Without medication, I don’t believe that any of the other aspects of managing my schizoaffective disorder would have much success. The correct medication in treating my schizophrenia has been a complicated process to determine. I have been on a seemingly countless amount of different medications and combinations. A group of medications that work well for me was eventually determined.
This post is part of a series explaining what I view as the five pillars to managing my symptoms. You can read the introduction here, the pillar of external support here, the pillar of self-help here, the pillar of a support network here and the pillar of healthy living here.
I won’t be listing the medications I use specifically since I am in no way qualified to recommend what may or may not work for you. With one exception, Ativan, which I take when I am on my way to or having a panic attack.
Finding the right mix has been an awful road to travel. During that time, I have been tracked with different diagnosis, different prevalent symptoms and different truths.
At my worst, when I was being treated as bipolar, I was on a mix that included a mood-stabilizer. I had a full mental break at this point filled with extreme paranoia, delusion and suicidal ideation. The doctors sent me to an inpatient program for a month. The doctors there only increased the mood stabilizer.
I did level-out while I was there and the therapists helped me come to some serious truths about myself and a traumatic event from my past. Even though I left the program “good” everything felt wrong. I had a laundry-list of side effects without much (any?) benefit.
This was when I became more involved with the medications I was taking. I told the psychiatrist that I was done with the mood stabilizer and asked for instruction how to taper-off. Things seemed to get better for a while and the Army moved me to California for graduate school.
The irregular schedules and uneven workload that is school proved to be an awful environment for me. What I thought was an over-active inner critic grew much worse and the panic attacks started to come on daily with greater severity. I put myself into therapy and insisted on a full mental evaluation.
First I was given a military-friendly diagnosis of a couple of anxiety issues with psychosis and two personality disorders by the Air Force psychologist.
One morning, while drinking coffee, I asked my wife the question that changed everything for me. I asked her what her thoughts sounded like. The following discussion shed light on The Dragon. Finally, I began to understand how very wrong the dialogues in my mind were and that the voice I would hear wasn’t normal or healthy. I already knew that something was wrong with me but I didn’t really understand what until this conversation.
I had a great therapist here that drew out that I wasn’t experiencing only a little psychosis and we built upon the conversation I had with my wife. He recommended that I reconsider my choice to go without medication. I agreed to work with a civilian psychiatrist.
After a series of trial and error, medication changes and dosage changes I was put onto a mix that helps. I am on an atypical antipsychotic, an antidepressant, an anticonvulsant used off-label and Ativan.
Once the dial on my psychotic features began to get turned-down did I begin to realize how off my entire thought patterns were. I wasn’t just a little psychotic; it was like there is an entire second being living inside me. I finally could see The Dragon for what it really is.
Working with the therapist we final had a name for what I was experiencing: schizophrenia, and I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This began my current journey to being medically retired from my 14-year military career.
If there were negative things to say about any of the medications then I would very quickly shout-out that there was an issue with them and then, working with a doctor, switch to a different one. I stay very involved with my medications and am very researched.
I needed to make adjustments here and there, always consulting with a professional. For instance, I was being hit with a heavy sedation in the late mornings to the point of being unable to stay awake. Moving my antipsychotic to the evening instead of a spilt-dose remedied that.
I’ve learned two lessons regarding medication. First, I’ll always need medications and I don’t have a problem with that. The Dragon is still very much with me always, but it is mild compared to unmedicated. He assaults me at full-strength occasionally and I’m reminded of the misery that was life without the medications I am on. Second, is to always work closely with the psychiatrist for any changes and to remain 100% compliant with all his instructions.
This has been a disease of ebb and flow in rough waters. If only one thing is certain it is that changes in my condition will happen. I’m expecting that on any day, or year, my medications won’t be adequate or effective and I’ll have to return to the circus of finding the mix that works again. I’m realistic though and I understand that there is no cure for me. I understand that with medication I can only find a little relief. It will only go so far and that the best way to seek support is from all five pillars.
If you feel like you really need to know what medications I am on you can contact me. Otherwise, let me know in the comments what your experience with medications have been. I always want to hear your thoughts.