Let's talk about medication and mental health
We all do such a great job of sharing our experiences with mental illness for Bell Let’s Talk day every year. Opening up the floor for discussion about mental health is so important, and every year I always suggest that we make it a priority to talk about it throughout the year instead of just on that one day. However, I’ve never followed through with my own suggestion. So I’m going to do it now.
I’ve been struggling badly. For the past week I’ve been a walking meltdown, continually on the verge of snapping. I have punched the walls in my apartment so hard I’ve caused some pretty bad damage to my hand and wrist. I’ve curled up on the couch after work and stayed there until 10 at night. I’ve had to pull my car over on my way to a work event because I needed to scream my lungs out at nothing. I’ve scratched my nails into my forearm so hard that I drew blood without even realizing it. I’ve sobbed in the studio with 30 seconds left in a song and had to get it together so I could talk on air and not sound like there was a problem. I’ve thrown up spontaneously with absolutely no warning. I’ve had to hold onto the walls just to walk down the hallway without falling over.
This is all as a result of changing my medication.
I’ve always felt comfortable being open about my bipolar disorder namely because there’s nothing to be ashamed about but also… I just don’t care about people knowing. In order to manage my bipolar to the best of my ability, I take a number of medications to help with different aspects of the condition. One of which is an SSRI, which is a commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety. I guarantee if you aren’t on one personally, half the people you know are. It’s so common. Which is why I want to share my recent experience with you.
I was lucky enough to have found the right SSRI that worked for me for the better part of 6 years. It can be a major pain in the ass to find one that suits you, so after going through about 8 different ones and finally finding one that worked, I was pumped. But as with many medications, you can’t expect them to be effective forever. My dosage was already very high and increasing it would have run the risk of serotonin syndrome which can be fatal, so my doctor and I decided it would be best for me to try a new SSRI. I was bummed out because the process of your body adjusting to a new psychiatric medication can be a little tricky…but I didn’t really have another option.
He prescribed me one medication that was kind of new but he had heard good things about. Within 2 days I knew it wasn’t for me. The nausea was overwhelming and immediate. Back to the drawing board. Keep your chin up. We’ll find the right one.
9 days ago he prescribed me a new SSRI that I requested because I had done my research and read great things about it. The side effects were listed as mild and they sounded like things I could tackle just fine. However, I was entirely wrong to assume that.
The vertigo is the worst part. I’ve never been dizzy like this, to the point that I’ve stumbled and fell over a few different times. The double vision or delayed vision doesn’t help either. There’s also migraines that could probably kill a lion. I’ve never had migraines like this – to the point where I can’t even speak properly (which is just great considering my profession). I’m nauseated more often than not and the only way I can describe that feeling is that I feel like I’m standing on a boat all the time. I’m hypersensitive about everything and I’m constantly on the verge of tears. With every tiny, insignificant inconvenience, I catch myself wandering into thoughts of self-harm as a solution. If that wasn’t enough, I cannot control my temper to save my life. I broke my hair straightener just because it wouldn’t straighten my hair the way I want it. Punched my mirror because I felt ugly. Punched the walls in my apartment for all kinds of different, stupid reasons. The outbursts of rage are bizarre and completely out of my control. It doesn’t even seem like it’s me doing it. These are just a few of the side effects I’ve experienced in the last few days.
If you have ever dropped or changed a psychiatric medication, you’re probably nodding along with a lot of those side effects. It’s brutal. It can also be very hard to explain to other people who haven’t gone through something like that, so it renders you feeling quite lonely. That’s why I wanted to write this and share it with you. You are far from alone.
If by some chance you are currently going through a medication change or something similar, I’m right there with you. You should feel proud of yourself for taking care of your mental health and being proactive about it, and it sucks that there are so many struggles that come along with that, but it’s going to get better. Things will even out. Side effects will disappear. You will be you again.
I had every intention of keeping this to myself and powering through my radio shows every day pretending like nothing is wrong. Staying upbeat and enthusiastic to the best of my ability. But I realized that if I was feeling lonely going through this bullshit, then someone else might be too. With the amount of people who take psychiatric medication, you’d think we would discuss this thing a lot more. However, we all want to go about our lives giving off the impression that we’re totally okay. I get that. But we don’t have to.
I hope this comforts you in some way if you happen to be dealing with something similar. I’ll be the first to admit that it really, REALLY sucks and it’s extremely difficult. But you’re tough as hell for powering through it and I’m right here toughing it out with you.