I saw a link for this article a couple of days ago, and it has been on my mind:
Now, the question posed as my post title might seem silly. Who is the medication for? Well, obviously the doctor prescribed the medication for the patient.
But my question is deeper. Who, really, is the medication for? Is it really for the benefit of the patient, or is it sometimes for the benefit of those around the patient?
Now, of course, i can be both, and nothing is wrong with that. Certainly when someone with schizophrenia takes medication, it benefits them and their loved ones because of the stability it can bring. Someone with debilitating OCD or social anxiety can benefit themselves and their families when meds help them to cope, hold down a job, etc.
BUT….when others benefit from meds to the detriment of the patient or their personhood, then the question becomes muddier and even more important.
Except for movies like gaslight and the occasional high-profile crime, I don’t think most people do this on purpose. But it can happen, and it can even happen through the misguided fear of the patient. To best illustrate this, let me share “Shannon’s” story:
“Shannon was a creative, artistic, and yes, emotional girl. She was intelligent but also well-mannered, self-controlled, and a “good kid.” She weathered all the normal growing up storms in much the same way a typical well-socialized young person would.
She attended college, and while she sometimes skipped classes and had to retake one course to improve her grade, she did not party, was not promiscuous or rebellious, and she graduated in 4 years with a decent GPA. She finished a graduate degree, held down a job, and maintained loving and normal relationships.
After her first child was born, she developed post-partem depression. At the same time, her significant other was experiencing serious continual job stress. While she was not at her best, was even more emotional ,and at times lost self-control, she was also navigating these major life changes pretty much alone, as her SO was consumed with his own stress, was concerned about her outburst, and retreated to various internet pursuits. antidepressants would have likely helped her at this point, but they were in an environment where taking medications for “mental problems” would have been a huge stigma.
She had another child, they moved 2 months later, they struggled financially for over a year, and then her SO was unexpectedly and crassly fired. They spent through all of the severance pay and all of the profit from their home sale and lived in a run down old home until it became apparent action was going to have to be taken. They moved to a new town with about 200 dollars.
Things began to look up 6 months later when she found a job she loved and her SO seemed to be enjoying his. Then he was unfairly dismissed again and began a new career path. It was hard but it was a blessing, as he was finally going in a direction that was a great fit.
During all this time, the fallout from her overly emotional post partem issues and the loneliness of feeling as if she was on her own was never really addressed. The partnership grew distant and apathetic. She compensated by making her job and the friends she made their her “safe place.” Desiring to feel better about herself, she began a change to a healthy lifestyle.
She felt better, looked better, and began to get noticed. This was a rush, so she redoubled her efforts. However, in the wake of all the years of previous trouble, her boundaries were loose, her resentment was high, and her primary relationship was all but nonexistent. She ignored inner warnings and made very poor choices. Very very poor choices. When one is a good CHristian woman who is battling between what she knows is right and wrong and the high she is getting from truly crappy behavior….any woman (any person) is going to be in the midst of tremendous emotional upheaval. And most are going to want to escape it. Her escape was exercise, and unfortunately, it didn’t work. She was on a situational roller coaster. Was it chemical too? Of course. But diagnosing a mental illness in the midst of person crisis is like diagnosing asthma WHILE someone has bronchitis and pneumonia. How do you KNOW what is what?
She felt at the end of her rope, and she went to her doctor. She saw the physician’s assistant and shared the details of what had been going on. The physician’s assistant gave her a questionnaire/survey. In her present state, she filled out all items as high except 2.
Ding ding ding! We have a diagnosis! Now we can get meds to make it all go away.
Well she felt calmer. She slept at night. But guess what? It didn’t all go away. Because pills do not fix an unhappy relationship, emptiness, resentment, and sin.
I John 1:9 says to confess. Maybe confession will help. It was the right thing, but it threw her entire family into a whole other type of chaos, and now selfish Shannon is being held accountable for and suffering consequences. She is tired, she is stressed, she is guilty, she is desperate. She can’t take it. So she collects all her pills and plans to drive off somewhere and take them.
If you go to the emergency room suicidal and a physician’s assistant diagnosed you with an illness, the overworked doctor at the county mental health center is not going to argue. They are going to put you on even more medication.
Shannon became a nice person. A nice, calm, even, sweet, humble, contrite person….who weighed 75 pounds more within 7 months. Her hips hurt, her knees hurt, and her heart hurt every time she looked in the mirror.
But she needed those meds. She was nice on the meds. People liked her on the meds (well, not everyone, but that’s a whole other story). Staying on the meds was one of many ways to prove she was sorry.
She changed meds and fell asleep on the job. She changed back and gained more weight. She changed again, to the magic gold standard.
She did lost about 15 pounds. She gained acne, hair loss, a caput thyroid, and a zombie persona. She felt nothing. She cared about nothing. She created nothing. She couldn’t read a book because she retained nothing. She stopped cleaning, stopped showering, stopped being Shannon altogether. But she was no trouble. No bad choices because she just flat didn’t feel like choosing…anything.
And then with no connection, no emotion, no self, and no job….she was suicidal again. Surely the world would get along fine without a non-person.
A year later she began seeing another doctor. He asked her more than 5 questions. He had all her previous records. He didn’t have her fill out a questionnaire. He knew all about her bad choices. He wasn’t in the dark. He wasn’t afraid of her either. He weaned her off the zombie miracle drug.
Shannon started thinking again. Shannon started feeling again. Shannon had a life with color in it again. Shannon gave a rat’s patooty. This new, non-zombie Shannon received mixed reviews. Problem was, since Shannon was told by a questionnaire during a time of crisis that she was terribly ill, every human fluctuation in her mood was a red flag of impending doom.
Shannon called BS on that.
Shannon still takes one medication. She is considering a tweak and a minor add. But Shannon will never again allow the color to be drained. She will not become a zombie. She will not become a whale. She likes the Shannon of 2015, and while that Shannon isn’t perfect, all she needs is some improvement, not a cancellation or replacement.”
The above story illustrates the importance of being sure that all medication suggested, recommended, or prescribed are given for the patient. Nobody was out to get Shannon. But her struggle with meds was as much about everyone else’s fears and comfort as it was about hers. In fact, there are still people in Shannon’s life who would like to make the decision for her, who fear her, and who would go red in the ears over this post.
People are diverse, and that doesn’t just mean skin color and cultural heritage. Shannon was and is just as legitimate a person with all her color and life and, at times, emotionality as is the person who prefers a life of more neutral tones. And Shannon will never again take any medication that is for anyone other than her.