“It’s not your fault,” my dad said in his wise, loving voice, as we drove to the pharmacy for my first prescription of Prozac.
“Yes, it is,” I said with assurance. “This is my fault. I’m a bad person.”
I was 18 years old and had just been discharged from the behavioral health partition of the hospital and diagnosed with severe depression. Deep-seeded insecurity, stress, perfectionism, and grave hormonal and physiological imbalances collided, shattering my picture perfect world into bits of broken pieces.
My parents did their best to help me understand the diagnosis I had been given, which they too were just coming to grips with. I wasn’t buying it—I didn’t believe I was depressed, just that I was a horrible person who deserved to die and there was absolutely no hope for me.
It’s been a journey since to accept that my brain is wired differently than most and that it needs a little help. I’ve experienced shame along the way—a little from others and a lot from myself.
Recovery from depression, mood disorders, eating disorders, and addiction looks different for everyone. These struggles are complex and, like an onion, there are many layers involved: hormonal, emotional, spiritual, relational, physiological, and more. Each layer needs to be tended to, nourished, and addressed.
Like many, I worry that our nation is over-medicated, but believe that when used properly under a good doctor’s care, medication can be a gift, a true lifesaver.
Mental illness has been misunderstood and mistreated for so long because of its relative obscurity. An x-ray can show the exact fracture point of a broken bone, but without brain scans, which are expensive and difficult to do, you cannot see the physiology of a brain struggling with depression and anxiety. This leaves at least part of mental illness as somewhat intangible. And because we cannot see the source of the brokenness, we believe as a whole we are broken. We judge our character, when our chemistry, circumstances, or a number of other factors may be the problem.
If a doctor has advised that you would benefit from taking medication, doing so faithfully could be a critical step in your healing and recovery. I know from experience that it can be a long, frustrating road. There can be side effects, and sometimes certain medications don’t quite do the trick. But be patient. Keep trying and keep fighting.
It’s also important to know that a while a pill (or a combination of a few) might help fix your brain chemistry, medication can’t sooth your soul. Commit yourself fully to the deep soul work you need to do to live a healthy, whole, and free life.
If you are struggling in the darkness, see a doctor. Take your meds. Do your soul work. Show up for your life. Live your story well. Invite others to support you, and support them as well. You are irreplaceable, and this world is more beautiful with you in it.