We live in the era of magic medication. Got a cold? Pop a pill. Got an ache? Pop a pill. Can’t sleep? Pop a pill. Every problem has a pharmaceutical solution. Unfortunately, that’s not true. For some ills there are no pills to take. For some pills, the side effects are too strong. When it comes to psychiatric illnesses, there are no sure-fire cures and those that purport to help, frequently leave you sicker than when you started.
Those that don’t understand severe mental illness don’t understand why people “go off their meds”. So, let me tell you, it’s not a fair discussion. Let’s take someone with bipolar. While their illness isn’t always fun, it offers the potential of ecstasy. When you’re manic you’re fearless. You feel like you could accomplish anything. Life is limitless and that feeling is addictive. Then someone comes along and offers you a pill. That pill will help with the downside, feelings of worthlessness and despair, but you won’t experience the high either. You’ll be muted and life may feel gray. You won’t feel that euphoria. It’s a hard trade off. And it’s not just the muted feeling. There are plenty of other drawbacks: exhaustion that makes you unable to function normally. Tremors that make other people stare and ask unwanted questions. It’s unappealing at best.
Those on the outside see the depression and just want us to fix it. They see the disaster a manic episode leaves in its wake and want the behavior to stop. And I get it. I understand all the downsides but it’s still not the easy trade off others think it is. I made the decision to stay on meds decades ago, but it wasn’t because it would make my life easier. I made it because I went on a manic episode and didn’t keep track of my then three- and four-year-old in a mall. It terrified me to put my children at risk. I now have years of making that same decision daily.
I’m not saying this to give credence to the, “if you loved me, you’d...” Only to give you a glimpse into why it’s really hard to choose meds. I have loved ones that refuse to make that choice. They won’t give up who they are to make someone else’s life easier. I didn’t make that decision, but I respect those who do. I understand that the “miracle drug” someone else recommends never is. There’s always a price and not everyone wants to pay it.