I’ve had two friends who went off their meds and in both cases the results were extremely negative in terms of our friendships (one became violent and I had to terminate the friendship). While I can understand not wanting the side effects of the medicine, the unpredictability of the future without meds could be just as unwanted. There was an interesting article a few years back about Kate Millett, who was diagnosed as bipolar and who wrote The Looney Bin Trip about it, and the effects her going off her meds had on her family. The situation is certainly a two-edged sword where the rights of the individual to control their own health and those of others not to have to deal with negative side-effects comes into conflict.
Interesting you should mention Kate Millett whom I know–pretty well.
Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar disease, I didn’t understand her–or the importance of being on, and staying on, medication. There is an argument in the consumer movement (or as Kate refers to it, crazy lib) that psychiatric medication is a “mental straight jacket” as well as untenable politically (feeds the bad stereotypes, makes the pharma companies richer, gives over power of one’s life to the abusive psychiatric ‘profession’, etc.). The whole thing is indeed a two-edged sword!
People go off meds for lots of reasons, usually b/c they get better, feel great and think they no longer need the stuff. They don’t realize it’s a lifelong endeavor–and resent when they figure it out or someone tells them, especially artists, rebellious by nature…
“Mental straight jacket” is the consumer party line. I think it’s a matter of people not getting the right doses of the right meds. Many people I know group have been medicated out of their minds, in mental hospitals for years for no other reason except they couldn’t function–BECAUSE THEY WERE OVER-MEDICATED. When they were weaned down to a manageable dosage and other things (psychotherapy) were put in place in their lives, everything turned out to be entirely manageable.
I know that when I was in the loony bin, I was on the wrong meds and wrong doses and no one there gave a shit that I felt terrible and that the medication they were force-feeding me were not serving me well. When I got out, I called my regular shrink, who put me on different meds and worked very hard with me to titrate the doses of my meds to the lowest yet most effective.
I am not saying meds are fabulous feeling for everyone, there are side effects that can be really horrible. For example, I get tired very easily and have an irregular sleeping pattern. And, starting on meds is really a hassle, usually two weeks to a month of really terrible side effects before they subside (that is when most people also quit meds, by the way, during the initial ramp up period).
I really think we are: 1) and over medicated society in general and also 2) there are not very many good psychopharmacologists in the first instance and in the second instance many mentally ill individuals (or anyone in the US of A) cannot afford the good ones or caring, patient ones (doctors, I mean) who will work with them and actually give a shit about their creativity, weight, ability to manage stress, regulate sleep, etc….like mine does….
I really HATE the “mental straight jacket” BS so much you don’t know…it’s funny (in an ironic way) that people so curious and passionate in the arts and elsewhere won’t/don’t take the time and energy to investigate what works best for them, and just swallow what a doctor tells them to without question and then piss and moan (or go off their meds and kill themselves) about how horrible the stuff is…
I agree with much of what you say. I think nowadays it is hard to get a good doctor to listen to in any sort of way. I happen to be on blood pressure medication. The first kind of medication my doctor put me on really drugged me out so much that I was in a perpetual haze – this he believed and switched me. The second medication left me perpetually parched with a dry cough. I told him this for two years and he kept pooh-poohing me telling me that was my allergies. Finally, I had some sort of flu with a cough and he says to me, “I”m taking you off your blood pressure medication it seems to be exacerbating your cough.” All I could think was, “Were you ever listening to me?” The point of the anecdote is that I didn’t push him enough and I’m certainly not unique in that. It is hard to assert yourself in a doctors office when they treat you as if your comments aren’t credible and yet it is imperative that we all do when it comes to health issues. My new medication has been like a dream with no side effects now. It took like 3 years to get there …
I third your opinions! (And thanks for the link, btw.) I think my psychiatrist is probably a fine doctor, but all he has time for is terse emails and the very occasional 30 minute in-person appointment. He doesn’t explain *why* he’s prescribing something unless I really push, and I don’t really have a diagnosis at the moment.
While the article I quoted in my blog is not really the best, I was grasping at straws for inspiration to stick with meds, since the guinea pig trial-and-error is really terrible, as is the cost. I’ve now been on Lithium for 10 days, and despite the tremors, it is such a relief. I no longer punch the wall for no reason, etc. I feel much more like myself again.