Top Ten Ways to Adjust to New Medication

Many people who have struggled with health know the roller coaster ride of finding the right medication. Sleepiness, not knowing what dose is right for you, weight gain, decreased attention span, having to wait several weeks to see if your new prescription works – these are just a few of the challenges faced when trying a new medication or altering an old one. Sometimes, it does not even seem worth the effort, but finding the right one can be life-saving.

Flower heart

A flower heart that I left on the grave of J.R.R. Tolkien

Last night, I forgot to take my evening medication. At 1:30 AM, my brain was still racing which altered me to the fact that something was wrong. Seroquel, one of my pills, makes you extremely sleepy and helps me to make it through the night restfully along with calming my intrusive thoughts. Taking it late was not a big issue – until this morning. At 8:30, I awakened with my head throbbing as if someone had hit me with a sledgehammer. Maybe this is what it feels like to be hungover, thought my naive brain once it adjusted to the pain. All morning was a struggle to simply function. Walking, talking, and typing seemed like laborious tasks.

The reason that I bring this up is because it reminded me of adjusting to new medication. That process can be simple or painful and aggravating. Often, I wish that someone would have given coping skills and helpful tips to me. Sure, doctors explain all of the potential side effects or dangers. However, that is not the same as someone sitting down and comforting you through the uncomfortable journey.

So here is a list that will hopeful be helpful to you or those that you are caring for who are taking medication. Please note that I am not an expert. This list is complied simply from my own experiences and listening to others in similar positions. Thus, I would love to hear from you what works or if you disagree with any of the suggestions. Everyone is certainly different, as is each medication, so different things work for every person.

  1. Rest. Give yourself time to relax and sleep. If you are sleepy, take naps. Being more fatigued might be annoying, but try to be gentle on yourself.
  2. Go out once a day. The downside to resting is that you might simply want to isolate and sleep all day. Make a goal of going outside of your home each day. Even if you simply pick up the mail or walk the dog, that is better than staying stuck inside your house. If this is too much for you, then go outside of your room once a day to another part of your house.
  3. Get dressed. One way to make sure you do not stay in bed all day is to get dressed. Brush your hair, put on earrings, and wear your favorite casual clothing. Whether or not you are going out that day, behave like it is important to be alive. You might not believe that, but it is the truth that every day is beautiful.
  4. Take a long bath. Soaking in the tub can be a great way to relax and rejuvenate. Sometimes it is difficult to do self-care when switching medications. If so, try to make yourself do this a few times a week as a simple way to love yourself.
  5. Eat the same normal. Medication might make you feel less or more hungry. If you have a meal plan, stick to that and everything should be fine. Otherwise, try to eat the same as before no matter if your body seems confused. Talking to someone else (a dietitian or trusted friend) to get another opinion on food intake might be helpful.
  6. Keep a journal. Write down how you feel each day. This can be helpful for medical professionals but, more importantly, yourself. Looking back, you will be able to see progress or regression. If you do not want to write, then verbalize your thoughts to someone you trust.
  7. Talk with people who understand. Finding friends or care givers who accept you and listen is very important. Lean on these people if you need help, and turn to them for guidance. Also, speaking weekly with a therapist is a great way to cope with this process.
  8. Try to balance your emotions. Sometimes people start feeling one or a few emotions very strongly. To balance that out, try to tap into the opposite emotions. Watch funny videos if you are feeling depressed, writing lists of what you are grateful for if you are feeling angry, or take a few minutes of silence if you are feeling hyper.
  9. Make a list of who you are as a person. Changing medicines can bring out traits and strange behaviors you were not aware of and perhaps dislike. Remember that you are still the same person. To do this, make a list of traits that you have and the person that you want to be. Ask other people to add to the list. I like to tape things like this on the wall around my bed so I am constantly reminded of it.
  10. Practice self-compassion. This is the hardest for me but probably the most important. Remember that changes are taking place and they will impact you negatively, positively, or both. If you feel sluggish or irritable, that is the medicine, not you. Yes, you can still be kind. However, do not berate yourself for sleeping, eating, crying, or panicking more. This is a difficult process, and you are brave to be looking for help for your illness.

So what have you learned from being on new medications? What is difficult for you in that process? Please tell me in a comment.

8 thoughts on “Top Ten Ways to Adjust to New Medication

  1. Inese Poga Art Gallery says:

    Medications can have that severe side effects that one is completely incapable of having a meal. Well, I’d add to your list “take your medication only when it is really indicated and necessary”. Lots of doctors love prescribing way more than a person needs. I do a lot of medical writing and research (30+ years), and some medications have side effects listed on 3-4 pages. Even though, not everybody gets them, the likelihood of some side effects is high if they are listed as occurring in 1 out of every 10 patients. Good luck with your treatment, and don’t forget what you shouldn’t!

  2. Siobhan says:

    Great advice. I’d also say it’s ideal to have someone watching over you while you adjust, if possible. I was only talking to my mother the other day about how the most dangerous time for depressed people is when they start a new drug. Sometimes it can lift you out of apathy into having just enough motivation to finally end it all. I’m sure it’s similar for anyone on mind altering medicine.

  3. April says:

    Your post has come at the most convenient time. I started a new medication a couple of weeks ago. My doctor starts me off with very low doses and works me up. I’m so thankful he takes this approach because others haven’t, and the large dosage at once, is way to overwhelming and awful. The jury is still out on my new medication, but I know to give it some more time.

  4. Sherlock says:

    Thank you for another great post! What I would add is, in response to #5, sometimes when medications make it so difficult or impossible to eat actual food it can be really good to look into other nutrition options such as drinking Boost, Ensure, or even Slim Fast. Taking medications in the morning makes me really sick, but I know breakfast is important so I’ve found drinking Slim Fast in the morning gives me nutrients I need without upsetting my stomach.

    Also, I agree with what Inese Poga Art Gallery said about only taking medications when necessary! Along with that I would say just talking to your doctor honestly is best. After years of not saying anything I finally told my doctor that I really hate having meds I need to take three times a day, and he told me that not only could I change having to take meds three times a day, but he could make it so I only have meds once a day at night! I was always too shy to speak up, but doing so has not only made life easier for me, but I feel more comfortable with my doctor now, too.

    • Very wise idea to have Boost or another such supplement. It is indeed very hard to have solid food sometimes, and that is a great way to continue caring for yourself despite that difficulty. Way to go talking to your doctor. Having one that you trust and can be honest with is essential!

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