I stare at the little white pill, in my hand, wondering if today was going to be the day that would spiral myself down into an impulsive withdrawal. Will I take my medication today? The way tv shows make it seem, those with mental health disorders simply "forget" to take their medication and their world falls apart. For me, my medication is always on my mind. There is no "forgetting" to take the little white pill.
Each time I put the medication in my mouth, is a conscious choice that I am making.
Yet, my body rebels.
Night One on Medication
"You must be sick and tired of being sick and tired," my psychiatrist said, as he sympathetically commented on how shitty I looked.
I didn't sleep.
I didn't drink coffee, either.
Who needs coffee when mania is essentially ten energy drinks pumping through your veins at all times?
When he saw me to talk about medication, he could tell I had been up for days already. I was desperate for rest. Melatonin, NyQuil, and other over the counter sleeping medication was doing nothing for me.
Mania is relentless.
I grabbed my prescription and filled it, like a hungry dog eating for the first time. For so long, I had gone unmedicated, allowing hallucinations, paranoia, and fear of living drive me to the ground. I was developing a phobia of leaving my home and my therapist warned me not to go down that route. Something needed to be done.
So when I finally took my medication, I was excited. I was ready to "fix" a part of me... perhaps let my body run like a better oiled machine.
What I didn't expect was the wave of nausea to suddenly hit me, just minutes after I took my medication.
I decided to lay down, only to be met by full body restlessness.
I couldn't breathe.
My whole body felt like it was shaking uncontrollably, yet a tired, sinking feeling was coming over my body. Like someone was sitting on top of me.
I was having a panic attack and that shit was scary.
Terrified, I called up my psychiatrist. He told me that this was called akathisia, and it's a common side effect. "It'll go away after you keep using the medication," he promised.
Spoiler: It didn't go away. As I write this, it still hasn't gone away.
But, I slept.
For the first time in years, I slept for a full 10 hours. I woke up feeling...
It felt like a warm security blanket had been wrapped over my brain. I waited for my morning intrusive thoughts to enter and scare me back into bed, but they didn't come. Perhaps I could hear an echo or shadow of those thoughts, but I was able to make it to my bathroom, without running back under my covers.
After a Week on Medication
I proudly walked into the bank, by myself, and deposited a large check for the last week of work that I freelanced. Often, I am unable to work, trapped by the pacing mania that robbed me of a good night's rest. My hands would shake and I can't fulfill my clients' requests, putting me behind on work.
Making it so that I get paid less and less as each month went on.
But not that week. I was able to work consistently without having a meltdown.
And I slept.
I even drove to the store by myself and did a shopping trip without falling to pieces.
Even so, the akathisia pressed on. The price of being able to function in the casual world was to suffocate under the weight of a medication induced panic attack, every night.
And as each panic attack ensued, I wondered to myself if living a normal life was worth the amount of mental and physical pain the side effects of my medication was giving me.
I chose to keep taking the medication.
Two Months on Medication
After a joyful first month, able to socialize, work, and be a functioning member of society, I noticed old patterns resurfacing.
I was turning on all my lights again, before bed.
There was a metallic taste in my mouth, like copper.
A loved one and I got into a heated conversation, and I started splitting.
"You're on a low dose," my doctor said, "We can go up."
"Yes, let's do that," I decided.
And for the first few days, I felt great again.
The Price of Medication
These days, I live a relatively low-intrusion life. I can mostly manage living, although I'm still struggling to work consistently of manage your social life effectively. Still, my house is mostly clean and I have been able to leave the home.
I shower without fear of closing my eyes and getting murdered by something from the darkness. I no longer sleep with my lights on. At 27 years old, I have driven my first 60 miles straight without needing to pull over and have a panic attack.
But my face is breaking out with the worst acne I've ever had. Even as a teenager, I did not have such a terrible acne problem. Each evening, I am still suffering from akathisia-induced panic attacks, lasting three hours until I fall asleep. Sometimes the akathisia is so terrible I consider calling an emergency hotline because it feels like I'm going to die.
I would love a medication that would always work, and help me live a more productive life. If my feelings, mood swings, hallucinations, and paranoia could be permanently fixed, that would be great. Even better is if my medication did not come with such harsh side effects... but this is the price of wanting to live even a minimally "normal" life and function alongside society.
For now, I settle for this. I appreciate the little wins and adore the fact that I have more good days now, than before the medication. Tiny steps.