Medication and Me

I do not advocate for or against medication. I do advocate, however, that individuals should use whatever tools they find helpful in overcoming mental illness. Learn all you can as it is important to understand the reasons behind our choices. If you are taking care of yourself no one should have the power to tell you your choices are wrong. 

I will say that after forty years of taking medication, I have learned first hand of the long term side-effects that none of my doctors told me to expect. Diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, obesity, all severe consequences of medication. Experiencing these first hand, I now advocate that doctors should be held legally accountable for their responsibility of explaining the reason why medication might be necessary, other medication options and even alternatives to medication. We have our own responsibilities, to educate ourselves as to why we are using any particular method and particularly understand why we are using medication. Knowing what I know now, if I had to do it all over again, I would have tried a holistic approach early in my life which would have change my current situation. 

What I do talk about is my life; in my life it is true that medication has played a role in helping me cope with my schizophrenia. This diagnosis has stuck to me over the years. To tell the whole story, my experience was that as I interfaced with different doctors they each diagnosed me differently so that I collected many different labels. Each Doctor liked or disliked different medications and had their favorites. Whether or not I have schizophrenia or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with psychotic features, Schizoaffective disorder, Depression with features or Personality Disorder with features; I always hear the voices no matter what medication I'm on. So the medication does not do what they tell me it is suppose to do which is to stop the voices. 

With a learning curve of forty-plus years I now take, and self-advocate for, the medications that work best for me; the ones that work in my life and not the doctor's favorites. Over the years I have gone off medication with disastrous results and consequences. That is why I continue to take medication: it is not my first choice but it is "my" choice. I now know that I was having horrendous withdrawal from the medication making it impossible to say what I was experiencing was symptoms of schizophrenia.

Please understand the medications they give for mental illness don't cure it; they do mask my symptoms enough so that I can function, advocate for recovery and be creative. Some may say, “Well you are advocating for medication by saying you take medication and find it helpful.”  I’m just saying what my reality is. You should make your own choices.

I have become sensitive to anti-medication folks trying to make me feel guilty for taking medication hammering away with the negative issues of medications. And yes, after looking into it I believe that psychiatrists put people on strong drugs too quickly. Symptoms are medicated without looking at the reasons why the individual is experiencing trouble. Drug companies do have questionable business practices.  It could be and should be much better but I also understand the stress of seeking relief from the scariness of my own thoughts and feelings; medications offered relief. The point being that both sides of the issue are right. There are significant problems with the doctors, the pharmaceutical companies and the way mental health systems use drugs. And the drugs are helpful when used efficaciously and short term. Some people may need medications forever, but many do not, and the system currently does a horrible job at figuring out who's who. 

I've had conversations with people who are just dead-set against psychiatric drugs. What is important to know is that our brain changes its own chemistry and physiology, (its structure) in response to the presence of the toxic drugs. This is true. Then when you might consider going off medication your brain, having mutated, might never overcome its dependence on the drug. This tends to make people forever dependent on medications. Ans this is what happened to me. 

It is important that we should consider this information. Psychiatrists should reevaluate over-prescribing and the practice of jumping to medication before looking at what might be causing the illness. In my life, it was a question of trade-offs. Suffering horrible thoughts and delusions so bad that I might end up dead thinking the laws of physics don't apply to me, or taking a drug perhaps for the rest of my life? I chose medication: for you it might be a different choice but make it an informed choice. That is why I don't advocate for or against medication because each person’s circumstance is different.

What has been undoubtedly essential in my recovery are the “other” tools; stress reduction, eating right, exercise, life-style changes, peer support, etc. These things actually can prevent mental illness and in the case of recovery, help us overcome the debilitating effects of mental illness so much so that it's possible to resume a normal life with just maintenance. There is an ongoing disagreement as to whether we still have the illness or not. It may well be that we have just learned to cope or it may be that if we are coping so well that the condition not longer bothers us - we are well.   

In overcoming my mental illness peer support was the most helpful. Other people with mental illness I came in contact with, over the years, shared with me their experiences and successes in coping with their illness and I used their suggestions successfully. This has always been the case with us, but Mary Ellen Copeland did the verification work required by the medical community, that of collecting evidence that peer support was helping us. She collected the recommendations of peers and published them. Her work morphed into the Wellness Recovery Action Plan WRAP and now it is a widely accepted tool of recovery. 

Medications and me got along over the years to help me achieve recovery but the consequences of the side-effects are severe: of more significance is peer support and wellness education like WRAP. 

 Respectfully yours,

 Marc Jacques - Person in Recovery