Better Living Through Chemistry

I have long had a love/hate relationship with psychiatric medications. Even back when I first started taking Paxil for what my primary-care physician and I thought was simple depression, I loathed the idea of having to take a pill to be “normal”. I knew I needed help, but I was angry with myself that I couldn’t simply pull myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and tough it out on my own.

Who knew that one day I’d end up taking FIVE different medications to control what turned out to be a nasty case of manic-depression? Sometimes I look down at my handful of sanity and wonder how the hell my life came to this—when did I become such a psycho that I need all these meds to function?

But I’ve also come to the realization that this collection of blue and white and yellow pills are my lifeline to a relatively stable existence, and as such they are to be respected, even celebrated. Ironically, I can understand why some people stop taking their meds when they feel better—if you get on the right drug “cocktail”, you feel normal and then you get to thinking that you’re cured, and thus don’t need the meds anymore. After all, isn’t that what we do with most meds? We get sick, go to the doctor, get a prescription, take them, get better, and we’re done.

However, I know that what I have is treatable but incurable, so the internal struggle with taking meds for life is over. Even now, with the tremendous amount of stress I’m carrying, I can feel them working to suppress a budding hypomania that desperately wants to burst into full bloom, but can’t seem to get through the protective shield of chemicals. I am irritable, agitated, tearful, anxious; yet I know these “symptoms” are all merely a reaction to what’s going on in my life, and not part of my illness.

That alone is miraculous to me. Having some insight into what is me vs. what is my disorder is a fairly new phenomenon, and I love it that I can finally discern which is which. I also marvel at the fact that I haven’t had a single screaming fit or peeled out of the driveway in a fury since I’ve been medicated. I no longer experience road rage to the degree that I used to—in fact, I haven’t flipped the bird at another driver in over a year—and I don’t get my nose out of joint if my kids don’t call or text me at least every few days. I don’t even yell at my grandkids for making too much noise anymore.

So every time I’m in a mood and tempted to give up on meds, I make myself look at all the good that’s been accomplished as a direct result of taking them. For me and the millions of other people dealing with psychiatric issues, “better living through chemistry” isn’t just a catchy advertising slogan; it’s what allows us to live our best lives.

Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

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