Mental Health

A Checkup from the Neck Up

People suffering from mental illness have a tendency to not take their medication regularly, even when the medication helps. This perplexes most outside observers because why wouldn’t we make it a priority? 

An improving mental condition is remarkably slow. When starting out a new medication you may only feel side effects- drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth- and not notice any positive benefit for weeks or months. 

Then suddenly one day the fog lifts. You feel normal and have the clarity of thought to wonder why you were having such a hard time before. You lose a significant amount of empathy for the way you previously thought. 

After a period of time, you may notice that you’ve felt fine for quite a while. You no longer notice any effect from the medication. You may attribute your stable mood to something else. 

This is when you decide that you don’t need it anymore. You don’t ask your doctor, you just stop taking it. At some level you know your doctor would advise against it. Putting the pill bottles in the cupboard, they are eventually thrown away. 

You do feel fine, for a while. The world doesn’t come crashing down and you are able to function in a normal way. If previously told not to drink alcohol, you have a little, and then a little more. Everything is fine. 

The negative thoughts and behaviors creep back in slowly, too slow to be noticed. Minor challenges to get through the day become more difficult. If you are prone to abusing substances, the abuse increases in an effort to self-medicate. Still, you don’t make the connection. 

It’s only when these challenges come crushing down on your chest that you think again about getting help. A desperate call is made late at night. You are ready to take it seriously this time. 

And the cycle begins again. 

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