Monday, March 3, 2014

I went four days without Prozac. Here's what happened (and thoughts on taking medication)

This is a picture of my hand.

Note the torn skin. That is the result of when I had my fist tightened for thirty minutes on Tuesday.

I was immensely distressed at the time. To give context, I had an essay paper due on Thursday. 10 to 12 pages, double-spaced. I had six pages, and at the time, I could not figure out an additional four. On a large scale, such a problem is relatively inconsequential, and normally I'm sure I would have figured out a solution.  Yet I could not get my worries and frustrations out of my head, and it led to this, along with an impulse to self-injurious behavior (head hitting, scratching, etc.). There was a period of time where I broke down crying for upwards of half an hour.

For greater context, I had run out of Prozac several days prior, and this was the day I finally got a new batch. It took another two days before I was back to normal.

I don't think it's a stretch to believe that this was caused by me running out of my medication, and that it ended in part because I got back on it.

The effects of medication differs for each of us and for every medication. But if we are taking medication it is imperative that we stay on it, unless our doctors tell us otherwise. We cannot know the proper effects of our medication unless we are taking it properly.

That said, there are many concerns and fears about taking medication that I feel should be addressed. A lot of them are addressed very well in this New York Times article, and I would encourage everyone with concerns about medication to read it. I cannot add any further to it except in terms of my own experience.

It can be difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of medication in your our life. In part because if things are going well, we often don't think to reflect on why they are. When I found out I had run low on medication, I was initially unbothered by it. I thought I could easily manage without it, in part because I had been so used to living with medication, that I couldn't imagine being without it as well. Yeah, I was wrong.

I'd had similar events in my past, where I thought it wouldn't be a problem to go off of medication until I initially went off of it. Thankfully it's resolved within a few days after I return to my medication, but it helps to remember that I am taking that medication for a reason.

When I was without Prozac, a lot of anxieties I had prior were magnified to a great extent. My future shortened before my eyes the more I thought of it. It says something that when I called my therapist during distress, that when I got to that I had been several days without Prozac, he emphasized that part above all else. And for good reason. Medication is integral to my continued mental health. It is not for everyone, but it is for me.

A few final thoughts on medication. I'd like to point out that two very common problems with medication. that of forgetting to take it on schedule, and of forgetting to refill it. Here are solutions that have worked for me:

With forgetting to take medication on schedule, it helps to place your medication in a place see every day. On a bathroom cabinet so that you see it whenever you use the restroom, for example. Or on a kitchen counter so you see it when making meals. For my part, I take my medication in the morning, and put my medication on my dresser so that I see it when I get dressed. Similarly, daily alarms can also be useful for remembering when to take medication.

With forgetting to refill medication, it helps to leave reminders ahead of time. My prescription needs refilled every ninety days, so I set a reminder for myself that after two months I am alerted that I need to refill my medication, and then take the steps so that it is refilled on time.

Finally, many people concerned about medication are worried about the side-effects of medication, and that it may not be effective. It is important to remember that medication is effective for a significant number of people, and you may very well be one of those people to whom it can benefit. The only way to find out is by taking it as prescribed by your doctor.

As far as side-effects go, it is very easy to find a list of common side-effects to medication. Remember that taking medication doesn't necessarily guarantee any or all of the possible side-effects. Even if you do have side-effects from the medication, that does not itself mean it is ineffective, or that you shouldn't be taking the medication. In some cases, it is a matter of balancing the benefits and drawbacks of the medication and determining whether or not you are willing to take the side-effects in exchange for the benefits.

Again, consult your doctor before taking any medication. And consult your doctor if you are thinking of making changes to your existing medication. Medication can be very useful in helping us get better, but it is important to approach medication as informed as we can be.

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