Thursday 25 June 2015

Why I gave medication a go

- Rachel

I’ve had mental health difficulties, on and off, since I was nine years old. And I’ve never really felt bad or ashamed by it. But I’ve never felt like taking medication was a good idea or an option for me. There is definitely still a lot of stigma around mental health difficulties in general, but there is quite a specific stigma around the idea of medication. And it was a stigma that I bought into for a long time. Medication is often talked about as a last resort, as the not ideal option or way of dealing with issues; at least that’s how I saw it. I believed that there was something disingenuous about taking medication; that somehow my emotions if I was on meds with be less “real”, and I should therefore only try therapy and forms of self-care to get myself back to a mentally healthy place. I think I sort of felt like taking meds was cheating and that I had to find a way to be healthy without them.

But after a year of trying therapy and other services and, while a lot of things helped, nothing helping as much as I needed to, and inspired by my friend going on meds, I went to my GP. Now, this is total my personal experience, and I’m not a medical expert in any way, but I have to say…meds are great. And a lot of the things I used to believe about them have been far from true; I don’t feel numb, I am definitely still capable of feeling emotions, and I am definitely still capable of feeling sad; but now I feel sad about…sad things…not about anything and everything and not in a way that is all consuming. Meanwhile, getting out of bed is so much easier, I wouldn’t say that my anxiety has gone away but it’s definitely not as bad as it was and negative thoughts feel a lot more distant and less powerful.

And importantly, medication is not an alternative to things like therapy and sorting out issues you might have. But actually, they can make it easier; I feel so much more present and capable of actually tackling my issues now.

And this is not to say that it’s always so simple or great for everyone; I definitely lucked out. I know a lot of people who’ve had really difficult side effects to medication, or have had to jump around a lot of meds before they found one that worked for them. 

But if you have a mental health difficulty which meds might be able to help with; I would say, give it a try. And don’t wait till it’s the last resort. I really regret not starting taking meds at the beginning of the year. I regret struggling so long when I could have been feeling so much healthier and really able to grow and get better, rather than just keeping my head above the water. Fundamentally, my depression and my anxiety are not me, they are not emotions; they are illnesses. And there is nothing disingenuous, nothing wrong, with taking a medication for an illness. It is not cheating. It is literally enabling myself to live rather than struggle.

So if you’re considering going on medication for a mental health problem, yes, be prepared for side effects, yes be prepared to have to experiment with different levels and types of medication, no, don’t expect to be instantaneously totally better. But give it a go. It might just help.

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