lives Depend on it

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There’s a misconception that taking medication to treat mental health defines weakness, the inability to function or that you’re less than equal. There are those of us who experience mental illness who believe this myth and cower to the rumors. We opt not to get the help we need because we feel ashamed. We choose a lower quality of life than we deserve in order to surpass judgement.

This is bullshit.

I’m the only one who gets to decide my quality of life. It’s my human right. I’ve struggled with mania and depression my entire adult life. I’ve experienced long periods of panic attacks, anxiety and agoraphobia.

My experience is not caused by a lack of coping. It’s genetics. I’m predisposed. My mother died from opioid abuse and my father self medicated his bouts of rage with child abuse.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health the life expectancy rate for those who experience mental illness is anywhere from 14 to 32 years less than the general population.

This is a big deal. This is huge. This is not a misconception. This is fact.

If given the opportunity to improve my quality of life and perhaps even extend the quantity then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to fight. I’m going to take medication. I’m going to eat healthy, exercise, participate in talk therapy and do what I need to do regardless of the naysayers or the opinions of those who don’t walk in my shoes.

I need to do what I believe is right for me.

Medication has been a total savior and game changer in my life. It wasn’t too long ago when I refused to try medication and wouldn’t accept that I need it. I believed the misconceptions, the rumors and judgement but once I realized I was spending the majority of every day utilizing coping skills to feel better I knew it was time for help. My life was passing me by.

I also didn’t realize how bad I truly felt until the medication took effect. Then I was like, Why did I not try this sooner? Because I should have. I should have given myself a chance years before I did.

Every individual has their own experience and genetic make up. Where one medication may work for some, it might not work for others. It’s a great deal of trial and error.

It took several medications until I found what worked best for me. There where side effects with each one I tried. When unbearable I went back to my doctor to try another. What was bearable I stuck with it and got passed it.

They certainly were not bad enough to cause me to stop taking medication altogether. After a few weeks the side effects subsided for the most part.

I now take Lexapro for the depression. I experience bouts of depression more often and for longer periods than mania. I take Klonopin. It helps reduce the naturally spun negative energy and insomnia.

I tried a mood stabilizer for a year, Lamictial but I didn’t feel any different. I opted to be weaned off. There’s no sense in taking more medication than needed if it’s ineffective.

I would be willing to try another mood stabilizer. Lamictial just may not have been a good fit for me. For right now I feel okay with what I’m taking. Should that change however, I’m ready and willing.

Some may say that taking chemical medication can take years off my life, and that’s true but no more so than taking any type of medication for any type of illness. Taking psychiatric medication is no different than taking medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, diabetes and so on.

We live in a society where it’s more acceptable to be physically unhealthy than to experience mental health issues. Why is that? Why are we not concerned with our physical health and even less with our mental health?

While there is great debate that Benzodiazepines are over prescribed in America, in 2016 an estimated 15 million Americans used over the counter heartburn medication while there were only 8.1 million Benzo prescriptions reported.

Both medications have harmful effects when used long term.

Medication is certainly not a cure-all but it’s lifted the weight so when I do utilize coping skills they are more helpful and I no longer find myself investing every day focusing on getting through the day. I have room to breathe.

The reality is, those who experience mental illness deserve to live the same quality of life as those who do not. I would never judge some one on a daily regime of antacids, although better eating habits and stress management could help with that depending on the circumstances, but it’s not my place to say.

Experiencing Bipolar Disorder can take up to 20 years off my life. The possibility of that is far more harmful to me than judgement. I’m not weak. I’m stronger for doing everything in my power to live a healthy life.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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