Having lived with schizophrenia for almost nine years I’m no stranger to the myriad different things that can happen when you’re on a course of antipsychotic medication.
Many times these side effects can be disruptive to everyday life. Sometimes they come on slow and have a lasting impact like gaining a significant amount of weight. Sometimes they can be dull like drowsiness or a dissociative feeling.
The important thing to remember in all these cases is that side-effects are negligible compared to the benefit of the drug.
Still, there are some side-effects that can be so disruptive that changing meds is the only thing you can do. I remember when I was first diagnosed and I was put on Abilify. This helped with the paranoia but it caused something that bothered me so much that I refused to continue taking it. It was a condition called akithesia in which I felt a constant and bothersome restlessness. Every fiber in my being felt like it had to move. This resulted in afternoon long walks in attempt to wear myself out. The feeling though never subsided. Eventually I told my doctor and he prescribed something else.
Most of the time the side-effects are manageable and unless you’re extremely sensitive, little things like drowsiness or a strange taste in your mouth are easy to dismiss given enough time.
Over the course of the last nine years I’ve probably gained about 80 pounds thanks to side-effects as well and when that started to become a problem we switched my meds again. I’m now slowly losing the weight but it takes discipline.
The point of this all is to say that whatever med you take, you will inevitably have side-effects. The main thing is whether or not the unpleasantness of the side-effects overtakes the potential benefit of the drugs. In my case I’d much rather be sane and deal with a little drowsiness than off the walls with paranoia and delusions.
Some people, citing the side-effects and the perceived malpractice of their doctors choose to go without medications and while that is their own choice, it boggles me to think of having to be constantly under the weight of crippling symptoms.
Many of the side-effects of anti-psychotic medications can be also be offset by different factors such as what time you take your meds to being more conscious about your health.
The main problem is that different medications affect different people differently and like anything with getting healthier it’s a crap shoot to figure out what works for you as an individual.
In either the case of dealing with side effects or foregoing medication entirely, it all comes down to preference and if something just doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor. There are numerous options out there for people with mental illness.
Don’t be afraid to try something new until you get it right. The number of combinations of meds is immense and it takes a good deal of time to find the right cocktail for you. It will get better if you stay open to the possibilities.
You shouldn’t have to suffer if you don’t want to and it’s true that although there’s a stigma of taking medications for mental health, you can live better through chemistry.
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