Medication? To feel or not to feel? That is the question…
I’m not into William Shakespeare’s work, or his play Hamlet but I always keep the quote “To Be or Not To Be” at my disposal. Plus, it rolls of my tongue. I’m more of a Grease movie or the Dirty Dancing type.
But to give some context to the play, Hamlet is about Prince Hamlet’s mission to avenge his father, the King of Denmark’s, death. The ghost of Hamlet’s dad tells him that his uncle murdered his dad in order to take his throne.
The meaning behind the quote ‘To be or not to be’ is often interpreted as the main character Hamlet trying to decide if living or dying is best. He compares death to having a little sleep and a relief and an escape life medium. On the other hand, he questions what death will be like. It’s the end of the road as we know it but it’s also the unknown. After all no one has ever come back to tell you what it’s like and what happens there.
As someone who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as BPD, this internal dialogue resonates with me oh too well. I live my life in a very black or white sense of mind. For example, I’m either super grateful that I’ve woken up in the morning, or I’m in tears that I’ve woken up to my life. I either feel superwoman invincible and am full of ambition and motivation or I’m home bound feeling useless and totally incompetent. Bouncing between the two is really quite draining.
Being diagnosed as a teenager with BPD I quickly found myself prescribed Quetiapine. I was never informed of the side effects or talked to about alternative treatment options. In the hood dictionary If the alcoholic drink Hennessy is known as the “Devil’s Juice” then I’m sure the definition of Quetiapine would be the “Devil’s pill”.
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Granted the medication kept me living, but I wasn’t alive. I think being alive and living are often banded as being the same thing. They aren’t. Living for me is robotically dragging your feet through life, without any colour or inspiration. Being alive is wanting to live, and making efforts to not just survive but thrive in life.
Being on Quetiapine for over 7 years, I was mentally out of it most days and could easily and as a norm would be physically knocked out sleeping for 15 hours straight after taking my nightly pill. I floated through my teen years and early twenties like a zombie. The breaking point came was when I was on holiday talking to friends and I couldn’t even find the answer to things like “What is your favourite colour?” or “What’s your favourite meal?”
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Re working my medication doses so I could taper down my medication was a battle with my mental health team who were against the idea. In my quarterly psychiatric reviews, the narrative stayed the same, they didn’t feel the need to change my medication, even though I was unhappy with it and the side effects were significantly upsetting me. Point blank.. period I didn’t want to stay on it.
Eventually it was agreed that I could cut down my medication dosage in small portions. I went down in small denominations but it immediately made my mind feel less foggy. After numerous consultations and the realization that my mental health team had no intention of creating a plan that let me go off my medication I asked myself To Feel Or Not To Feel. I answered it by my actions.
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No more medication
Whilst visiting family abroad I made my great escape and cold turkey’d. Disappearing abroad for a month with no access to my medication was a wild decision. And it really was one of the worst experiences of my life, but the grey method just wasn’t working for me. What came next was four weeks of no appetite, excessive sweating, and a maximum of 3-hour sleeps throughout the day.
Over time my emotions and ability to feel has come back with vengeance without medication. And the truth is, I wasn’t prepared to feel so much again. Yes I really wanted to feel but the reality of adapting has been hard. To the point that I’ve been able to feel things but haven’t been able to describe or put a name to the feeling. I started attributing every emotion that I didn’t like to anger, and acted according to that. Safe to say more times than not it didn’t end well.
Where am I now?
But the highs have been oh so high that I’ve never wanted to come back down. Often spontaneous and over the top actions including many nights of dancing on tables. But the little things have left me feeling so positive too. Things like buying a new book, or receiving a compliment have left me overcome with happy emotions.
I wanted to feel everything that came at me. The good and the bad. The happy and the sad. I don’t regret that choice and I’m slowly working on venturing into the grey. Part of entering that grey zone was starting therapy. An intense programme of Dialectal Behavioural Therapy aimed specifically with those that have BPD. I’m learning skills to copy with my emotions within the scope of interpersonal relationships, regulating my emotions and learning how to tolerate emotional distress. So as someone who has experienced feeling and losing the ability to feel I will vote to feel. Even when feeling feels too much.
About the Writer:
Sylvsz/Frizzy is an Audio and Events producer based in London who unapologetically shares her experience of living with BPD. She runs Frizzandgo.com a site that encourages diversity and inclusion focusing on books, travel and mental health.