I am a sufferer of Bipolar disorder and also a manic-depressive. This may seem like more information than you would like to know but I had a conversation with a friend today that really got me thinking about people with similar issues as well as the perception of both mental illness and the medication associated with it.Anyone who knows me personally can testify to the massive change in my balance and stability since I began taking to correct combination of medications I use daily. Before I found the right combination, many of those who knew me well would not be surprised to hear that my thinking was delusional, sociopathic and even suicidal at times. I heard things, or thought I did, felt lower about myself than anyone would imagine, and despite the presence of wonderful people in my life, all I could think about was ending my own, the only way to escape the pain of just being alive. I have come a long way since then. I regularly take an anti-psychotic, an anti-depressant as well as a sleep aid and they have changed my life. I can now see the light, can deal with my own hatred of myself, and can allow others into the dark world that my mind often seems to be, even when I do not want it to.
The reason I am trying to be open about myself is that both myself and the friend I mentioned have similar issues and both of us have had the unfortunate experience of having someone close to us imply that we do not need the medications we take. Some of these people have even gone so far to say that it is nothing more than a crutch, an excuse and a sign of weakness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Think about it, if someone has high blood pressure are they ever made to feel “weak” because they take it? Of course not because they have a physical disease and they need it, but I find it staggering how when it comes to mental issues, people don’t think twice about putting someone down for taking the medication that improves their life. Why is this?
For those of you who haven’t met me personally, I am 38 years old. I am 5’11” tall and a few years back, before my treatment began, I was walking around at 130 lbs! I was so thin that you could see just about every bone I had and had I had cancer instead of my issues, I probably would have looked healthier. My doctor likened my mind to a car being put into park while having the gas pedal stuck to the floor. Now, a few years later and on a regular dose of what I was prescribed, I weigh 205 lbs and am healthier than I have been in a decade. Gone are the dreams where I would awake screaming in the night, sweating so profusely that my wife would have to wake up with me so we could change are sheets. Gone are the fits of crying harder than when my father died, even when nothing had happened. Gone are the intrusive thoughts about harming myself and, even worse, harming others.
Yes, I still have days where I have milder versions of what I once had, but thanks to doctors that cared enough to find me the right medication, I can live a generally happy life, even a somewhat productive one. I do struggle sometimes with the side-effects of the medications, the tiredness, the interference in my sex life, but these are isolated incidents and I gladly endure them simply because I would never do anything to go back to the way I used to think. To be honest, I can barely remember myself from back then, almost as if it was a bad dream.
The point of this post is to say to those out there with similar struggles that your medications, when properly managed are not a crutch, they are a medical necessity, just as a person with a bad heart needs a pacemaker or a person with high blood pressure needs what they need to keep it down. Your medications are there to solve a medical issue, so do not allow others who do not and can not understand your mental state, other than from an uninformed and ignorant position, to bring you down for trying to help yourself improve your life. If the medications do not help, then by all means stop taking them, but if you see improvement, if your life is happier as a result, then do not allow someone who couldn’t handle a day in your shoes try to tell you how to wear them.