Over the 15 or so years that I was on the meds, I was pretty faithful to taking them on a daily basis. I was religious about getting refills and actually looked forward to visiting my pharmacist two or three times a month. I made friends with the staff, joking around and talking about drugs and life. I wasn’t that guy who didn’t take his meds. Let’s be clear about this.
But even though I was able to make friends with the pharmacy staff, I always felt a kind of shame that I was there. I never shared this with any of my therapists, but had I, it seems to me that they would have tried to assuage my feelings of being less than human.
Did I say “less than human”?
The entire time that I was on the meds, I really didn’t feel like I’d been liberated by them. But that was the point, right? That I’d take these meds and they would make me feel “normal” — whatever that means?
So I dutifully took my meds, all the while feeling bad about them; my support network of family, friends, health professionals, and even priests telling me that I had a chemical imbalance. And all the while, I knew that it was a bad idea.
But the meds did help somewhat. They did help me deal with my feelings a bit so that I could deal with reality somewhat, but I wasn’t fully alive. And, insofar as I wasn’t fully alive, I wasn’t human. Here is an important topic of investigation in its own right, but not for this post: namely, my thought that folks who are taking meds tend to feel less than human.
While I was on the meds, I did engage in some pretty good and very dynamic therapy. I did a lot of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other things, and I tried to stay faithful to my prayer life. As time progressed, I repaired relationships with my family and made healthier friendships. And I prayed more.
The main thing that was going on was building healthy relationships: With God and with others. Over the course of time, I was dealing with other people better and making deeper connections with them. It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t my immediate family who first benefited from my dedication to relationships, but those I met in groups and outside the home.
I think that if someone had guided me along, I may have made much better progress. But the reality is that I was (am?) a pretty proud and stubborn fellow, so I’m not sure that would have worked for me. I think I hadn’t suffered enough to learn how to make things work. I’m one of those guys that needs to figure things out on my own.
So if you’re thinking of going off your meds. Take the long view: It’s possible, but have a good plan. First, work on your relationship with God, and then work on your relationships with others. Repair the emotional damage you’ve done in the home, and work on keeping only those friends who are healthy.
As a practical consideration, make your life positive. We’ll talk more about that in the next post. Peace and blessings on your journey!