My chemist took his family to Italy for Christmas last year. I’m pretty sure I paid for it.

Still, if you suffer from a mental illness you may find that medication becomes as much a part of your life as doing your teeth, scratching your bum or hating Mondays. I currently take ten pills a day and when things start to go off the rails, even more. Taking them has never worried me but for some people they seem like a sign of defeat or an admission of madness. To my mind, tolerating any illness when you have access to effective medication is the real craziness.

Being a little more complex than the flu, not every medication prescribed for you may be effective. So be prepared for some trial and error. I’ve been on medication for over ten years and even now my psychiatrist, wife and I struggle to understand what combinations do and don’t work. That said, I know a number of people who have been prescribed a single medication and they’ve travelled well for years.

If you’re prescribed medication be prepared for the odd side effect. Some pills made me so ravenous that within months I Iooked like I had swallowed a hand grenade. Others were so sedating I used to slip into the gents for a quick snooze. Sometimes my mouth turned so dry I talked like Donald Duck and I’ve occasionally had my skin crawl so badly I couldn’t remain seated for five minutes as I wriggled like an epileptic worm. Worse, I’ve had facial tics that made me look like I was constantly blowing kisses. That made taking public transport somewhat problematic. Still, what doesn’t work for me might be great for you.

For all of that, I wouldn’t change a thing. From a life of suicidal lows counterbalanced by crazed manic highs, I’m a lot better off now than before my diagnosis. I know my medications and my mind well enough to know I won’t always be well. The ebb and flow of my brain’s chemicals mean medications that work now may not be so effective tomorrow but so what? My psychiatrist will adjust my medications, fine-tune them for side effects and after a few weeks or maybe months I’ll be back on track. Compared with life without pills it’s a small price to pay.

Mastering mental illness is a game of patience. If you’re prescribed medication it may take weeks to kick in so don’t lose hope. If they work, good for you, but if they have you look longingly at your pantry or falling asleep in meetings don’t despair. Just tell your doctor and try a new regime. Your chemist (and his family) will love you for it and more importantly, others will love you too.

For all that, medication alone will never be the answer. Hopefully by now you’re getting the message that there is a lot you can do to help yourself from diet and physical exercise to attitude and perseverance. Mental illness is a tough bugger to beat and pills are only one part of a successful program.

For a more in depth look at medicating for mental illness you might like to have a look at:



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