A Rant on Mental Health Medication and Shame
As of next month, I will have been on medication for my mental health for three years.
And in that time, let me tell you how things have changed. When I first approached my doctor about the issues I was having, I was struggling with crippling anxiety caused by undiagnosed OCD that was getting so bad I had panic attacks daily, leading to serious bouts of depression that were making it near-impossible for me to function on a day-to-day basis. It took a few weeks to start working in a way that really made a difference, but when it did, the shift in my life felt literally miraculous.
And yet, I still come across people on the regular all too willing to tell me that my use of medication for my mental health problems is a crutch, an addiction that I need to kick, that I just need to try a little harder with the whole foods and the yoga and the meditation and everything else and I will be cured of all those niggling little issues that made me want to die. People who seem to think that medicating mental illness is admittance of a weakness of character and a fall-back for people too lazy to do the work necessary to improve their circumstances. Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of it. And quite frankly, I am ready to fucking rant.
Let me be quite clear: when I first went on medication, I was at a point in my life where I was considering suicide. I was miserable, in a bone-deep way that all the good intentions and yoga and vegan food couldn’t fix. Being at that level of unwellness is truly exhausting, especially when it comes to anxiety, a constant energy-suck of high-tension and panic that renders almost everything else impossible. I was so depressed that the thought of even doing stuff I liked was uninteresting for me, let alone trying to take the healthy steps towards a more solid groundwork of mental wellbeing.
I have truly got nothing against people who find that non-medical remedies for their mental illness work for them. Honestly, I’m happy for you. And I totally agree that a good diet and a little exercise and some mindfulness and self-care are probably going to help most people form a more sturdy basis on which to build their mental health – I know that’s the case for me, too.
But the notion that these things are or should be enough is just one that pisses me off no end. When I was medicated for the first time, I literally did not have room in my head for anything other than screaming panic or Big Depression Void; medication helped me find a little clearing in the middle of that mess and catch my breath for a moment, in a way that I hadn’t been able to for literal months. Meds gave me the space to work on things in a meaningful way, and if I hadn’t been able to find the correct medication at the time that I did, I honestly do not think I would be where I am right now. I’ve been in therapy for a couple of years now, able to work on grounding myself and finding techniques that really make a difference for me, and I doubt I would have been able to find the space to do that if I hadn’t been on meds this whole time.
Accepting that kind of help felt like I was admitting my failure, my inability to look after myself the way other people seemed to be able to, but really, that was just the miserable depression ball in my head talking. I needed that shit, and I still do (oof, come talk to me after I forgot to call in my standing prescription and had to go a few days without my pills). Will there be a point in the future where I don’t? Honestly, there might be, and I hope so – I am glad I have this medication for now, but if I could confidently go off of it and live my life without it, of course I would. I can’t think of many people who are popping perscribed pills every day to manage their health just for the fun of it.
But if I do have to stay on them? I will. And I’m going to do it without the stupid, baseless shame that some people project on to taking medication for mental illness. I do all the “right” things, all the yoga and whole foods and positive affirmations that I can, and I still need to be on this medication to help me live the life that I want to live. Am I reliant on it? Yes! And as long as it stays that way, I’d deeply appreciate it if everyone who thinks I just need to “kick my habit” could sincerely and genuinely kick themselves, instead.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out my other blog, No But Listen, as well as my fiction work! You can also support me on Patreon to help keep this blog running and keep my very demanding little cat in treaties, and me out of her clutches for another month yet.