Lately I’m getting asked quite regularly about my medication. I’ve been taking antidepressants/anti anxiety medication for just over a year now. I’m very open and honest about it, which is something I never thought I would be. I’m happy to share my experiences with medication.
Growing up in a family where mental illness was viewed a fixable state of mind that was able to be fixed through hard work, grit and physical activity lead me to believe that medication for mental illnesses was simply a taboo. I still remember my parents saying there is no such thing as stress, it’s just something made up for lazy people to get out of work.
In fact, I grew up believing that any form of medication as well as therapy strategies like psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and the like were detrimental, negative and simply a means to shirk responsibility.
If you’ve followed my blog you’ll note that much of my written subject matter since starting out in 2014 is charting my progress and journey from being undiagnosed with depression to seeking help and initiating treatment in the form of medication as well as therapy. It’s been a difficult road, and I still have my ups and downs. So I decided to write a post about my marvellous meds.
Why I take them
My medication has been a help. I can’t deny that. That’s why I take them. However, its not the 100% solution to solving all the problems in my life, but is simply one part of a larger strategy. Aside from meds, other strategies such as psychology sessions, exercise and positive thought modification techniques have meant I have a larger plan for attacking my depression. A bigger picture, which lets me work through my bad days. Meds have really helped improve my general mood however. I still have my less-than great days, but for the most part it’s really helped me manage my moods. It’s been tougher for me lately as I’m currently in between jobs, and I find when I’m not busy at a job or working on a project my mind can run off it’s hinges and into darker territory.
What they don’t do
Meds aren’t going to put the fucked up parts of your life back together, or automatically stop the shitty thoughts in your head as you try to get some sleep at 3am. They won’t necessarily have a direct effect on the course of your career, relationship or mental makeup. They won’t magically transform you into a wide-smiling, motivated go-getter overnight. They won’t make you a better lover or friend, they won’t make your bed in the morning or write emails or perform better at work/study. They take time, and you won’t see any change quickly. How they do work is more akin to something in the background humming away that has a purpose, like a fridge. You know its there doing it’s thing but you don’t pay much mind to it.
What they do
It has a job to do, and sometimes you’re aware of the proverbial humming fridge sound which means it’s working and keeping your shit cool. But for the most part, I just tend to go about my day as per usual. What I have found however after being on them for over a year is that my ups are much higher, and my lows occur less frequently and are generally much less world-ending or fraught with despair. The best way to describe this is with the idea of a wave pattern. Before starting medication, the wave would crescendo then quickly dip low. Nowadays, that wave is more uniform. I still feel down sometimes, yet the main thing is that the low in the wave is not as low as before. I am also more productive, although this is still something I need to work on. The fact that I have kept this blog going for almost two years is a testament to that. I don’t get so affected by something that has previously had a monumental effect on me, and I’m also able to deal can deal with negativity much more efficiently.
In the words of Aahliyah [RIP], I can figuratively ‘dust it off and try again’.
I also find myself being more relaxed in social settings and being less nervous when meeting new people, or in high stress situations, not to mention not being as anxious when attending large social gatherings.
Chop and change
I’ve already changed my meds once since starting them, as I found the previous prescribed medication had side effects on me which I didn’t care too much about, like lowered libido, increase in headaches and stomach aches. My thoughts on this are if it’s not feeling right, change it. Hit your GP up to change your script. I simply spoke to my GP with my concerns and was given a new set to try, which have been way better for me. Since opening up about this issue, I’ve met and spoken to many people who have given me advice as well as how they’re feeling on what they’re taking. It almost feels like speaking about your drink of choice, or what cheese you like. I like this as it has de-stigmatised this from being a taboo subject into something more grounded and social, and strangely has made me feel a part of a club. Brie or camembert?
Don’t feel bad for taking them
Is it right however, to use medication with the purpose of altering one’s mood or general demeanour? Again, growing up in a household that was quite conservative in its views on medication for mental illnesses, I always viewed meds as something only those who were suicidal took; a last resort. To me, the mind was something inviolable, holy and unalterable. I was brought up to believe that medication causes one to become something unnatural. An automaton that isn’t the real you, a modified version of you with a layer of nauseating cheerfulness draped over skin. It took some time for me to educate myself and to understand that the mind is chemical-based. I lacked and still lack the right chemical mix that most people take for granted. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t normal to experience running the daily gauntlet of emotions and despair I felt. My mind quite literally stopped me from experiencing life. Which is why I personally don’t feel bad at all for taking medication, and neither should you. Perhaps me as a teenager would have been dismayed that I would have need of them, but hey, in short they’re designed to put in balance what some of us lack.
So never feel bad or feel as though you’re a failure or you’re somehow inadequate for needing them. I find that increasingly people are opening up about this, and the more I speak to and open up to people, the more I hear that medication has really helped people for the better and works for them. Which is a bit rad really.