Medication, a word that is heard every day with COVID and the need to find a treatment for it. So why is it ok for us to talk about medication for that virus? But not that of a mental illness. I am open with my mental health struggles but never (until last week), spoke about the fact I was on medication. Why? I am not really sure. Shame, embarrassment, stigma, fear, all of the above.
I will share some details on the medication I am taking but not go into the specific dosage or brands as it is unique for everyone what works. I am on a mix of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which help with my day to day anxiety and depression. I have been on these for the best part of two years. They definitely helped lift me out of the fog. I am also taking sustained or modified release beta blockers, which again help my anxiety and panic attacks. Previously, I’d been on standard release beta blockers, but found I wasn’t taking them at the exact right time or dosage and not getting the desired effect. I was having to make a decision about if I was anxious enough to take one of the three doses I was allowed daily. Switching to a daily dosage has left me feeling more calm overall and less worried. Now I just take one dosage a day, regardless of mood. I’ve also had a significant decrease in panic attacks, from one or more a week, to less then one a month. It’s nice not spending quite as much time on my floor shaking or crying.
I do want to open up about my journey on the meds and how they have impacted me. The start was scary, I had years ago refused to take medication but knew the time was right that I needed help to align the chemicals in my brain and get away from the fog, but also to stop the negative and anxious thoughts. The first few days were fine, I felt no different. Cue a few days later and nausea would hit every afternoon like clock work. I’d sit at work hugging myself, as my body seemed to overheat, sweat and leave me feeling sick to my stomach. A warm milky drink seemed to be the only thing that would combat it. Eventually the side effects did disappear, however I do still notice an affect on my heart rate when exercising, which makes sense given I am on heart rate medication. If you suffer with anxiety, you will know the spikes of heart rate when you start having anxiety overload. Whenever I change dosage I do still have a few days of this nausea but I now know to expect it and not be worried by it.
Medication doesn’t just work first time. With the help of my doctor I have changed dosage and tablets a couple of times. After a bad episode, I needed to change meds. One thing I did learn from this, is that you can return unused medication to a pharmacy without question and they will safely dispose of it. The kindness the staff at my local pharmacy showed will always stay with me. I now see them weekly to get my meds.
I’m not sure how long I will be on the meds and that is okay. I need them to help me at the minute and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. I sort of enjoy the routine of getting the medications and laying them out in this pill container for each day. It’s my way of feeling in control. Although the lack of ‘nice’ medication containers I found intriguing. We all know how I like pretty things and I was surprised by just how little products were out there. Definitely a place in the market for more nice designs. I personally don’t want the industrial looking ones!
I am fully aware that maybe one day I won’t need the meds anymore, or I will continue to need them. Either way it will be an ongoing conversation with my doctor. I once forgot to take the tablets for three days and there was a noticeable difference in my behaviour. So you really can’t go cold turkey. It scares me coming off them as much as starting taking them was. Although it’s not something I am considering in the immediate future. Not until the world fully returns to the new normal and we are out of isolation.
The medication has helped me, as has finding therapy that works. It’s a complex balance getting the two right, a bit like balancing a see-saw, one small thing can alter the affects. I’ve now found medication that works for me. So let’s remove the stigma around all medication.