A little while back, I asked readers to share their experiences with medication. CJ, who first took medication at age 12 and is now 21, was kind enough to write in. At 12, CJ had self-harmed and was suicidal, which was the initial impetus for drug treatment.
Some medications have helped with those tendencies, some only exacerbated them – a controversial topic I’ve addressed in previous posts.
Eight years later, mood swings and sleep continue to be problematic, and antidepressant and antipsychotic medications that help with these issues are ones CJ considers to work. Forgetting the drugs for even a day has alarming results, and CJ sees medication as necessary for living a “normal” life.
Despite reservations about lifelong medication treatment, CJ fears that doctors will think the medications have cured the disorders and stop drug therapy, triggering a frightening breakdown. Another lingering worry – and one I found particularly poignant – concerns meeting someone and falling in love, only to have the person leave upon finding out about CJ’s diagnoses and medications. Even with a team of doctors, therapists and other mental health professionals and a cocktail of medications, this young person sees a long road ahead to recovery and many obstacles ahead.
If you would like to share any aspect of your experience taking medication from a young age, please feel free to email me at kaitlin.b.barnett [@] gmail.com. And now, in CJ’s words:
1) How did you start taking medication in the first place? At the time, did you think you needed medication?
I first started taking medication when I was 12. I wasn’t sure I needed it at the time, but the doctors were firm that I did.
2) If a doctor or parent provided an explanation of why you were being prescribed psychiatric drugs, how did they explain it? Did they ever explain it as a “chemical imbalance?” What was your reaction to their explanation?
It was never described as a ‘chemical imbalance’. They said that because of my low mood and poor self esteem and the fact that I self harmed and was suicidal that being on medication would help.
3) Did medication feel like what you expected? Why or why not?
When I first started taking medication it didn’t feel right. I felt worse, or just the same, for a long time. It was only when I was 20, last year, that I finally found a medication that seemed to help. Which I am still on now.
4) Did you experience any troubling side effects? What was it about the side effects that was so troubling? Did you experience any unexpected benefits?
I have experienced many side affects and benefits from the different medications I have been on. Some increased my appetite, which was not good. Some helped me sleep, which is good. Others made me more suicidal and self harmed more, not good. Where as the one[s] I am on now help me to sleep, help to keep my mood swings more under control. I still have really bad mood swings, but not as bad as they were before.
5) Did you talk to friends or family members about your disorder or the fact that you took medication? If you still take medication, are you more open about it now?
I didn’t talk to family or friends at the beginning. It was only in the past two years that I finally opened up about it. It was scary as I thought they would think I was crazy or something. Opening up has had down sides and up sides. I have lost quite a few friends over it, but I have also found out who my real friends are in the process.
6) What kind of relationship did you have with the doctor who prescribed your medication? Did you also see a therapist or experiment with other therapeutic methods to treat your symptoms?
I have seen many different doctors and therapists. They never seemed to help until I met the doctors and therapists I see now. I currently have a Support Worker, a Care Worker, a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist and am still taking antidepressants and anti-psychotics. I find that the therapy and medication do help, but there’s still a long way to go to recovery. I try to practice breathing techniques and mindfulness, bit it can be very difficult to focus most of the time.
7) Did you – or do you – see medications as a temporary solution, or a long-term commitment?
For me, medication is a long term commitment. I have been told that i will probably have to be on some form of medication for the rest of my life. If I do not take my medication or am late taking it for even one day I feel miserable and am a completely different person, a scary person. So I know that without the medication I wouldn’t be able to live a ‘normal’ life.
8 ) Did medication itself – or just knowing that you took medication – change the way you thought about yourself?
Taking medication does make me feel a bit different about myself. Sometimes I feel insane and like I should be put away. However, other times I remember what I’m like without medication and I realise that it is a good thing. So there’s kind of mixed feelings there.
9) Did you ever stop taking a medication or change a dosage without telling your doctor? Why?
I have stopped taking medication before without telling my doctor. It was a very bad move on my part. But at least I know now that I shouldn’t do it again. However sometimes I feel like I want to in order t[o] feel more ‘normal’.
10) Did a medication ever stop working for you? What was that like?
One of the previous medications I was on worked for a few months and then it appeared to just stop working. I started feeling miserable again. It was horrible. But I spoke to the doctor and he found another medication which I am still on now.
11) Do you wish you’d begun taking medication earlier or later in your life? Is there anything else you’d change about the circumstances under which you began taking it?
I only really wish that I had found one that worked sooner. I started taking medication at quite a young age, 12, but I didn’t find one that actually helped in the long run until last year when I was 20. So those 8 years were very hard to find ways to cope and focus.
12) Has taking medication from a young age had any other lasting impact on you?
Starting taking medication from a young age has had a bit of an impact on me. Because I have lived for so long on medication and in therapy. The thought of it being any different is scary. Like what if they think I am better and stop the therapy or stop the medication and then I have another break down. Or even just thinking that I will probably be on medication for the rest of my life, that in it self is kind of scary. What if I meet someone and they leave me because they find out about my disorders and the medication.