A Lifetime Choice

For those of you who follow regularly, you’ve heard me mention from time to time that I lied to myself for many years. Tried my damndest to avoid, ignore and subvert the fact that I have a mental illness. I tried all the usual denial techniques, self-improvement books to transform my life, and ultimately self medication in it’s various forms. For years refusing the idea of taking prescribed medications to “get better”.

Until one day I couldn’t refuse anymore. A visit to my doctor back in December for what I had hoped would be a one week sick note and something to calm my nerves, turned into a medication rollercoaster I had spent years avoiding. After years of my doctor’s advice being rejected I finally had to accept the recommendation.

Turns out I’m rather sensitive to medications. My aversion stemmed from a covert interaction with an anti-depressant when I was about 18. Full time smoker at the time, I decided to try Zyban to quit smoking. For those of you unfamiliar Zyban is just one of the many names for the anti-depressant Bupropion. Well the upside is during those few months on the drug I did quit smoking. I also became a walking talking coma patient, I was a complete zombie and it almost cost me my job. Difficulty with memory, motivation and everyday tasks became my new norm.

Suffice to say when I actually did my research, instead of proceeding under the false notion that a doctor would never prescribe something that could actually be detrimental to a patient, I learned the truth. Then and there I swore off anti-depressants for the remainder of my life. No matter how bad things got, no matter how dark times might be, none of those could compare to being the shell of a human I was on Bupropion.

Well many years later here I am, on anti-depressants and other medications my doctor and I are still trying to balance out. My psychiatrist referral is still months away, so until then I’m along for the ride. Tracking sleep, exercise, appetite, moods and symptoms. I have to journal my life, not just my thoughts, each day. It’s been incredibly helpful to pinpoint the changes in my life, and to predict the swing from mania to depression, but it still feels like a major pain in the arse.

Truthfully I don’t want to be on the meds. I look back and see all the years I survived on my own without them and wonder why I couldn’t do that again, but better this time armed with all the information I now have. Then I question if survival is what I want in life? My gut tells me that going off scripts would result in a survival style of life again, which is feast or famine.

While still trying to get “levelled out” or “balanced”, I have to question whether I could actually thrive once I do. There are many days when I worst-case scenario my future, never finding stable work, never finding a lasting relationship, never being anything but what I am on my worst days. This makes me question if whether I could finally get levelled out, that maybe I could have a successful and enjoyable life. There have been and are many successful people out there diagnosed with Bipolar who have shown the way. Not saying I’ll be the CEO of some billion dollar company by any means, but truthfully that isn’t my definition of personal success.

Some nights I take my meds and realize that the medical goal is just that for the remainder of my life, taking medications. My mind wrestles with the idea that mental illness is no different than physical illness. I would never tell a diabetic to give up insulin but I struggle with the idea of a lifetime of medication. At least once a month I research going off medications, but then resign myself that it has been months in the grand scheme of time, drops in the bucket of my life. Not enough time to spend all my time worrying about it. To have faith in science and medicine and my body’s ability to heal.

Today is a good day, a day I’m hopeful that is reflective of what a balanced life means. Not so restless or numb that I cannot function. This type of day makes me grateful for the medications, and question what my life could have been had I not be so stark against them from so early on.

This is my internal struggle, one that I’m sure is familiar to many. A war that may rage on for years with neither side winning. A chance at a fruitful life that I might not have otherwise, the choice I may regret for the rest of my life. Drops in the bucket I remind myself. My future, my life – both things that don’t have to be solved or mapped out in a single day.

For now I will stick to the meds, tracking the side effects that I can live with and the one’s I can’t. Hoping that the good days last and the bad days will become shorter. Choosing to look forward with hope that a diagnosis, and all that comes with it, isn’t a life sentence, but a map for an incredible journey in life.

M

How do you navigate the decision of medication? Please let me know in the comments below. If you like what you’ve read here please remember to like and follow. New pieces are posted regularly!

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