So, as predicted, it's February and like every other year of the last ten, I find myself in a deep depression all over again. This year I really tried to prevent it: I booked a sunny holiday for the first week of February; I had my dose of medicine upped as soon as I felt a gust of low winds coming my way; I exercised; I ate well; I arranged lots of fun evenings with good friends; I attacked each day with all the enthusiasm I could muster. And yet, here I find myself, first week of February and I'm lower than I have been since I was at University five years ago. And that was really, very low.
I'm not going to lie, it's terrifying. I thought I was maybe nearing my way to remission. I thought I had got to a point where the illness didn't define my life any more, where it didn't disable me. I thought I had it under control. Clearly not, and what scares me the most, is that the medicine that I laboriously take every day, that burdens me with numerous side effects, but which is supposed to keep me protected, isn't doing its job. Which brings me on to todays subject: medication - the pro's, the con's, the fears, the side effects, the whole shebang.
Life without medicine:
I wouldn't advise this. I've tried several times over the years, out of naivety and blunt stubbornness, to survive without medication at all. I'm sure there are some people out there who have managed to make this work, or at least I'd like to hope so. But for me, it definitely didn't. I'd cruise along the high thinking - wow, this is great! What was I taking medication for?! I'm not ill, I definitely don't have bipolar, the doctors totally misdiagnosed me, I'm bossing it at life! La la la everything's great, I start to get more and more comfortable, which in turn makes me more and more ambitious, so I take on more and more commitments, until finally, I crack. The pressure of my wonderful life gets too much, and I sink into the murky depths of a depression. And once you're there, there's no quick fix. You can't just take some medication and be ok over night. These things take time. Finding the right medication for you can take years, it certainly took me trying at least 10 different kinds of combinations before I finally found, what I thought, was my saving mix. Seriously, as alluring as going without medication is, I would highly recommend against it.
Life with medicine:
So that leaves you with life with medicine. It's rubbish. Sorry to be so negative, but I am in the middle of a low afterall. No seriously, there's no bright side to this story, except that you may eventually find yourself relatively stable and able to lead a normal life. And taking medicine, alongside other things, is key to that. Please note: I said alongside other things. That means you can't just pop a pill and think everything's going to be ok. You've got to help yourself. Eat well, exercise, get some vitamin d, try to keep calm, surround yourself with positivity etc. I know it sounds tough, and to be honest I can't talk because right now I can't muster up the energy to do half those things, but you've got to at least try to try right? That's all we can hope for.
• If you find the right mix, it can lead to relative stability and normality. I say relative because it's never going to be exactly right, unless you're very lucky. There will probably be bumps in the road, as is the case for everyone regardless of whether they have a mental illness or not. But it certainly makes the road a lot smoother
• It puts you in control of your illness. I absolutely hate the thought that my life is dictated by an illness I have no control over. That my fate isn't in my own hands. Medication helps soothe that. You regain control bit by bit, and you feel better just knowing that you're doing something to tackle the demons.
• It's relatively easy. I mean, it's easier than exercising for sure. You pop a pill or two and you're done, you can forget about it for the rest of the day. Easy breezy
• Side effects. Can't stress this one enough. Like pokemon, I seem to have a skill for catching them all, except they aren't cute and fluffy, they're a pain in the arse. Blurry vision, decreased libido, headaches, dry mouth, heartburn, heck even bleeding - I get ALL the side effects and it sucks. But I guess a headache or two is better than a never-ending hole of black doom, so suck it up!
• It takes time to find the right mix. A lot of time. And even when you find the mix, it can stop working as I have so wonderfully found out. I guess maybe your body builds a resistance to it, or maybe my medication just isn't strong enough for the low I've found myself in, but either way, once you find the right mix, you still have to monitor your moods. It's no quick fix.
• Remembering to take your medicine. I know this sounds like it's easy, but it's really not. I've tried everything. At one point, I even had my parents look after my medicine and administer it to me every morning like a child. Even then, someone was bound to forget. I've set alarms, I've put it in memorable places, I've tried to make it part of a routine, but life gets in the way. There are always weeks when I have a slip up, and that sets things back. I'll go a couple days without remembering to take it and then a friend or family member will go 'you're not being yourself, have you taken your medication?' which in turn makes me feel a million times worse, because it's embarrassing and patronizing but true. I haven't figured this one out yet, I still forget, so if you figure it out, let me know. Because whether I like it or not, I need those pills to keep me soldiering through life.