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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.