Waiting to get better . . . What are YOU waiting for???

” . . . . soooooooooo doc . . . when is this medicine going to kick in . . . ?”


Oh, that it was so easy.  The above question is misplaced, however.  Over and over I meet with patients who are on various medications that are shifted and moved and changed and what not.  Waiting and waiting.  Watching for some signs that THIS is the ONE medicine that will FINALLY make the difference and all will be healed.

Oh, that it was so easy.

Beyond a doubt, the most frustrating aspect of having AND treating emotional illness is how it saps your resolve to make things different.  The hope that is placed on medication is mis-placed.  Not that medication does not have a role in the healing process.  It does.  But to put those little pills in your mouth and then to go wait for life and circumstance to improve is  a recipe for failure.  I certainly see it in many of my patients and many of you out there are living it.  You may have stumbled upon this site looking for advice on that ONE MEDICINE that might do the trick and kick in and make life FINALLY better.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news . . . but that is rarely how it works.  Or IF it works that way, there is often a slow and gradual return of symptoms that is disheartening and frightening.

The bottom line is that if you want your life to be different and you want your moods and emotions to be different, you have to DO things differently.  Living life the same way month after month, year after year, and then complaining that nothing is different is a bit circular.  How can things get different if you don’t become different.  How can life be better if you don’t do something to make it better.  Medication can have a significant role in helping you, but ultimately, YOU must make your life different.

So, what are you supposed to do?  How should I know . . . I don’t know you!!  I certainly don’t have some magic recipe for getting better.  We are all too different for healing to be prescribed in a cookie-cutter way.  There are basic guidelines that . . . ahem . . . you already know.  Yes . . . YOU ALREADY KNOW.

Like . . .

1.   Get a good nights sleep.  Yes that might mean taking some medicine for some who have sleep disorders, but it might also mean making some vvvveeeerrrryyyy scaaaaaaaaaaary changes in your life like . . . getting up early . . . taking the TV out of your room . . . keeping busy all day to tire your body out . . . cleaning all the clutter out of your room so that it is a positive environment . . . you know . . . all the things you already know you should do.

2.  Get some exercise.  That doesn’t mean spending a lot of money on a gym membership and trying to fit one more thing into an over busy life.  It means . . . go for a walk.  Do some light calisthenics . . . you know . . . like you learned in 6th grade gym class.  Lift some light weights (even a can of peas will do).

3.  Get some face time with nature.  Go for a walk in nature (see #2 above).  Go watch some birds.  Look for bugs in a dead tree stump.  Weed your garden.  Go have a picnic lunch under a tree.

4.  Work on your spirituality.  This takes on many shapes and forms.  Whether it means going to church/synagogue/mosque or it means taking a yoga class and meditating.  Getting in touch with that energy at the root of all creation is key to feeling better.  It is key to breaking out of our “I and how I feel are at the center of the universe” mentality.

5.  Go see a therapist and work on how you manage the stresses in your life.  I got news for you.  Just complaining about  how your boss or your spouse is jerk does nothing to make you feel better.  You gotta THINK differently about the various people in your life that “cause” you stress.  They don’t “cause” you stress.  How YOU think about them and what they do “causes” the stress.

Now . . . honestly . . . you already knew this stuff, didn’t you???

The medication that is prescribed can be helpful.  It is not THE answer.  Healing and health is an active process.  Your active involvement in the process is key to success.  Go make some changes.  Go do the things that you know you should be doing.  Go live life to the fullest.

–Dan Hartman, MD

5 comments to Waiting to get better . . . What are YOU waiting for???

  • ted

    yea……i heard all this before…..but i needed to hear it again…sometimes we do get wrapped up in the search for a “magic” pill…..and i know if some of us have to take medicine so be it……but that doesnt relieve us from doing our part…..it takes work…..and i need to get back to it…

  • ted

    i guess i was always told depression, anxiety and bipolar are all dieseases…which made me believe that the outcome of my life, even day to day, did depend on the medicine…so i guess id like to ask….is depression a disease? i have always thought of it as something like cancer, diabetes, something like that except something wrong with my brain….

  • Ted– It IS a disease . . . a “dis-ease” . . . which is not unlike many of the “disorders of the ease” of the body. Such illnesses as hypertension, some forms of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc . . . are illnesses of mind/body. Our habits make a huge impact on our physical health and reforming our ways of living our life can have a dramatic impact on these areas of physical health. One of the great leaps forward that we must make in our concept of illness and management of illness is to see that how we lead our lives can impact on the course of physical issues in our life. Therefore, we can certainly use medications to help the biology along, but we must also utilize changes in our lifestyle to help those changes take place more quickly and more effectively.

    –DH MD

  • Paula

    That is certainly helpfull info! I’ve been taking Wellbutrin XL 150 for 3 weeks and it seems like it’s not working, but you’re right that we need to work on ourselves to make our lives better, simply taking the med won’t take the stress and other problems away.

    Just wish the pills would kick in earlier….4-6 weeks seems like a long time….

  • doctordan

    Paula–it is very frustrating to wait for improvement. Hang in there best you can. If you have no side effects and absolutely no improvement by week 4, it is not unreasonable to push the dose up to 300. Call your doc and ask.