Mental Health

Working On Us Week 23: Medications

illustration of a brain encircled by the words mental health matters

It’s week 23 of the Working On Us mental health prompt series over at Beckie’s Mental Mess.  For details, please visit her post.  This week’s topic is medications.

Question Prompt:

  1. When you first were diagnosed with your mental illness/disorder, did it take a while to get used to your medications that were prescribed to you?  If you answer the question, (YES), How did you feel initially?  I was first started on meds during my first hospitalization.  I have no memory of my first three weeks in hospital, so I’m not sure how I initially reacted to meds.  I started getting electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) at the same time.  They maxed out the dose on the first antidepressant I tried, and then put me on a combination of Celexa (citalopram), Wellbutrin (bupropion) and Seroquel (quetiapine).  I don’t recall having any side effects.
  2. Depending on how long you have been on medication, how many times do you think it has been adjusted to make you feel stable?  I’ve tried quite a few medications over the years.  Much of my current cocktail I’ve been on since my last hospitalization, with the addition of Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine).  Since then the doses of my two antidepressants have stayed the same.  My lithium dose can fluctuate a little depending on my blood levels.  My Seroquel (quetiapine) dose has pretty steadily increased.
  3. Have you ever had a bad reaction to medication?  I’m not particularly prone to side effects in general.  When I started Abilify (aripiprazole) it caused an abrupt worsening of my depression, so it was clearly not the right medication for me.
  4. Have you ever suffered withdrawals from a certain type of medication, and if so… What type was it?  No.  At one point I was coming off of Effexor (venlafaxine) on my own (see question 6).  It’s one of the more likely antidepressants to be associated with a discontinuation syndrome.  I planned a downward taper, but I was limited in what I could do because I only had the highest strength capsules.  Despite that, no discontinuation effects at all.
  5. Do you work closely with your doctor in regards to your medication intake?  (In other words, do you have a good relationship with your doctor?) . My doctor is fabulous.  He recognizes that I know as much about these meds as he does, and he’s content with me being in the driver’s seat.
  6. Since your diagnosis, have you ever tried to not take medication and see if you can handle your symptoms of mental illness/disorders on your own?  If so, how did that work out for you?  Several months after my first hospitalization, I had another suicide attempt.  After that I decided f*** it, the meds aren’t working so why should I take them.  Luckily, I ended up getting into full remission without meds, but my deal with myself was that if I started to have symptoms again, I’d get back on meds quickly, which I did.The next time I went off meds was for a different reason.  I was unemployed, and had found out that my bully ex-boss was trying his best to destroy my career.  My psychiatrist at the time was a complete jackass about it, so I fired him.  I had just found a new GP.  She turned out to be a jerk as well.  Then I saw another GP at the same clinic, who turned out to be worse than the first GP.  At that point I wasn’t prepared to deal with another jackass doctor, and I didn’t have refills left on my medications, so that was that.
  7. Tell us briefly how medication has affected your life?  It has allowed it to continue.  There’s no way I’d be alive right now without medication.


Picture Prompt:

What do you see and how does it make you feel when you see this picture?

pills in the shape of a dollar sign

The pharmaceutical industry is a business, and like any business, their goal is to maximize profits.  I think it’s important to differentiate the potential pros and cons of medications from problematic business practices of drug companies.  Just because drug companies do some sketchy things, including problematic marketing practices, doesn’t mean that medications are inherently bad.

Many in the US are pro-private healthcare and pro-free market.  However, when there’s limited government regulation and when there are so many different payers in the game, it’s the drug companies that have all the power when it comes to setting prices.  Canada is (hopefully) moving towards a national single-payer Pharmacare system.  With a whole country’s worth of purchasing power, all of a sudden the drug companies need to be competitive in terms of pricing, and at that point you can actually start to see the benefits of a competitive marketplace.

book cover: Psych Meds Made Simple by Ashley L. Peterson

Want to know more about psych meds and how they work? My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple, is available on Amazon and other online retailers. It’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about medications.

This post contains affiliate links that let you support MH@H at no extra cost to you.

18 thoughts on “Working On Us Week 23: Medications”

  1. I don’t think I’d be able to work without my migraine meds, both the daily (somewhat) proactive ones and the ones I take for an impending attack. In that way, meds saved me too.

  2. Wow, you went off Effexor without issue, from the highest-pill dose? That’s mind-blowing, and it’s also somehow a comfort, as I thought it was impossible! I had a doctor prescribe me Effexor once, and it felt “wrong”. Not to diss Effexor, but I think my intuition was screaming that it was the wrong drug for me (not the wrong drug for everyone). I’ve heard other stories about people having similar gut reactions to a prescription, and I think it’s possible that on some level, we know when we’ve been prescribed the wrong drug for us.

    In America drug news, they passed a law here that no longer allows Medicare Part-D drug providers (and perhaps insurance providers in a broader sense) to drag their heels over “prior authorization.” So you remember the phone battles I was always preparing for? I no longer have to go through that! It’s amazing, and a great change.

    I like the part of the story about how you fired all your doctors. There are so many walking egos out there! Fire them all, I say. I’m glad you and I have good drug prescribers now!!

    1. With the Effexor I was taking two 150mg capsules a day, so I mostly had those as well as a few 75mg that I had left over from when I was previously on a lower dose.

      I’m glad you won’t have to deal with the prior authorization business again. That was such a huge pain in the butt!

  3. So I’m not the only one looking for a good GP, a good psychiatrist etc. What an undertaking that is. Did you have side-effects when changing, starting or increasing a dose?
    I really like my medication, they gave me the possibility to take the first step. Without them I would have been still struggling in the same place. Now I can at least struggle at another place, it changes the view a bit.

    1. The only medication I’ve really had side-effects from is lithium, both when I started it and when i’ve gone up on the dose.

      I’d say the same thing about medication helping me to struggle in a different place. Things may not be perfect, but it’s a better viewpoint.

  4. Hi, Ashley… I am really pleased that you wrote in this week. I was quite curious about the relationship you had with your doctor. You have the benefit of knowing all these types of medications and can carry on a conversation with your doctor as a equal.
    I’m grateful that I now how a doctor that truly listens to me, it helps that I bring in a journal that rates my moods, and reactions. I have had all types of weird reactions to Vraylar, Effexor, Duloxetine, and Lutuda, just to name a few.
    My Seroquel was just amped up again as well as my Lamictal, that was a week ago today. Since then, I’m lethargic. I have to contact my doctor tomorrow to ask if I can ease off the Seroquel.
    I’m quite envious of how your medical system works with big pharma companies. I wish like hell we had something like that here in the States. It’s just so darn expensive. I can’t wait until I have the invoices at year end to see how much I have laid out as far as medications go.
    Thank you again for allowing me to show case your book as well as participating in this week #23, of “Working on Us” 💚

    1. Thanks so much for inbcluding my book!

      Having a good doctor certainly makes a huge difference. With so many bad ones out there it can be hard to establish trust, but when that trust is there it’s so previous.

      It’s insane how much people end up paying for meds in the US, and for no reason other than lining corporate pockets.

      1. You are so very welcome. I thought because of the topic and you having so much knowledge about medications, it only felt the right thing to do.
        It took nearly four years to get a really good pyschiatrist. It’s been the best thing to happen for me since I learned of my mental illness.
        Yes, the US is on crack as far as I’m concerned with. To have the audacity to charge what they do in completed insanity, maybe they should be examined themselves. 😡

  5. That was horrible about your doctor. They should be more understanding. I have had a similar issue when on medication. It has made things worse rather than better. It’s good you have been able to get back to taking them and they help. I wish I could say the same

  6. Wow, what a terrible time you had my Doctors and Psychiatrists Ashley and well done for firing them. I think I’m quite lucky with my GP and Psych Team at the moment and, probably because I was a nurse, they listen to me about changes to in meds. We’re also lucky we have the NHS as, with long-term illnesses, medication is ‘free’.

    I’m physically disabled too and I get so sick of people saying “Why don’t you cut down on all those tablets?” and “They can’t be good for you!” Well, come and stand in my shoes for 5 minutes! Without them, I wouldn’t be alive.

  7. Hi! I read your article on medication. For me this has opened up a lot of questions. I am took very fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my GP and psychiatrist. I have been on a lot of medications for a lot of years. I would quite often go through the mind game of if you were braver then you wouldn’t need as much medication. It took me a long time to release that those pills are good for me because they are helping me. Not bad for me. They
    just me on a new pill Lithium for my Bi Polar. I am ok with this. I am very fortunate to live in Canada and I have access to drug coverage.

    1. I’m in Canada too, and I also take lithium. I think for everyone it takes some time to realize that medications are helping, but for some people it takes longer than others depending on what kind of messages they’ve gotten from other people about medications.

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