I have never taken psychiatric medication. I managed to avoid it. I was lucky that this wasn’t a choice I was forced into.
There was a time when I was in a psychiatrists office and he was trying to convince me that if I took the medication that he offered, then all of my problems would just disappear and I could get back on with my life.
I have a life long phobia of mind altering substances. I don’t mind if others take them for good purpose, but I fear what they will do to me – if they alter my mind, how will I know what is real? How will I stop taking them if stopping them stops the new reality? These medications offered by the psychiatrist struck me as a possible solution, but also a possible disaster.
My fear of the drugs and my need for a solution to the problems in my life lead me to examine what I was doing in my life that exacerbated my situation. I believed that if I changed my life, then I would decrease the tendencies and temptations towards insanity, leaving only the genetic component for me to combat. So I initially examined three factors, later adding in a fourth and reordering their priority.
bio-psycho-social (biological, psychological, social)
I worked out that I had to realise that I was me first, even if I didn’t know who that me was. I am me with dressing, and the clothes that I wear is all the public sees. If I want people to see me for better than I am, I need to change the clothes I wear to better match who I am – and by clothes, I mean behaviour.
I needed to change the social scene. First of all, recognise that despite it being hard, I am a social being. I need other people in my life. Connection to them defines me as human and connects me to this world. The people I connect to are important. So I had to change my social networks and deliberately choose people who inspire me to be who I really am, who I want to be and give me a path to evolve into.
The way I see the world and understand my past influences my emotional reactions. My reactions are the first line of choosing my actions. The actions I take are a choice. So, come to grips with my past, consider carefully my actions of the present, such that I act towards evolving my future.
Biology. It is the thing that is the hardest to change, yet also it is the easiest. I began by eating. Not just random crap, but good, healthy food. I decreased the crap and increased the nutrition. I guaranteed that I had at least 1 square meal a day. The human body is a complex machine that mostly takes care of itself and is the vehicle for my mind. My mind resides inside my brain and required complex chemicals to work efficiently. If I don’t feed it properly, I am sabotaging my mind. The next thing to regulate was my sleep. Sleep deprivation can be akin to being intoxicated. If I want to start thinking clearly, I need to sleep regularly and predictably.
All of these reduced the external factors messing with my mind, allowing only the true craziness of me to exist. Once I understood my routines – and I made a lot of false starts, bad guesses and stupid-in-the-end but currently-useful hypothesis – I could start to address my real problems and turn those into real strengths, solutions and stepping stones to evolution.
This is the point where I may have had to consider medication, not at the beginning, unless my life were so far out of control I needed an external break to go through this process. Fortunately I was able to modify my behaviour such that I didn’t need pharmacological intervention.
I like to draw a parallel between psychological medication and diabetes. I know it isn’t a completely fair comparison, but go with me for a bit.
Diabetes is a biological process where the sugar in your system is not being managed adequately by your biology. There are two main types, the version where your intake exceeds your bodies ability to regulate, and the type where there is a complete failure of your body to regulate any intake. Roughly: Diabetes Type 1 – Your body is not producing insulin, the chemical that regulates the sugar in your body; Diabetes Type 2 – Your cells are not responding properly to the insulin you have, and or there is not enough insulin produced to manage the sugar intake you have.
A version to deal with this is to do regular blood tests and respond with the appropriate addition of insulin into your body, either via tablets or injection. This solution is pretty common.
But it’s the last stage, not the first. The first step is to regulate your sugar intake, get physically fit and change your habits rather than rely on the external addition of chemicals to balance your life style. Once you have balanced your lifestyle, then supplement, if necessary, with insulin. Some manage their diabetes (type 2) with moderation of sugar and moderation of exercise, while some (type 1 and 2) continue to need insulin as well. Balancing your lifestyle first decreases your dependence on the medication and minimises how much you will need.
The same is true for mental health. If you are not sleeping, because you don’t want to, are self medicating to avoid dealing with issues, don’t eat well, hang around with people who bring out the worst in you and have no good opinion about yourself… then you are not balancing your life. Get this in order as fast as you can. This may need some pharmacological input, but that is to help you balance, not replace your balance.
Once you have balanced your spirtual-social-psycho-bio self as best you can, now is the time to examine whether changes to your life need to include medication. If it does, then do it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. Please, avoid using medication as a substitute to bringing your life back under your control, but if you do need some to help regulate your life, then use it after you have changed your life to minimise the amount use need to use.
Medication is not evil. The misuse of it is.