5 Easy (ha!) Steps to Finding a Medication

Congratulations on your recent diagnosis of mental illness!  You’ve just won a brand-new prescription!  Here are five easy steps to claiming your prize:

1. Overcome the negative attitude of everyone around you toward taking medication!  (Oh, goodie!)

2. Vanquish the stigma-induced fear in yourself that pills are going to steal your personality or somehow make your world into a playground made of rainbows.

3. Begin an awesome trial-and-error experience that could take years and years!

4. Battle against those pesky side effects that make you sweat, tremble, gain weight/lose weight, feel lethargic, cause drymouth, make you dizzy, impair your vision, induce muscle spasms, and– in some special cases– almost kill you.

5. Persist.  Because it really is worth it.*

 

*At least it was for me.  It was worth years of failed experiments and horrendous side effects– which are over– and years of shaming from others– which are not.  I am unashamed to take Prozac and Effexor XR every single morning and Risperdal every single night.  I don’t think meds are the “right” or “only” answer, but I do think they are a valid option, one that makes a difference in my daily life.

 

prozac2

 

“happy pills”

Whenever I hear medication referred to as “happy pills,” I cringe.  I take Prozac, Effexor, and Risperdal every single day, and let me tell you, they are not happy pills.  They don’t incite any kind of happiness or euphoria in me– in fact, the kinds of drugs that do that are generally illegal stimulants (heroin, cocaine, MDMA).  When people refer to mental health meds as “happy pills,” they are inferring that I get my happiness from a drug, which is point-blank untrue.

My medication essentially brings me to a “zero level” so that I can interact with the daily life in the same way as everyone else.  I still have good days and bad days, and I am influenced by events, experiences, and emotions.  These meds are in no way a blanket stimulant.

Now, I know that most people who use the term “happy pills” are generally not trying to cause a riot, but I believe that society needs to be more careful with its words.  Terms like this cast a negative stigma on taking meds and sometimes prevent people from pursuing psychiatric help, people who could really benefit from it.

I know there are a lot of opinions on medication.  It was a five-year tumultuous experience for me to get on the right cocktail of meds (including horrible side effects [Luvox, Clomipramine], mind vomit [Paxil], and a near-death allergic reaction [Propranolol]), but I believe it was worthwhile.  So while I appreciate the vibrant debate over the value of medication, I wish that we could all agree to not degrade meds by calling them “happy pills.”

meds are not happy pills

Medical or Spiritual?

Discovered a website this weekend that is very disturbing to me as a Christian obsessive-compulsive.

At GreatBibleStudy.com, you can read quotes like the following:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly referred to as OCD, is not a mental disorder or disease… it is a spiritually rooted bondage in the person’s mind that needs to be uprooted.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is basically demonic torment brought on by a person’s bondages to fear and shame.

These ‘voices’ or compulsive thoughts are NOT caused because of a chemical imbalance (which the secular world cannot explain anyways); they are there because of a spiritual bondage in the person’s life.

Now, don’t get me wrong!  I believe that obsessive-compulsive disorder has entered into this world due to SIN, yes, but to negate that OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance seems ridiculous to me.  As a Christian, I view ALL of life through a spiritual lens, but these quotes seem like the equivalent of saying, “Diabetes is not a problem with the pancreas– it’s a spiritual issue!!!”  To say that diabetes is not connected to the pancreas’s inability to produce insuliin would be silly, just as saying that OCD is not connected to a chemical inbalance (our bodies absorb serotonin too quickly … that’s why we take SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors … they SLOW DOWN the reuptake/reabsorbtion of serotonin]).

All issues are spiritual issues, but that does not mean that they are NOT also medical issues.  God is also the Author of Science and the Creator of our bodies.  To not combine the spiritual with the scientific is short-sighted, I believe.

What are your thoughts on these quotes?  I’d especially love to hear from obsessive-compulsive believers!

This is a repost of an earlier entry.

back to summer camp

So, I know that on June 1st I said I would not be returning to my beloved camp this summer, but plans changed.  A few weeks ago, my friend Aaron sent me a text asking if I would be willing to serve as a counselor for Last Chance camp over Labor Day weekend.  Since my heart had felt the absence of time up there, it was pretty easy to twist my arm.  My roommate Desiree and friend Ashley went up too, as well as my brother and a TON of great friends.  It was fun to look around at the other counselors and see so many wonderful camp friends– there is just something special about the people you’ve spent time with under the pines in northern Minnesota.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, I’m sorry for you. 🙂

Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend, even though I forgot all my OCD meds.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  I took Benadryl at night so that I could sleep without my Risperdal, but in the afternoons (when there were no planned activities), I could feel my spirits sag.  But I survived.  And laughed a LOT, so much that I lost my voice for a day.  Kinda love that.

In other news, I have continued to apply for writing contests and stuff, and I found out that I won a week-long writing retreat in December.  I’ll get to spend a week in this arts retreat house, focusing strictly on my novel, and I can’t wait!

More news: I discovered the band Mew last week.  They are from Denmark.  I like them a lot.  I have been reading a bunch and buying books faster than I can consume them (but what else is new?).

Life feels really good right now.  I feel like God is unleashing blessings on me, and I am praying that I will praise Him regardless of any of it.  My primary goal in life remains to stay connected to my Savior at all costs.  I am so glad that He is a pursuing God.

Okay, off to write some more!  Some book reviews coming up soon!

What about you?  What have you been up to lately??

medical or spiritual?

Discovered a website this weekend that is very disturbing to me as a Christian obsessive-compulsive.

At GreatBibleStudy.com, you can read quotes like the following:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly referred to as OCD, is not a mental disorder or disease… it is a spiritually rooted bondage in the person’s mind that needs to be uprooted.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is basically demonic torment brought on by a person’s bondages to fear and shame.

These ‘voices’ or compulsive thoughts are NOT caused because of a chemical imbalance (which the secular world cannot explain anyways); they are there because of a spiritual bondage in the person’s life.

Now, don’t get me wrong!  I believe that obsessive-compulsive disorder has entered into this world due to SIN, yes, but to negate that OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance seems ridiculous to me.  As a Christian, I view ALL of life through a spiritual lens, but these quotes seem like the equivalent of saying, “Diabetes is not a problem with the pancreas– it’s a spiritual issue!!!”  To say that diabetes is not connected to the pancreas’s inability to produce insuliin would be silly, just as saying that OCD is not connected to a chemical inbalance (our bodies absorb serotonin too quickly … that’s why we take SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors … they SLOW DOWN the reuptake/reabsorbtion of serotonin]).


All issues are spiritual issues, but that does not mean that they are NOT also medical issues.  God is also the Author of Science and the Creator of our bodies.  To not combine the spiritual with the scientific is short-sighted, I believe.

What are your thoughts on these quotes?  I’d especially love to hear from obsessive-compulsive believers!

medicated

How many times does this have to happen before I realize that I cannot skip my medication?  Last week I was running late to work, and I decided to skip my morning meds (Prozac and Effexor XR), thinking how– since CBT– I have been in control of obsessions.

Bad idea.

I was pretty depressed that evening, had ridden the rollercoaster down to the very bottom, had no idea what to do with the story I’m working on, felt pretty confident I will never be published, and had very little energy for anything.  I fell asleep that night feeling like a failure at life.

I realized later that my lack of meds was probably the culprit for the low.

When will I learn?

How about you: do ever skip your meds?  How long before it affects you?

medication is scary, part two

It took me approximately five years to get on the right medication.

Over the course of the five years, I experienced the following:

* rapid weight gain (30 pounds in one month)

* deep lethargy, during which air felt stale and I had to nap for 2+ hours every day after work

* mind vomit (a phrase I coined, meaning that taking the medication exacerbated my OCD, sending me into frenetic, panicked obsessions)

* a visible tremor

* drymouth, as stanch as if I were eating Saltines and peanut butter

* dizziness and vision loss, usually paired together (One time I had a whole conversation with someone without telling him I couldn’t actually see him … I hope I appeared to be looking him in the eyes.  The dizziness/vision loss combo happened so often that I actually got used to it, could continue walking across my apartment without even slowing my step.)

* Jello-legs, so terrible that I had to lean against the stairwell wall as I descended from my second-floor apartment

* excessive sweating

* lactation (you think I’m kidding, but I’m not)

* a spasm of pain in my back that once DROPPED me to the floor like I’d been tackled from behind

* an allergic reaction that nearly killed me (please, PLEASE do not take new meds unless you have Benadryl in your home!)

And then along came Dr. Suck-Won Kim, my sweet, wonderful expert psychiatrist, who got me onto my perfect dosage of Prozac, Effexor XR, and Risperdal.

And want to know what?

It was all worth it.

medication is scary, part one

PROZAC

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS that may occur while taking this medicine include abnormal dreams; anxiety; decreased sexual desire or ability; diarrhea; dizziness; drowsiness; dry mouth; flu-like symptoms (eg, fever, chills, muscle aches); flushing; increased sweating; loss of appetite; nausea; nervousness; runny nose; sore throat; stomach upset; trouble sleeping; weakness; or yawning.

CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY if you experience bizarre behavior; black or bloody stools; chest pain; confusion; difficulty concentrating; exaggerated reflexes; excessive sweating; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; fever, chills, or sore throat; hallucinations; increased hunger, thirst or urination; joint or wrist aches or pain; loss of coordination; memory loss; new or worsening agitation, panic attacks, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, restlessness, or inability to sit still; persistent or severe ringing in the ears; persistent, painful erection; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin; seizures; severe or persistent anxiety, trouble sleeping, or weakness; severe or persistent nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or headache; significant weight loss; stomach pain; suicidal thoughts or attempt; tremor; unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual or severe mental or mood changes; unusual swelling; vision changes; or worsening of depression.