Now that I’m in recovery I really struggle with taking medication. Any type of medication. Tylenol? Nope. Ibuprofen? Forget it! Cough medicine? HA! I think not! However, there is one type of medication that I take adamantly on a daily basis, my mental health meds.
Your medication for mental illness is not something you should skip or come off of on your own. If you really think you should come off those meds please please consult your doctor and taper off slowly and safely. Some of the worst withdrawals I’ve ever had were from anti-depressants. Now, I used to hate taking my meds because I thought it made me a “psych patient”, however, I quickly learned that it actually makes me a normal person. With depression there is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Serotonin and Dopamine are not produced normally so we require medication to make up for it. Those two molecules are basically what gives you happiness and motivation. That’s why, when a depression episode hits, I have a really hard time doing what I should be doing. I simply want to lie in bed and disappear. I have zero motivation to get up and move. I don’t clean, I don’t shower, I don’t eat, I can’t do anything, and there is literally a physiological reason for that. My brain doesn’t produce the right things to give me the motivation and happiness I need, which in turn leads to extreme fatigue because even though I don’t have the motivation I still have to socialize, go to work, perform my normal daily activities, and literally force myself to do basic stuff. It’s exhausting! Depression is very much a physical disease! When someone has cancer or diabetes people don’t expect them to overdo it. They encourage them to take it easy and slow. They would be shocked if this patient attempted to run a full marathon in between their cancer treatments. However, with people who have mental illness we are expected to do the same things that all other people do. There are some days where it just isn’t possible. Sometimes I will give myself an hourly limit per day as to what I’m capable of. For example, if I’m having a rough day it may be only a four hour day. That means, I may only be productive and present for four hours. There are other days where I feel like I have a full eight or even ten hours of “life” in me. However, some days I barely make it an hour. We have to learn to allow ourselves some time to recoup after a long day, and we really need to forgive ourselves when we beat ourselves up for not keeping up with others. They don’t have your illness, so for them an eight hour day is totally feasible. This disease is why I take medication daily, and that is OKAY!
There is such a terrible stigma attached to not only mental health, but also to taking medicine for mental health. People won’t talk about it, and I know many people who suffer alone without any medication because they’re afraid what others might think, or they’re afraid of the side effects. I get it, I do, but I also know that without my meds I would be a completely different person. We have to help cut down on this stigma, and I’ve found a great way of doing that is by speaking out and encouraging others to look into things like therapy, medication, etc. A lot of people seem to think that if they don’t talk about their mental illness it means they don’t really have it. Nope, not how it works. It’s still there. I know medicine doesn’t fix everything, and some people who have depression seem to function fine without it, but if you feel you need medication please seek the advice of a doctor. Don’t let what other people think be the deciding factor in whether or not you take a pill each day. If you had high blood pressure or heart disease you would take daily meds. This is no different.
As a recovering addict my mental health meds are the only pills I take now, and I’m perfectly okay with that. My mental health meds are literally a part of my recovery, just like my therapy appointments, yoga, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, journaling, meditation, reading, etc. Being dual diagnosis (an addict who also has a mental illness) I know that if I don’t keep my mental health in check then a relapse will not be far behind. My addiction and mental health literally go hand-in-hand. If one gets bad the other gets worse. So please, know that it is perfectly okay to take medicine for a mental illness. You can do this. We’ll do it together! I have faith in you. Stay strong!
Sometimes life gets you down, and it’s so difficult to get back up. For me this has happened more than once in my life, and as recent as last year. A brief recap of my story:
I’ve struggled with addiction, depression, and bipolar disorder for many years and in 2012 I attempted to take my own life. Thankfully the Universe/Spirit/My Higher Power/God had other plans. I got the help I needed and went on to an amazing four years of wonderful sobriety and spiritual growth. However, in 2016 I began drinking extremely heavily and continued this path for two years. In 2018 I ended up drunk on my porch with a gun in my hand, yet again in the same situation as in 2012. Luckily my family intervened and I again got help. My joy was not long lasting as not even two months later I relapsed on pain medicine. This began a very dangerous and scary downward spiral that led to losing a job (again), being arrested four times within a month (DUI x2, Public Intox x2), and totaling four vehicles. I had come to the conclusion that depression and addiction were bound to kill me so I would let it. On December 15th 2018 I took my last few pain pills, got in my car, and began to drive home. I didn’t make it. I nodded off at the wheel and flipped my car three times knocking myself unconscious. Spirit (my Higher Power) was definitely watching out for me because the people driving behind me that night just happened to be two fourth year medical students at our local university. They pulled me from the vehicle and tended to my wounds until help arrived. The only thing I remember is sitting in the back of the patrol car, crying. The State Trooper, assuming I was upset about my car, assured me that I could buy another vehicle. My response? “I’m not mad about the car! I’m mad that I survived! I wanted to die, I should be dead!” There was so much anger and pain in my voice that the officer allowed me to be released on an OR Bond and go home versus sitting in jail. I managed to bruise multiple bones, broke a finger, and had a large incision in my head that required nearly 20 stitches. I was still angry. After all this time this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to go, but somehow I had survived. I told myself it would’ve been easier on family and friends if I had died in a car wreck. I would no longer be around to be a burden. I would be gone and they could move on with life. I was NOT in a place mentally and spiritually that I needed to be, and because of that I saw myself as nothing but a burden. Not long after this the court proceedings began and I had already started the task of finding a rehab center to go to. However, deep down I still didn’t want to go. I wasn’t ready to quit and I still wanted to die. I didn’t want to get help because that would mean fighting for a life that I deemed worthless. From that last night of using to April 2019 when I went to rehab I was fighting my recovery. Even after rehab I still struggled with wanting to die. I had stopped eating, had lost around 50lbs, and had to talk myself out of suicide on a regular basis. I remember one night standing in front of my mirror, tears running down my face, and something in me begged me to keep going. To be strong, and to hold on. Something came through that night and I FINALLY began to fight for my life. I had gone nearly six months not caring if I died, and even wanting to, but now something had changed. This entire time I had been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, but I was simply acting like I cared about myself. My mental health was terrible, my addiction was still strong, and going back and forth to court was absolutely tearing me apart. However, around this time was when I finally let go of my addiction and stopped fighting my recovery. I had been turned down by 10 rehab centers, but I finally got the help I needed and something had managed to sink in. I was literally faking it to make it, and I had made it. Between rehab and NA meetings something someone said made a difference. I had finally surrendered and no longer wanted to die.
I just celebrated a year clean and sober on December 15th of this year, and it was incredible. I still struggle on a regular basis, but I am also much more open about it with those around me. My NA support system and my family have made it possible for me to maintain strength to get through each day. Some days are extremely difficult, and some days aren’t, but I haven’t used and that’s the most important part. My spiritual journey has become so much stronger, and I am truly connected with my Higher Power (whom I choose to call Spirit). Life is not always flowers and rainbows. Sometimes it’s storms and darkness, but like I’ve learned in my Buddhist studies, nothing is permanent. Over the past year I’ve attempted to write a blog post multiple times but couldn’t bring myself to even care enough to do so. Yet, here I am sitting at my computer and pouring my heart out to strangers on the internet hoping that my struggle can help someone else, or maybe sharing my pain will help me to heal. I’ve always been a firm believer in talking things through. I am on a new path with a new destination and I refuse to give up. I ask you to join me on my journey and I look forward to sharing it with you 🙂
P.S. I will get back to my regular format of shorter posts from here on out. If you’re like me then you probably don’t have the attention span to read long posts lol. I normally try to keep mine around 500 words or less (even though this one is around 1000) 🙂
***IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS SUFFERING FROM SUICIDAL IDEATION PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP. BELOW IS THE NUMBER FOR THE SUICIDE HOTLINE: