Warning: this post may be triggering to some and deals with the topics of mental health, depression, anxiety, medications, therapy, and suicide. Please do not read this post if you are sensitive at the moment to any of these topics or unsure how you would react. Please reach out to your local helpline if you are having thought of suicide or of harming yourself or others. I am not a mental health or health professional and this is just my own opinion. I am not advocating one way or another for the use of medications or therapy in mental health, just my own observations.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I was able to come off medication for depression and anxiety in the mid-2000s, I swore I would never go back on them. I hated the stigma. I hated the side effects. I hated remembering to take them. I hated everything about them. I was not ready, not willing, and not able to come to terms with my diagnosis and start the path to healing. Should still have been on them? Was it the right decision? Probably not, but since I refused to take them properly my doctor was more concerned about them causing harm to me, or me causing harm to myself with them and so she took me off. I had moved back home at the time after a couple of years of living away from my family. When I moved back I had good support so I think this might have been part of her thought process at the time.
Surprisingly I did okay for a number of years, after the initial rocky few months of withdrawal symptoms. So I don’t know, maybe it was the right decision at the time? I guess I will never really know. Six years later I ended up back on medication after trying to take my life for the second or third time. At the time I was going through some tough stuff and in a relationship that was very abusive. I felt like a complete and utter failure when I was told I needed to go back on some sort of medication by my family doctor. He prescribed me Paxil and referred me for a second time to a psychologist. I again was having a hard time with my diagnosis and with the idea of taking medication which I felt just compounded the situation. I talk a bit more about mental illness & me in other posts.
One of the things I failed to notice at the time and honestly so did everyone else around me, was that I was still not taking the medication properly. I didn’t think much if I missed a day here or there. There were days I just didn’t feel like taking it. I would start taking them, have some bad side effects and then stop taking them for a few days or weeks and then I would try again. This was the worst thing I could have done. I can’t say that I wasn’t warned because I was, in passing, by both the psychologist and pharmacist but no real emphasis was put on what this would do to me, to my mind, to my body. So I continued on taking them whenever I remembered or felt like it. I wondered why I felt so horrible. I wondered why I had continued thoughts of suicide. I wondered why I felt so down and felt like it was absolutely impossible to function day in, day out. Again I started hating the medication, hating the stigma of being on them because misguidedly I felt like people knew I was on them because of the side effect like falling asleep at work. I swore to myself again that I would never ever go back on them.
Fast forward another 5 or 6 years and once again I am back on them after losing my job and having a car accident. This time around however has been completely different. After talking with my new psychologist who is wonderful, we both agree that I am now ready to face the truth, willing to admit that I needed help and that I was struggling. With help from her, my husband, and my parents, they helped me realize the truth, that taking medication is not failure, instead, it is success. I am now willing and able to keep track of my medication, to use an app to ensure I don’t forget them. I have my husband to remind me as well, but I am learning to take control myself. The road ahead may not be easy. I may have setbacks. I may even feel again that I’m failing but the truth of it is, is that I am not failing. I am succeeding.
I am taking control of my life in a way I have never done before or only ever attempted at. I am accepting therapy in person (well, via zoom at the moment), I am doing the homework I am given. I am taking the medication, Cymbalta this time around. Beyond the initial side effects the first 2-3 weeks I am tolerating the medication rather well. I am feeling better. I am feeling hopeful. I feel refreshed. I am taking them on time and every day. I think I have only missed one day in about 6 months, which really didn’t affect me because I am taking them properly. This has made such a huge difference in my mood, my attitude and how I am processing things.
I still have a ways to go, but another difference this time is I am coming up with my own goals, my own things to work on and accomplish rather than waiting for other people to suggest things in my absence of being able to. In therapy when she suggests setting goals I come up with a lot of them myself. I participate and give suggestions on what I want to work on and how I want to improve my mental health and tackle my anxiety. All of these things make, for me, going back on medication a success. Do I still hope one day to get off them? Of course, I do. However, I no longer look at being on them as a failure, as being a necessary evil but instead as a tool to help me be the best me I can be. If I am able to come off of them again sometime in the future then great, and if not, that’s perfectly fine too.
My success is measured by who I am as a person and how I treat others and not whether or not I am on medications for mental health issues. I am so much more then that