5 thoughts on “The Psych Meds Divide: Can People Who’ve Never Taken Them Understand Those Who Have?

  • March 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Can those who are on medication understand those who chose not to be?

    Due to a horrible side effect I swore off psych meds after roughly 2 years of use. I have been criticized for this choice since we live in a world where once diagnosed with a mental health issue it is assumed that medication will follow and you will be on them for a long time. I try to not let my fear and distrust dictate how others want to live their lives but no one seems to have a problem seeing me as the “bad patient” or more out of control.

    I’m actually very well off.

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  • March 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Your point about not having empathy for others is a cogent one. I have a psychiatric disorder, and my boyfriend has one, but a very different one. We often have trouble understanding, and having empathy for, each other. We live in two different spheres of illness.

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  • March 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I am someone who took medication for over 10 years.
    I also was engaged in therapy during that entire time.

    I can tell you, for me, that I did not know how to explain my inner life before meds, and therapy during the time I was taking meds did not help me learn to do that.

    One day, when I realized that I felt numb and not able to cry when sad – in life or watching a movie that would normally invoke tears – I began to wonder what I was like “underneath” the meds. Who was I? Was I the same person who started taking meds? Was I someone who was now able to learn more about the reasons for being on the meds, to learn more about myself, and how to cope without the meds, but with a good therapist. So that’s what I did. I contacted the nearest psychoanalytic institute for a referral to someone in my community and I began good therapy that has changed my life, and continues to change my life.

    I stopped meds cold turkey – something I didn’t know was not recommended.

    Meds for me, were like pain reliever and a band-aid. Temporary and superficial. They helped, but not in the way I ultimately wanted. Now I am getting real and permanent help.

    So I understand those who take meds for various reasons. And when possible, I tell my story and I remind others that meds are always their choice to take or to not take, and that therapy provides deep, lasting relief and change.

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  • March 4, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I did that, stopped my zoloft cold turkey and landed in the psych ward. Your questions – am I able to describe how I am before/after medications? Sure. I can describe all of the ways I was ill, the places where I felt illness in my body, how illness affected my life and on and on. I can also describe how medications worked and subsequently didn’t work. There is a huge vocabulary for mental illness – if you are a vocabulary person, then those descriptions will come very easy for you.

    Your question, I think, also comes down to whether or not we can ever know what it is like to be in another person’s skin – medicated or not. I don’t think so. Aside from having a mental condition, I am also a fulsome person, with a complex personality and a rich life history. I have preferences for this and reject that….. none of these things have anything to do with mental illness and the subsequent medication I take for it. If I were to tease out that part of my life – the mediation part – I would have to say the closest non-medicated person who understands me is my psychiatrist – on almost every level – intellectually, emotionally, emathically – yes, she understands me.

    Everyone else in my life – no. Why? I hate saying this, but so many people are self-centred and if they have never experienced something directly then it does not exist in their minds. Or the other worse alternative mental illness carries a huge stigma – people just don;t get it, so how could they possibly understand medications? I think right now, the general misconception is ‘you have medication for that, so therefore you are ok’ therefore symptom free, therefore normal and somehow fixed.

    Medications, just like mental illness, are complex so I think it takes a person who is willing to be educated about both the illness and treatment options. Perhaps a parent would be motivated to do that for their child. Outside of that relationship, no, I don’t expect people to know what my condition is like. I liken it to this – I am female. I do not have an expectation that males know what femaleness entails….. will males ever know what it is like to be a woman or vice versa. No – our chemistry and biology is different and we accept and hopefully respect it. The same applies to this situation – my chemistry is altered. I take medication in an effort to re-allign it. It is a chemical, neurological condition. I can tell you about, but you could never truly understand and know – and that is ok.

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  • March 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Very interesting question. I guess those of my friends who’ve never taken psych meds have two things to go on: 1) My descriptions of my experience with them (side effects, positive effects, etc.), and 2) their observations of how much better I sound and look when the meds are doing their job and I’m in remission. I think they’re glad I have something that helps because no one likes to see their friends miserable.

    Most of those who’ve never needed meds themselves seem to take my experiences at face value. One or two folks have said annoying things like “I don’t judge anyone who takes meds, but I’d never take them myself.” Of course one of those folks self-medicates with recreational drugs, with questionable results…

    My inner/subjective experience on meds is that when they are working properly, I feel so NORMAL. Despite the some side effects that I choose to live with, I’m back to the real me, without the awful burden of depression to distort everything.

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