Medication and Me

I do not advocate for or against medication. I do advocate, however, that individuals should use whatever tools they find helpful in overcoming mental illness. I do believe that doctors should be held accountable for their legal responsibility of explaining the reason why the medication is necessary, other medication options and even alternatives to medication. We have our own responsibilities to educate ourselves as to why we are using any particular method and particularly understand why we are using medication.

What I do talk about is my life; in my life medication has played an extremely important role in helping me cope with my schizophrenia. This diagnosis has stuck to me over the years. To tell the whole story, my experience was that as I interfaced with different doctors they each diagnosed me differently so that I collected many different labels. Each Doctor liked or disliked different medications and had their favorites. Whether or not I have schizophrenia or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with psychotic features, Schizoaffective disorder, Depression with features or Personality Disorder with features; I always hear the voices no matter what medication I'm on.

With a learning curve of twenty-plus years I now take, and self-advocate for, the medications that work best for me; my favorites not the doctor's favorites. Over the years I have gone off medication with disastrous results and consequences. That is why I continue to take medication. Please understand the medications they give us for mental illness don't cure us; they do mask my symptoms enough so that I can function, advocate for recovery and be creative. Some may say, “Well you are advocating for medication by saying you take medication and find it helpful.”  I’m just saying what my reality is. You should make your own choices.

I have become sensitive to anti-medication folks trying to make me feel guilty for taking medication hammering away with the negative issues of medications. And yes, after looking into it I believe that psychiatrists put people on strong drugs too quickly. Symptoms are medicated without looking at the reasons why the individual is experiencing trouble. Drug companies do have questionable business practices.  It could be and should be much better but I also understand the stress of seeking relief from the scariness of my own thoughts and feelings; medications offered relief. The point being that both sides of the issue are right. There are significant problems with the doctors, the pharmaceutical companies and the way mental health systems use drugs. And the drugs are helpful when used efficaciously. Some people need medications forever, but many do not, and the system currently does a horrible job at figuring out who's who. 

I've had conversations with people who are just dead-set against psychiatric drugs. I find it interesting that these folks have no problem taking other drugs for cholesterol or blood-pressure. What they thought important for us to know and it is important to know is that our brain changes its own chemistry in response to the presence psychotropic medications. Then when you might consider going off medication your brain might never overcome its dependence on the drug. This tends to make people forever dependent on medications. 

It is clear that we should consider this information and psychiatrists should reevaluate over-prescribing and the practice of jumping to medication before looking at what might be causing the illness. Nevertheless, to me it remains a question of trade-offs. Suffering horrible thoughts and delusions so bad that I might end up dead thinking the laws of physics don't apply to me, or taking a drug perhaps for the rest of my life? In my life, in my circumstances, medication worked me; for you it might be a different choice but make it an informed choice. That is why I don't advocate for or against medication because each person’s circumstance is different.

What has been undoubtedly as essential as medication and probably more important in my recovery are the “other” tools; stress reduction, eating right, exercise, life-style changes, peer support, etc. These things actually can prevent mental illness and in the case of recovery, help us overcome the debilitating effects of mental illness so much so that it's possible to resume a normal life with just maintenance. We still have the illness it is just that we've learned to cope. 

In overcoming my mental illness peer support was the most helpful. Other people with mental illness I came in contact with, over the years, shared with me their experiences and successes in coping with their illness and I used their suggestions successfully. This has always been the case with us, but Mary Ellen Copeland did the verification work required by the medical community, that of collecting evidence that peer support was helping us. She collected the recommendations of peers and published them. Her work morphed into the Wellness Recovery Action Plan WRAP and now it is a widely accepted tool of recovery. 

Medications and me got along over the years to help me achieve recovery but of more significance is peer support and wellness education like WRAP. 

 Respectfully yours,

 Marc Jacques - Person in Recovery