The Magical Pills of Mental Illness
I met with my long term psychiatrists years ago. One of our regular scheduled appointments back when I was still seeing him. Right away I came in the door hot. I was adamant about no longer taking my medication. My doctor kept pointing out that ‘the meds are good for you’. I didn’t like the answer.
Finally, I gave my rebuttal, ‘Okay doctor X, if I had a magical pill in my hand and I told you that it was ‘good for you’ would you accept that answer and take the pill’. In other words, I flipped the roles around. I added, ‘Now if I told you that this pill was ‘good for you’ and that it would behoove you to take it, but it would make you sleep 15 hours a day, gain up to seventy pounds, and increase your appetite to a remarkable extent, and just remember that these are only the short term side effects, would you take the pill I’m prepared to give?’ This is basically what I felt my doctor was doing to me as he handed out my monthly scripts with all these magical pills I needed to take. After my shakedown Doctor X laughed and told me that he would not take the pill I was prepared to give him even though I told him that it was ‘good for him’. Too bad. But he understood what I was trying to explain to him. Medication really doesn’t make sense until you go through a manic or depressive episode. Only then do you come to the conclusion that this stuff you’re getting makes sense to take. The problem always comes when you are stable for quite a while. You start to easily talk yourself into stopping the medication. If I told you that if you stopped using paper towels you would lose ten pounds almost instantaneously you would stop using paper towels. That’s kind of how people who take a lot of different bipolar medications feel. Stop one or two of the prescribed medications only for a little while, and lose some weight or stop sleeping so much and get up easier in the morning.
While seeing Doctor X around the same time, I made the argument that being diagnosed with a mental illness is like the medical version of what they would do in the movie Minority Report; This is the movie where they would halo the ‘murderers’ because of the pre-cogs visions that those people were about to commit murders. At the end of the movie the police task force responsible for halo-ing all these people releases everyone as they realize what a terrible thing this pre-emptive strike on common citizens really is.
This is how I see the medication I take. It is the psychiatrist's way of halo-ing me. All these meds I take are for something I haven’t done. I have yet to kill myself and I have yet to inflict harm on others. I haven’t even plotted out either of these scenarios. However, I have been quite insane, but nevertheless peaceful. Why then can’t my meds be peaceful. All I know is I don’t want to slip into a manic or depressive episode and off myself. I take the meds despite knowing that they take a huge part of who I am away from me.
Grappling with one’s diagnosis takes a long time. Accepting the medication you have to take never ends. At some point or on some level these medications are simply inhumane. It is always going to be hard to believe the medication I take is good for me and it will always be unfair… People see the changes in your weight, body language, and personality. All three of these things change over time and take a pretty big hit. People start to question what is wrong with you and they come up with their own answers. The answer is simple, I’m bipolar. It’s not rocket science. However, people will continue to question you because the narrative around the disorder is not concrete or completely tangible. So they continue to try to find out why you and your body are going through all these changes and what is wrong with you. It becomes easier to villainize me or smear me; suddenly I’m a killer or I’m gay or something that is more easily explainable. The answer is really simple… I’m bipolar; and I’m quite okay, thank you.