Know Your Medication

I’ve had some bad psychiatrists over the years, but I’ve had a couple of good ones too. Some play the role of a higher power (or wish they could do so on TV) and others sit back and write prescriptions to get through their shift. Many will (and should) work with you and not against you.

The first time I stepped foot in a psychiatrist’s office, I didn’t know what to expect. When I left his office, even in the state of mind I was in, I knew I was going to have to be involved in my mental health care. I was going to have to hit the interwebs (reputable sources) and study my illness as well as the medications that treat the illness.

Some individuals walk into any doctor’s office and take their word because they went to medical school. In my opinion, this isn’t the way to care for your well-being.

When it comes to psychotropics, you have to be informed. There are different trial and errors for every medication but I’m going to focus on psychotropics today.

Many psychotropic medications require blood work before you can even begin taking them. Doctors are testing for things such as glucose levels, platelet counts and the thyroid hormone. Some of these medications can cause diabetes, hypothyroidism, a white blood cell count differential, impairment of kidney function, liver disease, and the list goes on…

The tests are completed before taking new medication to have a starting point of your blood levels to be monitored during the course of treatment.

If you’re in the clear to take the new medication, labs are tested again down the road (depending on what you’re taking-the timing will vary) to recheck your levels. Doses may need to be adjusted accordingly. The tests don’t stop there. Regular testing, especially during dose changes, will be a part of your life. Hopefully less often as it takes effect and you’re on level ground again.

Not all medications require such lengths before you can take them. Recently I was faced with making a decision of my own with my psychiatrist (because I don’t let my doctors decide for me, they’re there to hand me the info and we conclude together). Do I:

 A. Not change medications right away, get my labs drawn, wait up to two weeks then figure out what to do…

— or

B. Change to something that doesn’t require blood work so I can get to feeling less like death immediately and then move back to plan A should I need additional help…

I went with plan B. Why? I couldn’t say for a fact that I’d still be around when the lab results arrived. My symptoms are that bad.

My point? Work with your doctor. Don’t just do what he tells you to do. If you’re being treated by a doctor that will only keep seeing you if you do everything he says, he’s not a good doctor. Make decisions together. Do your research. Know what you have to do prior to swallowing something new. Know the common side-effects and the rare side-effects. You may be one in the small percentage who experiences these side-effects, but it’s important to have the information on hand. Researching after the fact can be devastating. In my personal recent experience, my doctor insisted that a good portion of the effects I’m feeling wasn’t from the medications. He only said that it was possible, in quite a weary tone.

Be armed. Be informed. Be ready to fight for what you know. Be ready to fight for what you want.

Your doctor is experienced and shouldn’t brush you off because your time limit is up. He should stick by your side until you’re comfortable enough moving forward with your health plan, and be at the ready if you have questions in the interim.

  1. It’s so, so, so, SO very important for people new to treatment to understand that medication allotment, especially in the beginning, is a vast array of just trial and error. And if something isn’t working for you, I agree, you should always tell your doctor. Holding back side-effects and symptoms will only harm you in the long run!

  2. Bigg matth weatherford says:

    That’s great article and especially when you’re in the hospital ask what the hell they’re giving you every time

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