Alan has been living with depression and anxiety for years, but had up until recently
avoided seeking professional help. He had thought that if he “toughed it out” on his own, he would get better. When it became obvious to him that his mental illness was making it difficult to maintain relationships or to progress at his job, he decided it was time ask for help.
His physician referred him to a psychiatrist, who recommended that Alan go on medication. Alan was hesitant at first because he was worried about how he might feel, if he would still be himself, and what kinds of side effects he might have. But he decided to follow his doctor’s recommendation, given that he had been experiencing these symptoms for so long.
Alan’s psychiatrist explained to him that it would take at least a couple of weeks, if not a month, for him to begin to feel the effects of his medication, and encouraged him to be patient.
The Medication was Supposed to Work. But it’s Not.
A couple of months have passed since Alan first began his medication and he has two big concerns. One, he isn’t feeling any relief of his depression and anxiety symptoms. In fact, he’s so disappointed with his lack of results that he is feeling even more depressed. And, he’s having some side effects that don’t seem to be going away.
Alan has decided that his treatment is pretty much a bust so far. And he’s starting to ask himself: “Am I going to feel like this forever?”
What about you? How are you doing with your treatment regimen? If you are on medication, how’s it going? If you’re in therapy, are you coping better? Are you in Alan’s shoes or have you been in the past?
Hopefully, Alan won’t give up on treatment. And if you’re having a similar experience, hopefully you won’t either.
Now consider this: Think of your current regimen as Plan A. And if Plan A isn’t working, then it’s time to consider Plan B. Make sense?
Here’s what you can do if Plan A isn’t working for you:
Remember: treatment is a process. Your physician may have mentioned that it can take time and patience to find your optimal medication regimen. In other words, it’s a journey, with some twists, turns, and setbacks along the way. What does that mean? Every failure can also be an opportunity to learn. You and your doctor can apply that learning to Plan B. Knowledge is power!
It comes down to chemistry. And yours is unique. This is why you may need to move from Plan A to Plan B, and maybe even to Plan C or beyond. Each person has their own individual physiology, along with other factors that impact effectiveness and, consequently, medications may benefit one person more or less than another. Your physician may need to try different medications, or combinations of medications, as well as tweak the dosages, to help you arrive at a regimen that gives you the results you are working toward.
Don’t hesitate to be high maintenance. Patients often feel like they shouldn’t “bother” their doctors with questions and complaints about medications. And admittedly, doctors don’t always seem very welcoming when patients reach out between check-ins. But your doctor is there to help you. So don’t suffer in silence. If you aren’t feeling like your medication is helping, or if you are having uncomfortable or unexpected side effects, then get in touch with your doctor and let him/her know what’s going on with you. Help your doctor to do their job by advocating for yourself.
If you’re not in therapy, consider taking this step. Therapy in combination with medication can be a powerful one-two punch in treating mental illness. A therapist can help you in a number of ways, including providing ongoing emotional support and guidance as you adjust to your medication regimen. A therapist can also help you develop additional skills to cope with the challenges of daily life.
And if you’re not sure your therapy is working… Whether or not you are also on medication, if you are concerned that your therapy isn’t helping you as much as you need it to, then this is a conversation to have with your therapist. Let him/her know how you’re feeling. Again, it’s okay to be high maintenance. Therapy is also a journey, with course corrections along the way. Chemistry is a factor in therapy, too. Personal chemistry, that is.
Plan A isn’t working? Okay, then on to Plan B. And if Plan B…. Well, you get the message. You may take two steps forward, and then one step back, on your treatment journey. Don’t be discouraged. Keep your eyes on the road ahead!