Mental Illness

Caregiving: Medication

For some time now, we have been in crisis territory, although said crisis keeps trying to pretend it’s a rough patch, which is, quite frankly, ridiculous. A crisis doesn’t have enough letters to be a rough patch, for a start. And a rough patch doesn’t generally bring about such medication fun-times, either.

A rough patch might mean minimal medication modifications (oh, holy alliteration, Batman), but since Christmas: one medication has doubled, another has quadrupled and another has been changed altogether. It’s definitely a crisis.

A crisis, of course, isn’t the only time medications can be changed. Mr. Juniper’s medication is reviewed every time he sees his psychiatrist because his condition is constantly fluctuating. Sometimes those changes will be minimal and there’s no need to alter what he’s taking. At other times his condition will change to a degree that a medication may need increased or reduced. Then there’s a crisis and there is one primary objective for everyone involved: stabilisation.

The tough part of a crisis is that it usually arrives without so much as the decency to phone ahead. Certainly there can be times where Mr. Juniper’s condition worsens and it isn’t a crisis, but for us, there is a difference between the slow burning approach of difficult times and the crisis which turns up on the doorstep unexpectedly and comes in before you’ve had a chance to ask what it’s doing there.

With a slow burn, everyone can prepare; there can be medication changes, but more importantly, Mr. Juniper’s mental health team as a whole can increase support so that there is help through every step of the difficult period.

With a crisis, there is little-to-no warning, and medication is the fastest way to stabilise Mr. Juniper. Therapy (in its various forms) is of course important, but when a crisis hits, a person needs stabilising, like, yesterday. Movies and television often show that therapy can bring earth-shattering results in the space of sixty minutes. Including commercials. Truth is (for us, anyway) that therapy, in a crisis, is only comparable to medication when a person is about this close to doing something detrimental. Otherwise, it’s medication. In the space of twenty minutes, medication can throw a lifebelt to someone going through a crisis. It’s not a cure and it doesn’t leave Mr. Juniper with thoughts of Batman riding unicorns, but it affords him a little breathing space.

Outside of a crisis, medication is still an important part of Mr. Juniper’s treatment. There are some schools of thought which consider medication to be unnecessary and harmful. For Mr. Juniper, medication is what enables him to partake in therapy, and so make progress. Medication is also tailored to every patient and something done in confidence between a patient and the professionals caring for them. So while there may be people in the world who denounce medication, that is their decision. Mr. Juniper’s decision is to allow medication to be part of his treatment as a whole.

Medication does come with risks, there is no doubt about it. But for many people who live with (physical and mental) conditions, the risks that come with a medication are often outweighed by the benefits. This is where it’s important to do research and discuss medications. Mr. Juniper and I have several resources we go to when a new medication comes up, and more often than not, Wikipedia is a good place to start. Anecdote time: Mr. Juniper went onto a new medication, so we looked it up and perhaps fueled by the dire status of our sex life at the time, I saw the risk of priapism noted among others and promptly started howling with laughter. Yes, I am ever the supportive wife. At least we were informed. The risks that are posed by medication are another situation where Mr. Juniper’s “regular” doctors are so important in his care, as they monitor his general health. There are then also the more day-to-day (though still significant) side-effects that come with medication. These can be everything from a hangover effect that medication can cause, to things like sickness and change in sex drive.

There are then the more subtle effects of medication. Which in hindsight seem about as subtle as a unicorn riding Batman. I wrote in the first Caregiving article about medication and one in particular which had, in effect, turned Mr. Juniper into a zombie. It was a horrible period of time, even more so because medication has to be given an opportunity to work and that takes more than a couple of days. The difficult period with the zombie medication never passed, but at least we knew, and it paved the way for a different medication which did work. Unfortunately, those difficult periods are rarely limited to one drug and many, including Mr. Juniper, go through years of trial and error, in an attempt to find medication which is right for them.

Medication is about balance, choice and knowledge. It’s also a personal choice that needs careful consideration, with the guidance, support and care of good professionals. For Mr. Juniper, medication has enabled him to reap the benefits of therapy, and given rise to the occasional laugh when I open our medicine cabinet. Medication has, in a nutshell, been good and bad, but the good has outweighed the bad and for that, we are grateful every day.

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

14 replies on “Caregiving: Medication”

In the space of twenty minutes, medication can throw a lifebelt to someone going through a crisis

This this this this. I went through a period of time back in November where I was getting very suicidal. Not because of circumstances or what have you, but as a symptom of bipolarity called ‘informal thought disorder’. Basically, my brain wanted me dead. It was bad enough that I gave some serious consideration to having myself committed when I was lucid enough to realize what was happening to me.

I called up my doctor and she faxed a prescription for an antipsychotic on the spot, and within three days I was completely fine, at least as far as that goes.

Medication is such an important part of therapy, and it’s a shame that it’s both so frowned upon and so damned expensive. if I didn’t have the awesome insurance that I do, I’d be playing upwards of $700 a month for the drugs that are keeping me stable.

Oh my goodness, that’s quite something to have gone through. Excellent however that you have a doctor who was able to do what was needed. Medication really can be so, so important. Don’t know you manage with all that comes with insurance. We’re incredibly fortunate that here in the UK, we don’t have to worry about the cost of treatment. Can’t imagine the additional stress that must add.

You are so right. It just becomes part of the routine too, which I think can be helpful. I do enjoy that sometimes you find laughter in it, I know when we dealt with Chocolate Monster’s medication, the amount of laxatives he took was a constant source of mirth (oh bowel movements, never fail to amuse).

I don’t think I ever appreciated a good bowel movement until I started chemo. Now I will discuss my bowels with EVERYONE. I have no boundaries. At one point (day 10) I bought three laxatives and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Fudge Brownie (at the suggestion of a nurse – not to take all at once, of course, but to try different ones over the next couple days to see what worked). It was such a ridiculous combo that I could barely keep a straight face going through check-out. Then I realized it was a Friday night and everybody else in line was buying cheap wine/beer and/or ice cream and I lost it laughing so hard. I sent a picture of it all to my friends with the caption: my new Friday nights!

Sometimes you really do have to laugh.

Win! I suffer from IBS, so I am slightly obsessed with mine as well, but not a much as this boy. The day I had to take a Chocolate Monster dose of laxatives after I had been on codeine for my wisdom teeth was hilarious. What he took every day had me sitting on the toilet for an hour, then getting up every hour during the night. Oh how he laughed.

Definitely, you sometimes you really do have to laugh. Thank you for sharing that picture, though! It’s always good (as good as it can be, knowing it’s come about because of illness) to know that other people find humour in these things, too!

I also want to say thank you for sharing. I have little experience with people who have mental health conditions that are large enough to require medication or major care, and think that it is very helpful and enlightening for me (and others like me) to be able to read about it, especially from a caregiving perspective.

Thank you! Mental illness is all about being on a spectrum and in some ways, we have it much easier than those who aren’t on large amounts of medication or who need different kinds of care. Of course, in other ways, it can be harder, too. I’m very glad it’s been helpful to you, to be able to read about it.

i’ve been perusing your posts about this for a while and it’s been wonderfully enlightening and i’m sure so may people can relate.  as someone who works in mental health, i see a lot of the exact things you describe every day and sadly my job often comes in at the point where many are without reliable caregivers, for whatever reason. Mental health and navigating the mental health care system is incredibly complex and it seems like something is changing every day keeping us on our toes, to put it lightly. what i mean to say is, thank you for sharing.

Thank you! Oh goodness, I find it so hard seeing people who don’t have reliable caregivers or who, for all intents and purposes, are alone in what they’re going through. Another reason for supporting mental health charities when we can, especially when, as you say, it’s an incredibly complex system. And of course, it is wonderful to know there are good people like yourself out there trying to make it better.

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