a raw deal: accepting side effects of psych meds


A little while ago when I was making an effort to be less of a hoarder, I came across a piece of paper I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was my psych hospital discharge sheet from September 2004, the stay that came about because of a wholehearted attempt at suicide.  What was most interesting about looking at this sheet was the list of medications that I was told to take……something like eight different things.

I’m sure the doctors that treated me there meant well (and even gave me a new diagnosis), but now that I look back on this and the rest of my journey in ‘treating’ the illness, it seems to like they are just throwing any potential drug that could work for the problem and seeing if it sticks.  Well, some of it stuck alright.  The depakote they started me on then made me gain at least 30 lbs. within months.  Some of the drugs I took to replace the depakote then led to a problem that made the neurologist think I had a serious spinal cord disorder, followed by seeking help for those symptoms at the Mayo Clinic. The verdict from the doctor at the Mayo Clinic? It’s just a side effect.  

The thing about ‘just a side effect’ is that it puts limits on your life that’s even more crushing than the original illness. And what many people end up doing is seeing that side effect as part of the illness, even if it’s not.  We start to reason with something that should not be tolerated.  Replacing one symptom with a different side effect is not effective treatment.  

And with direct-to-consumer marketing of these psych drugs, they’ve planted into our heads that all will be fine if we just find the pill, or a perfect combination of all sorts of pills.  You know what? The commercials for these drugs are done with cartoon women and their talking balloons because this world where any mental issue can be fixed with a single pill doesn’t exist!! My anger isn’t out of any belief of mine; it’s born out of experience.  I have taken at least 30-40 different psych meds over the last ten years, and I took them willingly.  What I’ve come to realize over the last year or so is that some of your problems may be the illness, but really, if you’re not willing to fix other issues in your life, then your illness will never get better.  The current circumstances of your life situation will not change no matter how many drugs you take.  

I used to hang on to old medication that I wasn’t taking anymore, admittedly so that when that ‘calling’ comes for me to kill myself, I will have adequate supplies to do so.  But things have changed, and I decided that the best thing to do is to use those pills as decoration (see photo). 

I threw the discharge paper away with all the other things I don’t need to hold on to anymore.  Am I off all psych meds? No, and that’s not necessarily my goal.  But before people just start accepting any and all pharmacological treatment, just make sure to also take a hard look at what else is going on in your life that’s making you unhappy.  

One Comment to “a raw deal: accepting side effects of psych meds”

  1. Good to read this. How are you now? I lost your email. Would you drop me a line?

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