I am being completely honest when I say that medications have saved my life before. At times when I was so sick with depression, and suicidal thoughts tempted me every day, the one thing that reliably got me out of this state was medication. Of course I used all of my skills I had learned along the way, but when you’re that far down then you need more than skills.

In my life I have been torn between two worlds: the land of the do things naturally and the land of the try everything possible. I have been swayed greatly by others opinions which is not the reassurance I was seeking nor the final answer for me. In the beginning, I hid that I was starting an antidepressant mainly because I seemed so happy and did not want to break this illusion. But an illusion it was! That first medication made me sleepy and after falling asleep in class (quite peacefully, I might add) I decided that it was too much and shortly came off of it.

I won’t bore you with all of my drug trials over the past 12 years because there have been so many that I lost count.

It’s interesting because the work I do as a Peer Support Specialist has provided me with more insight into mental health yet when it is me who has fallen, I lose this insight. I believe that I am down and depressed because of some catastrophic reason where I have failed and thus, the guilt is crushing me for being so weak. How quick we are to judge ourselves!

I often counsel people with mental health concerns and reassure them of the process, that they will feel better, and especially explaining the neuroscience behind mental illness. Brain science is complicated and not a perfect science (yet) but the explanation of your brain malfunctioning with your neurotransmitters as parallel to your cells malfunctioning causing cancer, has helped immensely with accepting that sometimes medication is not only warranted but beneficial and pertinent to recovery.

Others will not always understand brain science and may lead you down another path. Neither path is wrong, but the medications approved for mental illness have proven very effective for many people, so don’t discount them just because a friend or family member is opposed. I certainly remember my family when I was starting medications where they didn’t understand why I needed them, why I couldn’t just get better without them, which has flipped completely to them pleading with me to try another medication or to not come off of a medication. (I highly recommend that if you are stopping a medication that you do it slowly, with the support of your psychiatrist, and have valid reasons for stopping. I say this because I have gone off medications “cold turkey” before…not sure about the origin of the phrase cold turkey but it sounds like you try to eat the turkey when it’s frozen? Good luck with that!) and my experience was not a pleasant one.

And remember, you didn’t put your hand up for mental illness and say “Choose me!” So cut yourself some slack, do your best to improve your symptoms, because life on the recovered spectrum is so worth investing in!

 

Tips for Using Medications to Improve your Mental Health:

-Do some research on psychiatric medications. There are various classes of medications that work for different mental health concerns so become familiar with what your doctor recommends.

-Come prepared with questions to ask your doctor about different types of medication and what it will mean for you.

-Don’t fall into the google trap where you google the medication and believe every side effect will happen to you. (I personally have a disease, okay it’s fictitious but feels real, where every medication I go on has a side effect that is opposite of most people. Hence, a medication to stay awake made me fall asleep.)

-Tell your doctor about all of your medications and supplements that you use. The interaction between certain medications/supplements can impact the efficacy of another medication.

-Keep an open mind.

-Don’t expect it to work immediately and feel fabulous. (If you do find that miracle drug, please share!)

-Give it a fair trial. Most psychiatric medications take some time to kick in before you notice any changes.

-Don’t give up. If I had given up I wouldn’t be here anymore but in the back of my mind (okay, in a teeny tiny corner) I trusted my doctor to try to make me feel better. Which leads me to the point of:

-Be trusting of your doctor. If you are not compatible, then get a new one that you trust- it’s so vital to your treatment.

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.