For folks who take medication for mood disorders such as depression (and just about any other condition) there are some important ways to take care of yourself. It is estimated that about 50% of the time medication is not taken as prescribed. If you struggle with this issue know that you are not alone.
1. Who is prescribing? Did the doctor take a thorough history before prescribing? As you began medication did the doctor monitor you closely and schedule follow up appointments to assess your progress? In other words do you feel your provider is trustworthy and conscientious? We may hesitate to take meds that we don’t believe were mindfully prescribed.
2. If you are thinking about discontinuing a medication, consult with the doctor who prescribed it. Abrupt changes can be difficult for our brains. And with some medications, weaning down slowly is extremely important. Be kind to your brain.
3. Know that as with all of life, we go through seasons and changes. You may find that a dosage of medicine that worked well in the spring needs to be tweaked as winter approaches. This is another reason to have an ongoing relationship with your doctor – to make these adjustments.
4.There is not a medication that cannot be broken through. What I mean by this is that if you start feeling better this does not mean that you can drink alcohol, stay up late, and work 12 hour days. The medicine does not work by itself. How you live and take care of yourself is a huge part of the formula. This is extremely tricky because for many folks it does not feel like a cause and effect relationship. Eg, it didn’t seem to have a negative effect when I had that margarita with my burrito on Saturday. But a margarita, a sleepless night and a stressful day at work can destabilize.
5. Use med minders, those little boxes with the labels for the days of the week. The five minutes per week that it takes to fill it are worth the many moments of wondering, “did I take my meds this morning,” and finding yourself dumping out the contents of the prescription container to try and do the math to figure out if you did. Medication compliance is a big issue across the board. Develop a habit that makes taking the meds simple and automatic. If you are regularly missing doses, it can make it much harder to tell if the meds are working.
6. Be prepared for the unexpected. Whether it is a snow storm or you decide to stay overnight at a friends house, having some back up meds with you is a really good idea. Some folks like to keep a dose or two in the glove compartment of their car. Others have a key ring with a capsule on it that can hold a day’s worth of medication.
7. This one is a biggie. Anytime you pick up a prescription, immediately mark in your calendar one week before it is due to run out. Please, please, please don’t wait till you are out and then wait another 2-3 days for a refill. Weekends and holidays can delay requesting a refill from your doctor. Try not to run out of meds if at all possible.
8. Okay, if despite all of your best intentions you do run out, call your doctor or the doctor on call and/or your pharmacist. Sometimes the pharmacist can get an order for a 3 day supply to tide you over.
9. Make peace with your medicine. If you are confident about the effectiveness of the medication on your mood disorder, are taking it consistently, keeping in touch with the prescriber, and lifestyle is generally wholesome, then hopefully there is room to relax. Much of non-compliance or abruptly going off meds has to do with not working this through and not having the systems of support set up.
For more info about bipolar please visit my website Supportfordepression.com