I think more people need to know that there is nothing wrong with taking drugs. Psychiatric drugs, that is. Not hard drugs, like crack. That’s a bad plan. Probably should have led with that. Either way, I think a lot of people have a really negative reaction to psychiatric drugs (we’ll call them ‘meds’), because they either don’t understand why people need them or they’ve seen the negative effects they can have.
I was on meds for 8 years, then off for about 6 years, and now as of last week I am back on the wagon. Or off the wagon? I’ll say on the wagon because I’m getting back to being stable, happy, and healthy which is what being “on the wagon” is all about.
You may be wondering why someone even needs meds. I often hear people say that someone suffering with depression needs to “stop being so sad”, someone with OCD needs to “stop being so obsessive”, and someone with schizophrenia needs to “stop being be so paranoid”. Well here’s the deal – none of those people are being sad, obsessive, or paranoid by choice. Mental illness is not what happens when you’re having a rough patch; mental illness is often due to chemical imbalances in the brain.
Certain events can trigger someone with a mental illness to feel worse. A death of a loved one, losing a job, or developing a physical health condition can all worsen the symptoms. But sometimes the symptoms get worse without an external trigger. That’s what happened to me a few months ago.
Without warning or cause, my symptoms came back. When I decided to go off medication my psychiatrist warned me that mental illness can go “into remission”, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. After six years of med-free life I thought I had finally beaten my mental illness…and then the mood swings came back. And the racing thoughts. And the depression. And the anxiety. I was stubborn at first because there is still a horrible stigma that surround mental health, especially when it comes to medication. But then I realized that suffering in silence was a thousand times worse than a weird look someone might give me for taking Lithium. If people don’t understand, then they’re stupid and you should hang out with cooler people (like me!).
People think taking medication means you’re “crazy” or “unstable” but it actually means the opposite; it means you’re taking care of yourself and there’s nothing crazy about that. People with diabetes take medication, would you judge them for using insulin? Or cancer patients for getting chemo treatments? Illnesses need to medicated regardless of whether you can see them or not.
If you think you might benefit from taking medication, then go see a doctor. Just be sure to see a good one because 90% of them are horrible. Trust me, I’ve done the leg work. If you’re not sure, then try some lifestyle changes first. Exercise, diet, sleep, and meditation did wonders for me for many years, but my brain hates me so I need a little extra help.
And there is nothing wrong or shameful about that.