Written by Arianne Maxwell. Arianne works to bring understanding about mental health issues. She loves to read, quilt, and write about her experiences. Arianne is diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder, however, this is looked on as a gift to understand others.
So, you have a diagnosis. You are reeling from the information from your doctor. You have a mental health issue. Take a deep breath. Then take another. “Where do I go from here?” you ask yourself. The doctor writes you a prescription for some medication, but you are still in shock from what she said.
This is what happened to me. I received a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder. I started my mental health journey in stress and strum off in a crisis. The next step in my mental health treatment was to start a regiment of medications that I was prescribed in the hospital (Yes, I have been hospitalized for mental health a few times). The next chapter in my life was what I called “the medication game,” for lack of a better term. This is where you are prescribed a medication or medication regime to stabilize your mental health. This takes a lot of time. Get your support system ready, because they are going to help you with fine tuning your medications.
First, you were prescribed the medications during a crisis situation. Your dosages might change and be lowered once you have a therapeutic level in your system. Now, ask your support system—friends, family, case managers; whoever you have—to help you identify symptoms, side effects, and how the medications make you feel. I suggest a journal. If you have a mood disorder, like me, track your moods. Make a chart. That way, you can see patterns in your moods over time.
Second, make sure you have room in your journal to free-write how you feel on the medications. For example, write the day, date, and time and say where in your body different sensations are taking place. How does it make you feel? Be prepared to show someone you trust this journal so they can also see if there are any trends. I also suggest showing your mental health practitioner and doctor.
Finally, write down any and all side effects that you are experiencing from your medications. For example, two hours into my medication I might feel a slight headache, nausea, or sensitivity to light. Again, write down in your journal the day, date, and time of the side effects and show them to your trusted person. Both of you should look and see if there are any trends to these side effects. Afterwards, bring the journal to an appointment with a mental health practitioner and doctor. They will help you weigh the risk and benefits of the medication for its therapeutic purpose as well as the side effects.
Make sure when creating this journal to be patient with yourself. If you don’t see a trend, then you don’t see a trend. Give it plenty of time for the medications to work at a therapeutic level. The key here is to have patience with oneself and continue taking the medications until a doctor has told you otherwise.