The Drugs Don’t Work… But The Social Reality is Worse…

“All this talk of getting old, it’s getting me down, my love, like a cat in a bag, waiting to drown, this time I’m coming down…”

The BBC published an article recently talking about how many Bipolar patients are being prescribed drugs that are outside clinical guidelines…

In fact, the statistic is that 25% of people being prescribed are being given the wrong drugs.

Something else that is extremely shocking is that generally, the first drug that someone with Bipolar is prescribed is Lithium…

Here are some hard facts about the reality of using Lithium for this type of practise; these are consistent results from a wide range of testing around the world, this is not just a random study to prove a point:

  • Lithium increases the impairment on tasks involving psycho-motor speed! Psycho-motor: refers to a wide range of actions involving physical movement related to conscious cognitive processing.
  • Lithium increases impaired functioning in the majority of studies examining verbal memory. Verbal Memory: These are the things we hear every day as it refers to memory of words and other abstractions involving language.
  • Most patients administered Lithium carbonate complain of mental slowness.

So if we imagine that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health issue that’s beyond regular parameters, or the norm… And 1 in 4 of them are most likely on the wrong medication…

I recall when I was first given prescription medication to control my mental health. It was not good! I was told to take the pills at 10am and to be honest, I was rocking and rolling until about 3pm, at which point you might as well have been talking to a vegetable… I couldn’t retain information, I couldn’t answer questions and I most definitely couldn’t function far beyond wanting to just sit, like a lump.

Fundamentally I made the decision after the first batch of medication, that I wasn’t going to be doing that any more… and I binned them!

12-13 years later, via the use of sex, alcohol and a plethora of perhaps, not so prescription, drugs, I will admit that the road was a complete bag of rubbish, but I’m most likely further in the right direction than I would be if I’d continued on what it was suggested I take, from a perspective of medication vs. the trial and error and anxiety of self medicating.

In fact after my second identical diagnosis (just to check the theory, right?!) I never went to the NHS, local Doctors, or any kind of medical service again to discuss my mental health, for better or for worse. I just felt like the advice was “too prescribed” if you’ll excuse the terrible pun, which I could have edited, but simply had to include for my own amusement.

I set out on a path of re-mapping as it’s now called, but back then I think we called it, have a stab and hope for the best; well, certainly for the first 5-7 years that was the case.

My focus was simple, “if this issue is a mental one, then surely I can undo it, at least to some degree, mentally?” now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t right for everyone and by no means am I saying drop the pills immediately and go all ‘fear and loathing in Las Vegas’ on this subject. It’s a serious one.

It’s definitely not that easy, but it is that simple in theory. To be honest I now wholly believe that for the most part at least 50-75% of the people I meet daily, could probably be better looked after given the right support and coaching. I am alive today without any of that and I p*ssed away a huge amount of time (some 10 years), not doing what I wanted in life, in order to find myself.

The problem is (without sounding too much like a conspiracy theorist, as my IQ points outweigh that concept), that we don’t invest enough money in the research.

We love a drug! Well pharma love to sell us drugs and by god they love making a drug, but it’s not really the right thing to do. We invest in rehabilitation and in mental health charities with vocational training and the likes and by far the most effective, in the many that I’ve seen, are those where you learn to function in a society and find your vocation, passion, or skill set, without pressure to earn money off the back of it.

We invest in these things because we generally want to help as a society, but that’s a plaster, or a band aid for my American followers, it’s not curing the issue for the future generations.

What we need to be investing in, is firstly catching this early, at a primary school level, so that by the time you hit secondary school you’re already moving in the right direction, or maybe you won’t even see any major effects of what could have been, based on training, direction and focus. And no this doesn’t mean that if your son or daughter is an obnoxious tw*t, that they’ve definitely got a mental health issue, or ADHD, it could just be that you need to establish some realism, boundaries, or tell them no once in a while. No one likes Veruca Salt right?!

But what this does mean? We know that you can spot early signs of mania or anxiety in young people, so it means if we educate parents and teachers more thoroughly in how to understand and manage this process then there’s a good chance we make a dent early.

This doesn’t mean lets wrap our kids up in cotton wool, Jesus, please don’t do that, they’re already a bit up their own backside for my liking, for the most part, but it does mean that as educators we should be realistic in how we assess this. As the majority of onset mental health issues stem either from our upbringing, or how our issues manifest as we move through our adolescent lives and into our work.

And the second thing we should be investing in is life!

This is a responsibility for every parent or guardian across the planet…

Invest in your children in the context of life! Don’t force them into a study they aren’t interested in, if they don’t like the violin or the piano, but you didn’t have that opportunity, then just let it go, that’s your anxiety, it shouldn’t become theirs! Not everyone had to be a doctor or a lawyer just because you perceive that as success… You’re not setting them up for life, you’re creating time bomb and someone else is going to have to deal with the trigger.

If you’re fat and lazy, then get up anyway, if you’re skinny and lazy, then get up anyway, cast aside the sodding iPad as a means of suppression and help them find their feet; and do it before their muscles turn to dust, because for the most it’s the kids arses that are getting the development… and they’re also getting a bit lippy!

The biggest regret of my life is that I didn’t follow my passions into adulthood. My anxiety and depression eventually consumed me to the point a few years back I could barely look you in the eye. Happily I really trained that out of myself, but for someone who’s life is about presentation that’s a tough metaphorical pill to swallow.

Now I’m stuck, trying to find some passion every day in some area of what I’ve become and trust me it’s the most difficult thing you will ever have to do, mental health issue or not, it’s debilitating and stuck in the wheel worrying about how to live another month living in a role that’s often not what you want it to be, it takes a huge amount of energy, but it also consumes and debilitates those around you. If I wasn’t so fast thinking on a commercial level, or I didn’t have the ability to make people major money then I’d be stuck, or dead.

I’m now too far gone by the fear, unless I suddenly meet a sugar momma or something (something my partner Anna suggests regularly), but if you’re an adult who’s unhappy and you’re in a role you hate, just find another one that brings you joy… no-one wants to hire a guy like me and pay them a full time wage with a flexible mental health work life balance, not when I’ve spent 14 years running my own business, without carving my way up the CV food-chain… but it’s not too late for you.

If you’re in a full time job and you hate it, find another 20 jobs that fit the bill and switch it up… you’ve got a monthly wage, so if you’re unhappy and they’re making you unhappy, then scout around change direction and do something you love!

If you’re not in a job and you’re depressed, then think long and hard about what you enjoy doing, not about how you rank on a social structure on the basis of that vocation. The best bit about not having a job, just as with breaking up with an ex-lover, is that now you’ve got options and if you’re struggling for money then know that you’re not going to sustain an income if the process of working that 9-5 makes you unhappy.

So if you like making pottery, doing the gardening, painting, talking to people about mental health, then follow that, because 1 pot sold at £100, when the clay cost £10 and you’ve lots of time, means that ten pots sold every month will rent a room and feed you, and if you have a passion then don’t let it go like I did…

Finally, if you’re sailing close to the wind as I am and you’re in a hamster wheel trying to find a way out, then know that there will come a time when you find that exit in the back. Just keep watching for the window, structure the crap you have to wade through, so there’s an end gain in view, even if that view seems distant. And most importantly, know that regardless of how rubbish you may feel on a regular basis, that we all feel like that, many of us for the most part daily and that savouring the humanity around us is the only way to bridge the gap.

So no!! The drugs don’t work… but I’ll tell you what does, finding strength through the energy and the humanity that surrounds us and binds us. Even though that all sounds a bit Obi Wan Kenobi.

You hear every novice mental health speaker chanting at their audience “we all have mental health” but in reality that change doesn’t start in our mind, it starts in our heart and in the soul behind every move we make in life. It’s in the bags you carried up the stairs, the tiny lift of the buggy for the mother getting on the train, the seat you gave up for the old chap on the bus on the way home, because you knew your legs would go a few more stops and he might feel that pain for a week afterwards.

It’s our entire consciousness that we need to shape and if you don’t try and find love in every aspect of who you are, then things will never change for you. Just unconditional love…

If you find that and channel it, then you’ll never go wrong, despite how dark life feels sometimes, I promise you that. Because it’s not all about us, it’s about all of us and we need to live for each-other… happiness is always better when shared.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit”

So get up! And go and plant some trees…


To see the BBC article on Drugs and Mental Health click here.

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