Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Medicate Your Madness?

Here in the UK there seems to be a big debate in society as to whether or not treating mental health conditions with pharmaceuticals is the best thing to do, especially in the long term; yet "pills" are probably the first thing your GP will offer you. If there is an underlying biological cause behind a mental health condition (bi-polar for example, which can be genetic or neurochemical), then treating it with medication seems like the right thing to do, surely? However, if a mental health condition is purely psychological (like my anxiety for example) are meds really the right answer? Opinion is divided and I for one am torn. 

As a medical sciences student I can clearly see the argument for, and reasoning behind, medicating a mental health condition. However, as a person who suffers with such a condition and who has been treated numerous times with different types of these aforementioned meds, I can't encourage the regular use of them.

My experience with pharmaceuticals and anxiety isn't a particularly pleasant one. When I first started to suffer with panic attacks 7 years ago I was offered medication as a "support" system to some therapy I was awaiting. I promptly said no to what I was offered, but found the longer I waited for my therapy the worse I got and eventually I was persuaded that "temporarily" medicating my condition was a good idea. 

I personally don't think fiddling with the natural chemicals that your body produces is something you should do willy nilly, so I took what I was prescribed very cautiously. I wasn't on a particularly high dose to begin with, but my dose was upped after a few months by my GP. Although my panic attacks subsided after a while and life returned to "normal" so to speak, the side effects of the meds were most unpleasant. I felt numb to all emotion, fear, happiness, excitement, sadness... it was all absent. I also seemed to suffer with the rarer side effect of weight gain; as a small person the extra two stone that came with the so called sanity was not welcome. A year into taking my meds I decided I was ready to live without them, and after a heroin addict style withdrawal, I remained medication free. 

This period of recovery was short lived, my panic attacks returned within the year, but this time I flat out refused to take any more medications. I had tried several bouts of therapy, which definitely helped, but they were no cure (obviously) so I just persevered with my anxiety, living life a little half heartedly.

When I returned to uni 2 years ago and my anxiety started becoming something I couldn't deal with on my own (at this point I pretty much lived on my own) I felt I was left with no choice other that to return to the meds once more. I have tried several different types of meds since I started taking them again, and now find myself in a place where my severe anxiety is halted but I can still feel my emotions, which is great. The weight gain is something that has once again been a side effect, but when I weigh (oh the irony) up the option of being heavier than I am used to, with the option being mentally unwell day after day, it is a bit of a no brainer. 

As mentioned in a previous post, my anxiety has been pretty much non existent this past year, which has allowed me to do and try so many new things. However, after all that... I still count down the days until I can come off my medication (I made the decision to stick with it until I finish Uni at the end of this academic year). My advice on the matter, would be to go without medication where possible... change your diet, exercise regime, sleep regime, try natural remedies, get rid of all of the negative people/things in your life, but don't allow a drug to alter what is going on in your brain unnecessarily. You aren't curing yourself, you are simply brushing your problems out of sight; and they most definitely are not out of mind.

At the same time I appreciate that different things work for different people and that there are people out there whose lives are changed/saved by medication; which is great. I personally know people around me who find some of these medications ridiculously helpful. The desire to live medication free is just something that I want for myself... 

Mental health disorder or no mental health disorder, meds or no meds, you aren't alone... everyone is fighting some sort of battle in their head.

ran x