Podcast: A Bipolar and a Schizophrenic Discuss Psychiatric Medications
Psychiatric medication gets a bad rap when it isn’t deserved, while simultaneously being seen by some as the end-all treatment for people living with mental illness. Our hosts both need their prescribed medication to live well, and that makes people around them ask questions ― some of which are weirder than others.
Tune in to this episode to hear what they have to say.
“It took me so much pride to get over that I needed psychiatric medication.”
– Michelle Hammer
Highlights From ‘Meds’ Episode
[1:00] What happens when Gabe and Michelle don’t take their medications.
[4:00] People just love to ask us for our medications.
[8:00] Stigma from medical professionals.
[14:00] Please don’t buy pills from people to self-medicate.
[16:30] Michelle’s medication journey.
[19:00] Which works better: treadmill, yoga, or medication?
[21:00] Anxiety of the day makes it hard to get up in the morning.
[24:00] Gabe and Michelle both admit to stigmatizing themselves about their own medications.
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘A Bipolar and a Schizophrenic Discuss Psychiatric Medications’ Show
Announcer: [00:00:07] For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.
Michelle: [00:00:18] Welcome to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. I’m Michelle. I’m schizophrenic.
Gabe: [00:00:22] I’m Gabe and I’m bipolar, and we’re here to discuss medication.
Michelle: [00:00:27] Medication. Yes. I take some. Do you take some, Gabe?
Gabe: [00:00:29] Of course. I take many medications. I take meds every morning and every night. How often do you take medication?
Michelle: [00:00:36] I take seven in the morning, no, I take six in the morning. I take one at night.
Gabe: [00:00:41] Okay, so we’re on kind of the same schedule: morning and night. But I take the majority of mine at night, because they kind of knock me out and they help me sleep. But you take the majority of your medications in the morning, because they make you alert for the day.
Michelle: [00:00:52] Yes. I need to be alert for the day. Otherwise I don’t even know what’s going on during the day.
Gabe: [00:00:57] Do you remember the time that we tried to record an episode before you had taken your medication?
Michelle: [00:01:04] I don’t. Because I can’t really remember anything before I take my medication in the morning.
Gabe: [00:01:10] It was incredible. Every single question I asked you, you answered this way: “Yeah.”
Michelle: [00:01:18] [Laughter]
Gabe: [00:01:18] You had the blankest stare. But it’s interesting, and the reason that I bring that up, is because a lot of people describe psychiatric medications as causing that blank stare. As making them tired or incoherent. But, you have the opposite effect without your medication. I mean I’ve personally seen it. You’re almost blank.
Michelle: [00:01:39] I can’t concentrate on anything that’s going on in front of me. Nothing makes any sense. I’m not coherent at all. And if you tell me anything important I’m not going to remember it.
Gabe: [00:01:51] I think what’s funny is that sometimes you’re just like… I’m like, “Michelle, did you remember to do that?” And you’re like, “Did I take my meds when you told me?” You’ve got that like locked and loaded. You’re like ready. And I’m like, “I wrote it down.”
Michelle: [00:02:03] I mean, can you remember anything before you take your meds?
Gabe: [00:02:06] I can, but you know we are treating different disorders and we react to things. So it’s kind of funny, because I have another excuse locked and loaded. I say to my wife all the time, “Did you tell me after I took my meds?” Because once I take my meds at night and I climb in bed that’s when she’s like, “Oh! I want to discuss the day with Gabe.” And I’m on a downward spiral into sleep.
Michelle: [00:02:28] I think it’s funny, what we spoke about before. We’re like, “Yeah, when I take my nighttime I sometimes sneak down to the kitchen and eat some food.” And you’re like, “Oh my God! Yeah, I did the exact same thing last night.”
Gabe: [00:02:38] For people who don’t know, Michelle and I’s recording schedule, puts us in the same place and she sleeps in the guest room in my house because I am gracious.
Michelle: [00:02:46] I would let you sleep in my guest room. If I had one.
Gabe: [00:02:48] You don’t have one, you live in New York City. I would have to sleep in the bathroom.
Michelle: [00:02:51] You can sleep on my roof.
Gabe: [00:02:52] I can sleep on your roof?
Michelle: [00:02:53] Yeah, totally.
Gabe: [00:02:55] That’s so nice.
Michelle: [00:02:56] You get a whole roof to yourself.
Gabe: [00:02:58] You can sleep on my roof, if you can get up there.
Michelle: [00:03:00] Sure. Is it flat?
Gabe: [00:03:01] No.
Michelle: [00:03:02] Well, my roof is flat.
Gabe: [00:03:04] So is your chest.
Michelle: [00:03:05] Oh, well! At least I have nipples.
Gabe: [00:03:09] That is fair. That is fair. I remember that time that your dad was like, “You need to stop bringing up Gabe’s nipples because you do it too often!” So he is listening to this episode right now and he’s just like, “I told her. I told her not to.” That’s how I do your dad’s voice. “I told her!”
Michelle: [00:03:25] He’s more like, “Can you stop bringing up a nipple? Can you stop talking about his nipples? Stop already. Stop with the nipples”
Gabe: [00:03:35] What would Blanche say?
Michelle: [00:03:36] She would say, “How does a man not have nipples? I don’t get it. What?”
Gabe: [00:03:41] Well, moving on. We want to discuss many things about medications. We did a whole episode on pill shaming, so we’re not going to touch on that a lot. But we do recommend that you go back and listen to it if you haven’t heard it already. But after that episode came out, people e-mailed us and asked “What about this problem? And this problem? And this problem? And this problem?” And one of the ones that people e-mailed us about a lot, and this has happened to Michelle as well, is people asking for our meds. Literally offering to buy medication from us.
Michelle: [00:04:17] Yes, seriously. My friend was going to take Amtrak home, and she was so nervous about going to Penn Station and finding the train that she was like, “Can I buy one of your pills from you? One of your benzos? Can I buy one of them from you?” And I was like, “Why do you need a benzo to catch an Amtrak train? You know I’m not giving you medication that’s for my psychological disorder so you can catch an Amtrak train.”
Gabe: [00:04:45] So the first thing that she wanted to do was turn you into a drug dealer.
Michelle: [00:04:48] Yes. I am not a drug dealer.
Gabe: [00:04:50] So that was the first thing that was way wrong. And 2) if you had done it, that would be one less pill for you. Which would put your life at risk. I mean how many could you sell before you’re putting your own health in danger? This is just a very bad idea because you need those pills.
Michelle: [00:05:09] Right. I need them. I can’t just give them away to people. I’m not just a little dispensary right here. Oh here – here you go. Here you go.
Gabe: [00:05:17] Because now you don’t have the pills and you would get sicker.
Michelle: [00:05:20] Yeah. I could get more, but-
Gabe: [00:05:22] Well, but let’s talk about that for a moment. This is one of the things that stigmatizes just pills in general and especially painkillers. It stigmatizes all kinds of drugs that people need to lead a better life. And the first thing people say is, “Well, yeah, but they’re just selling them!” Like they paint everybody with that brush. And apparently, it’s so common that people feel comfortable offering to buy these pills off of people who they know have been prescribed them. So we have like a really big responsibility not to play into that, hand because then it will be harder and harder and harder to get those medications. And you already have a really hard time filling your scripts.
Michelle: [00:06:00] Oh my God! When I get my ADHD pill! The whole, you know, controlled substance thing. If they’re unable to give it to me a day before I can get it filled, I have to make an out of pocket payment. Which is ridiculous because they won’t give it to me one day early. They just drive me nuts at the pharmacy about “this is a controlled substance.” And the thing is, they will do that to me, but they’re supposed to also take my I.D. Scan my I.D. and write down my license number. But sometimes they don’t even do that. They don’t even follow their own rules.
Gabe: [00:06:32] Because the rules have become so cumbersome, they’re almost impossible to follow. We’re also living in an age of unnecessary medical treatments or just medical intrusion. For example, a lot of people that are prescribed medications like that are being asked to get blood work done.
Michelle: [00:06:50] Mm hmm.
Gabe: [00:06:51] They don’t need the blood work. The blood work is not for any reason except to prove they’re taking the pills. So we’re living in a society where we’re taking people who need the pills, and subjecting them to unneeded medical tests, that cost money, time, and energy and have some non-zero chance of complication. All because we’re afraid of people breaking the law. And make no mistake, people are breaking the law. But it’s people like us that are suffering the consequences of this. And that’s wholly unfair.
Michelle: [00:07:24] It isn’t fair. I didn’t even realize that’s why they were taking the blood test. To make sure we’re taking the pills?
Gabe: [00:07:29] Yes. Now, ideally, you need blood work for other reasons. Like, for example, I get a liver panel and a vitamin deficiency panel. But in that test, they’re testing to make sure that I’m on the meds as well. So I’m not getting an unnecessary stick in that I would have to give blood anyway. But it’s just the fact that, you know, my doctor’s kind of spying on me. I understand the reason, and look you can’t fight city hall, but just wow. Just wow.
Michelle: [00:07:55] As you know, recently I went to the doctor just for my yearly physical and they know I’m on meds and everything. And I was perfectly fine during the entire physical and nothing was an issue at all. But yet, at that physical I was given a piece of paper about depression, and I had to fill it out about my feelings. Like, what about that visit made it seem like I have to fill out a paper about depression and how I feel? I feel fine and the guy should have gotten that impression when I was with him. Would anyone else coming in have to fill out that form about depression and how I feel? I felt like that’s stigma right there. Just because he knows that I’m schizophrenic, I had to fill out a whole paper about depression.
Gabe: [00:08:32] See, that’s one of those could go either way ones. I mean, let’s be fair, let’s say that he did think that you were suffering from depression and he wanted to follow up on it? That’s really good. But he also could be like, “She cray. I’m gonna have her fill out this form to cover my ass.” I wasn’t there, I don’t know which one it was. But so often the medical community sees mental health issues in people and they ignore it because they don’t want to pry or go down that road. So in your particular case, I don’t know which one it was. But, yeah, it’s kind of a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” We have created a society where if you ask somebody about their mental health, people think it’s rude. But if you don’t ask people about their mental health, they could become sicker, or suicidal, or homeless, or arrested, or all our listeners know all of the bad outcomes of untreated mental illness.
Michelle: [00:09:20] Right. I mean, did I ever tell you about the time I had strained my ACL and I fell outside of the subway? Somebody called an ambulance on me because my knee was so busted that I was in so much pain. I get into the ambulance and the guy said to me, “Are you healthy?” I go, “Well, what do you mean by healthy?” They’re like, “Well, do you have any illnesses?” I said, “Well, I have schizophrenia.” And quickly the guy asked me, “Are you hearing any voices?” And I go, “No. I’m here for my knee.” And I just got really mad. I got out of the ambulance, got in a taxi and left. There you go. Didn’t pay for that ambulance fee.
Gabe: [00:09:55] It’s just like we talked about in a previous episode with our friend Rachel, the schizophrenic.
Michelle: [00:09:59] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:10:00] She went in with all of these symptoms, and she just kept saying, “I need care. Please run the test. Look at me there’s something wrong.” And they just kept insisting that it was in her head and they wouldn’t even run a basic test. And when she finally engaged the help of her father, they ran the tests and they found out that it wasn’t all in her head. So what if they would have put her off for so long that she would have had a complication or passed away? All because they just wanted to go for the simple thing? And I don’t want to turn this into, like, “pick on doctors day” because that’s not what I’m trying to say. I just wish that people were more aware that people with bipolar, schizophrenia, major depression, psychosis, etc. – we get sick too. We have physical illnesses.
Michelle: [00:10:44] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:10:45] Mental illness doesn’t mean that you live forever. So clearly we’re gonna die from something.
Michelle: [00:10:49] From something, yeah. And also, just bringing it back to you know, the people who try to like borrow or buy their meds from you? You don’t know if maybe they’re allergic to the medication? So what if I give you a pill and what if you die?
Gabe: [00:11:02] Yeah.
Michelle: [00:11:03] Then it’s my responsibility.
Gabe: [00:11:03] Whose door you think is going to be knocked on then?
Michelle: [00:11:06] Yeah. Who is going to go to jail then? You never know.
Gabe: [00:11:09] I’m guessing it’s gonna be the little schizophrenic drug dealer.
Michelle: [00:11:11] The little schizophrenic drug dealer. I gotta make that a shirt, “little schizophrenic drug dealer.” There you go.
Gabe: [00:11:18] Yeah, yeah. That is not cool. Let’s widen this for a moment. You know there’s a lot of people with mental health issues, a lot of people with mental illness, a lot of people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, that are just broke. I mean they’re just dead broke. And they are so desperate for money to pay for medical care, to pay for food, to pay for housing, hell, to go to a movie and feel like a normal person, that when somebody walks up and offers them twenty bucks for one of their pills, that they got for not twenty dollars, it seems like a good idea. Not because they’re evil, but because they’re so desperate for money. Now you know our case is different, Michelle. We’re lucky. We have families where we’re decidedly middle class and we’re not desperate for money. But can you see how that could happen? Do you see it?
Michelle: [00:12:04] I do see how that can happen because you are prescribed pills that other people want. And, like, you know, the opioid crisis. Of course, you know people just get addicted to pills all the time and then they want to trade pills. People want to buy pills and it’s just turned into a whole crisis.
Gabe: [00:12:20] Yeah, literal crisis. For fans of ABC’s “The Conners,” this was kind of, without falling down the Roseanne rabbit hole, this was sort of the thing. It said that the entire community was trading pills because they were broke. They didn’t have money, they couldn’t afford to fill their prescriptions. So they were sort of trying to medicate. They weren’t trying to be addicts. They weren’t on the streets selling drugs and trying to get high. They were just trying to treat their medical conditions. But, because health insurance was so crummy for them, they sort of had this need to share their resources. To pool their resources. And ultimately, in the show, Roseanne overdosed because she was getting drugs without a doctor’s care and she took too many at the wrong time. This does happen in real life. And I think a lot of times we’re vilifying the people who sell the drugs, and we’re vilifying the people who purchase the drugs, because we think we have this idea of, like, you know, I don’t know gangsters, and drug addicts, and evil people. But what we really have are desperate people trying to self medicate their illnesses that can’t afford good medical care.
Michelle: [00:13:25] That’s a really good point. Because if you can’t afford the good medical care, how can you try to fix the issue?
Gabe: [00:13:31] Listen, I think anybody who listens to the show knows that I’m a huge proponent for universal health care. I believe that’s the solution to a lot of this, but I’m just a bipolar so nobody is gonna listen to me. But I just want to put it out there that, 1) if you have medication don’t sell it, it’s dangerous, and 2) if you’re in a situation where you can’t get good medical care, fight so hard. Just fight so hard. Find the Health Department, call the emergency room, call the local urgent care, find a payment plan, find a sliding scale. Because buying medications off of other people may seem like a fiscally responsible thing to do, but it is really, really dangerous. And I’m not saying this because I think you’re bad people. I’m saying this because I want you to have better outcomes. So – that’s our “very special moment” on A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. The more you know.
Michelle: [00:14:23] The more you know. I make money from sponsors, not selling my pills. We’ll be right back.
Announcer 2: [00:14:28] This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face-to-face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.
Michelle: [00:14:59] And we are back.
Gabe: [00:15:00] Michelle, what are some other annoying things that come up about our medications? Aside from, of course, those we’ve already touched on like pretty much every episode? How when people say, “Have you taken your meds yet?” That it’s just like an incredibly demeaning question. Don’t like what I say? Blame it on my mental illness. So we’ll just skip over that one, because, really, I think everybody already knows that.
Michelle: [00:15:21] Well, something else that’s annoying is, “Do you need to go up on your meds? Maybe you need to go up on your meds?” Or, “are your meds still working?” Or how about this, “Are you addicted to your medication? You’re addicted to your medication.”
Gabe: [00:15:33] People just can’t understand that medication management is a reasonable thing. I understand that it’s unusual, because a lot of us are young. Mental illness is diagnosed between 16 and 24 and people are just uncomfortable with the idea of 20-year-olds and 25-year-olds and 30-year-olds on daily medications. And here’s the thing, I’m now over 40, and I get a lot less pill shaming. Like almost none. My peers, they’re all over 40 too. And they’re all like, “Well, Gabe takes meds like I do.” But when I was 25, they were like, “Awwwwww!” Kids are really mean to other kids. And yes, I am disgusted that I’m calling 20-year-olds kids. But the older you get, the less medication is stigmatized, because we have a better understanding of it. How do we educate younger people that they just need meds? It sucks. You have a serious and persistent mental illness and you need to take them.
Michelle: [00:16:26] It’s hard. It’s really hard. When I was first put on meds, I did not want to be on meds. The first medications I went on did not go well. I hated them, and I ended up in the psych ward. And when I got back to my dorm room, I took those meds, and I flushed them down the toilet, and said I was never taking medication ever again. And guess what happened two months later? I ended up back in the psych ward . So obviously that was not the right fix. But I didn’t get medicated until later. Until like maybe six months later where I was put on a med that just really subdued me. And I mean, it wasn’t the best medication, but it just kept me calm. But I really still wasn’t even taking that regularly like I should have. But I feel like it’s pride. It’s so much pride to get over. To accept that you need medication. You have to take it. And if you miss it, things might not go well. So it was really just getting over myself and accepting that I needed it. When you’re 20-years-old, you don’t want to think you need meds. Because you just think meds are for old people, or meds are for crazy people. I’m not crazy. I don’t need meds. I don’t need it at all. See, I didn’t take my meds today and I am having a great day. But all throughout the day it was like, “See! I didn’t take any meds and I’m having a good day.” But then I didn’t realize, why is this going around in my head all over and over and over again if I’m having such a great day? I didn’t even realize it until I finally decided that I wanted to be a much happier, calm person, and I’ll just take my meds and I’m supposed to take them. And then my life improved for the better.
Gabe: [00:17:52] I am trying desperately not to laugh at the idea that you think that you are a calm person.
Michelle: [00:18:01] [Laughter]
Gabe: [00:18:01] Michelle, I have bipolar disorder and I have a different problem. Because with bipolar disorder, everybody understands the extremes: low suicidal depression all the way to the extreme highs. You know, godlike mania, you’re invincible. But it’s a spectrum disorder. You can be in the middle. So if you are completely untreated with bipolar disorder, you will end up stereotypical. You’ll end up in the middle. You’ll end up calm and rational and everything else. So many people, they sort of mess themselves up, because they decide, “I’m not going to take the pills anymore.” And they stop taking all of the pills and then they’re in this normal stage and they tell everybody they know “Hey look! I don’t need the pills anymore because I’m on the treadmill. I found this new herbal cure” or whatever.
Michelle: [00:18:46] Oh, the herbal teas! I love when people replace meds with herbal tea.
Gabe: [00:18:51] And with bipolar disorder, they feel fine for a while. It could take weeks, or months, or even a year to cycle. So they tell all of these people, for the next year or months, that they’re fine, and that they are managing bipolar disorder with fill in the blank. And then eventually, they cycle. Because that’s how bipolar works, and they cycle up to mania and then all kinds of ridiculous and dangerous things happen. Or they cycle down to depression, where all kinds of scary, and dark, and dangerous things happen and they’re not OK. But of course, all people remember is, “Well, I’m not that guy. And he told me that he treats bipolar disorder with herbal cures, running on the treadmill, and yoga!” And they’re all trying to mimic it. And it’s hard to defeat that, because somebody told us what we wanted to hear. Which is that we can beat it without medication, and that guy was doing well at the time or that woman was doing well at the time.
Michelle: [00:19:48] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:19:49] I wish more people understood that somebody without medication who has bipolar disorder will naturally cycle to the middle of the road. It’s how the illness works. It’s not proof that they’ve beaten it.
Michelle: [00:20:05] Right. And all those people, they might be on anti-depressants or something, and they start feeling better and I feel so great I don’t need these pills anymore.
Gabe: [00:20:11] Right.
Michelle: [00:20:13] What do you think the reason is that you feel so great? It’s because of the medication.
Gabe: [00:20:17] Yes. And for many people with major depression or even, you know, like, bipolar II disorder, etc., the day that you stop taking the medication is not the day that crisis occurs. It really could be weeks or months later before you not taking the medication has this outcome. I almost think that you’re lucky, because if you stop taking your medication, you’ve said that within a couple of days you start to have very adverse side effects. So you can, kind of, fix it faster. Other people I’ve talked to, they’ve gone off their meds, and it’s been six months before they crashed. It’s been a year before they crashed.
Michelle: [00:20:50] My old roommate, when I would wake up in the morning, I wouldn’t take my meds immediately. I would just start pacing in the living room, and she’d be like, “Did you take your meds yet? Can you just like take your meds already?” Like she could immediately tell if I had not taken my meds yet. So I mean, it’s easy when you have a person like kind of watching you. Telling you to take your meds when you’re not doing it. Otherwise I might just like “la-de-dah” or “fiddle-dee-dee” and just like not take them. Wander around, or I don’t know if you ever have this problem, but I’ll be sleeping, and then I start feeling anxious and I don’t want to get up. But I know if I get up and take my meds, I’ll feel better. But I’d rather just lay in my bed feeling kind of sad, kind of anxious, and I don’t want to face the day. But if I would just get up, and take my meds, I’d have a great day. But instead I lay in my bed anxious and not doing anything.
Gabe: [00:21:37] And this is a great segue into why – I know this show is about medication so we’re not going to fall down the rabbit hole on this one but – this is why it’s medication and therapy. It’s medication, therapy, experience, and coping skills. It’s not just medication. Because you’ve described that the medication is there, you have the right medication, the medication is in your apartment, and you know what to do, but you are choosing to lay in bed and ruminate about the issue. You’re choosing not to get out of bed, and that’s not something that medication can fix. That’s something that making better decisions and therapy can fix. Because I do the exact same thing. I do. I self sabotage, and I know that I do it. And by working with a good therapist, by learning good coping skills, and just having managed this disorder for almost 20 years, I’ve learned that. That’s kind of how I’m wired, and I need to say to myself, “Gabe, get out of bed and go to work.” But I didn’t learn that on day one. And that’s why any conversation about medication isn’t complete without understanding how it affects your body and how you can give it the best chances of working. It’s not just a magic pill that magically makes everything better. It’s a pill that puts you in the best position to succeed, but you still have to do your part, as you just illustrated.
Michelle: [00:22:56] Yes, definitely.
Gabe: [00:22:58] Yeah. So it’s not taking over control of who you are, or it would automatically make Michelle Hammer get out of bed and stop pacing.
Michelle: [00:23:06] Exactly. I mean sometimes, I try to prepare them the night before, but that doesn’t always work either.
Gabe: [00:23:13] Yeah. You take your pills weirder than anybody I’ve ever seen. Really. I use what I like to lovingly refer to as the “granny pill cases,” because that’s what my friends called them when I was 25. But I use the, you know, it’s got the day of the week? It’s plastic, and I pop it up. And I have pill day, where I put them in the little things.
Michelle: [00:23:30] Mine don’t fit in there.
Gabe: [00:23:31] Get a bigger one.
Michelle: [00:23:33] I make my own pillbox, and you can get them and schizophrenic.NYC.
Gabe: [00:23:36] What? Why don’t you make a pillbox that fits all seven days worth of pills?
Michelle: [00:23:39] People have suggested that to me. But if I order that, it’s gonna be very expensive and I don’t know if anyone’s gonna buy such an expensive pillbox.
Gabe: [00:23:45] No, I’m not asking you for a business model. I’m asking why you don’t go to the local store and buy Michelle Hammer a pill case so that your pills are conveniently located every morning?
Michelle: [00:23:56] Because I don’t want to feel like my grandmother.
Gabe: [00:23:58] Is that really why?
Michelle: [00:23:59] Kind of.
Gabe: [00:23:59] So here’s the truth, if I’m being completely honest –
Michelle: [00:24:02] I’m stigmatized. I am stigmatizing myself.
Gabe: [00:24:05] I didn’t use the boxes either, because I didn’t want to feel like my grandmother, and for years I did it the way you do. I had a Tupperware not a Ziploc bag.
Michelle: [00:24:12] I have a Ziploc bag with all my pills in it.
Gabe: [00:24:14] Yeah. I did it exactly that way and I’m very lucky. My loving wife, it always comes back to Kendall –
Michelle: [00:24:21] She’s so loving. She loves me more than she loves you.
Gabe: [00:24:23] That is not true.
Michelle: [00:24:25] She told me that last night.
Gabe: [00:24:25] That is not true.
Michelle: [00:24:26] When she came into the guest room and snuggled with me.
Gabe: [00:24:28] Oh. Well, that’s awkward. But it always comes back to Kendall. Because Kendall realized that this wasn’t the best way. And she asked me why I did it this way? And I said, “You know I just don’t. My fingers are fat. I dropped the little pills. I hate it. I want to deal with this as little as humanly possible.” And she said, “Why don’t I make your pills for you? I’ll make your pills once a week.” And she does. She puts them together for me. And I just have to reach into the cupboard and take “M” for Monday.
Michelle: [00:24:59] “M” means Monday?
Gabe: [00:24:59] Yep. “W” for Wednesday.
Michelle: [00:25:01] “W” means Wednesday. But what does “T” mean?
Gabe: [00:25:05] Well mine are special. I have a “T” and a “TH.”
Michelle: [00:25:09] Oh.
Gabe: [00:25:09] “T” is Tuesday and “TH” means Thursday.
Michelle: [00:25:10] Oh, would you look at that.
Gabe: [00:25:12] Yeah, I buy quality.
Michelle: [00:25:13] You really do. What color is your pill case there?
Gabe: [00:25:17] I have one for morning and one for night. Morning is purple and night is green. And do you know why they are purple and green?
Michelle: [00:25:24] Because those are your favorite colors?
Gabe: [00:25:25] No. Because they are recovery colors.
Michelle: [00:25:27] OK, recovery colors.
Gabe: [00:25:29] Yep. And I am in…?
Michelle: [00:25:30] Recovery.
Gabe: [00:25:31] We don’t have a lot of time left, but one of the things that I want to talk about before we get going are people that say, “Well, I agree that I have a major depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar, but medication doesn’t work for me.” And I kind of get this a lot where people say, “Medication doesn’t work for me. Medication doesn’t work for me.” And I always think to myself, that’s impossible. And here’s why I think that’s impossible: I have kind of a standard answer that I give everybody. And what I basically explain is there are about 300 approved medications. And, for example, I’m on five of them. I take five different medications. So if we use 300 as the estimated number that are out there, and five meds total, and ignoring things like dosages et cetera, and just considering combinations, there are 19 trillion five hundred eighty two million eight hundred and thirty seven thousand five hundred and sixty potential combinations total. That’s not even considering ranges, like where you’re put on a medication at 40 milligrams and you actually need 80. That’s just the combinations for medication names only. So when people tell me that, “Hey, look, I’ve tried them all.” There’s trillions upon trillions of combinations and it’s not even possible that you tried them all.
Michelle: [00:26:46] I have tried so many. I’ve tried so many different combos. I’ve tried so many different doses and everything until I finally found what works. It takes a long time. It’s not easy, but I finally found what works, and I’m sticking with it until something goes awry or anything like that.
Gabe: [00:27:03] And people ask why it takes so long? And I’ll explain that again: go back to the five number. Each medication that a doctor prescribed takes about six weeks to reach efficacy levels, so they can actually see what it’s doing to your body, and to your personality, and how it’s treating your illness. And they can’t prescribe all five at once, because if you have a side effect, they don’t know which medication is causing the side effect. So they tend to prescribe them one or two at a time. So let’s go with the one at a time, and assuming the correct dose every time, five times six is thirty. That means under the best case scenario, that’s over six months before the doctor gets the right medication combination. And that’s not possible. It’s not. Doctors aren’t magic. They’re going to need to raise the dose or lower the dose. A med is going to cause a side effect that they didn’t expect, etc. And they’re going to have to adjust. And that’s why you have to partner with your physician. Partner with your psychiatrist so you can report those symptoms and have the best possible outcomes for the lowest possible symptoms. But so many people believe that this is going to be like aspirin. You’re going to go in and say, “I have bipolar!” “Well here’s some aspirin!” “Oh! Now I don’t have bipolar!” Yeah. It doesn’t work that way.
Michelle: [00:28:12] I had to explain that situation to my friends and people so many times when they were just like, “Oh, you’re upset! Oh, just take that pill.” I’m like, “It’s not like an aspirin. It’s not like Aleve. It’s not a headache where you can just take a pill and make it go away. It’s way more complicated than that.” It’s way more complicated than that. But, Gabe, you know what would be a fun game? Let’s switch pills for the day.
Gabe: [00:28:33] No. That is an example of something that is hilarious to say, but a terrible, terrible, terrible to do.
Michelle: [00:28:42] Would I grow into a gigantic red haired man?
Gabe: [00:28:45] I would become a little angry schizophrenic.
Michelle: [00:28:48] Yeah. Let’s switch.
Gabe: [00:28:49] But I don’t think I’d be angry because I’m schizophrenic. I think I’d be angry because I’m a New Yorker.
Michelle: [00:28:53] Yeah. Why don’t you just become a New Yorker?
Gabe: [00:28:57] I don’t think so. I don’t want to.
Michelle: [00:28:58] You wouldn’t fit on the subway.
Gabe: [00:28:59] That’s true, I would not. Happy holidays, everybody, from A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Thank you for listening. Do all of the things that we always ask you to do, including leave us reviews and comments everywhere, and please share this on Facebook. If you have any topic ideas, e-mail us at show@PsychCentral.com and be good to yourself, and we’ll see you next week.
Michelle: [00:29:21] It’s not for sale!
Announcer: [00:29:23] You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself. Head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe, go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources, and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. The show’s official website is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at show@PsychCentral.com. Thank you for listening, and share widely.
Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts
GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.
MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.
Podcast, N. (2019). Podcast: A Bipolar and a Schizophrenic Discuss Psychiatric Medications. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-a-bipolar-and-a-schizophrenic-discuss-psychiatric-medications/