For this post, I wanted to delve into the medications that those with mental diseases are faced with. Medications are a weird combination of a miracle and a master. On one hand the relief and sometimes, sheer numbness they can bring is a wonderful gift; on the other hand a newbie will often struggle fiercely with these.
It took me seven, really excruciating and long years to find a cocktail of medications that would work. And even after the two years that I have taken this medication combination, I know that it won’t work forever. I know without a shadow of a doubt that there will come a day when my doctors are going to have to change one or more of my medications in order to stabilize me once again. It’s the miracle and it is the master.
I, like many with serious mental diseases, take a handful of pills a day. No one pill will work. Some make me too high, some pull me too low, and some make it so I can’t function in my daily life (I literally walk, talk, and think like a zombie). So I take a combination of pills; and because I take some serious pills not only is it an absolute pain every time my insurance changes (there are forms and then more forms, and then a doctor involvement, and then more forms) but they require many hoops to actually get each month. You can’t simply go up to a pharmacist and ask for them. (And when there is a new pharmacist, that doesn’t know me, the stress skyrockets.) Without insurance my pills run between $500 – $700 a month, and they aren’t the kind of medications I can just stop taking because I need money to feed my children.
Realizing you have a mental disease is never an easy process; and certainly is never completely settled in one’s mind. There is hardly ever a sense of relief or happiness that you have been diagnosed, and there is ALWAYS (read that word again) a fight when it comes to the medication. Like most newbies, I went through a period where I decided I was doing so well, I didn’t need the medication anymore – and I fell so hard and so fast that I found myself with a knife in one hand and a shattered world in the other. Before you scoff or try to roll your eyes about the feelings of not needing medication, realize first that nearly all patients are going to go through it, and second, no matter what the reasons are a newbie will feel this way. Can’t get around that truth.
For me, I thought of the meds like I thought of aspirin. As long as I had a headache, I needed the pills. Once the headache went away, I didn’t need the pills. Unlike headaches though, it never even occurred to me that the reason I was doing so well was because of the pills (never entered my mind). Then there was the time they gave me meds that made me feel like a zombie, like I had no feelings whatsoever. I still struggle with this, especially with the increase in my writing. The writing I produce when I am not on my meds is so much richer, is so much more beautiful than the writing I produce when I am full of the chemicals. The difference is so marked, I can see it from a distance of a thousand miles.
Medication is crucial to a bipolar’s survival. There is no getting around that fact (sorry, Tom Cruise). It is not simply a truth perpetuated by doctors and the insurance industry to make you spend money (sorry, John Travolta) and it is not an option for anyone with a mental disease. Get it out of your child’s head now.
My mother tried to make the parallel between diabetes medicine and the bi-polar meds; and it was an argument that did not work for me. I have been told that if I had cancer I would take the drugs, and again that argument didn’t work for me. Nothing could actually convince me the importance of taking my medicine until I had something in my life that was more important to me than my own life; the safety and well-being of my children.
As a parent this is another area of mental disease that you don’t have much control. When I tried to OD, my mother and husband were able to keep the meds out of my hands and control how much I was taking (no matter how hard I tried to look); but they do not have the ability to know that I am taking the drugs. They don’t know when I have skipped a pill, when I have run out, when I am about to run out, or even when I just throw the pill away.
My only advice, since I know what your child is going through, and I know that at some point they are going to reject the pills is to tell you there are only two options. Watch. Watch the behaviors, the patterns and the falls. When your child is taking the medicine for extended periods of time, and abruptly stop taking them, you probably can see it. And second, keep preaching. Keep preaching how important those medicines are even when your child doesn’t want to hear it. Maybe someday, that message will get through.
Ultimately, your child has to make a conscious decision to take the medication. You can’t take it for them, and despite what you sometimes wish, you can’t stuff it down their throat. They will play with the medication to suit themselves, and they will do so without the advice of a doctor. And while this can be hands down lethal, there is no easy miracle, nor is there a pill that can take it all away. It is only one of the thousands of downsides of this disease.
For information, or advice as the case may be, on medication usage during pregnancy, stay tuned.