For the last eight weeks, I’ve woken up and popped two blue pills. I felt like the change was unnoticeable, until I was on the phone with my mother last week. I told her that I had slept through a class that had a strict attendance policy. Instead of being burdened with the anxiety of that moment, I said to her “It’s OK, I’ll catch up on the work this weekend.” My mother was in shock that this small mistake hadn’t sent me into a whirlwind of panic. She responded with, “Your medication must really be working.”
I brushed her comment off. As someone who has suffered from high-functioning anxiety, for years I had convinced myself that I was “normal.” It didn’t matter that every morning and every day was a burden to me. There were things I had to do, in fact, too many things. I was constantly signing myself up for as many things as possible to avoid dealing with myself. It’s my coping mechanism, but it feeds into the cycle of panic attacks, exhaustion and depression. When I do finally break down, it’s an explosion of emotion that leaves me weak and defeated for sometimes days at a time.
To be functioning as a neurotypical adult was something I expected from myself even though it wasn’t possible.
Any sort of mental health care has a stigma attached to it. It took tragedy in my life for me to find myself in a therapist’s office. It helped. The more I came back to her office, the more I understood about myself and my needs. But when she asked if I would consider medication, I responded, “Absolutely not.”
Therapy was one thing. I walked into a room and talked about myself for an hour. I left feeling listened to, understood and ultimately satisfied, but it wasn’t getting to the underlying issues that had consistently been there. The issues had become a worse burden to bear as tragedy struck my life.
Medication, on the other hand, scared me. I felt like if I started taking something, it would be an admission of defeat that there was something wrong with me.
But there was something wrong with me.
I started to have conversations with the people around me about their use of prescription drugs. I heard some horror stories, and I think it’s important to note that medication is not for everyone who has mental health issues. It’s a choice that must be personal in order to be effective.
I had a conversation with a friend late one night over a cup of tea. She explained to me that if she was not physically capable of creating the chemicals in her brain that bring happiness, why she should deny herself that?
So eight weeks ago, I found myself in a psychiatrist’s office, undergoing a lengthy psychological evaluation. I left with orange bottles filled with pills the size of Tic Tacs. The whole episode felt surreal to me. I was essentially being told that every extreme emotion I had been feeling for my entire life could be controlled by the simple task of swallowing a few capsules. My skepticism continued until that conversation with my mom a week ago. It wasn’t just that specific instance. For the first time, in a long time, I was functioning.
I have a checkup scheduled with the psychiatrist in a few weeks. She warned me that medication may not work and to be patient. I was warned that I may need a change in dosage or a different medication altogether. As of right now, I have no plans to stop taking the medication or change the dosage or prescription. My advice to anyone considering medication to aid their mental health is to be open and patient.
It’s hard enough to take charge of our mental health. If we could eliminate the stigma surrounding prescription medications, more people could make decisions that may ultimately lead them to living better lives.