on side-effects.

I work with a broad spectrum of adults with severe mental illnesses – adults from ages 25 to 85 who are generally living with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and/or borderline personality disorder.  Although we don’t have “favorites” (I’m a social worker, after-all), there are some clients that certainly inspire us.  One in particular, an older adult with bipolar, said this to me last week in regards to the terrible side-effects of her lithium:

“Every rose has a thorn…but this thorn is reaaaaally pinching today.” 

She said it with a smile and a laugh, and her light-hearted approach to her tremors energized me. I realized how grateful I am to have received a diagnosis early;  episodes become more problematic over time, requiring more and more medication to manage. This woman discontinued her medications several times over the past fifty years, each time inciting a worse episode than before. I look at her beautiful face and listen to her discuss her side-effects, sharing with me the bittersweet pain of knowing that without these medications she would still live in the state hospital.

I know the feeling. It’s a daunting idea to think of medicating ourselves for the rest of our lives, knowing that sometimes we will feel just fine and think we don’t need them…yet knowing that without the daily regimen our likely fate is hospitalization.

The thorn may pinch somedays much worse than others, but remember: the rose is worth it.

Manhattan’s Upper East side.

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