Part 1: What You Should Know About Starting Medication.
Beginning medication for depression or anxiety can seem like an overwhelming and scary decision. Maybe this is an option that you’ve considered for some time but it just never seems like the right moment to begin or make an appointment. I mean, you’re getting by for now, right?
I’ve been in your shoes (more on that later in this series) and as a therapist I have a handful of critical things for you to consider on this journey. This list will not lead you towards medication. Nor will it lead you away. That decision is ultimately yours. As a therapist I want what will work for you. Period. Not your partner. Not your kids. Not your boss. This is a personal decision. In this two part series you will find the steps to empower yourself with the necessary knowledge, tools and mindset to make the most of whatever decision you make.
Are you ready to begin? These first 5 steps will lay a foundation of solid information and attitude. Taking these steps is like putting both hands firmly on the steering wheel at the beginning of a most important journey.
1. Knowing your symptoms will give you insight and direction. The first step in exploring medication is getting clear on your symptoms. Take time to identify how you are feeling and how it’s impacting your day to day life.Do you feel depressed once in a while, most days or every day? Do you feel anxious most weeks or does it pop up around certain events, times or triggers? Take some time to journal or make a list of, “Here’s all the ways I feel bad….” You may want to take this list with you if you decide to make a doctor’s appointment so that you can communicate your experience clearly.
2. Know that you have options besides or in addition to medication. As you explore your symptoms you might naturally begin to think of ways that you can help yourself. Some of your self care options might include an increased gentleness with yourself (e.g. warm baths, better sleep habits),alternative therapies (e.g. acupuncture, essential oils, reiki),supplementation (e.g. vitamins, amino acids, etc), counseling, yoga,exercise, spiritual practices and more. Medication doesn’t have to be your first intervention. And, even if you do begin a med, using these alternative options might increase its effectiveness.
3. You’ll have to advocate for yourself. Your voice is the most important voice. Decide right now that if you go this course you’ll advocate for yourself by telling your doctor exactly what is going on and what you’d like to explore. If you made a list of your symptoms bring it with you to your appointment so you can be clear and direct with how you are feeling.You’ll also be less likely to minimize or forget parts of your experience.And if your doctor recommends a course of medication that you’re not comfortable with – tell them so! Remember, you are the consumer and you have power.
4. Feeling like a zombie is not acceptable. This is the #1 fear I hear from clients. “I don’t want to feel like a zombie.” Remember, when I said that if you go on medication it should work for you? Well, feeling like a zombie is a clear indication that that is not the right medication or dose for you. If that happens, commit to make an appointment with your doctor immediately to change course. Or, give them a call and ask for guidance from them or their assistant – they might give you permission over the phone to stop the medication right away. Other medications might have to be gradually reduced for your comfort and safety. Never go off your medication without making an attempt to inform your doctor and receive their guidance.
If you have this or other fears about the side effects of medications make a list of them now. Commit to taking it with you to your doctor’s appointment and discuss it with them. Or, go to your local pharmacy and discuss it with the lead pharmacist on staff.
5. You do not have to be on medication forever. This is the second most common concern I hear from clients. But know this, medication is not forever. At least not for right now. Here’s the truth, I went on medication following a trauma in my own life several years ago. I was on it for about 6months, went to my own therapy during that time and made some lifestyle changes. Then I came off the medication and I haven’t been on it since.This is the story for many, many people. Other people get on medication and find that they are better off staying on it long term. But this is a decision that’s made as you learn, heal and grow. It’s your body. It’s your choice. It always will be. Talk to your doctor when you feel ready to stop.
If you have gotten this far, now is a good time to make that first appointment. Whether it is an appointment for counseling or to speak with your doctor it’s better to act sooner rather than later. Keep in mind it can take more than a week at some doctor’s offices to book an appointment so don’t delay in scheduling.
If nothing else, lean into the insight and confidence you’ve gained thus far. You have the ability to change the exhaustion and the anxiety. You can gain control of your moods and energy so that relationships feel safe again. If you’d like more assistance in deciding if counseling is part of your journey I hope you’ll reach out. A 15 minute consultation will provide us a chance to talk about your pain, explore if and how counseling can help and outline your next step forward.