5 Reasons why I don’t like psychiatric medications – but I still take them


I am guessing you may have heard the reasons why people don’t like to take medications for psychiatric conditions.  It all sounds so easy, “It’s just like taking a blood pressure pill.”  “It’s no different than taking insulin for diabetes.”  Well, the truth is it is very different and there are several reasons why.  Here is the top 5 on my list.

#1 – They make you gain weight

There are few classes of psychiatric medications that do not cause weight gain.  With the exception of some medications for anxiety, almost all the medications for depression, bipolar and schizophrenia cause weight gain.  I managed to gain a slim 80 pounds!  It seemed like every time I was put on a new medication I gained 20 pounds.  I don’t know anyone who likes to gain weight.  But the reality is medications made me feel better and if I have to work at losing weight that’s just the trade off.  It is a valid concern for those of us with a mental illness.

#2 – Some make you feel like a “zombie” from the Walking Dead

Take a blood pressure pill and you rarely have a side effect.  On the other hand, take some high powered psychotropic drugs and you might feel like a zombie.  Usually this side effect goes away in time, but if it does not I encourage people to talk with their doctor to help adjust the medication or the dosage.  No one wants to feel worse and sometimes that is what happens.  Older medications are notorious for causing lethargy, work with your doctor there are many choices that might not make you feel as bad.  Above anything – don’t stop taking your medication without talking with your doctor first.  There can be some serious effects from stopping abruptly.

#3 – The Stigma of Mental Illness

It is the shame and misunderstanding that comes from stigma.  No one wants to feel as if they are not “sane.”  It is about credibility.  Not being different from other people.  We all want a sense of belonging, but not to a group that is discriminated against.  This no longer effects me much but in the past this really bothered me.

#4 – The medical community does not know the long-term effects

Less funding for research means less understanding for the long-term effects of medications.  Especially for a class of drugs called anti-psychotics.  They are used for many off-label conditions and the long-term effects are truly unknown.  What we do know is that people who have schizophrenia live on average 25 years less than other people.  We don’t know if that is related to medications or a number of other factors.  It’s hard to want to continue taking a medication without knowing what it will do to your body.

#5 – Branded products are expensive

The latest greatest products are extremely expensive.  Some drugs can cost $1600 a month making it impossible for people without great insurance to afford the medications that may have less side effects.  Generic drugs don’t cost much at all and some have been shown to be as effective as the newer products.  If you take 3 or 4 prescriptions a month it gets a little pricey.

So these are my top 5 reasons why I don’t like psychiatric medications.  But here is the disclaimer – I still take them because I know without them I can’t live a good life.  They help my symptoms and make it possible for me to live a “normal” life.  Without the medications I don’t know what would happen to me and I am unwilling to take the risk to find out.  But there are a group of people who don’t believe in them, I am not one of them.  Suffering is not worth going without a medication that is going to make you feel better in the long term.  There are trade offs with everything in life.


7 Ways to Beat Depression

Those of us who struggle with depression know the battle ebbs and flows.  Some days and weeks may go by without a symptom popping up.  Other times symptoms will hang on making everything you try to do more difficult.

I started thinking about ways I beat depression.  Truly this list is how I cope and it works well for me.

7 Ways to beat depression

1.  Let Yourself Be Inspired

I make it a habit to find and read or watch inspiring stories of people who have overcome huge hurdles.  I recently read about Bryan Anderson, an Iraq War Vet who is a triple amputee.  He lost his limbs from a roadside bomb in his second tour in Iraq.

Bryan has a will to live and amazes me with his enduring adventurous spirit.  Without legs and only one arm he snowboards, skateboards and drives a car.  This man is an inspiration.

When I read about people like Bryan I get really enthused about overcoming my challenges.  It is my fuel for the fight against depression.  Someone else is living well inspite challenges and that is an example I can follow.

2.  Help Someone Else

There is great healing in lending a hand to a person in need.  It does not have to be a headline garnering event it can be as simple as giving someone a ride to the grocery store.  Helping others is a two fold gift – everyone benefits and spirits get lifted.  Peer support groups are great ways to help support others.

3.  Pray Frequently

Most people I have read about who have had their share of challenges and then some talk about their faith in God.  I know praying has helped me find strength and after I attend church I am filled up with the power of the Holy Spirit.  I just love to say those words, “Dear God can you help me.”

4.  Get a Pet

I can’t say enough good things about having a pet or two.  I have had dogs for over 25 years and I can tell you my dogs were my therapy and my best friends.  They brought me joy, motivated me when I needed a reason to get out of bed.  And always greeted me with enthusiasm.  Pets aren’t the ones who need rescued it’s us humans who do.

5.  Take a Short Walk

We all know that ideally exercise is one of the best things you can to combat depression.  But the fact is it might be hard to motivate for the big walk or gym membership.  But taking a short walk can be easily attainable and even that short amount of time is nature works out really well.  I am a big believer that a little something is better than a lot of nothing.

6.  Have coffee with a friend

As much as I love social media I am still a big believer in the power of personal touch.  Just a short one hour date with a person you have a connection with can be a world of good.  Beats staying isolated.

7.  Teach Someone What You Learned

There is no greater gift that share a lesson that may not have been something that made you feel proud.  But maybe that lesson was so powerful it helps change another person’s life.  Don’t be afraid to teach the uncomfortable lesson the value will far exceed the risk.

Hope helps depression

I am somewhat amazed that people still believe depression is something we can just “get over.”  Depression is a real, treatable illness that often requires medical attention.

Outside of traditional medicine I have discovered when I could find even a glimmer of hope I could survive for just one more day.  For someone who does not live with bipolar depression or depression it may be hard to understand I am not being dramatic when I talk like this.

As I was thinking about the title for this blog it took me back to a time several years ago when I was experiencing  months of relentless depression and daily battles with suicidal thoughts. I was already very down when my dog of 18 years died.  The grief on top of my long battle with depression made me numb with emotions.

Just when I started to have a breakthrough my other dog died and it set me back into intense emotional pain.  Sometimes when I look back at where I have traveled from it is easy to see why my struggles were so long and challenging.

I have a memory of one day in particular when I was crying in my bed.  My eyes were swollen with tears, my head ached from crying so long and the suicidal thoughts repeated over and over.  I squeezed my eyes closed and opened just a crack.  I saw light shining through the blinds.  It was not a lot but it was a sign I was looking for.  My sliver of light was the hope that things were going to get better and one day I was going to recover.

I have battled depression for years.  I know that finding hope in a seemingly hopeless state of mind is very difficult.  But I also know that surviving depression boils down to toiling one day at a time.

Each and everyday I find myself depressed I search for something that makes me feel hopeful.  I picture the smiles on loved ones faces.  I find hope and inspiration in the little things in life like my cat rolling over on my feet.

And my solid rock is my faith.  When there is no rainbow I know I am watched over even in the midst of the darkest storm.  In this I find gives me hope and a will to survive even the toughest times.

Hope long enough until you can believe that things will get better.

I gave up my ego to recover

You are probably watching the Olympics this week.  Athletes are reveling in glory and triumph.  They are at the top of the world.

Then there was me.  An Olympian struck down hard with bipolar disorder trying to make a come back in life.  That only happens with one small step day by day.  It means that no matter your past success you are going to have to swallow some pride.

In the fall of 2013 I found myself in a position where I needed a job.  I was not going to be able to pick up where I left off in my business career.  I was now effectively unqualified to walk back in a job and command six figures.  Those days were over and would definitely not occur again unless I pulled myself back one step at a time.

Much to my egos disappointment I decided to take a job at a local shoe store.  Selling shoes for $7.25 an hour wasn’t the hard part.  At the end of my first night I was handed a vacuum cleaner and told to start cleaning.

It wasn’t that I felt I was better than anyone.  I was like,”I went to school for a masters to vacuum floors?”  I kept telling myself I was working this job for the interaction with other people which I so desperately needed.

Night after night I vacummned that massive floor and night after night my ego disappeared.  After a while the focus was clearly on what I could glean from the situation.

I am happy to say my ego has sense recovered and I am no longer vacuuming during night shifts.  But if I had to do it over again I would do it knowing it was going to help me get better.

The truth is I would do anything if I knew it would help me recover.  Even if that meant doing a job I am far more qualified.

“Left foot.  Right foot. Breathe. Repeat!” ~Pat Summit

It does not mater where you have been but where you are going.  I am definitely moving forward.  Ego bruised and all.

In the end I know it will all work out.

7 Things I learned at the psych ward


Does the title of this blog scare you?  Does it make you laugh?  Does it make you cry?  Make you shudder?  It might do one or all of those things.  Most people NEVER want to admit they have been to a psychiatric hospital.  I can’t say I would have ever dreamed I would be talking about this out loud.  But the path between me and a psych ward is pretty long ago and I feel like there is something to be learned from every experience.  And as a mental health advocate I believe we should never be ashamed from getting the help we need.  In this spirit I share…

Here are seven things I learned at the psych ward:

#1)  It is NO fun to be LOCKED up

My first trip for inpatient care was 17 years ago and I was terrified when the door locked behind me.  I understand the door is locked for patients and public safety, but it does not discount my feelings of fear.  It reminded me of all the bad things I had ever heard about mental institutions.  Yes, even though I might not have been in my best frame of mind I still had thoughts and feelings.  There are places that do not lock the door, but those are few and far between.  No sugar coating.  Being locked away was a degrading feeling.

#2)  Most people there are “normal”

What is normal anyway?  Well, that’s your average everyday person who has goals, dreams and a life outside of the hospital door.  People from all walks of life visit the psych ward every single day.  They are just normal people – husbands, wives, daughters, sons – they just happen to be struggling with an illness.

#3)  The staff is a reflection of society (stigma exists)

There are good people, bad people and somewhere in between who work in the psych ward.  I have been treated extremely well by many people, but I have also been discounted, discouraged and disenchanted.  Some staff are very knowledgeable and willing to teach about a specific illness and others can’t wait until their shift ends.  Just a reflection of society.

#4)  You don’t recover in the hospital

Think about being hospitalized for any physical illness.  A person who has had open heart surgery is not going to get well over night in the hospital.  We are a quick fix culture, especially when it comes to mental illness.  But it takes time and effort to fully recover.

#5)  Some people are more sick than others

Mental illness is on a continuum.  Every disease has common signs and symptoms but will manifest differently in each person.  Some people will never get well and probably need to be in a hospital for continuous care.  But most people can get better.

#6)  Some places are better than others

I have been in a hospital that had a swimming pool and basketball court, but that’s the exception.  I have also been to a place that did not have enough chairs for everyone to sit. The most important thing is that a person gets the right kind of care that they need and clearly some places do provide it and others do not.

#7)  They don’t want to keep you there

Contrary to popular belief psych wards do not want to keep people there.  One of the biggest issues we have in America is the poor mental health treatment that is available.  It is often poor because people who need treatment can’t get treatment and if people get treatment they don’t keep people long enough – the average inpatient stay in the United States is 7.2 days.  For some illnesses that is not long enough.

My Spiritual Journey in Recovery

Left to right-Pastor Tim Seidler, myself and Pastor Linda Seidler at the Experience Church serve team meeting.

More than a year ago I found my spirit yearning to be fed with the word of God.  Growing up in the Lutheran Church I had a strong foundation of faith but along the way in my life journey I had gotten very angry with God.

After a great deal of heartache, grief and struggle I realized that in my darkest moments in life I had always (and I do mean always) turned to God in prayer.  My healing journey led me to a conversation with Pastor Tim’s daughter, Betsy who said to me after I told her I was mad at God, “Don’t worry he can take it.”

In that moment my heart was touched by her wisdom and strong faith.  Betsy reached out to me and invited me to an event at the Experience church hosted by the Limitless woman group.  They had brought in a speaker named Heather (wonderherful.net) from the Church by the Glades in Flordia.

Heather is a very special Christian woman who also happens to have bipolar disorder.  She gave an inspiring talk about her struggles and pain, but how she was lifted up by her faith in God.

After the program I wrote to Heather giving her a brief background about my journey.  To my surprise she responded to me with encouraging words and a recommendation to find a bible based church to help me in my journey.

All things being said I felt as if I was being led to the Experience Church by the grace of God and his faithful leaders and followers.  I started attending church on a regular basis and was uplifted by the worship team, Pastor Tim and Pastor Linda’s messages/sermons, and the many faithful followers of Jesus.

It did not happen overnight but within a year I found myself stronger, more confident and ready to take the next step in my faith by being a part of the serve team ( I greet people as they come in the door).

There has been several things that have been written about the spiritual part of us  that can benefit in our recovery from mental illness.  I personally feel God works through people and if we open our heart to the blessings he is offering we may be overwhelmingly surprised by the everyday miracles that occur.  Healing is one of them.

Personally I have found a church filled with people from all walks of life who are a part of the Experience church’s message  “A perfect place for imperfect people.”

If you are walking the path and in your recovery journey I could not agree more with Heather, find a bible based church and get ready for all the blessings you are about to receive.  (And it goes without saying this can be a traditional church as well).

God works in mysterious ways and sometimes obvious ways too!

Why I write about Mental Illness

I had a few comments on my blog the other day that made me think about why I blog about mental illness.  Even though I know that some people don’t understand why I might talk about it–I don’t write for them.  

I write for the people who struggle and might need an encouraging word or two that may help them get through the day.

I write for the young person newly diagnosed with a mental illness looking for hope.  Maybe he or she is feeling isolated or alone and reading my blog makes them feel connected.

I write for the sake of shedding light on a taboo topic because I know how many millions of Americans are affected by it.  And we all need to start talking about it more so there is greater understanding, an increase in services and a reduction in stigma.

I write knowing that some people are gonna judge.  But when you are an activist you have to have a thick enough skin to take the backlash.

I write because I have come a long way from my lowest point in my struggle with bipolar disorder and I know I can help other people because “I get where they might be.”

  I realize if you take what is written in a snap shot in time you might miss the whole picture.  But this is a risk I am willing to take.  

What my next two weeks hold…

As a side note I am giving 7 presentations on mental illness and teaching a mental health first aid class.  I also joined Toastmasters to further enhance my speaking skills.  I am working toward my dream of becoming a National Speaker.

I advocate because I care.