I’ve said this over and over and meant it every time: I love psycho-tropic medication. It has literally saved my life and the life of my child. I remember my first experience with those pills. I had come to the doctor because of the unthinkable – I wanted to drown my child. I called the OB-GYN first and she thought I had post-partum depression. She prescribed Paxil. Anyone who knows about bipolar knows this: Paxil is the absolute worst drug for bipolar. It made me fully manic. I was productive, alarmingly so, during the day but at night I was like a demon possessed woman. Images flashing over and over again – those of suicide and murder, horrible things I could not get out of my mind. It was like a pan hitting my head over and over again. I was impulsive, spending almost $2,000 on a vacuum and clothes in a half hour. I spoke at a trillion miles a minute. Through my insurance company I was given a list of therapists.
There was one counselor that thought I had a serious case of post-partum depression and thought she was not equip to handle my situation. There was another counselor who asked me with a guffaw: “What did you think parenting was going to be like?” I never saw her again, and after I called to cancel, she called back and left a soliloquy on my answering machine. Which I deleted half way through. I didn’t have time for that.
Then I met the esteemable Dr. Cheryl Jacque one Saturday. I believe she was there as a favor for my OB. She almost immediately diagnosed me with manic depression. Monday I went to a psychiatrist that verified her observations and agreed with her and that afternoon I went to the hospital. Everyone told me how brave I was. I wondered this: What else were my options? I’d be here, or I’d kill my baby. It seemed simple to me.
So, back to psych meds. They gave me one pill. I took it and waited for the thoughts to return. They were always worse at night. They did come on, but as they rushed in it felt like they hit a brick wall. They gave up quickly. I, who never so much took an aspirin, had fallen in love.
It has been a fight to get them right. I already told you about the full blown mania one drug sent me on. I had other drugs make me have rabbit lips. Others made me go to sleep at inappropriate times. Ambien caused hallucinations. But still I soldiered on. I needed to get well. I took the pills, I didn’t miss counseling sessions and I read most everything I could get my hands on about my illness, alcoholism and depression. It was
I tried everything to get it all right. I worked the insurance to pay for me to go to the Stanford Bipolar Clinic. When they didn’t help I went to their Women’s Wellness Clinic. Their recommendations made me feel terrible (they put me on Yaz, this weird new birth control pill that deals directly with the hormones related to the menstrual cycle.) I had good counseling but not so great medical care.
When I moved to the place I live now I met with a Dr. M. He and I were not a good fit. He did not allow me access to my medical records. We played a little bit with the meds, and my brain almost completely turned off. One of the mood stabilizers over stabilized my mood. I was literally wiping drool from my mouth. I’d stare into space and not be able to stop. One time I came in as suicidal as is possible to be – I really belonged in the hospital. He told me he was worried about me, didn’t change anything about my meds, and told me he’d see me in two weeks. He had to go.
I found someone else in a suburb of our mid-sized city. It was about a 20 minute drive, but I’m from the Bay Area so that’s nothing for me. The office staff was all women, about 3/4 of which were from Pakistan, including the doctors. Dr. H took one look at me and said, “You’re on psychotropic medication, I could tell from the moment you walked in.” She gave me cogentin and told me to double it if it didn’t save me from this Zombie-like state.
I told her about some other symptoms I had that wouldn’t go away. I had taken a quiz off of psychcentral.com and it identified me as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She gave me a prescription which began to work almost immediately. I no longer ‘had’ to check my keys five times from the door to the car. I no longer ‘had’ to skip every crack on the sidewalk (who wants to break their mom’s back?). My obsessive thoughts were cut in half. It was like going on a cerebral vacation.
Things were still not perfect and I discussed these feelings with her as well. She suggested I had ADHD and I told her I didn’t. My husband has ADHD so I knew what it looked like. Turns out I didn’t. I took the test and scored in the highest subset. I was prescribed yet another, yet my last, pill.
Like I said before, I was anti-meds for a long time. Now I ask, why? This was borne of ignorance. I went through a very difficult spot right after I married and was advised by the lay counselor I worked with over and over again to go get some medication. I went to work, but when I came home I went almost directly to bed and cried. But I wanted to do it all without meds! And I did! The cycle swung and I went back to “normal” then back to “manic” and then back to “depression.” But I suffered horribly with out meds! I didn’t know what they could do for me, or anyone else and now I see that it’s a very important, useful thing – there is no need to suffer – I’m not proving anything to any body and what I do or take is nobody’s business except for mine, my families, and sort of yours. I can’t believe I was able to graduate high school, let alone a prestigious University without the benefit of these drugs. If I didn’t have them I believe I’d live the rest of my life in an institution.
The other day, a Tuesday, I was struggling with awful thoughts. I mused that it was going to be very difficult for my daughter to live the rest of her life knowing that her mother died by her own hand. I had strange sexual thoughts. I was really angry at a certain person. My whole body felt weird.
I got home, it was about 11 in the morning. I had to take my ADHD medicine and on a whim I thought I’d check my pill box. Sure enough, I had missed my morning pills. I took them and within the hour my destructive fantasies were gone. My thoughts were free to be mindful, logical, and balance my emotions. I could think about things without other thoughts crashing in to them.
I was reminded how important my meds are to my life. If I didn’t have meds the chance are I would have died years ago. They’re important for me as part of my healing and essential part of my life. This doesn’t make me weak: In fact, it makes me stronger. I am able to make it on 8-9 hours of sleep instead of 10-11. I can parse my feelings to identify so much about why I’m feeling and how I’m feeling and able to go from there instead of being explosive, uncontrollable or just plain mean. Of course, I’m not always calm, gentle and reasonable, but it’s a lot easier to get there. If I’m angry about something (most of the political things you send me) I’m properly angry, I’m not just reacting to the chemicals in my brain.
And that, my friend, is the story of why I love medication. I have not always had great experiences with it, but I knew that it had to be an integral part of my healing and I did not give up. I’m not perfect and the combo I’m on is not perfect. I’ve had to choose from a chance at happiness from a dry mouth that never goes away. I’ve chosen to take my chances.
P.S. Thank you thank you thank you to my friends who have been so positive about this blog. Please feel free to pass it along to anyone and everyone who might like to read it.