All medicine comes with side effects. Sometimes you hear a commercial for some new medicine and it lists the side effects, and you think the side effects are worse than the condition it’s intended to treat. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even death. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? I must admit, it makes me not want to take medicine when I hear things like that. Unfortunately, it is often a necessity and we must weigh the benefits against the negative side effects. It can be a delicate balance and a fine line to walk but one we are often forced into walking.
One of the side effects of the medications I take for schizoaffective disorder is called “akathisia”. It is an inner restlessness that manifests as a need to continually move. Some people pace around a lot, feeling it mostly in their legs. I get this side effect but it is mostly in my upper body. I sit and rock back and forth sometimes, working out the agitation and restlessness as I do. It is an uncomfortable feeling and one I would rather not have to deal with, but it is what it is. The medication helps with my other symptoms so it is a trade-off, a more sound mind for a little restlessness. I can deal with that. I also have a prescription for a medication to lessen the effects of akathisia that I take if it gets too bad, which it usually doesn’t.
Another common side effect of this type of medication is sedation. Some of these medications are quite sedating, causing people who take them to sleep many hours a day and often to feel groggy even when they are awake. Thankfully, I do not deal with this on the medication I am currently taking, although I have in the past. Some medications are worse than others and if one is causing you a problem you can often switch to another one that is less sedating. That is the case with many side effects. One drug may affect you one way and another a different way. No two patients are the same, either. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another and it takes time and fine tuning to dial in that right combination.
Something else that people on these medications deal with is weight gain. This has never really been a problem for me, even though I am a big guy naturally. Many people put on substantial amounts of weight, not only from the medication but also from the combination of having a lack of motivation to exercise and also the sedation of the medication itself. This too can be mitigated by trying different medications until you get the right one. Also, working towards having a healthy diet and exercising regularly can go a long way in reducing this effect in your life. That is often easier said than done by someone who is struggling with something like severe depression or schizophrenia, but it is possible.
Sometimes it feels like taking medication is a gamble. Is all this worth the hassle of dealing with all the side effects? For some, the answer is yes and for some, it is no. When I was younger and first started taking medication I felt extremely doped up and slowed down. I didn’t like it and quit taking the medication, only to see my condition get worse. It took many years before I came to the place where I would stay on the medication and work towards my recovery. I have been blessed to find a good doctor and a good combination of medications that reduce my symptoms and, at the same time, produce very little in the way of side effects. This is something I am thankful for and something I don’t take for granted. Many people struggle with these things ever day and I pray that they would find relief from all this.
What exactly is a side effect? I would define it as an unintended consequence resulting from something we do. Taking medication can treat a primary problem while, at the same time, causing other issues that have to be dealt with. In the same way, my relationship with Christ has had some side effects, causing issues in my life that I didn’t foresee coming. Whereas the side effects of medications are usually always negative, the side effects of a relationship with Christ are overwhelmingly positive. I have received more than I ever bargained for and am walking in the life of Christ on a daily basis, relying on His goodness to get me through each day. It is working for me and I couldn’t be happier.
One side effect of my walk with Christ is peace. While I believed I would gain salvation from my sins when I came to Him, I didn’t anticipate the degree of peace I would have. In all that I deal with, I have what the Bible calls “the peace of God”. It is an inner peace that doesn’t correspond to my situation or result from what is going on in my life. I can be having the worst day of my life but still have peace, knowing that God is in control and is going to get me through it all. This arises from the promise of Jesus in Matthew chapter 28 that He is with me always, even to the end of the age. I take this promise for what it is and rest in the fact that I am not alone as I go through this life. The Holy Spirit comforts me and brings home the message and I am empowered to trust in Christ to take care of me.
Another side effect I have from knowing Christ is joy. While I would be lying if I said I was always happy, I do have joy. The difference, I would say, is that happiness is dependent on your situation and circumstances, while joy is an inner quality that you can have even in bad times. I have received so much joy from the Lord and it is my strength in the darkest of times. While life gets me down at times and the depression can be quite severe, I always have that spark of life in me that comes from the joy of the Lord, knowing that I am not alone and He is there, taking care of me. It is what gets me through and allows me to recover from the hard times, maintaining hope that what He promised in Scripture will come to pass and all my problems are temporary. I rejoice in knowing the Lord and in the fact that one day I will be with Him in a place with no sorrow or suffering, even if I am going through a temporary trial in this life.
These side effects are what is known in the Bible as the “fruit of the Spirit”. They can be found listed in Galatians chapter 5 and are the fruit that is brought forth in our lives as we yield ourselves to Christ and live by His Spirit. Salvation and forgiveness from sins is the primary motive for coming to Christ but, as we go on with Him, the Holy Spirit will bring forth these things in an increasing abundance in our lives if we let Him. These are the things that mark a mature believer and are evidence that we are walking in the Spirit as children of God. They are the opposite of the works of the flesh and are more than simply positive character traits. It is a supernatural manifestation, producing these things in your life, and one that God delights in.
For those who lack peace and joy in your lives, I would invite you to come to Christ. While He never promises to take away all your problems, He does offer the power to overcome them on a daily basis. I am a witness to the power and goodness of Jesus in my life and His ability to bring healing and grace to the lowest of the low. Anyone is welcome to come, for the call is to all who would believe. He is the one our soul longs for and was created for. He is the one who can put it all together and make sense of this life that we have been given here in this world. Coming to Christ is the best decision I have ever made and I urge you to do the same. Let Him into your life and see what a difference He makes.