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Why I'm Taking an Antipsychotic for Life

A Personal Perspective: Making a life choice for me and those I care about.

Key points

  • Taking an antipsychotic long-term can be a preventative care measure.
  • The decision to stay on an antipsychotic can be an indicator of wellness.
  • Taking an antipsychotic is an act of personal responsibility that helps ensure well-being.
Yaroslav Shuraev / Pexels
Yaroslav Shuraev / Pexels

I have decided to take an antipsychotic for life. I am making this choice even though I have been in complete remission from any symptoms of schizophrenia for the last 11 years. My psychiatrist fully encourages and supports my continued use, seeing it necessary to guarantee a long-term positive health outcome. Making this personal decision has been a long process, but now it is clear and evident to me. Part of my hesitancy has been the stigma surrounding the use of antipsychotics and what others might think if they knew I take this sort of drug, but now that cloud of stigma has lifted so I can make clear medical care choices. These are my reasons.

Not Worth The Risk

Going off the antipsychotic just for the sake of not taking one anymore is not worth the risk. I would rather be on an antipsychotic than ever risk hospitalization again. It is not worth the risk of cognitively and emotionally recovering from another psychotic break, as doing so is a challenging, lengthy endeavor. Every psychotic break you have makes it harder to bounce back and recover, so the next break would be even harder to recover from than my earlier ones.

My psychotic breaks are the worst thing to happen to me in my life, and I will do everything I can for them not to happen again. There is no greater risk for me than having another psychotic break, where it is riskier to go off an antipsychotic than stay on one indefinitely. Even though I still experience some frustrating side effects of being on an antipsychotic, the benefits outweigh the risks.

I Have Nothing to Prove

At times during my illness, in between psychotic breaks, I thought it meant something redemptive about me if I wasn’t on antipsychotics. I had a psychiatrist at the time who took me off the antipsychotic because he thought my first break was a one-time thing and because of a rare side effect caused by antipsychotics. I didn’t challenge him because I felt that not being on an antipsychotic confirmed that I was okay as a person and not "crazy." Since I had another psychotic episode shortly after that psychiatrist took me off the medicine, I know now that I need to be on an antipsychotic. Letting him take me off the medication is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

Everyone important in my life, including my husband and toddler, know I take medicine. It is not a secret I keep, and I no longer see my antipsychotic as different and stigmatized compared to my other medications. Instead of striving to be off the medicine as an indicator of my sanity, I see it as preventative care. Since I am doing so well and have felt well for so long, I don’t think about taking an antipsychotic the same way I used to, and I have nothing to prove to myself or others related to whether I take it or not.

Too Much at Stake

Taking an antipsychotic gives me peace of mind that I am doing my part and doing what I can to ensure that a psychotic break never happens again. I must be self-aware and look for warning signs, of course. However, taking my antipsychotic is a safety net and an insurance policy that I probably won’t ever have to endure that level of suffering again. I have too much at stake now.

Over the past 11 years in complete remission, I have built a career, gotten married, given birth, and am raising a toddler. I have too many great things that I could jeopardize—and for what—getting to say to people that I don’t take an antipsychotic? Is taking one less medication out of principle more critical than risking my health?

I believe my decision to stay on an antipsychotic is the final phase of recovery and an indicator that I am well again. In my case, personally, it would be unreasonable to go off the antipsychotic at this point.

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