Double Edged Sword


This evening (ok it’s 2 a.m….shh!) I was browsing around on Amazon.com for bargain books related to bipolar disorder.  I had to chuckle to myself at the books that basically implied that the pharmaceutical companies were behind the diagnoses of mental illness in America.

First off, I have bipolar disorder and am being treated with psychotropic medications.  I also have been a certified pharmacy technician since 2005 and have seen and dealt with a great many people being treated with medications.  No one HAS to take a medication.  You have the right to refuse it when your doctor prescribes it.  You have the right to not fill the prescription.  You have the right to not buy the prescription if it is too costly and you don’t really want to take it anyway.

Maybe you are one of those people who are content with taking a mix of vitamin and herbal supplements that may or may not work.  Maybe you feel like you don’t want to take anything and continue living the way you are.

But what if you have high blood pressure?  Or diabetes?  High cholesterol?  A heart arrhythmia? What if you have chronic pain, or even acute pain from a surgical procedure or an accident?  You’re going to take the prescription for the medication and get it filled and go home and take it as your doctor told you to.

So why is mental illness any different?  Are people who suffer from depression not in pain?  Or at risk for suicide?  That seems life threatening to me.  “It’s all in their head”, you think or say.  To that I say, “EXACTLY!”  Where do you think that expression came from?

If someone has a stroke they may be paralyzed or significantly impaired on one side of their body because of one little thing that shut down one side of their brain… the side the operates that side of the body.  We accept this, we don’t say that they’re faking it, or it’s all in their head.  But isn’t it, essentially, all in their head?  Mental illness is just a misfire that shuts down or speeds up other parts of the brain.  It is just something in the brain not working like it’s “supposed to”.

People say “Well, you can’t see it or test for it, so you must be faking it.”  I could walk around on crutches with my ankle wrapped up and you would never question whether I was “faking it.”  The outward symptoms of mental illness are much the same.  I act erratically, I cry at the slightest things, I find it impossible to get out of bed or the energy to bathe or get dressed. If I told you I was taking vicodin for my sprained ankle, you would think “that must be really painful, I wish there was something I could do to help”.  But if I say, I am depressed, I am taking an anti-depressant so I can function better, it is “You are faking it.” or “It’s all in your head.” or “Everyone gets sad sometimes, you don’t need medicine.” or “You are just wasting your money and making the drug companies rich.”

But what difference does it make if I take something that makes me feel better and more able to function than not?  Is it really so different from taking a pain pill to stop suffering from pain?  Or to take a blood pressure pill?  Or injecting insulin to keep my blood sugar regulated because my body isn’t doing it for me?  What about taking allergy medicine?  Do I NEED it? No.  But it makes my quality of life better.  It makes me feel better to not sneeze, have a runny nose, or watery eyes.  In that sense antidepressants or mood stabilizers and other psychotropic medications are, literally, life savers for those suffering from mental illness.

I am falling asleep, will update and finish this tomorrow. Ciao!

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