If you’ve ever watched “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” you see the worst-case scenario of what the wrong mix of psychiatric medication can do. This horror story has frightened more human beings out of much-needed medication than any movie ever made.
It was my son Charles’s fear that antidepressants would rob him of his creativity and strip him of his personality. At one time in our history, this was often the case. Today’s medication, however, is prescribed with the intention to help a person live as normal a life as possible. And as most who live with mental illness tell you, managing the illness takes a lot more than pills. It takes a commitment to one’s health and managing it on a daily basis just like managing any other chronic illness such as diabetes.
Those are worthy fears, however, because we don’t know how a medication will affect us or how it will affect others around us. How will it change us? Will we be able to live with the side effects? How will others perceive us? And so on.
As my son’s thoughts of suicide became more frequent and his depression worsened, his reasoning became more fractured. He thought the illegal substances he misused would enhance his experiences and fuel his creativity. Once they took his brain hostage, he thought stopping them would render him talentless.
To us, his parents, it made no sense that he thought the legal and prescribed medication would ruin him but dangerous street drugs would in fact improve his life. The antidepressants took patience and about 30 days to work while the illegal ones or even some of the prescribed medications worked in twenty minutes or less and made him feel like a king.
Wasn’t faster better?
That’s what drugs whisper in the ears of our loved ones susceptible to a substance use disorder or lost in the grip of their own mental illness.
It’s easy for those of us who don’t have a mental health issue to dismiss our loved one’s concerns.
Maybe if I had started out by asking Charles to sit down and tell me all his fears of taking an antidepressant, things would have gone better initially. Or maybe things would have gone just as it did. I do wish I had listened more because understanding how another feels can guide us on how to manage a situation better.