I want to take this time to address an issue I have noticed these past few weeks; the issue of shaming people for using medication for their mental health disorders. First of all, unless you have a mental health disorder (or have a PhD in the field), you cannot understand what it’s like to have one. I don’t care how many psychology classes you’ve taken or how many people you know that struggle with mental health- you will never understand what it is like until you have lived it first hand. Your internet research does not give you the right to tell people the right and wrongs ways to treat their disorders. Forcing people to do things that make them uncomfortable does not help them “get over it” because it is not something you can just get over; it’s a disorder, just like lung cancer.
Secondly, those of us who struggle with mental illness are just as fed up with it as you are, in fact we are 100 times more fed up with it. We are constantly begging our brains to just give us an hour, a minute, even a second of peace. We are well aware that our brains are broken, but that doesn’t mean we know how to fix them. We are extremely aware of our disorders, but that doesn’t mean we can make them stop. You’re annoyed that your friend can’t go out to dinner because she is too anxious? Think of how annoyed she must feel. You don’t want to invite your friend along because you are sick of him always being depressed? Do you honestly believe he isn’t sick of it too? You wish your friend would just stop having mood swings all the time? So does she! We do not choose to live this way, but that doesn’t mean we are able to just turn it off.
Now, I know that some people are able to overcome their disorders without the use of medication. Some use different types of talk therapy, some use meditation and other relaxation techniques, some engage in self-help type things, the list goes on and on. But some of us use medication to treat mental illness. I am one of those people. I want to tell you my story and how I got to where I am, but first, let me make a few things clear. I am not ashamed of who I am. My brain has limitations that most people’s don’t have. It happens, and that’s not a bad thing. If people are going to treat me differently, judge me, or avoid me because of this, then that’s fine; those are not the people I need in my life. I do not want to hear how I should “stop taking that crap,” and how “medication is a ruse created by doctors to get more money,” or “how mental illness is all in my head.” Yes, it is all in my head; that’s the weird thing about mental (which means brain) disorders. My disorder is a part of who I am, and people will just need to accept that.
I sought medication to treat my anxiety and depression a little over a year ago. I had tried just about everything else, but nothing was working. I had even made a list of “Anxiety Accomplishments” in one of my journals, where I wrote down the things I had done despite how anxious they made me. What was on that list? Things like “Went grocery shopping alone, even though the store was busy,” “Made a doctor’s appointment,” and “Ordered at Subway alone, even though there was a long line.” These are the types of things my anxiety inhibited me from doing; simple, everyday tasks that most people don’t think twice about doing. I decided something more needed to be done, so I went to get a prescription for some kind of medication to help.
According to my screening, I had severe anxiety coupled with moderate depression. It is likely that my anxiety caused and fueled my depression, but that wasn’t definite. However, it was clear that something needed to be done about my anxiety, because even my doctor couldn’t believe I had been functioning as well as I had been for so long. After nearly a year of trial and error of different drugs, different dosages, and even a different doctor, I know take 60 milligrams of duloxetine every night before I go to bed. I have been on this medication with this dosage for almost a month, so it’s not definite yet, however I have noticed many changes. The most obvious being that I can finally sleep. I used to toss and turn for hours before finally falling asleep and wake up several times during the night. Now, I fall asleep at a decent time and stay asleep. This alone has helped me immensely.
Other things I have noticed? I can talk to people, I can order my food without panic, I can sit next to a stranger in class without freaking out, I can go my chiropractor without thinking about it obsessively, I can actually say how I feel about certain things, I’m not afraid to disagree with my friends, and that’s just scratching the surface. I haven’t had an anxiety attack since June, which has to be a new record for me. I don’t get stomach aches every day, and I can finally breathe without feeling like something is sitting on my chest. I can sit alone without feeling self-conscious, and I can share my blog with people I know. I can talk and write about my anxiety and depression without fear.
I know medication isn’t for everyone, and there are side effects- some of them scary ones. For some, they just don’t work very well. Sometimes other options work better for some people. I’m not saying medication is the greatest thing ever and everyone who struggles with a mental disorder should try it. All I’m saying is that it is perfectly fine to need it. It is fine to feel better from it. It is fine to take it in order to function normally. There is nothing wrong with using medication to treat your mental illness. We need to stop making people feel like there is. People aren’t ashamed to need allergy medication, because allergies is something they can’t control. It’s the exact same thing with mental illness; you can’t always control it, so you shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it. You shouldn’t feel the need to hide the fact that you need medication for your own mental health. People without these disorders have the same neurotransmitters in their brains as the ones that come from your medication; you just need a little extra help getting them. Stop worrying about becoming reliant on your medication, because neuro-typical people are just as reliant on their neurotransmitters as you are on the ones in your medication. If you can’t make your own neurotransmitters, store bought is perfectly fine.