Struggling with Angels

[The poet Rainer Maria] Rilke said, “Don’t take away my devils, because my angels will leave too.” I say my angels have already fled; I’ll take the pill in a heartbeat.

Elyn R. Saks, Los Angele Times, January 29, 2011

via Elyn R. Saks: Mind matters – Page 2 – Los Angeles Times.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Gustave Dore, 1866

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Gustave Dore, 1866

Elyn Saks is discussing the difference in thinking when it comes to treating illness versus treating mental illness.

Too often, you would ask for a pill immediately if you are in pain or diagnosed with cancer or even have the sniffles, but when someone is diagnosed with mental illness, medication is often resisted by the patient.

The one similarity in thought I would identify, is that when the cold is gone, you will stop taking the cough medicine. Likewise, most people I’ve known who have been on psychotherapies have stopped taking their medications during times they felt mentally and emotionally good – only to lead to a crash as the medications which helped them get to that point left their system.

I say all this not as a huge believer in psychotherapies. I don’t trust them. I think they are overprescribed – just as pain medications – and that their usage actually harms maybe as many people as they help. But I think that problem stems from the way the physicians are taught to treat the illness as well as the method in which people take the medications.

Right now, in my daily work life, we are prescribing more and more oral chemotherapies. This is one of the fastest growing areas of treatment and has some wonderful potential to give patients more options besides intravenous medications as well as some more freedom while on treatments.

The fear, though, is that they will treat these medications similar to the way people take psychotherapies, pain medications, and cold medications – they will only take them when they feel bad, stop when they feel good, forget doses, double-dose to catch up, etcetera – with potentially life-threatening consequences.

We all struggle with our devils (or angels), be they illness or the treatment.

4 responses to “Struggling with Angels

  1. Pingback: Some Initial Book Recommendations | OT in Mental Health: A Young OT's Perspective·

  2. Oh, and I also learned by messing with your meds will sling shot you into a mania.

  3. I too, miss my devils. I feel like the best parts of me where medicated away. These past two months, I have been noncomplaint with my meds. I wanted to feel something else besides medicated blob on the couch. I scared a few people and they begged me to go back on my meds. My husband even offered me 5 dollars a day, just to swallow them.

    • I won’t even pretend to give advice on the subject. I don’t have training and my experience is from watching friends and family. The reaction of each person to meds – especially psychotherapeutics – is so individual. It makes me think a little of how, at work, we work with patients on blood thinners and – sometimes weekly – are adjusting the dosage. The difference is that there is an easy fingerstick blood test to monitor the need. It’s slightly more complicated when dealing with the brain and emotions.

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