I am proud to introduce Schizophrenic.NYC’s guest blogger, Taylor Jones.
Finding the Right Psychiatric Treatment
Finding the right psychiatric treatment is like finding your soulmate; you think it doesn’t exist, until you put a little effort in, and then you surprise yourself. However, it’s a little harder than falling in love. Because with mental illness, there is no cure-all.
People expect you to be cured from the beginning of your treatment plan. And it just doesn’t work that way. Mental illness is on a spectrum. Every diagnosis is extremely personalized. No two mental illnesses are exactly alike, even when they’re given the same term. And everyone responds differently to meds. For me, for example, I can’t take certain medications because I have bipolar along with several other illnesses). So even though sometime I am depressed, I can’t take an anti-depressant, because that will send me into a manic state. I have to stick to mood stabilizers, which don’t always work. Sometimes a mood stabilizer can be sedating, and I feel numb, and very tired. This causes me to sleep all day, and can make me prone to depression. Sometimes they help me focus and get through the day, but then I overwhelm myself, or stay up too late, and I am triggered into a manic state. I’ve had to take several different medications to find the right fit, and the right dosage, which I’m still tweaking, even after accepting medications for so long. I’ve learned to be patient with my treatment plan; but it wasn’t always that way.
I first avoided treatments out of pride. Although my family and friends were mostly supportive, I couldn’t get it through my head that I needed help. I felt ashamed more than anything else. All I really had seen in the media was the portrayal of the “crazy” person. People weren’t shown as sick; they were shown as selfish, and unstable. Mental health patients were seen in movies as the people who are killing others, or the people who are too lazy to get a job. There was no truth to a lot of mainstream media. Nobody talked about how mental illness was just as important as physical illness. It was just portrayed as a controversial money maker, and a way to shock audiences. So growing up, seeing this, I felt ashamed. I was worried everyone would see a monster when they looked at me. I was worried people would think I was making up excuses, or just an ass. I didn’t think people would understand, so I didn’t give it any time to learn more. I just deemed myself as a waste of space, instead of taking care of myself, and loving who I was a little more.
When I take medication I expect immediate results. I think that’s because I’m so used to taking medication for the flu, or some other physical ailment that takes the pain, or the virus away. But psychiatric medications aren’t like antibiotics or pain killers. Psych meds come two ways; either it’s a rapid release, or a buildup. Rapid release is great, because you get the instant results. But sometimes, the comedown from stability is rough, and can make you more out of control. It’s the side effects that are too much. I was on a great medication when I was in high school. It helped me graduate, because as smart as I know I am, I had difficulty focusing in on tasks, and was forgetful. With this medication I was able to graduate with honors. But by the time it wore off I was awful. I couldn’t be around others. It effected the way I played sports, communicated with friends, and my home life with my parents. I would start unnecessary fights, and have no control over my rage. And the next minute, I’d be sobbing, ashamed, and wanting to die. Feeling these intense emotions on a comedown influenced me to stop taking medication for a while. But of course, there’s also medications that need to build up in your body. Sometimes this can take longer than two weeks. This medication can be great because it stays in your body, and it doesn’t wear off at night. Yet, it can be unsatisfactory when it makes you worse before you get better. It makes it difficult to accept that you’re on medications, because you don’t feel different, or you feel worse. So again, I’ve given up on those, because I was unwilling to wait. There’s also the problem with quitting treatment when you feel better. You feel cured, you feel like your therapy is working. So why bother to keep going? You’ve done what you needed to do. You’re fine, right? This is warped thinking, and happens to the best of us. Mental illness is a chronic illness, and needs constant care.
After years of going on and off medications, claiming I was cured and going into hospitals, and hating myself and wanting help, I finally found out how to get help. It starts with finding the right support team. You have to cut out the people who treat your illness as an excuse, or who bully you for the war you’re fighting in your head. Those people aren’t healthy, and aren’t going to help you get any better. Next you need to find the right doctors. Interview therapist; find the person who makes you comfortable. It’s okay to not like a therapist. This person works for you, so make sure you hire on a therapist who will help you open up and work through pain; not hide and lie. When you find the right therapist, seek medication (and if you’re really opposed to big pharma, seek holistic care). Don’t self-medicate, or pull off facts off google. Talk to a professional, and make sure you’re being prescribed a regime you feel comfortable committing to. Track how the medication makes you feel, and bring up concerns to the doctor. Make sure everyone is on board. The most important part of this comes from you though. The most important think you can do is learn to love yourself. You need to learn that your illness is not who you are; you have the illness; you aren’t the illness. And it doesn’t make you a bad person whatsoever. In fact, it makes you a warrior. It makes you strong.
You will be fighting a war your whole life. Medications may stop working, therapists change, holistic care may not work, and your body chemistry changes it. However, keep fighting, and don’t surrender. You may lose some battles. But it’s up to you to keep going and to win the war. You need to take care of yourself; you are worth a healthy, and happy life.