Should I Take this Medication?

It is quite reasonable for you to have some concerns about taking medications / drugs. You might feel they are a final admission that really is something wrong with you – that you really may have mood swings. They may make you nauseous or cause occasional blurred vision or have other side effects that interfere with your work or leisure activities or sleep. They may change the way you feel. They may have long term effects on your health. You might worry whether you want to be taking medication for a long while. Or you might just not like taking pills, you know, because.

However, you didn’t end up on my website or at the psychiatrist or the doctor because your life was fine. Something is going wrong or went wrong somewhere and you are trying to find the problem(s) and resolve them. You’ve been told that perhaps you are bipolar or depressed and you’ve been given some pills. Now you are deciding 

Well okay, you might not feel you are manic depressive. But are you sure of it? It might be worth checking to find out if the pills do make your life better? Remember you can always stop taking them later on if you so choose to. I agree that you probably have other options of trying to sort your life out, but at the moment you do have the medications and now is as good as any other time to try to see if they work. If they don’t, then you can explore your other options.

I am not saying that the medication is a cure all, or inherently a good thing, because it isn’t. But you owe it to yourself to know all the options you have available.

To be honest, I am not one of the people who thinks you should take medication because your psychiatrist prescribed them and you should follow her/his advice. You should at least be able to satisfy yourself that medication works somewhat in making you feel better and more able to handle your life. I do spend a fair amount of time arguing with my psychiatrist about this. Luckily for me, she supports my view and I haven’t experienced the horror stories that some people have written me about.

Here are two reasons you might want to take medication for a while.

You want to find out if the people around you notice a difference when you are on medication.

I remember when I started up on medication, I got comments that ranged from my parents saying that I looked and acted so much calmer than before to friends telling me I was less obnoxious because I did not butt in on conversations any more. The classic comment is from a close cousin who told me “…and now you can even finish your sentences.”

Apparently the differences were not all that subtle either because some people I never told I was on medication volunteered their information without my asking.

The funny part was that I never realised that these problems (a) existed or (b) were problems. But those around me did. And we all thought that they were inherent parts of my character, except the problems disappeared abruptly when I went on medication.

It’s a rather sobering experience to suddenly have some of your faults disappear by taking a pill when you have spent years trying to get rid of them or control them.

Of course some of my cuter quirky habits disappeared too. I didn’t magically become a better person.

The point is that some of your problems may have an underlying medical cause and the medication does help deal with them. I grant that the medication is no magic bullet, but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know if it will help.

Medication can help you see the goal you are trying to attain.

It is worth trying medication at least once. While getting yourself into the mess that you probably are in, your might have lost the ability to remember what “normal” or “calm” or “happy” might mean. I don’t mean it as an abstract concept either, but as the actual sensations of happiness or calm. Most medications will help you to calm down or perk up over a two to three week period and allow you to feel again what it could be like to be somewhat normal.

Before I went on medication I used to be hyper or depressed continually. When I started taking carbamazepine (Tegretol), it altered my behaviour to something approaching ‘normal’. That was an eye-opener because I never realised how odd I really was and how many of the little things that I did and took for granted were NOT normal. I would never have believed that life could be so calm or easy until after I went on medication. I would never have been able to even imagine it since I had never been that way ever before.

So if you stop the medication, for whatever reason you have, you can at least remember what being calm was like and try alternative methods to achieve the same calmer state.

How you feel when you go on medication usually can provide the convincing evidence that there is actually an underlying medical reason for your mood swings. But you might not feel convinced, or you might just not want to be on medication. That’s your choice. If you do decide to stay off the medication for now, remember you can always change your mind later. Don’t let embarrassment or false pride get in the way.

There is one reason that you might not one to be on medication. Just about all the mood stabilising drugs have cautions against taking them while pregnant or while you are trying to become pregnant. If you are considering having children or if you are pregnant talk with your psych about the drugs and pregnancy.

Whatever you do, keep in touch with your psychiatrist. That way in case things go wrong, your psych knows how to handle the situation. If you don’t want to tell your psychiatrist, tell someone close to you so that if anything goes wrong, they can pass on the necessary information.

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