The first time I took my medication, Zyprexa knocked me out completely and I slept for days. The effect was powerful and immediate. I was very lucky that something worked for me in the first try.
I don’t remember the first time I was off my medication. Or the second, the third. They were pretty fuzzy. However, I remember the last time I was off my medication with my psychiatrist’s permission. I was fine for three months until I went to look for answers from my puzzling past and schizophrenia came right back to me. Resuming medication took away my voice again.
But it was until the following happened, that I realized that my magical medication is not all powerful and has limits. It was also a give and take with benefits and side effects. I took some time off from work to visit family and travel. I was on a very low dosage of Zyprexa, i.e. 2.5mg. I stopped experiencing the side effect of weight gain and started losing weight without any effort. I could also wake up in the morning without an alarm. I was pretty stress free for two years and I was feeling great.
Then, the first time I was stressed at work, the voices came back to me in about two days. The voices could come back even if I took medication. That scared me. My psychiatrist doubled the dosage to 5mg and I have been voice-free since then.
Here is a critical lesson I learned: The dosage of Zyprexa I need, therefore the strength of the side effects I experience, depends on the stress level of my life. It is possible that if my stress level is so very high, I would need an incredible amount of drugs which would affect how I live my life.
For me, my friends and family, the question asked of me in my earlier schizophrenic journey was always, “Are you taking your medication?” But some of my earlier confusions might come from an suboptimal therapeutic level of my medication. Taking it is one thing. Taking the right amount is another. Living a healthy lifestyle is also something!
These are the challenge that everyone with a mental health condition faces. First, one has to treated with the right medication that works. Then it’s an art to get the optimal therapeutic level that can mask or handle one’s stress level, and anything else that might be a triggering factor.
Now when I about to get stressed about something, I say to myself, think about my mental health. My psychiatrist controls my dosage and therefore side effects; I control my stress level. I hope we can continue to meet in the middle!