We went for a drive yesterday to a beautiful area in Northern New York. We’re usually up there several times a year. There’s a great camp, and parks we love. My mom loved it and is buried up there.
I’ve had many good days on the Tug Hill Plateau and edges of the Adirondacks.
Beginning with carrying my purse and books across the driveway, I remembered bad days, too. I remembered another walk across the driveway, with a bag I dropped to the ground as I once again decided I did not want to go, could not go on the ride to deliver our oldest to camp. I was a mess. It had been several days in the pit.
Later on this week’s trip, I remembered later that bad day, deciding to make a short hike in one of our favorite parks, and having to turn back so soon. Because I’d barely eaten for several days and my body just couldn’t do it.
Have you ever experienced severe depression? As I come back up into the light, I feel like I’m recovering from being ill. That same fatigue. The same tentative use of heavy, weakened limbs. Not quite enough energy to meet the demands of the day.
I remembered bad days.
And it was good.
Better… but not better
I haven’t felt the way I was remembering in quite some time…
I can’t say I’m generally happy, but I’m rarely actively suicidal. Too often I feel like my biggest goal in life is to just get through it so it’ll be over, but… I’m pretty stable. Stable enough that…
I’ve been thinking about going off meds.
I’m doing pretty well, right? Is it really necessary? I mean, really necessary? There are side effects and stuff. I’m having cognitive issues; maybe they’d be better if I weren’t taking a medication that changes the way my brain fires. Are the benefits still worth it?
Was it really that bad before lamotrigine?
How bad could it be?
There’s a reason I see a psychiatrist. A reason she had me try various antidepressants. A reason I was put on lithium. A reason I was switched to lamotrigine. It can take years for people to find something that keeps them from falling over the edge, especially without difficult side effects. And it’s usually more than one med.
Which is kind of my point, right? I mean, I only need one med! How much could I really need to be medicated?
Well, since God hasn’t healed me, I need lamotrigine to keep me safe. From myself.
Reasons to Quit
There are many things in life we’d be better off not doing. But other things, like taking necessary meds, we need to be sure to keep at.
In my relatively short experience with taking medication to help stabilize my moods, I’ve experienced three main reasons to “go off meds.”
The first will make the most sense to people who don’t struggle with mental or emotional disorders, especially those who think that only the most extreme cases of mental illness should be treated with medication… by whose assessment, who gets to draw the line in the sand? As I’ve said repeatedly, while I agree that we are, as a society, over-medicated and there are irresponsible doctors who prescribe antidepressants to pacify “depressed” patients who refuse to take responsibility for their choices; I vehemently disagree with those who think modern psychiatry is a crock and antidepressants are nothing more than dangerous placebos.
Why would I want to quit taking a medication for which I am so grateful? What reasons do people like me give to go off meds we need? If you’re someone like me, be aware. If you love someone like me, be aware.
Yes, things got rough for a while. Really rough sometimes. But I haven’t had a severe episode in… a while. Weeks. Months. I’m better now. Why should I keep taking a pill if I can handle things on my own? I just need to make healthy choices and it will be okay…
For many of us, the healthiest choice – the only safe choice – is to stay on the medication that has brought us back to where we can better manage our brain.
I feel relatively safe these days, relatively stable. But I have to accept the fact that finding the right medication brought me here. Quitting would be like jumping out of a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, simply because I was staying afloat so well.
What’s the point?
What’s the point? is hopeless. It feels like the medication isn’t working. If I’m going to be depressed any way, why keep taking medicine that isn’t helping? A pill can’t fix me. Nothing can fix me. My brain is broken beyond repair. Why should I even try?
You get the picture. I’m not immune to blue days. But it’s true that I don’t usually feel the hopelessness that wants to give up on meds… and everything else. At least I don’t usually feel like that since my psychiatrist found a medication that works for me. If you’re having drops that low, don’t give up. But do talk to your mental health care provider… I hope you have a psychiatrist… about what’s going on; your treatment plan may need tweaking. Finding the right medication, or combination of medications, can take time… and trial and error. There’s no one-size-fits-all perfect formula. Keep at it. Be open and honest. Trust your psychiatrist, but not blindly. Learn as much as you can about your diagnosis and prescribed medications.
Why bother?!? sounds a lot like What’s the point? but instead of low, it’s angry. Pretty much the same vocabulary as hopeless, but in a different tone. Hard. It would rather throw things than collapse. It wants to smash things. It panics. It punches and kicks large immovable objects. It wants to obliterate itself, not dissolve.
In All Moods
Needless to say, chucking my meds when I’m depressed or angry is a bad, unsafe idea. But going off meds isn’t a good or safe idea when I’m feeling well, either. My brain is broken and needs help to more consistently work the way it should.
Take your meds if you need them. And if you’re expecting your primary care physician to make you feel better about your life by giving you antidepressants… take responsibility for all aspects of your health. All of us need to do our best to eat right and regularly, stay physically active, drink enough water, and be intentional about socializing and finding ways to help others – to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Remember medication is a tool, not magic. Maintain your spiritual health through reading the Bible every day, praying without ceasing (making the effort to remain mindful of God’s presence – keeping your eyes and mind on Him, not your circumstances – seeking His strength and wisdom for each moment), and learning how to rejoice in all circumstances… and moods.
So, why was remembering a bad day good?
So, no, I’m not going off meds. I’m doing okay. But I’m not healed. God may choose someday to heal me, but for now I need to use the tools He has given me to manage the darkness. Medication is a big part of that.
How about you?
Have you been thinking about going off meds? Be very, very cautious. I had a friend who was prescribed heavy-duty antidepressants years ago. They made her a zombie. One day she knew that she needed to stop taking them and flushed them down the toilet. She believed that was what God told her to do. And she was right.
Hearing the voice of God is not the litmus test. We can have delusions like that. But for her, major depression was a season of life, not a lifetime disorder.
For many of us who see a psychiatrist, medication is a lifetime thing. Even if it’s not, it’s not safe to stop psychiatric meds cold turkey. They need to be tapered even if it’s just a matter of adjustment. Going off meds your brain is used to having to function better can be very ugly. Very. Ugly.
Maybe you love someone considering, or threatening (we can be like that when we’re struggling with What’s the point? or Why bother?!?), to stop taking prescribed medication for a mental disorder. Give grace, but don’t coddle us. Lovingly confront us with truth. We need it.
Sometimes we need help to keep us safe.
If someone you love is in crisis and at risk for attempting suicide, GET HELP. They may be angry at you in the moment, but they’ll be around to thank you later.
If you are in crisis and need help NOW, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also click the link and use Click to Chat. Either way, you will be connected to a National Suicide PreventionLifeline counselor, anytime 24/7. CrisisChat is another online option.
If you appreciated this post, check out these:
You can find this post and other great Christian content at these link-ups: