When I was diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago, the first medication I took was called Abilify. It was a new drug, one that was supposed to protect against metabolic issues like gaining weight.
It would’ve been fine but it had a nasty side effect no one told me about — the constant, restless feeling of needing to move. I couldn’t sit still and I was so uncomfortable that I’d take miles-long walks every day just to ease the feeling. I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin.
That was a side effect called akathisia. Needless to say, it was so unpleasant that I demanded to be put on something else.
After that came the years-long parade of trying different meds and experiencing the side effects of each of those. For Risperdal and Latuda, it was some pretty extreme weight gain. For Geodon, it was more paranoia, and for Seroquel it was drowsiness.
The point is, I know finding the right medication takes time, and it takes trial and error. It takes some serious discomfort, too. In all that time, though, I never gave up on meds simply for the fact that I didn’t want to feel crazy anymore.
It takes some perspective to see it like that: that you can handle whatever side effects come with a certain medication as long as it causes your symptoms to subside. That’s the key to dealing with the long process of finding the right medication. It takes openness, experimentation, and a good deal of patience to find the med that fits, but once you do, life will be a lot more pleasant.
I’ve learned a lot in my years of living with schizophrenia. I’ve learned how to feel normal, I’ve learned how to quiet my intrusive thoughts, and most important, I’ve learned how to roll with the punches.
Dealing with a mental illness can be tough. You have to deal with chaos, in your head and in your life. You have to deal with the stigma of being labeled crazy, and you have to deal with learning how to cope.
The one thing that has the most profound effect, though, is medication. It’s the catalyst for well-being. Though it may be tough to figure out what works, it’s well worth it once you find something that gives you a better grasp on normal life.
I’ve heard complaints from others that their meds don’t work or that the doctors overprescribe. You definitely have to be cognizant of such things, but it is in your best interest to experiment until you find something that fits. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my meds, writing to audiences here and in the New York Times. I’m thankful for my stability.
It takes time, it takes a willingness to try and it takes patience, but you will figure out what’s best for you if you try and if you truly want to get better.