A note with this blog post. Please don’t let it deter you from seeking help from a professional. This is not meant to scare you, or make you feel hopeless. It is purely to let you know the following things can and may happen. And that you’re not alone in your frustration.
A few weeks ago I had a breakdown in therapy because I was upset with myself that it didn’t feel like I had made any progress. I thought that six months into meds and meeting with a psychiatrist weekly I would be this completely different person. I thought I wouldnt have days where it was still hard to get out of bed. And that my panic attacks would lessen or decrease.
But then she reminded me, I have made changes. They just may not be as tangible or noticeable as I expected them to. And that’s okay. Because I don’t have to show up or do any of this. I could cancel appointments, avoid sharing secrets I’ve kept hidden, or not confront my issues. I don’t have to take my medication everyday. But I am.
And this time last year, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that.
Things no one tells you about therapy and medication:
Therapy is not magic. It won’t solve all your problems in one or five or 10 sessions. Or heck even 100 sessions. There is no quick fix. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. And healing is not a linear process.
Medication takes a lot longer to figure out then you might think: “This medicine should work. But we won’t know for about three months”
It’s incredibly frustrating. Because the thing is, our moods change anyways. Especially if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression or bipolar or mania or what have you. So who knows what’s the meds and what’s the mania?
Like “here’s some Zoloft”, okay, cool. And you take it. And you’re not feeling as depressed anymore. Great, right? But wait, is it the meds that’s making me feel better? Or are you feeling better because you’re hypomanic? Because you always are when Summer / Winter / etc is over. Have you kicked your debilitating depression? Or is it just gonna come back like it always does?
So you’ve tried this for months, great. You’ve been strict with taking your meds. You’ve barely missed any days. And you’re still flying high. But in the back of your mind you’re still wondering: “Is the medication throwing me into a manic state?” And has you thinking all your problems are solved and the rest of your life is going to be glorious! Then all of a sudden one day you stop feeling anything. And in all actuality the medication is not a good fit for you.
You might go in thinking you’re just struggling with a bit of anxiety, and it turns out that you have depression, anxiety and OCD. Or maybe you’re even bipolar. But you don’t know that until you’re prescribed an SSRI to start out with. And it triggers mania and hypomania. And you didn’t ever realize how horrible you could feel. Or how high you could feel. And what the intense crash is like afterwards. Because unfortunately, antidepressants can end up causing your bipolar disorder and mania to flare up. But you won’t know until you try.
You’re not only having to keep track of your moods. In fact, every week my psychiatrist asks me a laundry list of questions in regards to side effects. Troubles with eyesight, stomach pain or discomfort, sleeplessness and insomnia or the opposite of exhaustion and lethargy. And then there’s the headaches and migraines and nausea.
Because while you may not feel the benefits of medication right away, you will likely feel the side effects pretty quickly.
Get ready to enjoy the constant roller coaster of thoughts and emotions! Especially ones that you didn’t even realize you had or were experiencing, and that you kept buried and hidden for however long. The constant nagging voices that go to war in your head. The depression that has you wanting to stay in bed with the shades pulled down tight. The not wanting to leave the house. And not eating or the binging and bloating and weight gain or loss. And then once you feel relief, enjoy knowing that you’ve missed out on 3+ months in addition to the years that these things have been eating away at you.
You will most likely feel worse before you get better. Uncovering and addressing all of your traumas and triggers will put you directly in the discomfort that you’ve been trying to avoid for so long. And the thing is, you’ve got to face it head on, or else you’re doing nothing. You’re putting a Band-Aid on an infected gaping wound.
Therapy and medication is not always cheap, or even affordable or accessible. Your insurance may have a yearly cap. You will have to weigh the benefits of draining your bank account vs improving your mental health. And when you’re in it, in the darkness, or flying high and manic, you’ll tell yourself you don’t need it. You’re fine just how you are. You’ve managed this long already on your own.
There is a possibility that you will have crushing depression or anxiety or mania when you begin your mental health journey and start to address everything. Please stay in close contact with your psychiatrist! New meds can make you feel absolutely insane, or everything that you’re feeling feels more and bigger and more real life while you try to get to the correct therapeutic dose.
The best part is when you wait those 3 to 4 months and they don’t work. Or they haven’t made any noticeable difference for you. So you change your meds again and go through the process all over again. And again. And again. And again.
Medication isn’t always meant to fix you 100%. My psychiatrist reminds me that the medication is there to help lower my level of anxiety enough to where I can remind myself that what my OCD and intrusive thoughts are leading me to believe, is not in fact happening. Or to lower the walls enough to make therapy more effective. Or to be able to calm down the loudness in your mind enough for you to switch on the rational side of your brain to look at things in a more practical, real world, not fight or flight way.
There’s not always a lightbulb moment. You’re not always overly happy and full of energy, and you are not always feeling down and depressed. In fact, maybe you just finally feel level, “normal” even. Maybe your anxiety is not completely crippling anymore and you’re able to leave the house or interact in social situations. And maybe normal and level aren’t what you expected them to be like.
Even with medication you will likely never be perfectly stable all the time.
Because that’s the reality with how mental illness works.
But you will keep going.
And you will keep trying.
And you will keep showing up for therapy.
Because you know it may take a while, but you have hope that it will get better.
And that little bit of hope is enough to keep you going, to keep you showing up for appointments, to keep showing up for your kids, your husband, your wife, your partner, your family.
Because once you get that sneak peek into what life could be like, you’ve gotten to sample this almost forbidden fruit that you’ve been grasping at for your whole life, or for however long. And that little taste will show you what you’ve been missing. And will make you feel like it is finally attainable.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen.