Tag Archives: medication

Prescription medication vs herbal remedies

I’m almost a little scared to write about this, because it seems like these to very distinctive camps simply cannot agree. But in this post I don’t want to discuss which one is better than the other, or what I prefer. I just want to bring some facts to everyone’s attention, and hopefully give some insight. I’ll do my best to keep my personal opinion to myself.

Most people who prefer to uses herbal stuff are all-natural, free range, organic kind of people. The whole thing, as I understand it, is about not putting anything that the earth didn’t produce itself, into your body. I think. I respect that. The prescription drugs we take to keep our brains under control can have nasty side-effects and while they are good for your brain, they’re not always so good for your body. But is herbal remedies really that much better, just because it is only made from plants and things?

My major problem (and hopefully the last of my opinions) with herbal remedies is that it leaves waaaaay too much room to be swindled out of your money with nothing to show for it. A quick google search shows you that you can use anything from lavender to kava to a whole lot of unpronounceable herbs to ‘cure’ your depression. And these drugs are not tested by the FDA. Often, or dare I say most of the time, no studies were performed on these remedies, or the sample size was very tiny. So we can’t even know what the side-effects are most of the time, until we experience it. If you take a remedy with say hibiscus, your whole oral cavity can swell up and you wouldn’t have known that it would happen. At least when I took anti-convulsants, I knew of the possibility that a rash could develop.

The other major problem is that herbal remedies aren’t usually tested to find out how they interact with other herbal remedies, or western medicine. Maybe someone can help me with this one (honest question because I really don’t know): I’ve never used St. John’s Wart, mostly because the leaflets in my medicine boxes says it can cause a bad reaction. My question is if St. John’s Wart comes with the same warning label? How about its interaction with ibuprofen, paracetamol, codeine etc? Is it safe?

I understand why someone would want to use herbal remedies instead of medication for things like insomnia, anxiety, depression, energy etc. Heck, I used to use them for anxiety and insomnia. They aren’t addictive, for one. And maybe some of them actually work and are safer. I didn’t experience any side-effects from the ones I tried. But then again I didn’t experience any effects at all!

So here’s what I’m saying: Don’t dis western prescription medication. They have been tried and tested and refined. Sure, they can be bad for you, but there is at least some science behind them. You can talk to various specialists and while they won’t agree 100%, they will agree on the principles. And don’t start the ‘big pharma’ debate where I can hear you. If it wasn’t for medication I wouldn’t be typing here, I’d be dead by my own hand.

If you prefer herbal remedies, that is your prerogative, and if you have found something that has been proven safe AND effective, please let me know so I can check it out. But before you stick anything into your mouth, whether herbal or not, DO YOUR RESEARCH. And that’s not just checking the first site you can find on google. Find at least three corroborating  sources. TALK TO AN EXPERT, whether traditional alternative therapy practitioners, or western trained doctors, and make sure you find out about possible side-effects and interactions. MONITOR CHANGES TO YOUR BODY, just like you would with anything else you take. DON’T GRAB THE FIRST THING YOU SEE, because more expensive is not necessarily better. CHECK THAT THE MANUFACTURER IS CREDIBLE.

Don’t be a sheep and don’t be taken for a fool either. No matter what you choose to treat yourself with, be sure to check the facts and get your bang for your buck.

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“Just” Bipolar Disorder: A bit of perspective

I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks. A situation arose at work that has created a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere. This situation also brought with it many exhausting and time consuming meetings. I have not felt like doing anything with my free time except sleep. Until a series of events today gave me a wake-up call.

I was standing in front of our offices having a smoke with my morning coffee when a colleague of mine came out. We work on projects together but she is my superior and we don’t know each other very well personally. I do know that her son has cancer and underwent an operation. I was surprised when she walked out towards me. When she got to me she just broke down. I held her and stroked her hair while she was crying uncontrollably. She told me about the complications with his operation and how she didn’t know if he was going to make it. She told me about her granddaughter who is suppose to be writing exams and her daughter who also has health issues. I waited with her until her husband came to pick her up. She told me how she couldn’t understand why this was happening. I was caught off guard. As she shared some of her life with me, I shared some of mine. Not to make her feel that what she was going through was anything less than horrific, but to reveal myself as a fellow sufferer.

This evening, just as I was about to head out the door to my church small group meeting, I received a message from a friend telling me that another friend’s dad passed away today. It came as a shock, and I am waiting to hear about he circumstances and what I can do to support him. I was caught off guard.

We had just gotten our meeting started and were chatting about our weeks when one of the girls walked in, late because she written a test. She had barely walked two steps when she had a seizure. No one could catch her in time and she fell and hit her head. Luckily someone in the group knew how to keep her cool under pressure and could give instructions. I have some experience with Epilepsy so I knew how to comfort her. After the fit had passed, I held her hand and stroked her hair and kept telling her to breathe while the others were looking for emergency contacts and phoning doctors. We managed to get her to a bed and she came out of it after about half an hour, and she was okay. I didn’t want her to feel too embarrassed as we don’t know each other that well, I didn’t want her to feel like I’m judging because I didn’t understand. She felt bad about the gaps in her memory, so I told her mine has gaps too, from episodes I can’t fully remember. I revealed myself as a fellow sufferer. I still got home shaking. I was caught completely off guard.

I know if I wasn’t on medication I would have been a total nervous mess by now. But it wasn’t about me and I provided support to these people to the best of my abilities. It did make me realise that I often feel very sorry for myself or like my life sucks when really being able to have an existential crisis is a luxury. I’m not playing down the seriousness of my own illness, not at all. I’ve experienced first hand the damage it can do. And I always say that we can’t compare ‘burdens’, because no matter big or small, life is difficult.

I guess what I realised today is that life can always be worse. Things happen that people are completely unprepared for and in a second life can change. I took my evening meds with a little prayer of thanks, that I have meds that work and have stabilised me and that my illness is one that can be managed. I have reached a point where I know it well enough so it doesn’t often catch me off guard. Although I’m sure it will again.

Having Bipolar Disorder sucks, a lot, and I’m definitely not denying that. But there are people, GOOD people, experiencing the same or worse suffering than we are, and I feel quite privileged that I could somehow just be there for people how deserve so much respect for the way they keep going despite their circumstances. There is a certain beauty that is revealed in that state of vulnerability, from both sides. I don’t know if I’m getting my point across effectively, but I suppose what I’m trying to say that suffering is an integral part of the human condition. No one can get away from it, and every person deals with their own form. If those who suffer, regardless of what they suffer from, can support each other, the shared burden will be much easier for everyone to bear.