I am not a professional and this is not intended to give you any type of professional advice when it comes to your mental health and medication.
I am speaking purely from my experience of having been prescribed a lot of medication over the years and know a lot of people who struggle with mental health. Through the combination of these, I have learned that medication isn’t for everyone. I know many people who are thriving and learned to cope without medication or taking it short term. However, if you do take it, it does not make you weak or mean something is wrong with you. Would you forgo an inhaler because you thought it made you weak? Or insulin?
Also, medication, on its own, is not going to cure you if you’re suffering from some type of mental health disorder. It best when combined with therapy, exercise, learning healthy habits that work for you, and a lot of time and dedication to understanding the root of the problem. However, resources to getting the root of that problem are near impossible.
Psychologists and psychiatrists are insanely inaccessible due to insurance rarely covering them and those that are accessible are usually at the cost of the doctor (i.e. sliding scales, changing their titles, etc).
For those of you who aren’t aware of just how hard and expensive it is to find a psychiatrist or psychologist, let me enlighten you with a quick story:
A few years back as I was settling into a new city and finding a new psychiatrist, I made an appointment with a PCP. You see, the way it often works is that you often have to get a referral from a PCP in order to even get on a waitlist to see a psychiatrist. From my experience, this is due to – as mentioned above – the high demand and low supply of psychiatrists. Also, in the meantime, I still needed my medication and they had the authority to refill it for me. At the time, I was prescribed Lexapro 20mg (for anxiety), Wellbutrin xL 300mg (for depression) daily and Lunesta 3mg (for sleep), and Clonazepam 1mg (for severe anxiety) as needed. Now I know that sounds like a lot, but this was the medical “cocktail” that had been nailed down by my last psychiatrist after countless trial and error with different medications. The doctor must have thought the same thing because the appointment ended with the following “game plan”:
- I received a referral to a psychiatrist (yay!) that I would later find out was specialized in medication dependency (wait, what?).
- I would stop taking Lexapro and Wellbutrin (cold-turkey) and replace it with Trintellix.
- She refilled my Lunesta at the 3mg and my Clonazepam, but moved it from 1mg to ½ mg.
There are about a million things wrong with this plan of action, but there two, in particular, I want to discuss further. First off, she was having me stop taking very high doses of two medications cold turkey, which is extremely dangerous. Even if she didn’t agree with the medication or dosage, I should have been tapered off at the very least. Secondly, she was replacing it with Trintillex, which I had never heard of before (and as I said before, I’ve had my fair share of trial and error). As I left the doctor’s office, I did a quick Google Search of Trintillex only to find it was a medication for major depression that had just finished trial testing. I called my mom and she was mortified; also knowing the negative side effects of this, but that the doctor was likely getting a kickback for prescribing me this new medication.
Had the doctor taken the time to understand why I was on the mocktail that seemed “over the top”, she would have found that this had only recently been increased and had medications added to it because my cousin had lost his battle with depression less than 6 months prior. Stack this on the top of my lifelong personal battle with depression and anxiety due to various other traumatic experiences, she may have understood why. She might have also learned that part of why I was looking for a new doctor – because I had recently moved to be closer to family and this was temporary; that I was actually looking to find a safe way to taper off most of those medications.
Now I am sure that there already a pack of people who are ready to jump in like wolves to play devil’s advocate. They are ready to light their keyboard on fire and point fingers back at me; saying things like “I should have advocated for myself” or “she was right because I was on way too much medication”.
To those people, I say this:
- The irony is just almost laughable. That here I am, pouring out my soul and sharing very vulnerable life moments, specifically surrounding the holes in how society handles mental health, only to be quickly judged and bullied. Before you write that comment, I ask that you take a moment to try and understand why you’re so quick to judge and project. I ask that you really dig deep because the odds are very high that (1) this is likely triggering something inside you and (2) that you are missing the point completely.
- I do not owe you an explanation, but I will offer you this much. I was young, traumatized, and going through some monumental changes. I had yet to know my voice or that I could actually use it. To be honest, I didn’t realize how twisted it all was until I was on the phone with my mom telling her what had happened. I also did voice these concerns to the office at which the doctor resided. It was after the fact, once I had time to digest it all and understand just how wrong it all was at the time.
This doctor may have very well not have had a clue how significant and detrimental her treatment was at the time. She may have not been getting a kickback of any kind. She may have been doing the best she could with the information she had at that moment. But sadly, that is the issue here entirely. That she had the ability to make a decision with so little knowledge on the subject. I was sent on my way with a plan that could have resulted in a variety of bad outcomes; one of which being death
Luckily, I knew the severe adverse effects of this plan and did not comply. Luckily, I also found a different doctor who did take the time to listen. He learned about my story and background. He empathized and talked with me about different – non-medicinal ways to cope. He came up with a plan, explaining his reasoning for every decision he made. Luckily, he also referred me to a psychiatrist. He made sure that I had enough medication until I was able to see this psychiatrist and come up with a safe plan to decrease and even get off most of these medications completely.
Sadly, many others aren’t so lucky. And my heart hurts for those people every single day.
Read more on my most recent thoughts around mental health here.