“Don’t you think you’d feel better if you weren’t on medication?”
“Why do you take that? You know it’ll only make you worse, right?”
“Just think happy thoughts, that’ll fix the problem for you.”
“They’re just a crutch.”
“You shouldn’t be on them your whole life, that’s terrible for you.”
“Isn’t that for like… Schizophrenia?”
I have been on psychiatric medication for the last six years. There is no end in sight for that kind of medical treatment for me; I’ve accepted that I will be on the med-go-round for likely the remainder of my life. I argue with myself on this topic internally on the regular. What if the side effects of my medications affect my liver? What if they hurt my kidneys? What if they make me worse than I already am? Those kinds of questions lead to a rabbit hole of looking up symptoms and side effects that convince me I have Serotonin Syndrome or akathisia. For the record, I don’t and never have had those issues but they’re a reality that I deal with whenever I change medications or add something new to my cocktail.
Beside the internal judgement I pass on myself, there is a very real stigma surrounding psychiatric medication. People often misconceive medication as a crutch or a weak way of dealing with mental illness. Hey, some people don’t need it their whole lives. Situational depression or anxiety can go away as quickly as it arrives. They don’t even unpack their bags. People who suffer from these disorders find mental stability after their medication helps them get through their situation. And sometimes people with these disorders don’t have a chance at stability by themselves so they rely on their medication to help change the misfiring in their brains. Both situations are perfectly permissible and reasonable.
What is unreasonable is the judgement and stigma attached to psychiatric medication. I take a medication, now, for my anxiety every single day. This medicine is used for a variety of psychiatric illnesses including Schizophrenia and various psychotic symptoms. I take it for my anxiety, and I’m proud that it works. I remember the first prescription I was put on… the very drug alone has a stigma but when I made it to a therapeutic dosage I distinctly remember crying with happiness. I could finally have a distinct train of thought. I finally could catch onto what I was thinking about. My mind was no longer a ball of yarn, tangled and unmanageable. When I was prescribed another medication, my irritability slipped away in the blink of an eye. I was finally able to be the person I truly was. Instead of melting down before I went into the show ring, I could calmly say I was anxious and why. I could vocalize the mental torment I’d harbored for as long as I can remember. I could function like everyone else. I could even function better at times because I knew exactly where my weaknesses were, what my anxiety surfaced around, and I had my psychiatric problems under wraps.
I’m not saying this is always how it is. There are tough times. There are times when I try a new medication that sets me back for a few months. I’ve been on work disability before because of my mental condition. Medication helped me get back to work and get back to stability. It has never been and will never be a crutch. It is a simple tool that replaces the chemicals in my brain that I do not create or I create too much of. When your mental state becomes so frazzled that it borders on controlling your life, action needs to be taken. People ask me how I know when it’s time to take my anti-anxiety medication and I tell them, “ When I begin to obsess over what is making me anxious, it is no longer in my control to change how I think. So I take my medication and return to a better place.”
So if you find yourself unstable, if you find yourself with a psychiatric diagnosis you’re afraid of, remember this: it isn’t your fault and there is always a way to feel better. Ignore the people who don’t understand. The people who tell you medication isn’t good for you, or you should simply be happy. No one deserves to suffer, and medication can help make being healthy a reality. Don’t let people who don’t understand get in the way of stability.