We were on Route 9 in between Kremmling and Silverthorne, Colorado. Our ultimate destination was Colorado Springs. To say that we were out in the boonies was an understatement. Mountains rose up to the right and left of us. I was enjoying the solitude when suddenly my cell phone rang.
Who could be calling me?
It was a New York City area code and a phone number that I didn’t immediately recognize. I was surprised I could even get cell phone service at this altitude.
“Hello,” I said.
“Laura, it’s Maria. I’m calling your from Switzerland.” (Maria’s husband was from Switzerland, and they often vacationed there.)
Maria was my friend John’s sister. I feared the worst. Had John passed? “Maria…what’s up?”
“I’m here with my friend Gerda, whom I’ve known for over 30 years. She has some of the same issues you do; she’s bipolar.”
“O.K.,” I said.
“We’re calling you for advice.”
I was a bit taken aback. “Well, I’m no doctor, but I’ll try to help.”
In a nutshell, Gerda was taking an anti-anxiety med, and she was having terrible side effects with it. She couldn’t stop pacing. Her doctor was going to prescribe a different medicine to control the side effects.
I’d been on that med before, and I too had not liked it. “Maria, that’s an older anti-anxiety med. Tell Gerda to ask her doctor to try Abilify. I’ve found this to be a great medication with no noticeable side effects.”
“Thanks, Laura. I’ll tell Gerda.”
What is the moral of this story?
Of course, only a doctor can prescribe psychotropic drugs, but the individuals in the trenches who take the meds have had some knowledge of them.
If you’ve had a mental health issue like I have for a long time (26 years), people may look to you for advice. If so, remember, you don’t have the final word, but you can share your experiences with meds and treatments.
In my opinion, giving a drug to counteract the side horrible side effects of another drug was a bad idea. That’s why I suggested that Gerda ask her doctor to try this newer medication.
But there is a time and a place to give advice. If it is solicited, think about offering it, as I did. If it’s not, you could get into trouble. People might tell you to mind your own business, or worse.
Once my friend Jennifer wanted to switch her medications, but she was just about to begin a new job. Most everyone would agree that it is not advised to change medications before a major life change. I told Jennifer that this probably was not a good idea, and she didn’t speak to me for a few months. So much for giving unsolicited advice — watch out.
Being bipolar is no fun, but it does give you new knowledge about the extremes of life and how to deal with them. In many ways, you are an expert.
I have to say, I’ll never forget that phone call from Switzerland. People have asked me for advice before, but never from so far away. I felt honored that I could help someone who desperately needed help.
Only time will tell. Abilify might not even be the med for Gerda. The point is that her doctor needs to try another one, in my opinion, or Gerda needs to get a new doctor.
So if you have a mental health issue, don’t be surprised if people approach you to discuss it with them. The important thing is to be honest and let your experience do the talking.
I myself ask my bipolar friends about the medications they take and how they react. It’s comforting to hear about their success with a “good” med or commiserate over their dissatisfaction with “bad” one.
Sometimes the grass roots approach will be beneficial for many individuals.