There is a misconception that ‘drugs’ are a street thing; wares only worth taking if someone in a flat in Doncaster has managed to sell you them after a few nervous minutes at a door with beefed up locks and the growl of a bull terrier. This is not true.
But you knew that.
For the Psychiatric patient – those unlucky few with a DSM-5 approved diagnosis – street drugs can be a familiar part of symptomatic self-medication, but it is the word Medication [Meds] and their particular, legal, drug family which we’re more familiar with. Although the word is different and the purveyor is licensed, any Med user is simply trying to relieve something they can’t deal with: toothache; chest infection; cancer; opiate addiction; hallucinations; anxiety; a shitty life . There is a med for most things. And money to be made whatever side of the legal fence you are on. You say drug, I say med…let’s call the whole thing off. There’s a song in it somewhere for all of us.
I guess I’ve probably forgotten a few of the things I’ve been prescribed over the years to treat some of the symptoms of my Borderline Personality Disorder, but here’s my list anyhow:
Venlafaxine, Citalopram, Diazepam, Tamazepam, Zopiclone, Lamotrigine, Phenelzine, Tramadol, Amitriptyline, Carbamazepine, Propanolol, Pregabalin, Quetiapine, Resperidone, Olanzapine….
Jesus… Now I’m looking at that list… And I know it’s not complete… Many, many meds, all of them sucked down (can’t remember being hypo’d, but I could have been) and then washed into my blood and up towards my brain to do untold permanent damage. God….I don’t even want to begin thinking about that.
But before I start sounding ungrateful, I can tell you that from time to time meds have saved my life. Nothing tastes as retrospectively sweet as Crisis Team Diazepam, for example. Truly life saving. And now, after years of Lab Rat experience, I’m erring towards a sympathetic stance when meds are on the care plan agenda, instead of discounting their effectiveness and misusing them for a self-medicated leap into the unknown. OR to get high. Yeah, yeah, ‘getting high’..I know…it’s just another way to deal with symptoms, but here and now isn’t the time or place to open that pill packet, if you get the metaphor. We are talking about the right way to use meds: professional, controlled, symptomatic relief – ambitious, but the only way forward for me nowadays.
As you’ll probably have worked out by now, meds are powerful things. You may have recognised some of the ones in my list. You could even have taken some of them from time to time – prescribed or not. Who knows what wild world you’ve lived in? You are not alone. The meds are strong, yeah? We know that much at least. Most have side effects, and some have some really bizarre ones. While taking Phenelzine I couldn’t eat cheese, or drink red wine, or eat smoked meat (not a euphemism). Think that’s bullshit? Well, I did too at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Disneyland. The rest of the day I thought I was going to die, while my face and arse became nothing more than evacuation chutes for anything in my body that wasn’t strapped down by ligaments or internal organs.
Olanzapine saw me put on three stones in two months. Tramadol gave me Seratonin Syndrome – check out those pupils… no laughs… Fun times..
And meds don’t cure-all. There is no magic tablet for BPD, just a series of ‘go to’ meds to tackle some of the symptoms in a tight spot. There is no med to stop you hating yourself, but there are some that can make some of the resulting actions less likely. Others can help you sleep, or face a trip to the shops, or lessen the chance of a fight. And, of course, not every med is effective for every BPD sufferer; what I’m prescribed right now might not touch the sides of someone else, or it may cause them to walk like a drunk, or see Bigfoot…again…
I’ve always found it a little ironic that powerful CNS depressant meds can be prescribed to a group of people who – according to the stats – are one of the most highly self-destructive groups of psychiatric patients known to man or beast. Take a tip from me (though I’m usually loathed to give out tips to anyone – I mean….who the hell am I anyway): never have too many meds at home. Experience has taught me that walking to the chemists like a naughty schoolboy to collect your meds every day for six months is no fun. And the ‘other’ alternative doesn’t bear thinking about on this sunny afternoon in the Derbyshire Dales…
For me, meds mean help and, occasionally, drooling down my chest. But they also mean I can access treatment and put the BPD world slightly further away. Ultimately, they mean I can get well. And I don’t even have to go to Doncaster.