After most diagnoses, doctors prescribe medication. People with cancer are treated with chemo and radiation, diabetics watch their blood sugar every few hours and take insulin, and something as simple as an ear infection is treated with antibiotics. Mental illness is no exception, but there's no pamphlet you receive when you're diagnosed. All you are told is the medication will take four to six weeks to work, and you should start to feel better.
News flash, that's not always true.
I was prescribed a medication I expected to be on for a while because someone told me they had been on it for years. I lasted five months on that prescription before increasing the dosage. That didn't work, so the doctor put me on an additional medication. That medication made me so sick that I could barely drive, so my doctor gave me a prescription that made me incredibly drowsy. I was taking up to four-hour naps just to get through the day, then getting eight to nine hours of sleep at night. On the weekends I would sleep until one in the afternoon. I was exhausted. I was sad all the time, but I never did anything about it because I thought the medication was working. I thought it was my fault I was upset all the time.
After talking to a few friends, I found that the medication I was taking was in fact not working. While searching for a new therapist, I was also in search of someone else to prescribe my medications. The office I go to has a nurse practitioner on site. She prescribed me with a common drug most people are familiar with, Lexapro, but it wasn't combating my lowest lows. I was allergic to the next medication prescribed. I would itch everywhere all day long, so I stopped taking it after only two weeks. Finally, after a total of a year and a few months, we have found a prescription that I'm not allergic to, doesn't make me drowsy, and keeps my mood stable. I thought I was the only one doing trial-and-error with my prescriptions, but after talking with friends that are medicated for their depression, I found that they too were struggling to find the medication that worked best. The first medication I was on made my friend horribly sick, and others found the extremely drowsy medication the best fit for them. No two people react the same to each drug.
Here's what you need to know about medication when you get your first prescription.
1. It won't start working the next day
It won't start working the first week. It won't start working until at least a month if you take it consistently. If you don't take it consistently, you risk not being able to feel better at all.
2. This may not be the prescription you stay on, even if it worked at one point
The medication might work for a few months, just like mine did, and then wear off. Your body might become immune to it, just like pain killers. If you notice your mood starts to drop consistently while you are taking your medication regularly, talk to your doctor.
3. Get your prescriptions approved by a psychiatrist or a nurse practitioner specialized in mental wellness
I had my general practitioner prescribe me my first few prescriptions, but because she isn't specialized in psychiatric disorders, she couldn't help like my nurse practitioner can. She knows far more medications that can help because it's what she looks at daily.
4. Do your homework and ask questions when talking about what medications you should take
Some anti-anxiety drugs are addictive, so if you have an addictive personality or serious drug addictions run in your family, those medications could be more harmful than helpful. Read up on medications on different trustworthy websites like WebMD to see what side effects may occur. Ask your doctor questions. They are more than happy to answer them for you and will not force you to take any medications that you feel uncomfortable with.
5. Don’t become hopeless if you find your medication isn’t working for you
Doctors ask me what past medications I've been on, and I've been on so many that I lost track. I got bogged down by the fact I still felt like garbage all the time. However, we eventually found a medication that works. There's hope in the end. It just takes some time.
Medication can make a world of difference when it works, but sometimes it can get worse before it gets better. If you're struggling to find the drug that works for you, don't worry, because you're not alone. Talk to people and ask what medications worked for them and what didn't. Keep constant contact with your prescriber and tell them exactly how you're feeling physically and mentally. There is light at the end of the tunnel.