How to Stay on Psych Medication

November 4, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Let me just come right out and say it: psychiatric medications suck. They just do. Waking up every morning with your first thought to choking down brightly-colored circles, ovals and squares is a bad way to start the day. Similarly, having your last act at night be downing medication to induce what used to be the natural process of sleep is equally unfortunate.

But psychiatric medications are a reality for people with a mental illness. They are important. In fact, for many of us, without them we would have no chance at a life at all.

So if we admit we hate them, but admit we have to take them, how does one manage to stay on psychiatric medications?

Earlier, I wrote about medication non-compliance and how even people with the best of intentions sometimes go off their psych meds. For some people, it’s an oops and for others it’s an oof but either way it happens.

How to Stay on Psych Medication for a Mental Illness

  1. Make medications part of your routine - This is the more important thing you can do for yourself. You have to take the drugs at the same time every day so that you maintain an even dose of the chemical in your blood.
  2. Set a medication alarm. Most of us check our phones first thing in the morning. Make your phone yell at you until you take your meds. (You could also use a watch, alarm clock, or computer, just to name a few.)
  3. Put your medication in a place where you literally can’t miss it. The bathroom sink is one of my favorites as I know every morning I’ll be using my sink. As soon as I go to turn the water on, there are those bottles staring back at me. You can do this with bedtime meds too – put them on top of your toothpaste. You can’t miss it.
  4. Have extra meds on you. That way if you do forget, you can take them as soon as you remember.

I Can’t Remember If I Took My Psych Meds

Ah, completely understandable. It’s a tiny act that you do every day and it’s easy to forget whether you did it or not.

  1. Get a pill case - fill it up each day or each week (some of them even contain spots for the whole month). Dose out your meds and then you can always check the case to see whether you took them. (Of course, if you followed my first rule about putting them somewhere you would pour water on them, you wouldn’t need to do this.)
  2. When your alarm yells at you to take your meds do not turn it off until you take the meds! Don’t shut off the alarm and say “yeah right, I’ll get around to that.” Do it now.

I Can’t Remember to Take Psych Meds When I’m on Vacation

Vacations kill routines. It’s sort of the idea. This is great but it means you need to make doubly sure to employ extra techniques to remember to take your meds. If you change your routine I guarantee you will forget to take them!

I Don’t Want to Take My Psych Meds

Yup. I totally get it.

But I don’t care.

Stop being a whiny child. This is something you need to do. You’re sick and you’re trying to get better. You need to make a deal with yourself – I will take my meds no matter what until the next time I see my doctor, then we can discuss making changes.

And please, please, please remember that not wanting to take your meds is part of the disease! It’s one of the things that can indicate you’re getting worse! Do not compound this problem by listening to this self-sabotaging voice.

  1. Reward yourself for taking meds – have a hot fudge sundae after a successful week, you deserve it.
  2. Write out a list of reasons why you are taking medication. For example, to be less depressed, to be less erratic, so I can be there for my partner, and so on. Keep this list somewhere handy like tacked on the fridge.
  3. Ask others to remind you to take your meds. You may or may not feel comfortable with this, but it’s an option.
  4. Tell someone if you don’t take your meds. I know you’re not going to want to do this, but it’s about self-protection. If you’re going off meds without oversight by a doctor something is wrong. The people who love you need to know you're in danger.

Know this: people on chemotherapy don’t miss doses because if they do that, the treatment may not work – well, the same is true for you. Ultimately, you need to make this a priority; because, without your mental health, what else matters?

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, November 4). How to Stay on Psych Medication, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Natasha Tracy
November, 14 2010 at 10:19 am

Anything that makes it easier is worth doing, in my opinion. I know how brain dead I am when I wake up or when I'm tired and going to bed and the only thing that combats that is all the mechanisms I've put in place to tell me what to do.
Oh, and have you ever thought about writing on your bathroom mirror? You can't miss it. (Use non-permanent markers. I do it all the time.)
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
November, 14 2010 at 10:16 am

I do wish I had an answer to that problem. I've actually had to go off meds cold turkey myself because I can't afford them so I can identify with you.
The only thing I can say is try to work all the systems around you, all the mental health venues, any social workers, anyone who will talk to you and see if they know anything you don't. If you don't know about this, take a look at the services finder:
And you can always look to the drug company itself to help with the medication. Some drug companies will help people who can't afford their drug. I know it sounds weird, but some of them do.
I can understand your frustration. Good luck.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
November, 14 2010 at 10:13 am

Hi Carol,
Sounds like a good idea to me!
I hate the stigmas too. I hate the stigma of taking meds. But think of this, there's no stigmas to getting better and staying better.
I'm glad you're finding this helpful. Thanks for your comment.
- Natasha

November, 12 2010 at 10:46 pm

It sounds sad but I had to get a pill box that divided out all the meds I take at different days and different times a day and a notebook to write it all down in.
its still a struggle but it makes it easier.

November, 12 2010 at 7:17 pm

I would stay on my meds,if I could afford them. We have no insurance,and my medicaid was cut in Aug(which is also why I am not going to DBT therapy!). My meds are over $600.00 (at the pharmacy).That's a HOUSE PAYMENT!! My unemployment checks BARELY cover the house payment.The meds that I'm prescribed WORK(If I could afford to get them). My hubby has a job(through a "temp agency" = NO INSURANCE. His cheks pay for ALL OTHER EXPENSES(Except House Payment). This ECONOMY SUCKS!!!! P.S. Medicaid ended when my stepson turned 18(RULE: No "eligible child " in the household means No Medicaid ..... F'ed UP RULE!!!!!! :)

November, 11 2010 at 2:40 pm

Thank you for the article! I need to print this, put it in my med box and daily planner. Then, anytime I think I can do without my meds, I can read the article. I have stopped my meds several times and gotten very ill. I just hate the self-imposed stigma of mental illness and depression. I appreciate all information regarding depression, medication and mental illness. How I wish there was a quick fix to fix me.

November, 10 2010 at 8:46 am

Great article, Natasha - succinct yet powerful. And VERY helpful!

Natasha Tracy
November, 8 2010 at 11:37 am

Thanks Melissa. I am proud, yes. My ego swellith over.
And welcome to the fold. I look forward to seeing more from you.
- Natasha

Melissa Minotti
November, 8 2010 at 10:02 am

Congrats on your Bronze award!! I think that is just awesome! You should be very proud of yourself!! I am Melissa, by the way. Author of "Getting Through Tough Times" here on HealthyPlace. I just wanted to tell you that it's amazing what you're doing, and I hope to one day be such an amazing blogger as yourself! Congratulations!!! Peace & Love, Melissa Minotti

Leave a reply