|At group, I've seen so many people make the same mistake over and over and over, and it never works out. I've met far too many people who had been stable for a long stretch of time, and then they decide to go off their medication. I have a hard time understanding why so many people make this mistake. These people learn this the hard way--that their medication was the reason they felt so stable. They didn't realize this and thought their illness was more of a phase that they went through... or that they've simply grown out of their illness.
I've never considered going off my medication, but there have been times where I've been reminded why I need it. For instance, I was on my way to visit with the editor of my book--she lives in Ohio and I was going to drive there from Milwaukee to meet her and spend the weekend going through my book. Since it would be a long drive, I didn't take my medication first thing in the morning like usual--I wanted to make sure I had it in my system the whole way to Ohio--the plan was to take it right before I left the house. So I left the house at around noon. After I'd driven for about an hour and a half, I was feeling a ton of anxiety... more than I'd felt in a long time. I love driving my car long distances, and even like being in traffic--I consider it quality "me time." So feeling so anxious in the car was new to me. Then I realized I'd never taken my medication that day, and forgot to pack it. I drove the hour and a half back home to take it. This proved two things: first, it reminded me why I'm on the medication. second, I was lucky I forgot to take it because, had I taken my medication first thing in the morning like I usually do, I wouldn't have realized I didn't pack it with me until it was too late. It would have destroyed my ability to be productive and work on my book that weekend.
Everyone I've met at group who has decided to go off their medication at some point had their own reasons. The one reason I relate to most comes from people who have a certain amount of creativity in them, like I do. For as long as I can remember, my identity was tied to my creativity. I loved reading, writing, making movies, writing songs and building websites like this, to name a few. When I first got on my medication, I was over-medicated and was pretty much a drooling zombie. We talked with my doctor and cut my depakote in half. That gave me more energy but I still found myself with a bigger problem: I couldn't seem to write or read for pleasure. I thought the medication had robbed me of my creativity. The thing was, I knew how crazy I was before I ended up in the hospital and I made a vow to never let that happen to me again. My illness was too scary and I almost died too many times. So I lived with the medication. But, over time, that creativity started coming back. The first thing I could do again was writing lyrics, so I finally had one of my outlets for creativity back. That was enough to hold me over for a while. Then, as more time went by, all my creativity came back... almost without me knowing it.
Once I was in a better place, I went back and read the stuff I'd written before ending up in the hospital. I was so proud of myself when I wrote that stuff and thought I'd never be able to write at that level again. But now, with the medication working, I went back and read that stuff and realized it was convoluted at best and gibberish at worst. Most of it was gibberish. At this point in time I was thinking about writing my memoir. I'd tested out the concept (a book about my year of total insanity narrated by the voice of my delusional self) in a fiction workshop and passed it off as fiction. It went over well. So I decided to go to the book store and get a book on memoir writing. That's when I learned how much I needed to learn. I started reading a ton of books on writing, which my old self--relying on my racing mind--would have never considered. I learned a new approach to writing. Had I not done this, my book would have been embarrassingly awful. So I actually came out a better writer even *with* the medication I thought had stolen my creativity, because I had to work extra hard to regain that creativity.
On the other side of the spectrum, the one reason for going off medication that is hardest for me to understand is that some people are too proud to admit they will need to be on medication for the rest of their lives. They have trouble admitting that because, in their minds,they feel like they should be able to keep things together without any pills. They have the belief that the world can tell they have shortcomings that require them to be on medication for the rest of their lives. The thing is, nobody ever has to know you're on medication.
A lot of people have unreasonable expectations for the medication they're prescribed. One of those expectations is that the medication will make things better *now*. That's not going to happen. It can take weeks before the medication even starts doing what it should be doing. Another false expectation is that if one mix of medications doesn't work, no other medication will. But the one expectation that is most unrealistic is that the medication will cure you. It won't. Medication alone will not make everything better. True recovery takes a lot of time, effort and patience. My illness is still in me, and it's a part of me I've grown used to. I still make irrational connections and still get delusions from time to time. So, clearly, the medication has not cured me... but in a way, it has. See, the job of your medication is not to fix you. Medication will not fix you--but it will give you a legitimate chance to fix yourself. My medication allows me to recognize which thoughts of mine are irrational and delusional. Today, my mind kind of works on autopilot--I barely have to do anything to realize which thoughts of mine are irrational. Without the medication, my mind would take these delusions and run with them... my delusions would add up in my mind to something of significance. They would build on each other and I'd get crazier and crazier. But today, I have a delusion and dismiss it without second thought.
That's what medication is supposed to do--give you a chance to learn how your mind and mental illness work so the illness doesn't consume you like it may have in the past.