Take yer meds!

by Ms. Joy

Image courtesy of The Mind's Endless Mirror.

Last night, in the dark of night with babies snoring softly and intertwined in my limbs, my eyes snapped open. There is little difference in the amount of light in a room at 3 am and the back of your eyelids.. I had fallen asleep with the kids. It’s not such a bad way to catch up on sleep but it is not something that ever works out for me. Because I don’t plan on falling asleep with them snug in their warmth, it also means I don’t take my medication and it never ends well when I do it this late. Over the past two years I have worked out an uneasy method for swallowing those four little pills. A piece of toast, a glass of soy milk and a full glass of water must be imbibed before I stand before my dresser and shake 4 pink and white pills into my palm from the impossibly huge pill bottle. Printed on the side of each is Lithium 300 grams and each of those grams goes to controlling my serotonin and dopamine. We think. Lithium works but the docs don’t know how, which is reassuring.

It’s easy not to take it. It’s always easy to not to do the things that make us well. It’s easier to eat the potato chips, stay on the couch instead of exercising and not take a medication that causes migraines, nausea (and 4 am vomiting) as well as acne vulgaris that rivals your teenage kid’s face plight (sexy).

Not being on my meds equals mania, which is fun until it is not. Lithium controls the happy chemical, more commonly known as serotonin so it’s my theory that although Lithium can suck the mind-blowing ecstatic brilliance out of manic life, it replaces it with an even kiel of serotonin so that my brain won’t be starved of it later, plunging itself into a down period. My brain is a binger and Lithium doles out the serotonin in a most fastidious way.

There’s a pretty high incidence of people with mental illness going off their meds. If you spend a lifetime as your “crazy” self, it’s kind of hard to adapt – my psych told me I needed to adjust when I said the meds didn’t really really feel like they were working and he was right.  But, I did it. I went off my meds. And it wasn’t pretty. I have a partner and two babies (plus countless hangers-on known as family and friends) that love me and need me not to be nuts or dead. And that can be the alternative when the mania party shuts down.

A life was recently lost in our community to suicide. This is a tragedy but more over, it is preventable. Of the 3705 individuals who completed suicide in 2008 in Canada alone, not one needed to happen. So if you have a bottle of medication in a drawer somewhere that you are avoiding, start taking those pills again (you should check with your doc first). If you don’t have a bottle of neglected pills but think you may need one, get a hold of your doctor and ask for a mental health referral. It’s free and all you will have to pay for is your prescription. For a 2 month supply of Litihium (I take 1200 mg every night), it costs me $30. Not bad for something called wellness, now is it? I can deal with the migraines, the (occasional angry red) zit and the vomiting. I won’t deal with the alternative. If you have a loved one you’re worried about, call them or go see them and help them get help.