A few weeks ago, I wrote this piece: Getting Help | Nutmegger Daily – Quality writing on many topics. It talks about the labyrinth people need to run from feeling bad to getting treatment. At the end, I mentioned that I was just scratching the surface. Today I want to talk about a different frustrating aspect of mental illness. It is a very slow process.
I don’t mean it’s a slow process from the beginning either. Even after you’ve found your psychiatrist and therapist, it takes a long time to feel better. Weeks if you’re lucky and more likely months or years. There are some, currently, unavoidable reasons for this. Therapy, just by its very nature, takes time. If it’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where you’re learning how to reframe things and push back on negative thoughts, no one is going to master it after a session or two. It takes practice, lots and lots of practice. Same thing for mindfulness and exposure therapy and all the others. They just take time.
Most people would probably expect therapy to take a while. The medicines are the frustrating part. They aren’t like Tylenol where you take it and, half an hour later, the headache is gone. And there is no set dosage for psychiatric drugs. It feels a bit like being a Guinea Pig in an experiment. The doctor makes their best guess on medication and dosage. Then, it takes about a month for it to get into your system and start doing its thing. If that isn’t right for some reason (either you’re not feeling better or there are bad side effects or something like that), at best, the doctor changes the dose, and you wait another month to see if that works and repeat until it finally does work. At worst, you have to start on a whole different drug.
Another thing is the medications can make you feel downright weird while your body is adjusting. People often joke about suicidal thoughts being a side effect of antidepressants. But as someone who uses antidepressants, I can assure you, it’s not that strange. Those first few days and weeks are a wild ride. And not in a good way at all.
It takes a lot of patience to be a mental health patient. Sadly, some people don’t have the patience and give up. I think part of what makes a good doctor good is that they help you through the adjustment period. My doctor was completely up front with me about what to expect, how I might feel, and all the possible side effects. Without that support, who knows where I might have ended up.