I am sitting here looking at my computer with a bowl of broccoli cheese soup on one side of the keyboard, and an extra large cup of sweet tea on the other. Every time I reach for either and attempt to eat or drink them, I end up with most of it staining my shirt. The cause, a simple tooth root extraction, and the numbing effects of drugs that do nothing else but make it hard to eat. The medicine could at least give you pretty pictures to look at in the sky; but no, comparatively it is a rather benign group of drugs they shoot into your gums.
My teeth are falling out of my head. For most people, at least 3 out of 4, this would be an alarming trend that costs thousands and leaves behind only the pain of dentures. For me, its rather normal.
I live in a world where taking medication each and every day is a necessity. Currently I take eight pills a day, a significant reduction from just six months ago. It is a necessary evil for all us in the mental health world. It is what it is, and if we want to create for those around us some semblance of normalcy it is important. We are required to take the drugs, take them on time and take them with a smile on our face.
What is harder to bear, then this job that we must do, is the acknowledgment of the consequences of these drugs. I have to take my medications because a group people don’t think I am either capable or able to function without them. And I have to live with the often costing and painful side effects, because the alternative is too scary for those we love to contemplate.
I have been taking mental health medication since I was nineteen, and you are just going to have to take my word for it, this is a really long period of time. Yes, I took breaks during those years when I refused help, and yes, there are many different drugs I have tried and taken throughout this period. But one constant runs through it all, the cost of taking medication that directly affects the brain which we need to live.
I want to list some of the side effects of a lifetime of taking these medications. I will miss some and others won’t seem that bad; but they all come from a world that I never signed up to live in. They come from a group of medications that those who think they can understand mental health believe to be the best for me.
Some of the side effects: well, my teeth are falling out of my head. I actually don’t have the majority of teeth in my head anymore. Most have simply crumbled. There’s the not being able to eat because I literally have lost the power to know or even feel if I am hungry or full. One of my favorite’s is the dry mouth – a horrible feeling of having zero spit in your mouth, white looking foam coming from the corners, and a literal fight to actually speak through it. Dry mouth requires you to walk around, everywhere, with a drink in your hand just to make it. Then there is the medicine that makes you sleep and the medicine that wakes you up. There is the poor skin, I typically look like a high schooler the night before prom. There is the yelling, the snapping, the occasional uncontrollable fear, the dirty looks from everyone including doctors and friends, and let us not forget all the other medication we can’t take because of the ones we already deal with. Or let’s talk about the loss of memory…the loss of beliefs that once compelled you to stand so tall.
I learned long time ago that I don’t take medication for myself. I don’t dutifully take those pills every morning and evening so that I can feel better – the medicine doesn’t actually work that way (surprised doctors?). I take those pills for those around me. I take those pills so that I can take my children to school and not worry when people find out and begin to treat me horribly. I take those pills because my mother, my father, my husband, truly believe that they cure the demons inside of me. I have never had the heart to teach them differently.
The truth that most of us know is that these medications don’t actually fix, cure or otherwise change the way our brain works – we just like for you to believe it. The truth that every pill popper knows is that these medications don’t really take the voices away; it might make it harder to reach those voices but they are there. These medications really don’t take the anxiety away, they allow us to relax enough to handle the anxiety ourselves. These pills don’t actually take the mental disease and make it dormant; these pills make it really easy to pretend that it is.
I have never felt that it was lying to look into the eyes of my doctor and make them believe that the voices, the darkness has receded. I have always assumed that it was for their own good. And while it is harder to lie to a husband you live with, with practice you can still find ways. And you must find ways in order to retain that part of you that fully exists.
I hate naïve idiots who look me in the eye and say that medication doesn’t change who I am: yes, it does and nope, it doesn’t. If you look at the label, it actually is meant to do just that. I hate naïve doctors who believe that speaking to them for one hour and receiving meds in the process is somehow going to fix that which the sufferer doesn’t believe is broken. Ask any true sufferer of mental disease what part they enjoy the most, and it won’t be the calm, easy going, and twittering little person that these doctors seem to want most.
The medications absolutely cause more pain, more frustration, more simple hatred than anything this disease has ever given me. I know with every level of my heart that I am a thousand times more likely to kill myself on the medications than if I got the help that I actually deserved. Scare you – if it doesn’t than that’s because you already knew.
I find myself on days like this, when my mouth is in a great deal of pain, when I am snapping at my children because of that pain, and the utter disbelief that I have to go through this again, trying to remind myself that those pills everyone wants me to take can make it better for them. I try to recall that I am not here to make myself feel better but those who profess to love me; simply because my world lacks an amazing amount of love. Which came first, the chicken or the eggs?
Being mentally ill means that you give up the freedoms so many take for granted. Not only the freedom to be who and what you are, but also the freedom from horrible pain caused by these drugs. Being mentally ill means you don’t get to find love within yourself but you have to beg it from others. Being mentally ill means that no matter where you go or who you meet, the side effects of these drugs guarantees that you will lose many more times than you will ever win.
And yet tonight I will take them. Because somewhere along the way I realized that despite the disease in my brain, I still need love and I still need acceptance. I still simply need.