Disclaimer: this post is not a substitute for medical advice. Discuss any concerns about medications you are currently taking with your prescribing provider. If you are experiencing a medical or psychiatric crisis, please connect with emergency services immediately.
Sometimes, psychiatric medication can be a helpful tool to get some relief from mental health symptoms like anxiety, depression, hypomania, or perceptual disturbances. When clients consider exploring the option of medication, I often hear both hope that this could support their mental health and concern that they might not be “themselves” anymore. Although I am not a psychiatrist and therefore cannot prescribe medication, I have supported many clients in their journeys through treatment with psychiatric medicine. I’ve learned from these experiences that medication or no medication, you are still you.
How psychiatric medication works
Psychiatric medication affects how your brain and nervous system work, with the intent of supporting your thought processes and emotional experiences in a way that will benefit your mental health. They may increase your brain’s ability to process the chemicals that make you feel pleasure or slow down your overactive nervous system so you can feel more relaxed. With this increased equilibrium, you might be able to work on some of your career goals without triggering and getting overwhelmed by extreme moods or face some challenging situations without being debilitated by anxiety.
What medication can and can’t do
When used well, medication can be helpful – but it can’t fundamentally change who you are, or make problems in your life go away on their own. For example, medication can’t rebuild the intimacy missing from your relationship, but it can support you by creating stability that can help you initiate difficult conversations and take risks.
Medication can’t change your likes and dislikes, your personality, or your previous life experiences. Some people experience dramatic changes after starting medication because the medication allows them to get more in touch with their inner world or more clearly express to the outer world the truth of who they are. In other words, a person with a good experience with medication might become more themselves, not less themselves.
Experiences with medication
Not everyone has a positive experience with psychiatric medication. Some people find medication makes them very mentally or physically tired, or really impacts their sex life, or makes their breath smell bad, or simply doesn’t bring them the support with regards to their mental health they hoped for in the first place.
It’s important to remember that medication can’t fundamentally change who you are in these cases either. Experiencing side effects doesn’t mean that you’re lazy, or not a sexual being, it just means that medication is impacting you in a way that is unfortunately undesired.
Medication and therapy
When you’re taking medication, it’s important to have a psychiatrist and a therapist who work with you as a team to learn about what choices are right for you. Everyone comes to different conclusions about which medications work best for them, what doses are helpful, and whether to continue psychiatric treatment or bring it to an end.
It’s your mind, your mental health, and your life – you deserve to feel empowered and confident in the decisions you make about your treatment. You are not your medication, you are not your mental health, you are YOU – that should always be front and center.
If you’re looking for a therapist for added support beyond your psychiatrist and medication, or if you’re thinking through going back on medication or starting it for the first time, I can help. Click the button below to book a free phone consultation, and let’s talk about your hopes for this journey.