I wake up every morning at six to take a pill.
Every night before bed, I take nine more.
Sometimes I feel like my life is contained in these plastic bottles with child-proof caps. I know that without them, I couldn’t function. I can’t imagine my life without these tablets and capsules.
When the doctor saw the desperate scratches on my left arm, he prescribed me Prozac. He said it would make life a little easier, and I didn’t think twice about incorporating this new pill into my routine. But instead of relief, I found terror. I couldn’t stop thinking about ending my life, and I began cutting more regularly. I stopped going to school. I refused to see my friends. I was drowning in fire.
The first thing my new doctor did when I can to America was take me off of the Prozac and put me on Zoloft. I tolerated the Zoloft for a long time, but eventually it just stopped working. When I went to the emergency room with suicidal thoughts, the pediatrician told me that I was experiencing “Zoloft poop-out.” After a while, he explained, sometimes your body starts to tolerate the medicine, making it ineffective. We set up an appointment with my psychiatrist to discuss options.
My then-psychiatrist, who I affectionally call Dr. Ass-hat, still did not believe that I was bipolar. His reasoning? I had straight As. “You’d be struggling in school if you were bipolar.” I considered ripping his diplomas off the wall and smashing his desk to demonstrate my case, but I decided against it. He put me on a very weak dose of Topamax, an anti-seizure medication that has an iffy track record for helping people with bipolar. I think he was just trying to get me to shut up.
After this, I confided in my therapist that I needed to get Dr. Ass-hat out of my life. I got an appointment with my current doctor, Dr. Awesome. She got me off the Topamax and got me started on Lexapro, an anti-depressant. For a mood stabilizer, we added Risperdal.
Some of my problems were solved, but I was still having manic episodes. After a long discussion, we decided to add Lithium to my little medicinal cocktail. Honestly, I was scared to take Lithium. I thought taking it would mean that I was officially crazy. But I was willing to try anything to get some relief.
I should mention that I was taking a relatively high dose of Lexapro, and that that is probably why I ended up in the hospital. People with bipolar have to be careful when taking antidepressants, and my Lithium levels weren’t high enough to prevent my manic episodes yet. In the hospital, they took me off the Lexapro and I felt great! For almost a month, I had no mood swings.
Then the depression hit. With the Lexapro was completely out of my system, I crashed. Sure, I wasn’t experiencing mania, but the depression was debilitating. We decided to put me on a low dose of Lexapro, but it was going to take 4 to 6 weeks to get me at a therapeutic level.
Fast-forward to now, when now it’s the Lithium that is no longer working effectively. We’ve added Lamictal to the mix, and we’re waiting to get that up to a therapeutic level. Everything is a waiting game. Six week here, a month there, more blood tests, more side effects.
There are times when I wonder if I’m masking “the real me” by taking medicine. Sometimes I get frustrated that my body was made in a way that it can’t properly function without outside intervention. I wonder if I would be more creative, more intelligent, more me if I didn’t have to swallow ten pills a day. But I eventually come to the same conclusion every time:
My pills let me be me. My pills let me get out of bed and explore the world. They let me write blog posts, go to class, and make friends. They also keep me safe. The chemicals I consume free me from depression and mania (or at least they will when we get the dosages right).
I embrace modern medicine, and I choose a higher quality of life through chemistry. Even though sometimes I feel limited by my medications, I know that ultimately they help me. I don’t just take my medicine for myself; I take it for my family, my boyfriend, and my friends.
These little pills help all of us.