Since getting involved with 12-step programs, I’ve had a funny relationship with the whole God and spirituality thing. Regardless of my beliefs, I’ve learned how to just stop and laugh at the coincidences that happen in my life because the timing of them teach me such valuable life lessons. Like most of the people on this planet, I have a thick skull, and I need metaphorical slaps in the head every now and then to remind me of certain things, and one of the most important ones is to take my damn meds.
The Prescription Problem
I’m a recovering pill addict and abused the hell out of the system to feed my addiction. Yes, I’m one of the people who ruined it for all of the responsible prescription drug takers…kind of. I don’t have the time in a day to fully dive into the prescription problem in the United States, but long-story-short, Big Pharma took advantage of loose language in the DSM, and through legally bribing politicians through “contributions”, direct-to-consumer advertising and paying doctors big bucks, a lot of people are prescribed medications they don’t need.
I say a lot because it’s a lot. I don’t say all, because it’s not all, but it’s definitely a problem. Who needs a drug dealer when you can just go tell a primary care doctor you’re anxious, and 15 minutes later you have a month’s supply of Xanax?
Lately, I’ve been trying to read two to three books in a row on similar subjects to ensure I get a deep understanding of a certain topic. First, I read Good Reasons for Bad Feelings by Dr. Randolph Nesse, and this book is all about evolutionary psychiatry. It discusses how most of the mental health issues we struggle with are either glitches in how we evolved or how most of the emotions we feel are there for a very good evolutionary reason and will pass most of the time without medications or with some good therapy.
In his book, Dr. Nesse recommended another book called by Dr. Allen Frances. Dr. Frances is a psychiatrist who was the head of the team that made the DSM-IV, and for those of you who don’t know, the DSM is the manual doctors and mental health professionals use to diagnose people. Saving Normal is all about what the title suggests, which is that we need to save normality. We’re living in a time where there’s been a massive diagnosis inflation, and there are a lot of dangers because of this, and the author does a great job discussing them in his book.
If I had three wishes, I know what two of them would be. One of them would be a pill to make people have the willingness to get better by working on their mental health. The second wish would be that every one be blessed with the knowledge that aside from the laws of physics, objectivity is a complete illusion. If I had a dollar for every ignorant comment or message I received saying, “You’re bias”, I’d be rich.
If you don’t think you’re biased, find me a genie so I can help you.
Sorry, I had to get that little rant out of the way.
Anyways, after reading these books, I got into my “fuck medication” mode. There’s already a seed planted in my head that’s very anti-medications, so when some really smart people give great arguments as to how we over-medicate everyone, my “fuck medication” seed gets so much water and sunshine.
One reason I have such an issue with medications is because of the massive prescription drug epidemic that almost took my life. My addiction is my responsibility, and I don’t blame anyone for it. What I do take issue with is doctors enabling people like me. There are more prescription drug overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined, and over 80% of heroin addicts started with prescription pain medications. While many people like myself were genetically predisposed to addiction, millions of other people get hooked because doctors throw around addictive meds all willy nilly.
The second reason I have issues with meds is because of something a lot of people struggle with, which is that usually taking a medication makes me feel like I’m not “normal”. Now, I know this is all in my head, but I’ve met droves of people who have the same struggle. I’m currently on Prozac, and previously I was on Lexapro. It bothers me how other people just have this well-functioning brain, and mine gets all whack-a-doo without the proper meds.
Take Your Damn Meds
Did you know the leading cause of addiction and relapse is an untreated mental illness? It totally makes sense. Mental illness is one of those things where you don’t even realize what’s happening. Most people with neurotypical brains don’t question their thoughts, so it’s even harder for someone with a mental illness. For people like me, we just want it to stop, and when drugs and alcohol do the trick, we get hooked.
Working in treatment, I’d teach my clients about this. As a way to make my point to all of the non-believers, I’d ask for a show of hands of how many people were back in treatment because of a relapse. Then, I’d ask for a show of hands for everyone who relapsed because they stopped taking their meds, and it was mostly the same hands. After that, I’d say, “Look around the room…take your damn meds!”
I’m one of the fortunate ones. Because of my personal issues with medications, there are many times in early recovery where I stopped taking my medications without a doctor’s supervision, and it was the worst decision of my life. The racing thoughts of my anxiety and hopelessness of depression would come crashing back in my head like a tidal wave, but luckily I stayed sober and was smart enough to get back on my meds before I felt like relapse was my only option.
Like I mentioned earlier, whether it’s God or the universe, I try to stay extremely aware of the “coincidences” that happen in my life. I had just finished reading Good Reasons for Bad Feelings and Saving Normal, and I was in my “fuck medications” state of mind. On top of that, because of the holidays, I haven’t talked with my therapist this week either.
Yesterday afternoon, I started feeling extremely irritable and all over the place. I was getting extremely frustrated with the project I was working on, and I started acting really funny. I was listening to this really good book while I was working, and all of a sudden my brain kept saying, “Fuck this book. Return it,” and I’m like “Yeah! Fuck this book!”
I love audible (#notsponsored), and one of the reasons is because if you don’t like a book, you just return it and use your credit for another book. So, I returned that book, and I got another book on my reading list. I listened for about an hour, and I was like “Fuck this book too!”, and I returned it. Then, I got another book, and I listened to it for about an hour, and I’m like “THIS BOOK SUCKS!”, and I returned it.
Then, I decided I was going to take a shower. Soon after that shower, I felt pretty damn good and back to normal. I even decided to get that first book I returned because it’s really good, and I wanted to finish it.
So, what happened you might ask?
For anyone out there who has a shitty memory and forgets to take their meds or other daily things we need to do, a trick I learned is to combine habits. Something I’ve done as a way to never forget to take my medications is to take them after I shower because I shower every day. Easy peasy.
Well, as I write this, we’re on vacation, and yesterday morning I had to take my son to the ER for his asthma at 5:30AM, and when we returned home, I started working. This threw my whole schedule off, and I didn’t end up showering until late afternoon.
No wonder I was acting all loopy!
Right after I was in my “Fuck medications” mode, I was slapped in the face with an experience as to why I need to take my damn meds once again. And I hope you do the same if you need them.
Is there a massive problem with over-prescribing and over-diagnosing? Absolutely. Are there many of us with screwed up brain chemistry who need meds? Hell yes, there are!
On a regular basis, we all need to be as self-aware as possible and realize not everything works for everyone, and not everyone has the same issues. There are people who don’t need meds and can recover without them. I think that’s always preferable so you don’t gotta worry about the sometimes dangerous side-effects or cost of the medications. But then again, you might be someone like me who gets nutty when you don’t take your meds. If you’re like me, take your damn meds.
In both Good Reasons for Bad Feelings and Saving Normal, although most of the books were about human resilience and why we don’t need as many meds as are given out, they both discuss how progress in psychiatric medication helps many of us live a decent life. The solution? If you’re on meds and think you might not need them or want to get off, talk to your doctor, and always be ready to get back on them.
If you’re looking for affordable therapy from the comfort of your own home, I personally use BetterHelp online therapy. I have a badass therapist, and I highly recommend this easy-to-use service. By clicking here to sign up, it helps support the work I do as well.
Originally published at https://www.therewiredsoul.com on November 27, 2019.