Is medication right for you?

meds

I take a frankly ridiculous amount of medication daily. And I am not going to lie and say I enjoy taking them, because I don’t. But each tablet I take was prescribed after careful research and consideration on the parts of both myself and my GP. I weighed up the risks and benefits of each medication, considered if I thought it was worth it (in terms of risk/ benefit), and considered what the next steps would be if this particular medication didn’t work. Both my and my doctor also took into account the fact that the more medications you take, the less predictable the interactions can be.

Medications, however, aren’t always- read usually- the ‘magic cures’ we believe and want them to be. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a magic pill that works for everyone all the time. That is why the decision to start on medications is such a huge one. It can be much more of a long-term commitment than people realise. Of course, there are plenty of lucky ones who find the perfect medicine first time, but for many people finding the right medication or mix of medications at the right dosage takes time. True, most medications we start we don’t need to take for long, but there are plenty that are a longer term commitment. It is also important to note that in terms of antidepressants and similar medications, sometimes you need to take them for a few months or even years before you are able to stop. But it would be a mistake to assume (except in rare cases like meds to stop you rejecting transplanted organs) that you will have to be on these medications for life. Antidepressants are there to help you regain control of your life and the aim is always to be able to live a healthy and productive life without them in the future.

For most people, there will be a medication, or combination of medications, that control and manage their symptoms. Getting to that point is well worth the wait… however it can sometimes be a relatively long journey that involves trying a number of different medications and doses while you are figuring out what works for you. Since some medications can have bad side effects it can be disheartening to discover yet another medication isn’t working for you. I can only urge that you continue looking. It is very important you are honest with your doctor. If the side effects to a medication are unbearable then let them know. It is worth remembering though that in a lot of cases the side effects lessen and eventually disappear once you have been on the medication a while. My personal recommendation (always to be discussed with your GP) is to give the meds 3/4 months before deciding to move on. Unless they make your symptoms worse or you are unable to cope with the side-effects, that is. For minor issues you may well find they disappear with time.

Medications, particularly for mental health issues, are not the only (or even the best) way to help yourself though. These medications are generally there to help you get into a better frame of mind so you can tackle the things that are behind the mental illnesses. This may include counselling or therapy. That, in combination with medications, can often mean a faster and more complete recovery.

For some people, medications are simply not the answer. There are a hundred reasons that could be the case, including simple patient preference. If you don’t want to start medication for whatever reason, please don’t feel like you are powerless. There are still plenty of things you can do to help yourself. Perhaps the most important (and most often overlooked) way to help heal your mind is to heal your body. And I realise that sounds counter intuitive. But doing what you can to eat a healthy diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients will help every aspect of your health, including your brain and mind. Getting exercise releases endorphins (or ‘happy hormones’) that make you feel happy, safe and secure. It is also an excellent way to reduce stress. Getting the proper amount of sleep is also vital to both good physical and mental health. Anyone with insomnia can attest to the fact that a lack of sleep affects everything from memory to stress levels, it slows healing and can lead to a myriad of health issues including heart problems.

This is something I struggle with immensely, but it is also worth remembering keeping a clean and tidy home will also help your mental health. The saying ‘tidy house, tidy mind’ is very true.

Here is the issue… having mental health problems can make doing those things a million times harder than usual- and they aren’t easy to start with. But it is not impossible. A lot of it involves getting the right support around you, so let your friends and family know what your goals are and what they can do to help you achieve them. Love yourself unconditionally. Accept there will be days where you fail or where you just can’t be bothered.. and that is perfectly okay so long as you get up the day after. Don’t give up on yourself, and others won’t give up on you. If you really want to help yourself, there are relatively easy ways in which you can do it, with little cost involved.

Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to take medication is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong answer, and as much as I wish I could… I can’t make the decision for you. The only thing I will say is that if you go down that road then prepare yourself.. it may be a longer road than you want.. but when you get to the right mix you feel like you gained your life back and it is a little bit magical! All I can say is… look after yourselves!

I am not a doctor, and I don’t play one on the internet. As with any medication, it should be carefully discussed with your doctor, and you should do your own research to ensure it is right for you. You are your own advocate so if you don’t feel like something is right, let your doctor know. Trust me, they genuinely want you to feel better and will do whatever they can to make that happen. And just like you should never start a medication without talking to your doctor first, you should NEVER stop taking one without talking to your doctor either. I have seen it a million times where people feel fine so stop the medication that is helping them feel that way, and they have often gone back to square one pretty quickly. If you feel like it is time to come off a medication, particularly one you have been on for a while, it should be done slowly over a number of weeks under close supervision.

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All about Pills

meds

I currently rattle… literally. But I receive so many questions, comments and opinions on the different medications out there that I decided I should write about it. Now I know I say this all the time, but I wont be offering medical advice because I am not a medical professional. I can’t decide what medication, if any, might work for you. I don’t know you. But, having been on various tablets since a fairly young age (about 14 I think) I can offer an opinion on them.

Here is the long and short of it: some medications work for some people, and some medications do not work for some people. I know, I could nearly be a doctor with advice like that. But unfortunately, that is the truth of it. Whilst it would be amazing if one tablet cured everyone, that simply isn’t the case. Now many people don’t know too much about antidepressants and anti-psychotic medications, so it is easier to explain something that all of us have come across a few times in our lives: antibiotics. There are loads of different types, which is brilliant, because they work in different ways. Antibiotics can target specific areas, or your whole body. It will cure some things, but not everything. Some people have bad reactions on them, and some people are fine.

There are some that feel that medications are a sign of weakness. They are not. Nobody thinks twice about telling people their bodies defences have let them down and they are dosed up on paracetamol for a nasty cold. But because of social stigma, amongst other things, stating that you are on medication for mental health problems causes embarrassment and upset, along with probing questions, making the person disclosing such information uncomfortable.

This is another area of prejudice, stigma, naivety, ignorance and misinformation we as a society have a duty to tackle. Fortunately, we are heading in that direction. We are becoming a more open minded society and we now accept there are things we don’t understand, rather than making up strange things to explain it. Which is all brilliant. But there is still a fair way to go, and that is one of the reasons I started writing this blog.

Do not see medication as something scary. Any decisions regarding medication should ALWAYS be under the instruction of a doctor. There are plenty out there, so if you find one isn’t working you can move on to another one, particularly if you are getting annoying side effects. In this day and age there is no need to feel ‘drugged up’ or like a ‘walking zombie’ as some I know have described.

A member of my family recently expressed concern that going on certain medications would be a life-long thing. And, to be fair, for some, probably including myself, medication will be a part of our lives forever (or at the very least for the foreseeable future). But for most, medication is a temporary solution only. If it can help you get out of a hole and make positive changes in your life, then that is brilliant. There are some that only need to be on medication for a few months. But no matter how long you may need it for, weighing the pro’s and con’s with your GP is essential.

As people who read this blog regularly will know, I suffer with chronic depression (amongst other things). Things get a bit tricky with depression, because some of the best help you can get can only be provided by yourself… a better diet, more exercise, getting a hobby, getting into a good sleep routine, quitting smoking and excessive drinking, etcetera. The bummer is depression leaves people almost unable to do any of it due to the complete lack of motivation, energy, will power, and a myriad of other drains on your soul (to be quite frank about it). However,  if medication lifts your mood enough to help you make those changes, it might be worth it.

Just a cautionary tale to end with. I know a young man, who has been on medication for the vast majority of his adult life. He had finally got himself into a good place, things were going well, and he decided he was doing so well he was going to stop all medication immediately without consulting anyone. He went down hill rather quickly, and it took him three years to build his life back up to where he was before. At that point he slowly reduced medication over a period of time, under the supervision of his doctor. He has been medication free for 5 years now, is due to get married in the New Year and has a baby due any day now. I know some of the warning labels on various things sound stupid… but when it comes to your health there is little more important than getting it right. Please only use any medication you are given the way directed.

And never forget, you are in control. Make it your business to learn about your condition, to learn about the medications you have been given (whatever they are for), and do not be afraid to go back and talk to your doctor if you are not happy. Believe it or not, they like it if you go in with an idea of what you need to help you, providing you are able to listen to the advice and reasoning they give if they don’t agree with your conclusions. But don’t diagnose yourself… the are not so keen on Dr Google!