I take three psychotropic medications. This is my choice, taken in full knowledge of the potential side effects (I read the information provided by my pharmacy and the information available on drugs.com). Your opinion may differ, and that’s okay. Your experience may differ, and that’s okay too. What I do know is that they work for me. Mostly.
The prescribing of psychotropics can often be hit and miss; that is, the medication that works is often discovered through trial and error. For many, this means that they’re put through a cycle of trying, and then withdrawing from, medications. They do this while suffering with their illness. Often, the symptoms of their illness are worsened during this time of trial and error.
Yet, there is a potential tool that exists that can perhaps reduce the guesswork – genetic testing. CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which is involved in a study investigating the use of genetic testing for psychotropic use, puts it this way: “Genetic testing of your liver enzymes and other genes will give an idea of how quickly you will break down some antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, whether you might need a different dose than most people, and your likelihood of getting some side effects.” If you are interested in this idea, you can find more details here.
In my case, I was fortunate that the first psychotropic I was prescribed had some success. It did provide emotional stability, a lessening of the bleakest elements of my mood. It also caused increased drowsiness, periods of insomnia, dry mouth, excessive sweating, increased urination, weight gain, and a muting of my emotions. But remnants of the bleakness remained, and ideations still occurred, so this initial medication was modified in dosage and then supplemented, tweaked if you will, by others.
The first tweak led to drooling in my sleep, restlessness, and periods of heartburn. It also reduced some of the drowsiness caused by my initial medication, which was the reason it was initially prescribed.
The second tweak led to increased thirst, and periods of trembling in my hands but reduced the ideations.
Cumulatively, the psychotropics have helped create a more stable mood. But the price has been significant weight gain, excessive sweating, and the muting of my emotions alongside some lesser consequences.
Nonetheless, I admit that the quantity of medications I take, coupled with their hit and miss nature, do have me doubting my use of psychotropics from time to time. I wonder if there isn’t another medication that would work without the need for supplementing. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d prefer alternatives that didn’t mute my emotions. Then I remember where I once was – I know where the unfettered emotions can take me. I choose not to go there again if I can at all avoid it.
For many, the muting of the emotions is too high a price to pay. Some liken this muting of emotion to creating a zombie state. For me, this effect is less alarming than the zombie state I existed in during the darkest moments of my depressive episode. Then, there was so much blackness, so much negativity, that I became numb to all emotions, eventually becoming numb to the blackness itself. My choice is to accept that some muting of emotion is worth not having to face that bleakness again.
The psychotropics give me an emotional stability which removes some of the effects of the depressive episode. For me, lack of clarity in thinking, the inability to focus, the lack of comprehension, the slowed thinking, all of which are common elements of a depressive episode, are hard to take. They took away the last remnant of my self-esteem, my intellect. However, once my medications helped to stabilize me, my research, then my writing and finally my painting, helped me to rediscover my intellect and rebuild self-esteem. In essence, the psychotropics helped remove the cloud from my thinking, giving me clarity of thought which propelled my research into my illness. With understanding came acceptance and with acceptance came the growth of new self-esteem, albeit it a fragile self-esteem.
But I accept the truth that not everyone is so fortunate in their experience with psychotropics. I also accept the truth that psychotropics, alone, are not the solution. Talk therapies play a role in recovery. I will discuss my use of talk therapies in my next post.
About John Dickson
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.