In the 90’s, at the young age of ten, a child psychiatrist considered medicating me for my severe depression and suicidality. In the early 2000’s, at the age of fourteen, I was finally put on medication by my family doctor. It was supposed to help my eating disorder symptoms. The first one I received some negative side-effects so I was put on another, which I remained on -unmonitored- for over a year.
What noone knew during this time was that from as early as seven years old, a life-long illness of Bipolar Disorder was budding. It began with the morbid depression, and then one day I simply woke up…happy. Reflecting now, this would appear to be my first hypo-manic episode, at the end of sixth grade. What many don’t know is treating Bipolar Disorder with anti-depressants can spike the person into mania. This is quite probably a contributing factor to my sheer insanity during that fourteenth year of my life. But it was a complicated time: Anorexia, progressing for several years by this point, absolutely began to run my life rampant, and I took the medication infrequently, at times convinced I did not need it for weeks, and then I would start on it again, stop again… This could not have helped matters.
Ever heard the saying, “Mental illness is the only illness which convinces you you’re not sick” ?
This was precisely the case in my life.
When hospitalizations became a regular part of my life from age fifteen (for Anorexia and suicide attempts), I began to take my medication religiously. For several years I was on a small cocktail, which perhaps did nothing but make me drowsy, or perhaps helped curb my depression and extreme anxiety -it’s hard to say.
As years passed by, still with no Bipolar diagnosis, still taking medication, I became more symptomatic. Full-blown manic episodes began to occur followed by depressive crashes. At this point I was no longer being monitored by a psychiatrist.
In 2006/2007 I spent some time taking a couple introductory college courses. I have to admit, I am a nerd and love education, especially researching, and (obviously) writing. So when a task commanded a research paper -while in a denied manic state- I delved into “Big Pharma”.
It took several years for me to reconcile with myself; to first admit to a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder; then to accept it; and finally despite my strongest wishes, and my biggest disgust with Big Pharma and not wanting to “buy into their ploys”, to agree with a psychiatrist that I needed medication in order to function in life. It took even longer for full acceptance that I truly did need the medication, and that I probably would for the rest of my life.
I still hold true to the belief that generally, society is over-medicated, and that yes, Big Pharma is a greedy and manipulative industry. However I have forced myself to see some good in it. I certainly have reaped its benefits…sigh…as much as I would like not to.
Each individual’s mental illness is different. I would like to be able to manage my disorders with sheer willpower, but I can’t. Some people do find alternatives to treat their illness, but I have not. Some people do not need to be on medication long-term, but I do. This does not refute the need for learned coping mechanisms so as not to overly depend on medications. I still need to take responsibility for my stability. For me, this means things like staying clean and sober; not consuming energy drinks; maintaining a sleep regimen; taking time for “self-care”; prayer and meditation; forcing myself to reach out to mentors, friends, or professional supports when I begin to feel off kilter; and learning and applying skills for emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness (i.e. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy skills). I will not say I am perfect and always do these things, but at least I am aware. What can I say, I am still young, and sometimes I like to have a couple energy drinks and stay up til dawn -but I am well aware of the consequences of doing so and I always take that into account before deciding to do so or not.
The bottom line is this: True mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. And there are some chemicals which can help in certain cases.
Please see the college paper here: https://emilysimonelukaszek.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/putting-drugs-in-your-mouth-how-the-pharmaceutical-industry-deceives-us-all-for-profit/