Just wanted to get something down about psychiatric medications and the relationship and mindset I have had with it over the years. It is one the most widely stigmatised and debatable groups of medications amongst patients and non-patients. You ask anyone in your social network about antidepressants and you will get a different attitude and opinion about them. Not only did I grow up around poor monitoring and over use of medications in psychiatry in the late 80’s and early 90’s with my mother’s care, I then found myself in the mental health system since 2008. I resisted for years to take them. I feared and suffered without the help they can offer patients like me, for years while raising my child. At the time I was in and out of hospital with panic attacks and the depressive mood was following me round like an extremely dark cloud. Whilst I was on an 18 month waiting list to see an NHS psychologist in Manchester in 2010, I had to do something and that was to agree to see the GP and take something.
Fast forward 10 years, I am now on my 3rd different type of medication and currently experiencing horrendous side effects whilst sleeping. Insomnia caused by electric shock type sensations and involuntary muscle jerks throughout my body when I am just drifting into sleep! Torture is an understatement! Countless days I have spent unable to function and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Haslingden. I don’t think this side effect it is listed as one of the many side effects you may experience according to the patient information leaflet. You don’t get enough time with a prescriber to find out about side effects as we are all biologically different. It is a case of what ever mud is thrown at you, if it sticks, then it’s helping towards the bigger picture of mental health care. With a 12 month period, I have gradually built up a dose from 0 – 220mg per day and now on the slide back down to hopefully a more trouble-free dose. I feel insomnia has always been an issue but this medication has made it a lot worse and I am now taking a drug for insomnia! Like I said to the GP this morning, I need to find the balance between a therapeutic dose and not wanting to throw myself under a bus! I may be on a slow reduction or a change over!
What has been important for me is trauma based therapy. We all know about CBT, person-centred counselling and some support groups but little is known about psychotherapy and other talking treatments without a bit of research and peer support first. The medications enabling me to cope and function. Not about being ‘happy’, its being able to tolerate the daily challenges and deal with anything life decides to throw at me.
I note from recent media and so on that anti-depressant prescribing has massively increased , especially in young people. Self harm has reached levels where A&E cannot cope and I have been to a recent suicide bereavement conference to validate these facts. It is not just my writing. This is largely due to social media, image focused media and the fast based pressures of society and what is expected of young people. I quit Facebook this month quite simply because I wanted more time for other things and to ‘like’ myself and not another drain on my time updating news feeds and hoping others will like it! I asked myself, ‘is this a good use of my time? No was the answer. So I moved on. If friends and family want to be in my life, they will make time to see me call me or message me, not acknowledge me in a news feed. There are lots of alternatives to socialising anyway!
Over prescribing is not good on any level and it is actually costing the NHS more money long term, especially when you start to look at what is required to enable you to stay safe on medications and what they do to the rest of the body. I am not trying to scare anyone BTW but without knowledge, how can patients have informed choices and maintain well-being? What is missing is representation from the drug companies and GPs collaboratively, to help patients like me choose a medication and then offer safe withdrawal or reduction if needed. However, they are in the business of making profit and that involves NHS patients buying and consuming. Your local pharmacy is a great place to start getting your medications reviewed each year or more if needed. So if you can start off with that mind-set, then think about what you are getting out of the medications and if it’s helping you do things in your life you want to do. It is not being negative towards pharmaceutical industries, it is being rational and putting your own best interests first. Anti psychotic medications are another discussion, so I will it there for now.
There is now more peer led forums looking at psychiatric medication withdrawal and patients are tapering off in tiny increments to become less dependant on the medication and lead a better quality of life outside of the medical model of mental illness. They are worth looking at and getting help from them in conjunction with a GP that wants to support you with your choices, not one that tells you what he or she thinks is best. You know your body best and the shift is moving towards patient empowerment and knowledge sharing amongst patients. Remember that.