Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Dude, You’ve Got to Stop Taking Crazy People Meds


I read an article about how effective Bipolar medications are, and that less that half of these patients take their meds.  The question being: How to get more patients to take their medication.

I have some ideas, although I bet a lot of them won’t be supported.

1.  Use treatment facilities.  Not for a mandatory 72-96 hour hold.  Whatever treatment that is pursued in that time would not have a chance in hell of actually taking effect.  Unless we count the sedatives they are happy to dole out to get the patient to a ‘better place.’  That ‘better place’ is usually a bit calmer than upon arrival and the number of suicidal ideations has dropped significantly.  But they haven’t gone away completely.  Nor have the self-harm urges or the disturbing thoughts or compulsions–they’ve been numbed away temporarily.  I have had many weekend stays on psychiatric units.  Yes, they kept me safe from harm.  But then I got out, and most often went right back into the not-so-great behaviors that landed me inpatient in the first place.

The times I have been hospitalized that have been most effective for me are the times that I stayed awhile.  As in a month.  Or more.  No one wants to be kept on one hallway for a month, but during that time, I was first able to grieve/mourn/cry/flip out about why I was there.  Then the doctors began adjusting medication.  Psychiatric medications do not work like antibiotics: they take over a month to take effect.  So a 72 hour hold only gives the doctors a chance to see if you have serious side effects, and then you are given over to your outpatient treatment team.

You’re a lucky person if you can see your outpatient psychiatrist soon after discharge.  They’re overworked and have cramped schedules.  So what motivation is there to take a medication if you can’t tell if it’s doing anything?  While inpatient, I was able to take medications and then go to therapy groups to help me with coping skills while the medication began it’s work.  At the end of my stay, I was able to see the medication working, giving me much more motivation to continue taking them at home.

And a lot of times it comes to insurance companies kicking patients out before either the doctor or patient feel that they are ready.  There are the employers who don’t believe depression is a good enough reason to make us of time off procedures.  There is pressure from peers that “dude, how long you gonna stay in the looney bin?”

2. Insurance companies are not my favorite corporations.  I’m on medicare, and medicare doesn’t pay for a lot of things.  We found one medication that actually did help significantly in a short period of time.  Medicare would not fill the prescription, and the cost was over $550 dollars a month.  We challenged medicare, and they compromised by saying they would pay $50 dollars per month.  If I’m on medicare in the first place because of being on disability, where am I supposed to get that $500 dollars every month?

3.  Communication, on both the part of the doctor and the patient.  My first psychiatrists just handed me pills, with no real explanation attached.  I was young; I trusted doctors; I took the medications.  Now? I make my doctor explain what each medication does and why it is supposed to help and how it will help and how it is different from the other medications we’ve tried.  I ask about positive effects and side effects.  I ask how it will affect my daily lifestyle.  I ask how long before it will take effect.  It’s like 20 Questions, except the answers require more than a yes or no answer.  Doctors are busy busy people.  But if you speak up and ask them questions, they will answer them.  If they don’t answer them, then you can ask to speak to another doctor.  As a 37-year-old, I have a say in every single decision that affects my care.

I found myself writing more, but I will wrap it up since I will get off point very quickly.  Mental illness is treated differently from physical illness.  None of my friends have ever asked me, “you’re done with that cardiac medication, right?  you don’t want to stay on that too long.”  But I have been asked, “Why do you take these psych meds?  You’ve already been on them for two months–get rid of them!”  Mental illnesses are often life-long struggles, much like diabetes.  But people still blame the mental patient for their illnesses.  “You aren’t praying enough.”  “Have you read the Bible lately for guidance?”  (Actually, I have prayed and read my Bible.  For guidance on coping with an illness.  Much like I converse with God about how to endure with a terminal heart condition.)  “Have you tried yoga?”  “Have you tried taking more Vitamin D?”  (Yes, I’ve tried yoga; I was a yoga instructor.  It helps, but it is not a cure.  And I consult with each of my doctors before adding in anything other than prescribed meds.  Vitamins are good–but some of them are rather dangerous as well.)

So my Fourth and Final suggestion is to decrease mental health stigma and to support those who struggle with mental illness and encourage them with their treatments.  Stop blaming them, shaming them, making them feel guilty for needing medication.  This medication does not interfere with my faith.  If anything, it strengthens my faith because now I’m able to develop my relationship with God, whereas before I could barely understand the term “faith.”

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December 10, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Totally agree with you. Unfortunately, at my internship I authorize psychiatric services, and we generally do a three day authorization. I’m not saying it’s right, but that is the really shitty reality of managed care. I worked inpatient psych for about two years and the only people I ever saw stay more than a week or two were those who were severely psychotic- regardless of what insurance they have. It seems very wrong.
    And I also find the really strong aversion to psychotropic meds very odd to say the least. My family is very disappointed that I still take meds, and would prefer that I take natural supplements and use essential oils. I have to remind myself that it ultimately isn’t their choice, and I know how I feel without the meds I take- and it’s not an ok way to function.

    Comment by free. | December 10, 2014 | Reply

  2. It IS very wrong. I’m “thankful” I had a long history with this hospital and that they were able to keep me for an entire month back in may. I was never psychotic, just planning out my suicide in detail. Three days would have done jack shit, and I know my doctors knew that.
    It took a long time for my parents to be okay with me being on psych meds. It took many times of going off a medication only to have me severely relapse with depression. And as for natural supplements–they’re still chemicals that affect your body and brain. I choose to have a doctor monitor my chemicals, not go to a store by myself and pick up what’s made the latest issue of Time.
    Mental Health Parity is something that needs to be addressed, but no one wants to open that box of worms. I hope you continue on your path–by choosing what’s right for YOU.

    Comment by surfacingaftersilence | December 11, 2014 | Reply


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