I went to the doctors as a teenager confused about my overwhelming emotions. At that particular time I guess I was inundated with sadness as I couldn’t stop crying for extended periods of time and so I was diagnosed with depression, I left the walk-in centre with a prescription of anti-depressants with no idea what the future held. That was five years ago, since then I have been on and off medication of all kinds; anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and currently mood-stabilisers. Taking all this into account I consider myself somewhat experienced to give advice on taking medication for your mental health. Here are some things I wish I knew before I made my first appointment.
1.)One size does not fit all
There are so many different types of medications out there, but if you seek help for your mental health through your GP you will most likely get prescribed an anti-depressant. Anti-depressants work for some people and not for others, it is as simple as that. Some people swear by them and couldn’t imagine living without them, but in other cases they can make symptoms worse. This was me – but I believe this was because I didn’t need them in the first place. I tried various anti-depressants and none of them suited me. I am now on a mood-stabiliser which is much better suited to me. Like I say, one size does not fit all and it is often trial and error until you find a medication that suits you. (unless you are super-duper lucky)
2.)Be aware of the ‘settling in’ period
The first few weeks on new medication can be a little edgy to say the least, better known as the “settling in” period. My experience has varied on different tablets from mild nausea to extreme confusion but these negative side effects soon passed and the pros soon outweighed the cons. Hang in there!
3.)Don’t be afraid to go back to your prescriber
Even after the “settling in” period, if your medication just doesn’t sit right with you never be afraid to go back to your prescriber. Explain how you’re feeling, it’s important to get your meds right. Perhaps your dosage is wrong? This is something that can be discussed. You wanna feel better on medication rather than off it, surely? If so then communication is key.
4.)There is no such thing as a ‘happy pill’
Unfortunately there is no magical cure for depression, bipolar or any of the other nasty mental illnesses that exist and can take a hold of us. Although I am very grateful for finally finding a medication that helps me manage my mood, I have also made many other lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on my mental health. Eating a balanced diet, taking daily vitamins, cutting out fizzy pop, cutting out alcohol, drinking more water, walking my dog. I feel so much better when I live a healthier lifestyle. I am more creative than I have ever been before, enjoying writing, painting, music and reading. Volunteering and going to support groups helps feed me emotionally. I love meeting like-minded people, hearing their story and feeling inspired. It fills me with hope and ensures me that I too can carry on as at times I can be filled with doubt. Sometimes I wish I lived my life like this before and perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am now, but then maybe I wouldn’t have had so much fun. My point is there is no “happy pill”, a pill can only do so much- you have to be prepared to make changes aswell.
5.)Be aware of GP’s over-prescribing anti-depressants
Yes medication can help to make peoples lives more bearable and I would never suggest to withdraw someone from medication who needed it, but I do question how easily GP’s give out anti-depressants in the first place. I was given my initial prescription at a walk-in doctors after a surprisingly short conversation. I do believe a referral to some therapy or even further mental health assessment would have been much more beneficial and could actually saved me a lot of time on the wrong medication. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? Yet a young, naive, extremely depressed me took Sertaline as prescribed because then I believed that doctors knew best; now I understand that GP’s have a lot to learn about mental health.
6.)Do what’s right for you
If you want to go on medication as you feel it will help your condition or ease your symptoms then why the hell not? It’s your life, you do you. Don’t worry about what anyone else has to say, for every hater they’ll be 100 people cheering you on and backing your decision. Just know that there’s no magic fix.