Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. All that I am writing is my own experience with medication. Every person is different and will react differently to each medication. If you are having issues with your medication please speak to a doctor.
I first started on medication for my mental health when I was 19 and it has been a huge journey full of trial and error. I’m still not even sure I have found the correct combination nine years on. This doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. Some people find the first medication they try works for them.
My current medications for my mental health are Sulpiride (an antipsychotic), Sodium Valproate (a mood stabiliser), Venlafaxine and Mirtazapine (both antidepressants). I have also tried Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Sertraline, Risperidone, Aripiprazole, Lorazepam and Diazepam. Here I plan to discuss my experience and journey with medication.
When I first went to the doctors, seeking help for my mental health, I was reluctant to try medication as I had heard negative things about it. So my doctor decided to get me to try counselling first but I continued to struggle and it was eventually decided to put me on an antidepressant. The drug of choice was Citalopram. I was started off on a low dose and had it gradually increased over time but, for me, it was not very helpful and didn’t make a dent in my depression. I was also lucky in that I didn’t get any side effects from it. I was on it for quite a while.
Then I was changed to Sertraline, another antidepressant. Again it was started at a low dose and increased. This time I felt a small benefit from it but I also felt disconnected from the world and like my creativity had gone. So I stopped it without discussing it with a doctor. This is something I would never advise and it ended badly for me with me becoming more unwell until it was restarted.
Eventually it was decided that Sertraline wasn’t right for me and I was switched to Fluoxetine. This is where I began to run into problems quite quickly. Fluoxetine, for me, was the worst medication. I quickly descended into a crisis and became extremely suicidal. My depression was at it’s worst with me being unable to get out of bed.
Me medication was quickly changed and I was put on Venlafaxine and Mirtazapine. These two drugs really helped me. Mirtazapine sorted out my sleep and I remain on it. I think this is the one drug I’d be reluctant to stop as sleep is important to keeping me well.
As for Venlafaxine it was also helpful but was decided I would stop it as the withdrawal from missing a dose was awful and I was always anxious I’d be ill and unable to take it. It took 6 months to come off and I was off it for several years before it , recently, was decided it should be added back in at a low dose. It is helping me slightly again.
These are all the antidepressants I have tried. I am also on a mood stabiliser and an antipsychotic. The mood stabiliser I am on is Sodium Valproate and its the only one I’ve tried though the dose has been played around with. It is currently working for me and stops, to an extent, the rapid mood swings of BPD. It has weight gain and acne as side effects and these are things I’ve struggled with. But the benefits outweigh these at the moment.
The first antipsychotic I tried was Risperidone and it worked for me. The voice I hear was reduced. I, however, couldn’t stay on it as a blood test showed it was effecting my kidney function and hormone levels. It was stopped and for a while I was without an antipsychotic.
After a while my symptoms were not improving so it was decided to try a new antipsychotic; this time Aripiprazole. Aripiprazole didn’t help me. It didn’t touch the voice and caused my anxiety to sky rocket. I also felt more like a zombie on it and even my parents noticed I wasn’t with it.
In the end I decided I needed to come off Aripiprazole and so with a doctors help I did and was put onto Sulpiride instead. This I am currently still on and I am not sure how much it helps me. It has had an effect on my hormone levels but it seems the benefits outweigh this. We shall see how it goes.
I have also tried Lorazepam and Diazepam to help with anxiety and have found them useful in the short term. I have not used them enough to go into detail though.
So this is my experience of medication. It has been a rocky journey but my current view is that medication can be a useful tool to manage symptoms. It may take a while to find the right one or it may not be right for you but it is a valid option. Noone should feel ashamed of taking medication for their mental health.
Please feel free to share your experiences of medication in the comments. Everyone is unique so I am sure many of you have different experiences.
Picture from Pinterest.