I wish I could go back time and never have taken psychiatric medication. I’m not even sure how much I credit it with my stability. There are definitely times that it was helpful, but did I need to take it always, forever?
When I was prescribed carbamazepine when I was 16, nobody told me why, or what it would do, or what side effects it did. I was so drunk and dizzy on them, so sleepy, I’d fall over. I was 16 and my life should not have been like that and if it had to be I should have been told why. You take them because an adult told you to and your life was falling apart and you were scaring everybody with how you were behaving.
When I was 17 I was prescribed olanzapine and again nobody told me why or what side effects it had. I gained a frightening amount of weight in such a short space of time that I stopped recognising myself, I felt like my body was being inhabited by an alien.
I’ve been on antipsychotics my entire adult life so far. I never got to know who I was without them, except for the periods I’d stop taking them to see how I felt, and naturally I got ill (ill or withdrawal? I still don’t know). It’s not as easy as just going, “I’m not taking them”- you get labelled, “non-compliant”, “difficult”, and when you’re trying to live your life, rocking the boat is scary.
Now I’m 30 and I’ve been off them for about 6 months. I had tried many times to, and I was okay to stay on them postnatally as I could see how they’d help (even if it meant I could do no night feeds, and miss out on that special, defining parental experience). I came off them, finally, when I had to go back to work and realised I couldn’t take them and parent, and work, and that I’d had enough of weight gain. It wasn’t as hard as it had been before because I was in a good space mentally, I’d titrated down, and used antihistamines to take the edge off.
I’ve only lost 7lbs since being off but it is the first time in years the scales have gone down. I am almost 5 stone overweight and the only time I’ve been slim in my adulthood was when I had an eating disorder. I wasn’t a slim teenager either but I wasn’t fat, and I wasn’t the antipsychotic fat I am now, with a bloated face and huge tummy.
Doctors have never taken me seriously about this. Despite gaining 3 stone in 3 months on a dose increase. Nobody was ever honest about this with me, about side effects in general. I was always made to feel it was my fault, that I was just stuffing my face, when I wasn’t. Always told to do more exercise when my medication made me so tired that I could barely get up in the morning, and when I said that I was told to go to bed at 6pm. Whenever diabetes was mentioned, it was always with an apologetic shrug. Despite the fact that due to my medication I was supposed to get annual health checks and blood sugar tests, I only got one- my first one- last week.
Now the inevitable has happened, what I’d hoped to escape by getting off them, but I haven’t. I have prediabetes and now I have a fuckload of work to do to try and undo this, to avoid diabetes, if I can at all, I don’t even know. I need to, what choice do I have? I am already on my knees with exhaustion, I commute 3 hours a day, I work full time, I have a baby, I am trying to manage my mental health without medication and it is hard. But I am not going back on it ever. I am petrified of getting diabetes, of anything that will shorten my lifespan. I’ve always known the 20 years younger statistic, I’ve quit smoking, my cholesterol and blood pressure is perfect at least.
I’m not blaming the medication entirely, but I wouldn’t have gotten to this weight without it, and I have no idea what it’s done to my body. And I’m scared and worried, and wondering- was it worth it?
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