There are a multitude of things I had to learn to manage when I got sick. There are lots of practical, everyday tasks that must be fulfilled in order to stay in the game. In all of my trial and error learning, I’ve figured out some very crucial things. If you’re mentally ill, I hope you learn to do all of these things too.
The first and biggest is managing medicine. You have to take every dose at the right time every day, or it’s not going to work for you. If you feel like your medicine isn’t helping, this is probably the culprit. It only works if you put it in your body on time, every single day, and that is a much bigger ask than one would assume. I strongly recommend putting alarms on your phone for every dose. When I started, I had to put a backup alarm on, too, for ten minutes after my dose time, because I got used to hearing the alarm, turning it off, and then forgetting and not taking my medicine. If your memory is impaired (as mine is), this will be even more challenging, but if you stick to this routine, you will eventually build the healthy habit of taking pills on time, and that habit will aid you for the rest of your life. It’s a skill worth building.
Pharmacies are crucial. Try to use a 24 hour facility if you can, like CVS or Walgreens. The benefit of having access to your prescriptions on weekends is not missing any doses. Federally scheduled medicine like Xanax, Ativan, klonopin, and temazepam are written out to last exactly 30 days, and you if you run out at the end of the week, you could miss two whole days of medicine if your pharmacy is closed on weekends. There is also great value in pharmacies that are open late, because missing that 6 o’ clock deadline can be damaging if it makes you miss a dose or more.
The doctors that help you are so, so important. You are your only advocate in a doctor’s appointment, so you need to go in knowing what information to give and what questions you need answered. The solution is very simple: write it down. As you move through life and questions arise about the meds or you have mysterious side effects, take a minute to write down your questions and symptoms on a running list, so you have them all when you get to see your doctor. It’s also a very good idea to keep a mood chart. If you scroll down a little on this site there is a printable mood chart that’s the same one I’ve used for 10 years. I make a bound booklet with 24 sheets at kinkos once a year, a mood chart and a comments page for every month. I keep track of my symptoms so that I can report them to my doctor. Without my information, the doctor has nothing to go on and I cannot be properly medicated, so it’s crucial that I have accurate information to give, and trusting my memory is never a good option. The doctor cannot read your life unless you present it, and memory is fickle, so keep track of your moods, symptoms, and side effects on paper.
The practical aspects of mood disorders are what’s going to make your treatment effective. Without these building blocks, you’re just pushing a boulder up a hill. It’s way less difficult to thrive when you’re doing the boring legwork of taking medicine on time every day, not letting prescriptions run out, going to all your appointments and reporting your health accurately. You can do this, and it will help you.