***TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE MENTION***
The other day, I was scrolling through my Instagram, when I came across this image.
And I see what people are getting at with this, I really do. I do believe that antidepressant drugs are often used in situations when a talking therapy would be more effective.
However, to say that psychotropic medication is shit, or that it could be replaced by something as simple as a walk in the forest is simply not true. I should know. It’s scary to admit, but by the time I turn 20 in April, I will have been using medication to help me cope with my mental disorders for a quarter of my life.
It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something I refuse to be made to feel ashamed of. When you admit to taking medication for your mental health, there are a lot of people that take it upon themselves to comment, and often in doing so, perpetuate myths that surround use of medication:
‘You should try yoga instead’
‘That stuff will flatten your personality’
‘You won’t be you’
‘It’s just a corporate scheme to get you hooked’
‘It’s not worth the side effects’
‘It’s all a placebo’
My therapist suggested I tried medication when I was 15, after I’d regained the weight I’d lost during my experience of anorexia. Anorexia had been my choice of numbing technique: my way of not dealing with my feelings. When I regained the weight, I lost that (incredibly inadvisable) coping mechanism, and my emotions were unbearable: I contemplated and attempted suicide more than once*. I didn’t have any time in which I could focus on my underlying problems, because I was using all my energy trying not to act on self-destructive urges. It was clear I couldn’t continue in this way. So medication was placed on the table, and despite my initial doubts- many of which were based on my internalisation of the social stigma surrounding mental health drugs- I was persuaded. And I’m infinitely grateful that I was.
Taking medication is not a sign of weakness
I take medication because I need to. If I were to suffer chronic physical pain, I would be prescribed a drug to help me live my life despite that pain. My mental disorders mean I suffer chronic emotional pain, and so I treat it accordingly.
Taking medication does not suppress your authentic self
There are some people that find their medication does leave them feeling somewhat ‘flat’ in the personality department, but this is far less common than you would think. If anything, I find that being medicated actually allows me to be my authentic self: because I’m not spending my time having panic attacks or crumpled up in a ball, I’ve been able to make it to university, travel around Europe, start a successful poetry blog, take up pole dancing and perform at various college events. I am more myself now than I ever was, and at least in part, that is because I am on medication.
To start taking medication does not mean you will always need to take medication
Self-explanatory really- the vast majority of those who take anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication will do so to get them through a relatively brief period in their life, be it months or years.
Medication is not a lazy person’s fix-all
When explaining it to me, my therapist compared medication to a calculator. It helps, but you’ll still fail the maths calculator paper if you don’t put any numbers in. Medication is a tool, rather than a cure- a booster to get me into a place where I’m just about stable enough to use healthy coping mechanisms learned in therapy.
And so, while I personally disagree with medication being offered before talking therapy or even a proper mental health assessment, as is often the case on the understaffed, underfunded NHS, I vehemently disagree with medication being scorned and dismissed by those who lack clear understanding of what it can do to change peoples’ lives.
*This is not to suggest that medication use is only warranted in extreme cases, such as suicide. It is just as important in enabling one to continue with their every day life.