Whoops, Wrong Drug, Part 1

With mental illness, prescribing medication to treat the symptoms isn’t like treating an infection. There is a lot of trial and error involved, and I’ve experienced it personally.


There are approximately fifty million* times this many kinds of pills to choose from!

*Random Number, do not cite

For the sake of not influencing anyone towards or away from a certain medication, I won’t name names, but one of my first prescribed drugs made me so agitated and irritable I felt like I was in the early stages of a demonic possession horror movie. The second made my appetite increase while dragging my energy level down, leading me to put on fifty or so pounds-the resulting depression from the weight gain lead to fifteen more pounds.

An acquaintance mentioned a medication that dulled their senses to the point that they found themselves sunk into their couch for days at a time, forgetting to eat and subsisting on crackers and cigarettes. Coming off the medication, they said, was like being reanimated.

That story set off a round of reminiscing and comparing medication experiences (as well as longing for nicotine); everyone had at least one horror story. I was in quiet denial about how fat I was until someone else shared the same issue-apparently their doctor hadn’t warned them about the increased appetite and dragging energy levels either. I had to wonder if our respective doctors thought we would refuse to take the medication if we knew the possible symptoms. I would have preferred an informed refusal; the medication didn’t even work very well.

I currently take four medications for my mental illnesses, the newest addition intended to help deal with my lack of sleep, flashbacks, nightmares, and mood stabilization. It is also meant to help with migraines. I have only been on this exact combination for…

*checks calendar*

A little less than two weeks. I have been fiddling with my other medications for about a year and a half, after not being satisfied but being wary of trading my rocky fishing boat for a sinking dinghy.

These two weeks have been pretty decent, mental health-wise. But I just knocked on wood, because for all I know two weeks from now I may develop some other symptom.

Maybe I’ll grow wings!



Burning Out

What might not be appreciated, by the average person, is how much energy an illness can take.

Everything that you do, from getting up in the morning, to going to work, to eating, to engaging with other people, to bathing, to remembering to buy groceries, doing the laundry-all that takes energy, mental and physical.

If anyone is familiar with ‘spoon theory’, it’s a good general starting point.

But another way of thinking of it is akin to the battery on an iPhone.

Now, you start the day fully charged.


There are days that you can start with less than 100%.

Poor sleep, no sleep, nightmares-all of these can start you lower, so let’s say, 70-85%.

But there’s also a lack of consistency on how much energy a task can take.

Normally, getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast? It doesn’t drain the battery at all.

But sometimes it’s as if the phone is trying to load an update and you spend twenty minutes staring at a pan because you can’t collect yourself enough to remember how to cook an egg and suddenly you have 20% battery and have to go into power saving mode just so you can eat something, and end up with a bowl of cereal and a blank expression.

Or you can spend fifteen minutes trying to shake off a nightmare, and by the time you’re out the door your battery is at 50-65%.

Then you have to get to wherever you’re going. Let’s assume work.

If you’re driving, you have to use energy to watch the road, the other drivers-keep yourself safe and on time from home to work. If you’re on public transportation, you try to get a seat, but that’s not always possible, so the crowding wears down on you.

So by the time you get to work you have less than 50% battery.

And the work day hasn’t even started.

But you have to work. You have to endure. You have to get home again. Eat dinner. Go to sleep.

But sleep doesn’t fill your battery all the way.

And you get up. Endure another day. Go home. Get up again.

Until the day you wake up, and there’s nothing. You can’t get up, and that realization makes you cry silently with exhaustion, until even that is too much, and all you can do is stare silently at the wall.

And wonder what the hell you are supposed to do.