My wife says she can always tell when I go off my medication. She says I stop making sense, speak gibberish, and do and say things that are utterly irrational. I say she can tell because when I’m off my meds, I feel nonsensical, disconnected and irrational. I’m perfectly aware of the inane babble that comes out of me when I’m unmedicated – and yet I allow it to happen anyway.
I’m on four different antipsychotics and antidepressants to treat my disorder. I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2, which is where you have very mild manic episodes alternating with extremely severe depression. The medications help to keep me on an even keel, even if I do still swing toward the depressive end of the spectrum more often than not, and when I’m consistently medicated I can function, hold normal conversations, feel motivation, and generally get through the day.
So why on earth would I trade that for what is, essentially, bouts of total insanity? I’ll give you an example: the other night we were preparing dinner, and I couldn’t wash and recycle a plastic container. I just … couldn’t. To an outside observer (i.e. to my family), it must have looked like I was batshit crazy – I babbled about how I couldn’t wash it, that the most I could do was throw it away, and then I started pacing the kitchen, turning around every two steps. I probably tore at my hair a little, and eventually ended up on the couch in the dark while my wife screamed at how lazy I was being.
Believe me, it wasn’t laziness.
There are a whole slew of reasons why I do this to myself. Ironically, none of them are because I think I’m better when I am medicated – even though that’s a commonly cited reason for patients to stop. The most common reason – and perhaps the least sensible – is that I’m afraid to run out.
That’s right – I stop taking my meds so that I don’t run out of my meds.
This is the kind of train of thought that probably makes perfect sense to a lot of you – and absolutely no sense to anyone whose never had to take psychiatric medications before. I mean, you wouldn’t stop taking your heart medicine for the same reason, would you? But for some reason it seems, in the moment, perfectly reasonable to skip a day or a week so that I don’t run out.
Sometimes there are more valid reasons to stop. Most recently, I stopped taking them for about two weeks because I couldn’t afford to renew the prescription. Now that’s kind of a shitty position to be in, but the truth is that I didn’t have the money to pay for the medications – partly because my most recent paycheck got screwed up, but also because I do sometimes spend money on things I don’t need (mostly coffee).
But wow – the difference between medication and going au naturel is itself insane. As in, within a few days in either direction I notice a huge difference. When I go off them, I start to feel anxious, unsettled, and completely disconnected from reality. Then the depression sinks in, and the despair … or sometimes the anger and rage. Sometimes I sit in a corner and cry; other times I rush around madly between tasks, unable to start or complete any of them. More often, I sleep, because it’s the only way I can escape the madness.
After a few days, I feel generally unsettled and disconnected; after a few weeks, I feel totally insane. After a month or more, I start to become suicidal.
And the difference when I go back on them … within a few days I feel stable, in control, and able to do most anything. I might still not want to do anything, but at least I can make myself do it.
I know that this constant cycle of going on and off my meds is really, really bad for me, but I just can’t seem to help it. I don’t ever mean to stop taking my meds; it just happens. And when it does, I feel so out of control that it’s hard to find the willpower to go back on them. Sometimes even the effort of taking the top off the pill bottle is just too much.
I hate feeling out of control, but I do it anyway. It’s damaging my brain, but I do it anyway. It’s a vicious cycle, and I honestly don’t know if it’s one I’ll ever get out of.
For now, I’ll just have to go and take my pills.