|Weighing the Side Effects (photo by Jeff Norris)|
I have been contemplating this trade-off recently too. My medication does get rid of some of my symptoms, such as much of the mania is decreased with one medication and the anti-depressant I was on decreased my depression and anxiety. However, the anti-depressant came with other side effects like very bad stomach problems and sexual side effects (yep, no one like to talk about the embarrassing side effects, but they are pretty bad.) The medication for my mania is heavy duty and makes me dizzy, sluggish, gives me nightmares, increases my anxiety a lot, makes me gain weight, and is risky enough that I need to have blood tests done from time to time to make sure I don't get diabetes or kidney problems.
For me the trade-off, right now, is too high to stay on so much medication so in consultation with my doctor, we have adjusted things a bit. This means that I need to be even more vigilant about diet, exercise, and sleep as I do not have the higher doses of medication to take some of the edge off of my illness. This also means that I have to keep close track of my moods and if things start to get bad again, I will increase the medication.
Clearly, making decisions like this is hard and each person needs to make the decision with their carepartner and doctors. For instance, I want to stop the medication for the mania all together, but my husband Jeff does not want me to, so I won't. It is his life too after all, and the mania before I started this medicine was seriously negatively affecting our lives.
People who do not understand mental illness often have the false belief that if we just take medication, we will be fine. But no medication has ever made me completely better and symptom free, and all the medications have come with lots of side effects. Medication is not a quick fix and not something to be taken lightly. The trade-off is hard to navigate