Medication and me: It’s been quite a rocky road for us ever since first giving meds a chance around age 14. It would be best summarized as an all or nothing relationship. I would come to the meds feeling hopeless and helpless, aka despair. Then with an open my mind and heart I’d take the medicine then sit back and wait for it to help and make me feel better. I just wanted to feel better. Who doesn’t? When that betterment didn’t come I’d give up on medication and issue a decree that I need to just suck it up and handle it myself. After all nearly no one believed I was ill. They’re statements like this- You’re too smart to be sick. I would agree with them at that point and it gave me temporary victories; temporary because I would always crash and burn at some point. This would lead me to feel helpless for most all my life. It was definitely a no-win situation. After feeling helpless and doomed to not win no matter what I tried for so long a time, I began to get swallowed up by despair. That engulfing feeling would turn to belief and take me down the path to where suicide not only became desired but wholly felt necessary. But I had so much to learn.
One lesson was to learn that if you don’t know the rules of the game it’s nearly impossible to win that game. Even worse than not knowing the game and the rules is thinking you do when you just don’t. I was twisted in both ways- not knowing all the rules but thinking I had learned them. In this case I had learned that life would be better with me gone and totally unaware that genuine help was out there. I was so wrong on both accounts.
Shortly after turning 39 I looked back on my life thoroughly following the most recent of huge messes I had made that hurt others and myself. I saw clearly I had to do things differently. I saw that if I was going to get better, and I needed desperately to change, I would need determination. Not just determination but use my brain much more effectively too. Because determination on its own can be harmful. For example, pouring yourself into breaking through an unbreakable
My education started by checking myself into Clarion Psychiatric Center. It was summer 2011. They did a good job of helping me, but it became clear to my staff and me that I needed more than they could give. They are a short term hospital and I needed long term help. They arranged for me to go to Warren State Hospital, where I could literally stay until I was better. Clarion brought back a desire to live and nearly 2 years at Warren showed me how to live. They showed me that I needed far more than just medication to get better. The following quote they had on a poster there echoes that:
“It’s my recovery! Medication can open a door, but it takes a strong and courageous person to step over the threshold into recovery. That person is me.”
When I first read that, I could not grasp all of it. I was still held down by many twisted distortions in my head and heart. But after reading it several more times it struck me to the core. What changed? Simply put, me. And that change had allowed me to see the truth in that poster where before I could not. My time at Warren made me a new man. They combined medication, individual and group therapy, 24/7 nursing care, a chapel for spiritual needs, a library, and even therapeutic recreation, all over a long term. All of that plus my best efforts changed me. I didn’t just recover, I was uncovered and discovered too.
You mean all the Warren State Hospital provided wasn’t enough? You had to put in your best effort too? Yes, indeed. That was my experience. A Bible verse, Colossians 3:23, that I've known and loved for quite some time, says- Whatever you do, do it with all your heart... And now I can clearly see that to do really anything truly well one has to put their heart and genuine effort into it. But for those of us like me with mental illness we need more than just our best efforts. More than just adding medication to our best effort. More than adding therapy. We need to combine these all together to enable ourselves to be the best we can be. After all, it's OUR recovery. So let's open a door with medication and keep it open. Then be strong and courageous and step over the threshold into our recovery. From there let's take the bull by the horns and live the life that's best for us. It's so worth it!!!
My Name is Mark Barkley. I have struggled and/or fought mental illness since childhood. I am diagnosed with and being treated for Bipolar disorder and OCD. I am 42 years old and live in northwest Pennsylvania. I write blog posts to enlighten and encourage, and enclosed here is my current favorite post.
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