Olanzapine: what I wish I had known
Have you ever struggled with anxiety, sleeplessness or depression? Here's one experience where taking meds and overcoming a fear of side effects helped.
I got to a point of just wanting - or needing - to hand over control, to stop the noise in my head, pause the constant racing thoughts in my mind - to be able to just be still, rest, not have to fight myself anymore.
Olanzapine gave me that opportunity in a way; it gave me peace for the first time in months. It didn’t stop the pain or the anxiety, but it gave me the ability to rest, sleep, and relax.
Olanzapine is a drug that is feared particularly for the notorious weight-gain side effect, which, if I’m honest, is one of the reasons I refused it several times before actually taking it. The term ‘antipsychotic’ and ‘sedative’ did not particularly make me want to take it either!
At the time, my eating was disordered, and the thought of gaining weight and not having the ability to exercise due to the drug's sedative effect was quite terrifying. The idea of medicine-induced weight gain was horrendous. But the reality for me was that, despite my fears, I didn't gain weight.
My weight remained stable and my appetite didn’t soar. I didn’t become zombified – I could sleep at night but was awake and able to function again in the morning - and for the first time in a very long time I gained an ability to sit and be myself. My thoughts stopped rushing and the anxious chatter in my head ceased.
Naturally, the fact I was an inpatient at the time could partially explain my improvement, but I think it was also to do with the medication. I have used olanzapine several times since, successfully starting it and stopping it without any real issue.
Starting a drug can be scary, especially one that comes with various negative associations, but if I could go back and tell myself one thing or do one thing, it would be to ignore any assumptions I had about the drug before taking it. I wish that I could have listened to my desire to get better over the fear of a name and a couple of side effects.
I know I couldn’t have started taking olanzapine any earlier than I did, that mentally the fear of the medication was too strong for me to fight on top of the illness I was battling, but looking back, stable in recovery, I am glad that the option was pretty much removed. No, it didn’t make me ‘better’ - I did that - but it gave me the rest and space I needed so desperately at that time.
Questions about mental health medication?
If you would like to know more about the different types of mental health medication you could be prescribed, how they help and what the side effects could be, have a look at our guide to medications.