“Boing, boing, boing!” rings the alarm on my phone.
“Mom, it’s time to take your meds!” my four-year-old exclaims.
That specific ringtone chosen as my medication reminder has forever ingrained in our minds the utter importance of my taking my medication. On time. Because we all know what happens if I don’t.
If I take my medication an hour too late I already feel the deprivation. My body complains of it’s craving. My mouth goes numb, my face starts tingling and my mind becomes scrambled. I start to feel trapped in my own body and am anxious to get outside of myself. And that’s when my moods start changing. I get snippy. My patience is thin. My temper is short.
It used to be a lot worse, though. My manic and depressive episodes are fewer and more mild. I’m functioning in society again. I’m able to care for my family again. It’s worth it. I will forever be enslaved to these pills because I know the alternative and I never want to be there again.
It’s very common for people with bipolar disorder to refuse medication. I get it. The most prescribed drug for this illness is Lithium which is a mood stabilizer. It’s been prescribed for decades. It also made me worse. The side effects of the drug made me just as bad as the illness but in a different way.
I gained 20 pounds within just a few months of being on the drug. I was the heaviest I’d ever been, aside from pregnancy. I looked like I was six months pregnant. People actually asked me when I was due.
I was constantly lethargic. I would be sitting at my desk at work and nod off. I put myself in danger every time I got in the car. I caught myself falling asleep while driving several times. I struggled to stay awake but, in my sick brain, I bargained with myself. I just had to get to where I was going. I’m so ashamed to admit that I drove with my son in the car this way. I was so mentally unstable that I couldn’t see how bad this was.
Medication is supposed to make a person more like themselves. I was an extremely broken being trapped in a body that wasn’t mine and unable to function with or without medication.
I’ve had two psychiatrists since I was diagnosed as manic-depressive. I left the first because their office was horrific. The fire alarm beeped incessantly on more than one visit (do they not know that their patients are mentally ill?). The waiting room was constantly packed. The wait time could be anywhere from an hour to four hours or when they closed, whichever came first (again, do they not know that their patients are mentally ill?). One day I was told that they would call the police if I was ever on property again because I had some words with them about being billed for an appointment where I waited two hours and then rescheduled because I had to leave to pick up my son. I was told that I “walked out on my appointment.” That is a whole story in itself, but I just needed to get my medication stabilized and they couldn’t accommodate me.
I went without a psychiatrist for about five months.
My current psychiatrist took me off of Lithium as soon as she learned how it was affecting me. Thankfully there are other mood stabilizers out there. She changed around my medications and within a few months we found a combination that works for me with very minimal side effects. I’m still healing but I feel more like myself than I have ever been. My mind is clear and I don’t have major manic to depressive cycles like I used to. I’m very thankful to have found her.
This makes me wonder if more people out there just aren’t on the right medications like me. Maybe, instead of finding a psychiatrist that would work with them to find the right medications, they just give up and stop taking them.
Or maybe they miss not feeling things. A couple of weeks ago I had a mild episode. I was hypomanic (a milder form of mania) for several days, then I started to crash (softly). In my mildly depressive state I just wanted to cry. I wanted to let it out. But I couldn’t. I was stifled. I needed emotion that I couldn’t conjure. Maybe some manic-depressives would rather feel and try to cope with their illness on their own than to be medicated. I get it.
Me? The high highs and the low lows are more emotion than I can handle. It’s physically painful. I want to be the best wife, the best mom, the best light for Christ that I can be. To do that, I need medication. So when the alarm goes off, I reach for my pill organizer and a glass of water.