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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Things you should never say to someone with mental health issues.

There are some things people say that really get my back up. And it isn’t because they come from a bad place, it is mostly ignorance and a lack of forethought. So I thought I would create a general list of things people with mental illness really don’t want to hear. It is imperative that you don’t compare yourself to someone who is mentally unwell. Our brains work differently, we cope with things differently, and we experience things differently. This is true even of completely ‘normal’ minds, but when there is mental illness involved it is a completely different kettle of fish. It is like comparing oranges to apples, black to white, and stripes to spots.

“Just…….”

Putting ‘Just’ before a sentence implies what you are asking someone to do is easy. There is no ‘just’ when it comes to mental health issues. They are by definition messy and complicated, and different for everyone.

“Get over it”

Again, this implies that it is something easy to do. You wouldn’t tell people to get over a broken leg, so why tell them to get over a broken mind? If it were that simple, don’t you think we would have done it by now?

“You’re making excuses”

This one really is a pet hate of mine, as I have a friend who says it all the time. I am not making excuses, I am giving you reasons. Just because this is something you can do doesn’t mean we all can. Imagine trying to teach a 2 year old algebra. Their ‘excuse’ is that it is just to hard for them. Do we try to guilt them into learning it? Or shout at them for not knowing it? Do we make them feel stupid for not doing it? Of course we don’t. We know that their brains just aren’t quite ready to handle it yet. There are some things my brain is perfectly capable of understanding, but not capable of doing. When I tell you how something is going to make me feel, that isn’t me putting limitations on myself or making excuses, it is me knowing how I will react. Say if I walk 10 steps, on the 11th step I would fall over. If that has happened the last 100 times I have walked those 11 steps, it is more than reasonable to expect it will happen again. Of course, I cannot be 100% sure until it happens, but expecting it to happen and preparing for it to happen is not the same as making an excuse. In fact, preparing is the smart thing to do, and if I can arrange it so I only walk 10 steps at a time and not the 11th all the better.

“You have the same illness as _____ and s/he manages just fine”

A broken leg may be a broken leg, but it could be a fracture of the femur, tibia or fibula. And even on the same bone, you could have a hairline fracture, a clean break, a spiral fracture and so on and so forth. So while I may have the same mental illness as someone else, it doesn’t mean I will experience it in the same way. More than that, finding the right treatment plan can take years. The amount of time you have lived with a mental illness plays a role in your recovery too. For example, BPD generally gets a little better with age. So it is really intense in your teenage years and slowly gets better until (for most people, particularly those diagnosed in their teens) by the time you are in your mid thirties it has mostly gone. If you didn’t get it until your 30’s, however, the age at which you recover will be later. Therefore it isn’t fair to compare one persons recovery to another’s.

“You seem normal to me”

I get this a lot. People generally wont know I have mental illnesses unless I tell them, and most people are very surprised to hear just how many I have. I blame the media for this. ‘Crazy’ people in films are often shown in the middle of huge breakdowns, unable to communicate properly, unclean and untidy, often sitting in a chair muttering and rocking back and forth. This isn’t the reality of mental illness. The truth is unless you know someone very well it is easy to miss the signs, and we can come across as perfectly normal. That doesn’t mean we are normal though. There is a lot that goes on behind closed doors, and we aren’t at rock bottom all of the time. Mental health waxes and wanes, sometimes you are okay and sometimes you aren’t. The chances are you aren’t seeing the whole picture.

“Stop focussing on the bad stuff”

You are assuming that simply focussing on the good is all we need to do to get better. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Also, lots of mental health issues make you think of the bad bits without really wanting to. Depression sucks all the colour out of the world, PTSD shoves painful flashbacks and nightmares in your face, BPD amplifies negative emotions 100 fold, GAD makes you excessively worry all of the time. Mental illnesses can be all-consuming. That is hard to fight. And it doesn’t mean we don’t cling to the good either, it just means we can’t simply blot out the bad.

“It could be worse”

That is true. For every single person on this planet, their problems could be a LOT worse, and there are always going to be people who suffer more than us. And I know people say this to try to make us feel better. But I don’t feel the way I do because I think nobody in the world has suffered more than me, I feel the way I do because what I have been through sucks. Knowing someone else is going through worse makes me feel bad for them, but not better about myself. I count myself as very lucky, and very blessed. Making me feel guilty for complaining when others have it worse though wont help. When you get a flat tyre you don’t think “well at least I don’t have cancer!”… you think “damn, I have a flat tyre. What a pain”.

“It is all those tablets you’re on, you should stop taking them and then you will feel better”

This infuriates me. And I hear it a lot. It makes me cross for two simple reasons. 1) If I was fine, I wouldn’t have gone on them in the first place. I didn’t wake up one day and think “Hey! I know what! Today I will go on antidepressants! Because they will make me have mood swings and put on weight and make me numb and that will just be so great!” 2) I dread to think what I would be like off the meds. Here is a simple fact… without medication I wouldn’t be here today. It really is as simple as that. And I know that medication alone is not the answer, and I know medications aren’t right for some people. But you aren’t my doctor, you don’t know my medical history, and you don’t know where I was without them. So don’t comment! Advising people to stop taking any medication is dangerous and frankly stupid. Please don’t do it.

What makes me sad is that people with mental illnesses (or any other ‘invisible’ illness like Fibromyalgia or ME) still have to justify themselves to others. I shouldn’t have to explain why I feel the way I do. If you love someone, you should love them warts and all, and realise the line between encouraging someone and doing them harm is frightfully thin. Raising your voice and demanding people snap out of it, or just do what you do, or just get on with it is harmful. More than that, it is out of order. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to stop making a fuss, get off the crutches and start walking already.

Q&A: My guilt is taking over my life.

Q&A

Dear Hayley,

I have done some thing in my past that I am not proud of. I am trying to move on but guilt about my past failings is preventing me from being happy. I feel like I don’t deserve happiness after what I have done and it is really getting me down. I am not sure how to cope and how I can move on? Any advice would be great!

Sue*

Hello Sue!

Feeling bad about our past is perfectly normal, and I have yet to meet someone with absolutely no regrets. I know we spoke in detail about this, and the things you have done, and I hope I was able to assure you that they weren’t the most awful things in the world!

I know you have come so far since your ‘darker days’ and you shouldn’t forget that. But since this is causing you so many issues in your day-to-day life, including anxiety, I suggest you visit your GP. They may be able to give you some temporary medication to help you back on to your feet whilst you await some counselling. I think talking things through properly with someone will help you forgive yourself.

I suggested writing a letter to your younger self, telling her the everything will work out okay. Sometimes comforting the part of you that you feel let down by can be a massive comfort, and it can help you see things from the perspective of the ‘younger you’. As we get older we get life experience; experience earned only through having gone through what we have. If you had never done what you had, you would not be the person you are today, and that is something else to cling on to. You are so much stronger than you think and you ARE a good person!

The most important thing I can say is that you WILL pull through this. Your past may not be perfect but you are trying to better yourself now, and that is so important. Many people keep repeating the same bad circles, never learning anything, and they are the ones that will struggle to find happiness. The fact that you could see where you were going wrong and have tried to change it is proof to me that you will make it.

I asked you a question, and found your answer interesting. I asked you if you would think any less of your best friend if she came and told you that she had done everything you told me you did. And you said “of course not!”. So why is it any different for you? You are a completely different person now than you were years ago, so why not try forgiving that person rather than forgiving yourself? That may be easier.

I wish you all the best!

 

 

 

*Names have been changed

The advice I have given here is my opinion only, and it should never replace that of a medical professional. I have been emailing Sue for a few months now. She has started therapy, and it is going well. She is also on some medication for her anxiety. She has approved both the shortened version of her original email I posted and my response, and is now ready for her story to be shared. She hasn’t found things easy, and has uncovered some deeper issues during her therapy, but she is coping really well and feeling positive about the future. She wanted to share her story because she felt alone. She said, and I quote, “The world is so much harder when you don’t like yourself, it is like being around an enemy 24/7 and you can’t escape, not even for a minute, so the hatred just gets deeper and deeper”. I have to admit, I can see exactly where she is coming from, I am not particularly fond of myself a lot of the time either. And that is exactly what living with a mental health problem is like. But there is a sentence to live by: If you don’t love yourself, no one else will be able to love you enough. It is true that there is a void that can be filled only by us. And that is why having the best support network in the world isn’t always enough. But it is a very good start, and sometimes seeing how much other people love you helps you see yourself through their eyes, not your own.

 

I will keep you updated with Sue’s progress as she continues on her journey. It is still early days but the if the improvements she has made already are anything to go by, this story at least will have a happy ending!

Q&A Help… will this ever end?

Q&A

Below is a message I got from one of my readers recently. He has been going through a really hard time. I want to make it clear, once again, that I am not a medical professional in any form. I am merely someone who has had a rough time of things and want to help. My advice is only that- advice- and should never replace the opinion of a qualified professional. It is always best to seek professional advice when you are feeling low and unable to cope.

 

Hello Hayley,

I was abused as a boy. I lived with the secret for 40 years before telling my wife. She reacted badly, upset that I had never told her before. The thing is, since telling her I have been having nightmares about what happened. I feel like my whole life has been taken away from me because I can’t cope with the constant memories flooding my mind. I was forced to retire on medical grounds 6 months ago, and since then have been completely lost. I have started having panic attacks and I was hospitalised due to one two months ago.  I don’t feel like a man any more, my wife is now the ‘bread winner’ and I am struggling to cope. How do I go back to how I was before. I was fine for so long, what happened? And how can I deal with what is happening now. I can’t do this any more!

Love John **

 

Hiya John,

I am so sorry you have been through what you have. You have already started dealing with this and seeking help, and I am thrilled you have found my blog useful. It can be easy to block out what has happened. We put it in a box at the back of our minds, and move on. However, in most cases there will be a point where that Pandora’s Box will be opened… as has happened here. In my case, that box opened much quicker. However, now the box is opened, I am afraid it isn’t as simple as shoving everything back in and forgetting about it.

You have remained incredibly strong throughout your life, and your story has inspired me no end. I know we haven’t been able to post your entire story, but for the other readers of this blog I must stress this man has dealt with more than anyone ever should have to.

John, I recommend you seek professional help. It seems to me that you might be suffering from PTSD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, along with a deep depression. The good news is that these conditions can be managed and treated with medication and therapy. I know you have spoken to  your GP and have recently started some medication that I hope starts to help soon.  Therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psychotherapy should help you regain control of your life. We spoke about the recovery time, and I know you are aware that this can take quite a while to heal.

I know from experience you can only bottle things up for so long… but once the bottle top explodes, we  have to deal with what comes out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Once you have been able to work through what has come out, you will find that you don’t need to bottle things up any more. You will be able to share a more open and honest life with your wife, who I know has been a huge support rock for you, despite her initial concerns. I would encourage you to return to some of my earlier blog posts about ‘A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss‘, and ‘Post Traumatic Growth‘, ‘The Truth About Anxiety‘ and ‘The Truth About PTSD‘. I hope they are able to offer some support and encouragement.

I have a strange little bit of advice for you. It is something that has helped me a lot. Why not try writing a letter to your past self… the child that went through that horrific ordeal. Write to let that small child know that things will be okay, that what is happening is not his fault, and that he will have a bright future and get through this. It is important that you forgive yourself for what happened, and accept that they ONLY person in the wrong is the person that thought they had the right to violate you. You need to let go of the guilt you feel, it will only eat you up.

I know things seem impossible right now, but you have the strength to move forward and cope with what has happened. I wish you all the best in your journey. I know we will keep in touch. It is really important that you don’t give up, because we both you know can do this and you have a lot of support around you. Wishing you all the best.

Lots of love,

Hayley.

 

 

**I have had to summarise the message I received from John (name has been changed) because it was so long. We have spoken in-depth and John has now started getting the help he needs. He is due to start counselling in the next three weeks. The summarised version of his letter was approved by John prior to posting, and he has seen and approved this post. We are going to keep in touch, and I will report on his progress later on in the year.

If you have any questions you want some advice on, you are more than welcome to email me. I will reply to every email, and will only post on here with your consent and knowledge. I change all identifying features of your question. If you just want a friendly ear you are welcome to email me and it will not appear on this blog. I offer advice because I know how hard life can be when you are going through the tough times. As stated above, the advice I offer should never replace professional help from a qualified practitioner.

 

 

The Truth About: Insomnia

Most of us have had the odd sleepless night. If you have, you will know how annoying they are. You can’t quite get comfortable, you know you are exhausted, and you just can’t understand why sleep isn’t happening. It shouldn’t be a problem, after all, it has been a very regular part of your life since you were born. You spend the next day almost in a trance.  You are so tired you can’t concentrate, and everything you do becomes a chore. You feel old when you have to go to bed so early the next night, but, at last, the beautiful peaceful sleep descends, and the world becomes right again.

Except it doesn’t become right again. Not if you are an insomniac. These sleepless nights happen more often than they don’t. For a lot of people cursed with insomnia, it comes and goes in cycles. Sleep could be fine for a while, and then all of a sudden another episode attacks. For some, like me, there is no ‘cycle’ and it is just very little sleep for a lot of the time. Of course, I do get good nights sleep every now and again. But even on a ‘good’ night I wake up several times. I just consider it a blessing if I can get back to sleep afterwards!

For those with insomnia, life is a vicious circle. We end up dreading bed time because we don’t want to lay awake for hours. Yet we long for bed time because we are so tired. And the worry about bed time makes the insomnia worse, in turn making the worrying worse. It is awful.

However, there are things we can do to help ourselves. First stop is always the doctor. Insomnia can be caused by underlying  health conditions which may need attention- depression being a very common one. It may be that fixing the underlying problem fixes the insomnia! Whilst you are there, any doctor worth their salt will tell you about ‘Sleep Hygiene’. You should be given a print out of information, but Dr Google will give generally good advice on this one, as long as you visit reputable sites. Otherwise you might have amateur blogs like mine come up!

I have been on medication to help me sleep for quite some time now. However, if you visit a reputable doctor you will learn how difficult it is to get medication to help you sleep, particularly in the long run. Most will only give you a few tablets at a time. Which is a good thing, as sleep medications in particular are very addictive.

I am going to list some tips that should help you. Some of them (particularly sleep hygiene) will need to be a regular part of your bedtime routine for a number of weeks before you can gauge if they are being successful. I will always recommend trying each step for a MINIMUM of 6 weeks, preferably 8-10 weeks, before dismissing them as unhelpful.

Again, please note I am not a medical professional, I am writing my opinions and experiences only. If you decide to try herbal medications, be sure to talk this through with your pharmacist or doctor, as many herbal sleeping tablets will interfere with other medications. Good luck!

  •  Set up a bedtime routine. There is a reason it works so well for small children! Doing the same things, in the same order, at the same time each night will train your body to know when it is sleep time. This may just be the most important tip.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is obvious, but many people turn to alcohol for its sedative effects. This is a mistake for a few reasons, including it being habit-forming, disrupting the quality of your sleep, and making your body work more to get rid of it!
  • Have a warm cup of milk before bed. Again, there is a reason it works for the kids!
  • Exercise in the day. Exercising will, will, will improve your sleep. It is best to avoid it for about 4 hours before bed though, as you will be ‘buzzing’ from the post work-out energy.
  • Lower lights. Our bodies get confused these days, because (unlike in times gone by) there is no ‘twilight’, we have bright lights, and then darkness. It is during the process of it getting dark that our bodies release melatonin, amongst other things, that helps regulate our sleep cycle. Having a dimmer switch or using bedside lamps will help mimic these conditions.
  • Relax before bed. Sounds silly, I know. But it is very important to wind down. Otherwise all the problems from the day will be racing around in your head all night. Remove electrical devices from the bedroom. No TV, computers or phones should be used in the bedroom, and for an hour before bed. Yes, you will survive. Read a book. If you do read a book though, choose a light one. It wont help if your head is spinning trying to figure out ‘whodunnit’, and reading an exciting book you don’t want to put down will have the same effect! Reading light-hearted short stories is your best bet.
  • Don’t sleep on an argument. Again,  you need your brain to relax if you want a decent nights kip!
  • Temperature: Getting the right temperature in the bedroom is vital, if it is too hot you will wake up, and if it is too cold you will wake up. I keep my bedroom at 18/19 degrees C, but I have a friend whose perfect temperature is 26 degrees C! You will have to experiment to find what is best for you.
  • If you find you have trouble sleeping because you are trying to remember things, or you are thinking about certain things, try writing them down before you go to bed. That way, you can leave them there in your notebook until the morning instead of spinning round your head!
  • Lavender is your friend. Lavender is brilliant for sleep. You can get lavender and chamomile scented plug-ins, lavender pillow sprays, sleep balms, candles, teddies, room sprays, essential oils and all sorts. There will definitely be some form of lavender that suits your lifestyle.
  • If you like a cup of tea before bed, switch to chamomile tea. It has calming properties and helps your mind rest.
  • Smoking. Don’t smoke for an hour before bed (quit altogether if you can). Smoking increases your blood pressure and pulse, sets neurons (brain cells) flying off everywhere, and, at the end of the day, is poisonous. You are wrong if you believe it helps you relax (I used to think the same)… in fact it does the opposite! People just think it relaxes them because they end up doing what everyone tells them to do if they are stressed… taking a few deep breaths! The more you know 😉
  • Eat healthily!

So, there are a few tips to be getting on with. If you have researched this topic before, you will realise that the same things get said a lot. And if you are anything like me, you will have dismissed most of these, not believing they would make a difference. However, the truth, as they say, will out. And the fact that every reputable place is saying the same things can mean only one thing: What they are saying is actually right.

So, give all of the above a good go. None of it is expensive, you don’t need to hire someone to teach you how to do them, and you don’t need to buy loads of specialist  equipment. These are safe, cheap, easy things you can do yourself in the comfort of your own home. What have you got to lose?

If you have given the above a genuine go and haven’t found them helpful, your GP may refer you for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help. From there, they can then discuss the medication route with you- some do well with herbal remedies such as Nytol and Rescue, and some people who need help with long-term insomnia may be given specific antidepressants that might help, such as Mirtazapine. It is vital that you never start ANY medication, even if it is herbal, without first consulting your Doctor or Pharmacist (or other appropriate health professional).

 

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!