Taking medications for one’s mental illness is often a difficult proposition. It seems like it should be rather easy. If I, or anyone else with a mental illness, want to feel better, then we should take our medications. This is common sense thinking, is it not? However, there are a few problems with this.
The number one problem is that medications make us feel less than normal. In taking medications, one is supposed to go back to a baseline, a sense of normalcy. However, for those of us with mental illness, normal is having a mental illness. This is especially true of people like myself. I have bipolar. Normal for me is to move between the two poles of depression and mania. This is what feels right to me. Now, it’s dangerous, but it’s the way that I know to be. And my medications take this away. This is especially true of my mania. And mania is great, it’s awesome, it feels like nothing else I have ever experienced. But, due to a mood stabilizer, I do not experience mania nearly as often as I used to. In fact, it is incredibly rare to have mania for me now. And that does not feel normal.
The second reason is that there is still a stigma around taking such medications. I know that things have gotten better in recent years, but people still look at me strange when they ask what medications I am on and I say the major one is lithium. There is an immediate step back and a “wow” moment from them. It’s hard to take these medications because they come attached with the idea that if one was only strong enough, if one only worked a little harder, then they would not need these medications. This is, of course, completely false. But, it is still there in our society and people still make me feel badly about taking these medications.
Third, these medications are expensive. Now, I am very lucky. I can work and my wife has a great job with great insurance. However, the medications are still a monthly expense and they are expensive. They cost us a good deal of money. For a person without insurance or without good insurance, this would be incredibly prohibitive and I can easily see someone not taking the medications because of the cost. It is a financial burden to take psychotropic medications.
In light of all that, though, you should still take your medications. The reason is this. Medications are not cure all for mental illness. They will not cure your bipolar or schizophrenia or depression or anxiety. Instead, they help to manage your symptoms so that you can function in a way that is good for your friends and your family. My wife and I have an ultimatum. She says that as long as I take my medications, she will stay married to me. I have to leave, though, when I stop taking medications. This is because I am no good to my family or my friends or anyone else if I am off the medications. They are not a cure all but they make my baseline much higher and allow me to function daily in a better and more positive way.
So, if you take psychotropic medications, or you know someone who does, understand it is hard. It’s difficult. But, it’s for the best. It helps you and your friends and family. It gives you a starting spot within which you can function in a much better and more healthy way.