Medication is a controversial topic when it comes to mental illness, because there’s this sort of barrier around the idea of having to medicate yourself to function normally. At least that is how I view it. Don’t get me wrong, I use medications – in fact, I need my medications. But I’ve always felt incredibly broken by the thought of using them. I now realize, though, that all it does is give your brain the things it lacks due to the mental health issue you are struggling with. Being able to have something to take for mental illness is truly a blessing. It proves that it’s a real illness, and that there is hope for you to get better.
The trial and error of medications is the scary part. The side effects are never nice, and you don’t whether or not it will just make your symptoms worse… Today, I am thankful for that trial and error. I’m going to go back a bit to tell you about my journey with prescriptions (woohoo) and what they’ve done for me.
A few years back I was put on Cipralex, AKA Escitalopram. It belongs to the group of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is used to treat depression, OCD, and generalized anxiety disorder. It works by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain. Increased serotonin levels can lead to an improved mood. For me, that wasn’t the case. At first I noticed a huge improvement in my anxiety levels. I could go weeks without having a panic attack. But then I began to notice weight gain, which took a turn for the worse and actually increased my depression symptoms.
So, next stop was Wellbutrin, which worked for my depression…for a while. Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), and it serves as an atypical antidepressant different from most commonly prescribed antidepressants such as SSRIs (it is more effective to treat depression). It is a commonly described antidepressant because it has a lesser chance of inducing side effects such as weight gain or sexual dysfunction. The problem was that when I started to feel “normal” again, I took it into my own hands to come off this pill when I wanted. That caused viscous cycles of feeling incredibly unwell.
In January I began taking Wellbutrin again. I was unable to cope with life. I also began Effexsor. As an SNRI, Effexor works by increasing and regulating the levels of two different neurotransmitters in the brain: norepinephrine and serotonin. These two neurotransmitters are thought to play an important role in controlling people’s happiness and feelings of well-being. At low doses, Effexor inhibits serotonin reuptake, and at higher doses inhibits both serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake. The combination of the two pills seemed to be doing the trick. I started feeling a hell of a lot better.
However, I was still experiencing crippling panic attacks, just not as frequently. My psychiatrist said that I shouldn’t be experiencing any anxiety on this particular drug, so we upped the dosage. The first week and a half was okay. Then, everything came back at full speed. My depression swallowed me. My ability to regulate emotion was gone, and I was cycling throughout the days.
This is where we are now. With all of the symptoms I’ve had over the last few years, and the increase in them, the Effexsor revealed that I actually have bipolar disoarder, with traits of BPD (borderline personality disorder). My doctor explained to me that it is common for people with bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed initially. At first I was really caught off guard, but after thinking about it, I can make sense of it. Bipolar disorder runs very strongly in my family. I also have a lot of the symptoms, I just never put two and two together.
Honestly, I was upset. I was unsure because of the bad rap that bipolar has. You know, the shade that surrounds it.
The thing is, it’s all just labels. They mean nothing, and there’s always going to be a person behind that label. I’m nothing less than I was before, and I’ll learn to become something more.
About Emma Holden
18, tea enthusiast, animal lover, word writer, and wants to change the stigma on mental health one blog post at a time.