Archives for January, 2012
This reader's story presents an interesting perspective, because he took antidepressants 30 years ago, before many of the current psychotropics were on the market, before psychiatric drugs were as commonly prescribed as they are now and, especially, before they were prescribed as often to children and teens. It's also interesting because he was hospitalized fairly soon after his symptoms showed up. He's agreed to take questions in the comments section. Again, I invite readers to share any aspect of their experience taking medication by emailing me at kaitlin.b.barnett [at] gmail.com. You don't have to respond to my prompts - you can discuss any aspects of taking medication as it pertains to growing up, childhood, adolescence, forming an identity, etc. 1) How did you start taking medication in the first place? At the time, did you think you needed medication? At age 17, I woke up one morning with my face wet, and my pillow soaked. I was very confused, but focused on getting ready for school, and didn't give it any thought. Into the bathroom, get ready, and tears start coursing down my face. I wasn't thinking anything upsetting, wasn't feeling upset. I realized I had cried in my sleep....apparently a lot, based on how wet my pillow was.
A reader, whom I'll call ES, has generously provided the following account of her experience with antipsychotic drugs, starting when she was 13. I think she provides a very nuanced perspective.
This is a blog about young people's experiences with medications, and I'm always looking to broaden the scope of stories I tell. I've really appreciated people sharing their personal experiences in the comments section, but if anyone would like to elaborate in a guest post, or by getting in touch with me and then having me write up a short account of their experience, please get in touch in the comments section and we can go from there. Full names aren't necessary for those concerned about confidentiality. I am particularly interested in hearing from those who began taking medication as children or teens. You can highlight any aspect of the experience that stands out to you, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking. You don't have to address all of them! 1) How did you start taking medication in the first place? At the time, did you think you needed medication?
In my last post, I asked what it means for your "illness identity" when you take a medication that manages your psychiatric problems so that they go away or are no longer problematic. "Does a formerly "severe" mental illness become "mild" or "moderate"?" I asked "Does it disappear entirely?" It's often said that these disorders can't be cured - they can just be managed. Medications are one way of managing them. But the fact is, few people like taking psychiatric drugs. They have unpleasant side effects, they get us deemed "weak" or make us feel like we're leaning on a crutch, they even change our identity and sense of self. Therefore, we need a reason to keep taking what we've been prescribed. A diagnosis and, more specifically, the presence of troubling symptoms, serve as the justification. The irony, though, is that once these troubling symptoms go away, it's hard to see why the drugs are still warranted.
When the federal government released an important compendium of mental health data this week, the headlines proclaimed that 1 in 5 Americans over 18 had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year, and 1 in 20 had a "serious mental illness." But what does "serious mental illness" mean, anyway, and what are its connotations and implications when it comes to treatment? It's a question worth asking, because it's used differently in different contexts.
What do you do when the drugstore is out of your medication refills? Well, if you've remembered to refill before you've run out entirely, it's usually no big deal - you can wait or go elsewhere. The problems come when the drug is a) a controlled substance and b) the powers that be have controlled availability of the active ingredient a little too zealously, so that it's in short supply, even for the pharmacies. This is the problem causing millions of people a lot of angst as they try to procure their stimulant drugs for ADHD in the face of a continuing national shortage.