Recommended advice for any taking medication
(Hoping to make this a sticky, as this is sound advice for anybody. Also, I'd like to re-edit and combine other people's opinions/advice on here, too.)
I am not a doctor or medical expert, and this information is for informational and support purposes only
. Like everything else on this forum, trust your doctor's advice over what you may read here.
Advice when seeing a doctor/shrink/psychiatrist:
Advice when taking medication:
- Research, research, research everything! Research the drugs you are taking, the conditions you think you may have, etc. Research how they interact with other drugs or conditions. Communicate your concerns with your drugs or conditions with your doctor. Remember that you have a lot of time to research this, and a doctor usually only has 15 minutes (or less) with you.
- Detect and analyze how your mind and body works. Recognize all of the behaviors and moods you do throughout the day. Learn to detect when you feel "different" than what you usually feel. Are you manic, depressive, having trouble focusing? Analyze and research these conditions and see if they are a pattern. Use this knowledge to provide a more specific dialogue with your doctor. (Saying "I feel weird" is very non-specific and not helpful.)
- Strive to be on equal terms with your conditions as your doctor. You are the expert of everything you do, how your mind works, how you behave, etc. The doctor is the expert on medicine, diagnosis, how drugs interact, and medical conditions. Together, you can work out what therapy or drugs are best for you.
- Don't overload, and don't be a know-it-all. Remember, even if you are "striving to be on equal terms with your conditions", that does not mean you know more than your doctor. S/He is still the expert. Don't overload, either. Be concise and specific, and don't sweat the small stuff unless it's a genuine concern. Don't be a hypochondriac. Again, your doctor has a limited amount of time with you, so use it wisely.
- Ask yourself: Does this behavior interfere with my work, marriage, or life? Everybody has personality traits, and some are stronger than others. However, if a personality trait is something more that has become a destructive force, it's time to research what how you behave, what you think you may have, and see a doctor. Don't delay; every day you sit around doing nothing is another day of destructive behavior. Even if you can't figure out what you have, see a doctor, anyway, and s/he will be able to help you.
- Start slow! Mental medication is likely more powerful than any other medication you have taken in the past. Recommend to your doctor that you want to start slow. My first time taking a mental drug resulted in me going to the ER for pericarditis. It's rare, but it happens. So, start with the minimal dose, and then cut that dose if you can. Try it for a few days like that and then go to the standard uncut dose. Again, talk to your doctor about what you are planning to do beforehand.
- Get a pill cutter. These things make splitting pills very safe and easy.
- Ask for the IR version first, if possible. IR stands for "immediate release". They are the shorter duration version, and the XR version is the "extended release" that lasts all day. Some XR pills cannot be cut, so you wouldn't be able to try a reduced dose. Plus, the shorter duration of the IR means that any bad reactions will be shorter lived. Once you realize that the IR version works and is the right drug for you, you can move to the XR version.
- Get a blood pressure monitor. Many mental medications (especially for ADHD) can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. They are somewhat expensive ($50 or more), but a good one will give you a lot of information about how a drug is affecting your heart health. If your BP and heart rate is consistently high, talk to your doctor.
- If you are worried about your heart, or have heart disease in your family, get a heart rate watch. While these watches aren't "approved for medical use", they can give you your heart rate in a few seconds, and give you more data points than a BP monitor alone. Get one without a strap, as you will probably not bother to put on the strap every time. A heart rate above 100 while resting is abnormal, and you should consult your doctor if it's a common occurrence.
- Research everything! I cannot repeat this enough.
- Detect changes in your mind and body. This is like #2 in the first section, but it bears repeating as well, and is especially important when taking new medication. These drugs will have ups and downs, and it's important to figure out if those ups and downs are too much for you, or not normal. Also keep in mind that a lot of medication requires 1-3 weeks to stabilize, so these swings may calm down as you keep taking them.
- Bear with it and don't be afraid of taking medication! This section isn't intended to scare you. Yes, you should be careful, but stick with the medication and stick with your doctor's advice. Remember, most of us here have spend DECADES living with a mental condition, and have been unable to solve it alone. Most mental conditions are due to chemical imbalances. A chemical imbalance will keep you down and medication is the best way to fix a chemical imbalance. Talk therapy works, too, but if you have lived with something like this for so long, having somebody tell you to do something you have already tried might not work for you without a change in how your mind works.
(More details on specifics of drugs later on. Advice from actual professionals encouraged and welcome.)