The Medication Gamble

Medications offer a chance of improvement, but as most anyone who has tried a psychiatric medication can likely attest: it can be hard to find the right one for you. The process can take years and be disheartening at times. Taking medications is a gamble. We risk disappointment and side effects ranging from minor to severe in order to potentially reap the rewards that medication can offer. Medication is a critical tool in the management of mental illness for many people. However, the process of finding the right medication and complications that can arise from taking medications deter some of us from trying.

This morning I took my first dose of a new (to me) medication. I have tried over 15 psychiatric medications, among which very few have had the desired result without unbearable side effects. To say that this morning’s pill was a hard one to swallow, would be painfully accurate. I’m anxious. I’m trying my best not to read in to every little thing I’m perceiving in my body and mind. You know that feeling when someone says they have lice and you start itching your scalp? Reading the list of potential side effects of a medication can cause a similar sensation. In an effort to calm down, I’m trying to remember why I’m taking this risk, and I thought I’d share that with you.

Early this summer I stopped taking all of the daily medications I had been previously prescribed. I decided to reduce the dose of each of them, one at a time, in order to see if I felt any difference with or without them. The result seemed to be that none of the medications I was taking were having any positive effect on my mood. In one case, reducing and then eliminating one of my medications from my regimen seemed to pull me out of my brutal two-year-long depression. I had been prescribed all of the medications I was taking over a short period of time, so I hadn’t been able to isolate the impact of each medication. Starting back up from zero felt like the right decision. Once I was free from daily medications, I was faced with a choice: start trying a new medication or take a break. I took a break.

The break has been wonderful. It has given me the opportunity to rest my body – free from the side effects of medications and symptoms of beginning and ending medications. For two years I had felt like a guinea pig – constantly trialing something new and coming off of something else. Trying 15 medications in two years was taxing on my body and mind. I tend to be sensitive to changes in psychiatric medication, experiencing headaches, stomach upset, brain zaps, nausea and negative mood changes, among other side effects. In a couple of cases I have had to immediately stop taking a medication because of potentially severe side effects (a rash with Lamotrigine & a dramatic increase in suicidal ideation with Mirtazapine). I’ve had to stop taking Venlafaxine, Desvenlafaxine and Clonazepam, leading to horrible withdrawals. In all of this I’ve found one medication that works for me without any major side effects, the afore mentioned Clonazepam. While I’ve had to stop taking it daily due to concerns around dependency, I continue to use it infrequently on an as-needed basis to help manage my anxiety and panic. One medication, out of at least 15, has been helpful in a lasting way. Taking a break from trying new medications has given me the chance to escape from the pressures of trying medications, and the disappointment when the gamble doesn’t pay off.

I knew, of course, that I would have to make the choice between continuing to manage my illnesses without daily medication or trialing new medications again. Would I continue to avoid new medications and eliminate the possibility of finding a medication that helps? Or keep trying medications in spite of my terror of putting my body and mind through uncertain changes again? Ultimately, I know I don’t want to cut out the chance of finding a method of treatment that could make the weight of these illnesses easier to bear. Yesterday, when my psychiatrist again suggested I try Moclobemide, I agreed. She first suggested this medication to me months ago, and I’ve been giving one reason or another (with the prevailing reason being my anxiety about beginning medication trials again) for why I didn’t want to start taking it yet ever since. Now, in the beginning phases of a depressive episode, after months of rest, I decided it was time.

Moclobemide is an antidepressant in a different medication class than any I have taken to date. It tends to be weight-neutral (a major plus for me as I struggle with weight gain), low on side-effects and has been seen to improve social anxiety for some individuals who take it. I took my first pill this morning. It’s time to hold my breath and hope this gamble pays off.

Take care,

Fiona

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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13 thoughts on “The Medication Gamble

  1. I wish you all the luck. I have had tried many medications too some worked some didn’t. My psychiatrist often change my meds. I am taking Clonazpam too. I am aware of it’s dependency issues but it’s the only one that manages my sleep patterns. All the very best.

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  2. I enjoyed reading your post. I really hope that this one works for you 🙂 I am so proud of you for taking the medication. I’m really bad with taking new medications. I get the script filled, and then I will stare at the container for weeks on end before deciding to take it. The magic ticket for me was a low dose of gabapentin, which is an anti-seizure drug. It’s amazing how different we all are, and what works for one person, doesn’t work for another.

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    • Thank you. It is amazing how we each respond differently to medications. I’m glad gabapentin has been helpful for you. I took pregabalin for a while, another gabapentinoid, but it didn’t have the desired effect for me. Another example of how the best medication for each of us differs greatly!

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  3. I understand how frustrating the entire process can be for someone with mental illness! There are drugs… and dosages… and combinations of drugs… and annoying side effects… and DEADLY side effects… and questioning if its even worth all the frustration. I now know that medications really are necessary for me, personally. I’ve taken numerous drugs as well, so I understand feeling like a guinea pig (I think of it as my brain being a chemistry experiment, which isn’t good either haha). My last psychiatrist suggested I try GeneSight, a test which uses DNA to evaluate which drugs should work best. If you continue to have issues with meds, it may be worth looking into! I wish you the best! 🙂

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  4. This is such an amazing post. I’m looking forward to reading more about this because I don’t really know much about different types of medications for mental health and their effects. Will you be keeping us updated? I currently take mirtazapine and yes, it won’t always help, I have SAD so it does nothing for me in the springtime, but like you said in your previous post now I know that I will eventually get better. That medication also has a weight gain side effect, although I can’t complain as I had needed to improve my BMI and that helped. I wish you the best, hope you don’t have to Guinea pig trial it out for too much longer. 🙂

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    • Thank you! Yes, I’m sure I will update about my medications. So far this one is going pretty well. I had side effects for a few days, but I haven’t felt anything out of the ordinary now for almost a week. I don’t know if you follow Mental Health at Home, but she has a fantastic piece about different types of antidepressants. I’m glad mirtazapine has been helpful for you, overall!

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