There’s a lot of stigma around taking psych meds to treat mental illness. Meds certainly aren’t right for every person or every condition, but they’re a good tool to have available as part of the mental illness toolbox. For all the social kerfuffle over meds, they are just a tool. Getting well (or getting by) with the help of meds is no less valid than getting well/getting by with any other tool from the toolbox, even if it sometimes feels a lot more complicated than that.
We don’t often talk about what we take, so in this post, I wanted to get personal about what I take, and hopefully, some of you will join and share.
Here’s what I take for my illness, which is major depressive disorder:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor) 300mg daily
- Mirtazapine (Remeron) 30mg daily
- Lithium 1200mg daily
- Quetiapine (Seroquel) 600mg daily
- Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) 30mg daily
- right now I’m taking a straight omega-3 fatty acid supplement, but usually I take one combined with turmeric
The first two are antidepressants. The other three are used for augmentation, and an augmented antidepressant regimen can start to look more like what someone would take for bipolar. Lithium is used primarily in bipolar disorder, but it’s also been recognized for a long time as being helpful for antidepressant augmentation. Quetiapine is an antipsychotic. I actually tend to feel better at a high dose, but I like having room to go up if necessary, so I stick with 600mg as a regular dose. Dextroamphetamine is a stimulant that I take mostly because of the link between psychomotor retardation and dopamine.
I got this medication dosette after I accidentally took my bedtime meds in the morning, and had to cancel a massage appointment because I couldn’t stay conscious. When I got it, I felt like it was lined up wrong, and the morning should go at the bottom. If that was my automatic response, I knew that’s what I’d do if I wasn’t paying attention, so each day’s container is flipped upside down.
Tuesday at noon shows a dose of Dexedrine that I forgot to take. I tend to miss my noon dose about once a week, and I don’t get an immediate effect from taking it, so I don’t notice the absence of that. Morning meds I rarely forget, and I can’t sleep if I forget my bedtime meds.
I don’t have much in terms of side effects. I’ve gained a lot of weight while on meds, and three of the ones I’m on are probably contributing to that, but I’m well beyond caring. In the past, I’ve had dry mouth, tremor, and impaired coordination from lithium, but they haven’t been an issue for a while now. That could very well be an indicator that my blood level is on the low side; I haven’t had it checked since pre-COVID times.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be on meds for the rest of my life. I don’t view taking psych meds as being any different from taking any other kind of meds, and getting off meds for the sake of being off them isn’t something that has any importance or value to me. It doesn’t bother me that I’m taking 5 different meds; if 1 med worked, I’d take 1, but it doesn’t, so it is what it is. I also don’t care that I take 15 pills/capsules a day; I got used to swallowing meds a long time ago, and knocking back a handful at a time isn’t a problem.
So, that’s what I take. If you care to share, what do you take?
For more info and MH@H posts on psychiatric medications, visit the Psych Meds Made Simple page. There’s also a Psych Meds 101 series covering:
Ashley L. Peterson
BScPharm BSN MPN
Ashley is a former mental health nurse and pharmacist and the author of four books.