Mental Health Awareness Month: When Should You Go on Medication?
If you’ve ever dealt with depression or anxiety, you know that it can be crippling. I’ve suffered from depression since my teenage years, so I know firsthand how awful it is. Every day is a constant battle between your higher self and the demons in your head that drag you down.
At some point, you may engage in therapy or try holistic measures to combat your depression, but that may not be enough to help in severe cases. You may wonder whether it’s the right time to get medication, and what the process and costs are like to get it. Well . . .
My Mental Health Story
At the age of 16, I had a mental health crisis. Ultimately, I got the help I needed through therapy and medication. For nearly seven years, I tried a variety of meds.
The thing with medication is that it’s not a magic pill. You have to try and test medications, dosages, and side effects.
After a while, I finally settled for medication that didn’t have too many side effects. I felt stable. In many ways, antidepressants removed the lowest lows in my life, as well as the highest highs.
At 23, after graduating college and dealing with other life transitions, I abruptly stopped taking my meds. (I don’t recommend this.) Stopping my medication after being on it for so long was a rough experience. After all, I was changing my brain chemistry and removing something that I had come to depend on. Weaning myself off meds was miserable, but I felt clear and revitalized once it was out my system. Since I stopped using anti-depressants, I thought I could keep it under control through talk therapy, exercise, and healthy eating.
That is, until recently. Over the past several months, I’ve been having more and more mood swings. More random tear-fests that aren’t produced by anything external.
I don’t feel okay, and that’s hard to write. But as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, it has to be okay to say that.
I’m becoming more active. I’ve found myself back in therapy. I’m eating healthily and taking supplements. I’m trying my best to do everything right, but I’m afraid it’s not enough. I still don’t feel well, and normal activities — like getting out of bed and doing work that I enjoy — have become burdensome.
When Do You Need Medication?
I’m seriously considering going back on medication. After 10 years without it, I thought I’d be fine. That I’d be able to handle whatever came my way. I was wrong.
If you’re in the same situation, you might wonder when it’s the right time to go on medication yourself. Now, I’m not a doctor, and for any serious health matters you should always talk to a licensed professional. But for me, it’s the right time to consider medication because:
- Therapy is helping, but is not enough.
- Likewise, supplements, exercise, healthy eating, and meditation are helping, but are also not enough.
- I’m having trouble working.
- My negative thoughts outweigh the positive ones.
If you’re considering harming yourself at all, medication may help lessen some of those thoughts.
How Much Does Medication Cost?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. When I was on medication 10 years ago, my insurance covered psychiatric appointments, and there was a $20 co-pay. My medication had similar co-pays, as well.ƒ
According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that your health plan cover mental health equally to other treatments—this is called mental health parity.”
If you don’t have insurance, your doctor may be able to provide some samples, and you may consider opting for a generic alternative. You can also check out NeedyMeds, a national non-profit that helps people find resources to afford medication.
Do What’s Right for You
Whether it’s the right time to go on medication or not is up to you and your doctor. Especially if you’ve tried other methods and they still aren’t working, you might consider trying new ones.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. But if it is something you need forever, that’s okay, too. There’s help out there.
You don’t have to feel ashamed or alone if you aren’t okay. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. Nor does it mean that you’re a bad person.
If you had a broken arm, you’d get it looked at, right? Why should you treat your mental health any differently? If your mental health is getting in the way of daily activities, you should consider getting help, regardless of the cost.