New: ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Compliance Revisited: A Narrative

Jack Bragen
Wednesday July 08, 2015 - 06:03:00 PM

Taking antipsychotic medication can be miserable in the short-term. This is due to the side effects, which typically include depression, body stiffness, a drugged out feeling, and a suppression of consciousness. (Some people also get other, worse side effects.)  

When fist taking an antipsychotic, it may feel like we have been put in a chemical straitjacket.  

The above side effects were the main reason why, at eighteen, a mere four months after I experienced a horrific episode of psychosis, I became noncompliant.  

At first, I lied about it. Later, my mother discovered that I wasn't taking the medication, and she confronted me. I said I was eighteen and could not be forced to take medication, and I asserted that I would move out of the house and support myself.  

I worked hard at the job I had obtained, sweeping, mopping and polishing supermarket floors. I saved up money, and I moved out into a share rental. For a long time, it appeared that I had evaded mental illness. This was not so.  

My plan of being off medication worked for a year, until early 1984, when I again became ill. (I was reinstated on medication after being 5150'd at a gas station in Concord.) Again I experienced medication as akin to a chemical straitjacket. My father arranged for housing in a co-ed halfway house for mentally ill adults. I was put on injections of medication so that doctors could be certain that I was compliant.  

At the halfway house I had contact with people, something I lacked when I was a janitor. This environment was good for me, even though I continued to be depressed. I eventually moved back in with my mom. I tried some more unskilled jobs--which didn't pan out. I got into training for electronics and began my home electronics repair career (which I worked at off and on for about seven years).  

There were a couple more instances in which I was noncompliant with medication. Upon stopping medication, the relapses happened much faster, and in the aftermath, the relapses were more damaging to my functioning level.  

Had I always been medication compliant, I don't know how things would have turned out. Circumstances could have been better, and I might have gotten on the right track sooner in life. Or maybe not.  

Regarding medication side effects, please realize that for many people on medication, side effects eventually ease up. After being on medication for a longer time, I haven't noticed nearly the level of side effects that I experienced in the first couple of years of being medicated. For people who are medicated and suffering, you should know that things can get better. People in treatment for schizophrenia, bipolar, or depression should know that there is hope.  

I probably would have been better off had I remained medication compliant, and sought ways other than quitting medication, in my attempts to deal with the difficulties of life.  

A final note: if things get too bad or too suppressed, maybe you could go to Starbuck's and order a large iced coffee!