I am not an anti-medicine/science person. I’m staunchly pro-vaccine. I greet a lot of “alternative” treatment ideas with a raised brow without studies to back them up. Anecdotal “cayenne pepper cured my cancer” stories will drastically drop my estimation of your intelligence.
But I have been very vocally against medicine for me and my mental health for years.
Not for everyone. I know people with bipolar, depression, various anxieties disorders, and OCD who have benefited tremendously from being medicated. I support anyone adding more tools to their Coping Toolbox and I’m glad those tools are there.
I also know a number of people who take a cocktail of several mental health drugs and they’re, for lack of a more nuanced term, still pretty fucking nuts. Bipolar 1 can be very challenging to treat with its wide variety of symptoms and each of those drugs will have its own set of side effects to also manage. And though I have never been sick before with anything a GP couldn’t swiftly deal with, I have had bad reactions previously to very common drugs. For me the medication risks (and the cost of drugs without a drug plan) have never been worth the potential benefit since I’d still end up being crazy, so I have worked and worked and worked to manage this disorder without medical intervention. Poured countless hours into understanding and applying cognitive therapy, the effects nutrition and exercise have on the brain, etc.
And now after a lifetime of dealing with a brain trying to kill me without turning to medication, I have a body attacking itself with a degree of severity that requires…medication.
Yes, yes, the universe (or whatever deity you choose to believe in) has a wonderful sense of humour.
I was entirely prepared to try tackling this chronic illness thing without drugs but my specialist doctor says I already do all the right things. Besides cutting back on stress which would exasperate it, it’s out of my hands.
I need drugs. Drugs that have side effects. Drugs that increase risks of cancer and organ damage. Drugs I may not tolerate but we have to try them first. Drugs I have to pay for and will leave me royally fucked if I have a bad month and can’t afford.
The exact position I have worked so damn hard not to be in.
Thus began the process where I become a walking, talking encyclopedia on my illness and the drugs I’m taking/will be starting on. Where the risks are, what I can do to minimize the risks, what early signs to watch for, what I should be the most concerned about, what the prognosis is for the various cancers/illnesses I could get. I value preparedness and cope better with knowledge.
Despite all the numbers and figures I looked at, there was one batted around that kept popping up in my head during my research.
85% survival rate.
Not because my immune system is attacking me. Not because of the drugs I’m on to handle it. Not because of the other increased health risks.
85% survival rate. Of bipolar disorder.
The thing I already have.
If my life were a murder mystery flashback and the audience was trying to narrow down the suspect list as to who ultimately kills me, the most likely culprit is the one I’ve been living with the entire time. The one I’m closest to. The one I think I’ve got beat. My brain.
The call is coming from inside the house.
Even now, the most serious side effects I’ve had to deal with on drugs have been three weeks of drug-triggered intense mania and a terrifying emotional, paranoid breakdown the first time I had to cut my dose by 1/8th (that I’m still not 100% recovered from).
The liver/kidney damage I worried about? The violent nausea I was terrified of? Even the potential bone marrow suppression? Sure, all risks that might pop up. There is lots to watch out for. But thus far, it’s STILL my brain that’s the problem.
And I’ve managed that fucker for over twenty years.
The rest of this? Coping with the disease and the mini pharmacy I cart around in my purse now? Well, in the immortal words of Olivia Pope:
Perspective is a wonderful thing.
And so is my “rescheduled birthday” next week (more on that probably later).