What do we do when we get sick? Go to the doctor and sometimes, if it’s treatable, we get medication.
It takes strength and courage to go to the doctor, to tell them your most personal thoughts, feelings, and struggles, in hopes of getting the help you need. It’s even harder when you aren’t able to share these struggles and the recommended course of treatment with your friends and family due to their conflicting beliefs on treating mental illness with medication.
“You don’t need meds, just talk it out, you’ll be fine.”
I have bipolar disorder and no matter how much talking I do, I will continue to have physiological changes in my brain causing manic and depressive episodes that could be life threatening.
“Those meds have so many side effects, how do you even know they’re helping?”
Well, the fact is yes, they do have side effects. The side effects suck. But if you work closely with a psychiatrist, you can find the correct combination to minimize side effects and maximize therapeutic benefit. Unfortunately it is trial and error, which can be difficult, but not enough of a reason for me to never try.
“You don’t even know who you are without medication.”
Oh, but I do. I’m a self destructive tornado who wreaks havoc on myself and everyone in my path. I’d rather not find her again.
And finally, my personal favorite: “I don’t take medication unless I really need it. Maybe you should try natural remedies!”
First, I do really need it. Second, I have tried almost everything you can think of to manage my illness over the years. I exercise every day, I follow a healthy diet, I meditate nightly, I practice yoga, use essential oils and aromatherapy—you name it, I’ve tried it. I enjoy natural remedies, but they do not cure or help me manage my illness nearly enough.
So how can I be so certain that taking medication is the best course of action for me? Well, I’ve gone on and off of them for years—causing relapses and hospitalizations. I caused damage by not accepting my illness for what it is—an illness. Not a choice. Not a character flaw. Not a lack of willpower or determination.
I am not ashamed of the prescription medications I take to manage my chronic mental health conditions. I own that shit. And I invite you to own yours too.