Limbs like lead. Blurry vision. Suddenly ravenous. Then, without having eaten, nauseous.
I’m repeatedly mystified by the symptoms – even though they occur multiple times a week, and even though, without fail, they end in a migraine. So how can I be so dumb as to forget, or even flat-out deny, the most likely explanation for what’s going on?
Improbable as it sounds, it’s really, really easy to misinterpret or dismiss symptoms, even of a condition you’ve experienced over and over. Until I learned to be more aware of the early stages of my anxiety, I tended to do the same. I’d forget or deny what was going on until the panic became ever-present, and too awful to ignore. Then I’d curse myself for not having recognized it earlier.
What does it feel like to grow up taking psychiatric meds? That’s the question that has occupied me for the past couple of years. Naturally, it feels different to different people, but overall I’ve found that meds seem to introduce a lot of extra uncertainty into the process of coming of age.
There are a lot of ways that meds make growing up more complicated, and I’ll explore those in future posts. But one big factor has to do with the lack of info, from a scientific perspective, about meds’ effect on developing brains and bodies.
Preparing to write this post, I started to survey the media coverage of the latest report from pharmacy giant Medco on how many Americans are taking psychiatric medications. The straight news coverage was okay, but many others simply used the report as a chance to declare - again -that Americans are “overmedicated.”
I don’t see how you can you honestly declare that a whole country, or even any particular group, is “overmedicated” unless you can also determine what number would constitute “appropriately medicated.” Not surprisingly, few people sounding off on either this report or the larger issue are willing to make such a call.
More and more people are exposed to psychiatric drugs earlier and earlier in their lives. Some professional associations now say children as young as 4 years old are old enough to start receiving medications — usually with little research demonstrating their long-term safety on a still-developing brain.
With so many people growing up medicated and on psychiatric medications, it seems like a good time to launch a blog that talks about the in’s and out’s of living a life medicated. I’m proud to introduce My Meds, My Self with Kaitlin Bell Barnett.
Kaitlin will discuss the experience of taking psychiatric meds, with a focus on long-term use, as opposed to people new to medication treatment altogether.
“In my experience, there’s lots of information available for people in the latter category to help them adjust to psychiatric drugs, but there’s very little for people who are supposed to be old hands at it.
“The blog will focus on everything from the quotidian, such as dealing with side effects, to the existential (“Am I still the same person I was before I began taking the medication”?). Any aspect of everyday life will be open for examination: The challenges of deciding whether to reveal to friends, family and employers that one is taking medication, how one justifies continuing the drugs or stopping them, the relationship one has with the prescribing doctor, how taking meds affects self-esteem and self-efficacy.
“Since medication in young people is a controversial topic, I’d like to have a particular focus on children’s, teens’ and young adults’ experience of the drugs, the idea being that people debate the wisdom of medicating kids but rarely ask the kids themselves.”
Kaitlin Bell Barnett is a journalist living in Brooklyn. Her first book, Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up, comes out in April from Beacon Press. It focuses on the experiences of young adults — herself included — who spent their formative years taking psychiatric medication.
Please give a warm Psych Central welcome to Kaitlin!