Why going back on meds for mental health issues is not failure

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

6 thoughts on “Why going back on meds for mental health issues is not failure

  1. Thanks for commenting on my blog…I can’t believe I am here today. Thanks for being so transparent. The Covid thing is really getting to me. I had two panic attacks yesterday and I only ever had one previously in my life. I do take meds for depression though. I have family members who would flip out at me if they knew I was taking antidepressants, but they take blood pressure meds. So really, one is ok and the other isn’t? I don’t understand why they think that way. So I just keep it to myself and a small support group including my husband.

    1. Thanks for commenting on mine I always try to be transparent on my blog. It’s one thing that I really think is important. I totally understand what your saying, it’s getting to me too. I have had many panic attacks over my lifetime but every time I have one it seems like the first time, everything going on right now has caused me more panic attacks than “normal” but I think that’s to be expected. I think even people who don’t suffer from anxiety or depression on a day-to-day basis are feeling more anxiety then they would usually and I am sure a lot of people are suffering from situational depression due to the worldwide situation at the moment. I think it’s only natural in this really stressful time. Something I was talking to my psychologist about and she agreed that this is something a lot more people are going through right now.

      As for medication for depression, anxiety, or anything else. I used to feel the same and keep it to myself and my close friends and family. And honestly, I still do to a point. It’s not something I shout from the rooftops but I feel I should be able to if need be. I also find it frustrating when people say “oh your just anxious, you don’t need medication, you just need to calm down”…. really?? You don’t think I’ve tried that The same thing with depression meds. I literally point out what you just said, “So it’s okay that you need to take blood pressure meds due to high blood pressure, but it’s not okay for me to take depression medication because my brain either lacks a certain chemical or maybe has too much of it? You don’t tell me I can’t take insulin because my body doesn’t produce it effectively or doesn’t effectively utilize it, so what makes medication for depression, anxiety, or any mental health issues any different?”.

      Just my opinion on it but I just don’t play that game anymore with people around me, family included. I just straight up call them out on it and say that this is the way it is, like it or leave it and if you don’t like it you can leave. It doesn’t mean I won’t have anything to do with them, it just means that I don’t need their toxic relationship so if they want to be that way then they can stay in the distance and see me at family gatherings and such but we just won’t be close. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them and won’t try but I am just as candid about it as I am in my blog I guess. Took me a looooooooong time to get here though.

  2. You’re welcome Starla I’m not going to say that you should just try and de-stress because it would go against everything I’ve said in my post and in my reply to Becca above, that being said, however, I think that in combination with medication (if needed) that trying to do things to de-stress or lessen anxiety or improve mood or get into a different mindset is just as important and go along hand-in-hand (ie. meditation, therapy) with medication if it is needed and can be beneficial either way. It sucks that you are going through that. Looking for ways to take yourself out of that situation (even if only temporary) could help as well. Hopefully, you and your doctor are keeping an eye on your blood pressure, and that way they can advise you on whatever is needed.

  3. I don’t have any med that I take for my mental or physical health, but part of your blog reminds me of a friend/former co-worker who used to talk to me about his meds and how he had to keep a strict regiment on taking them because I remember him mentioning that he though a dose of one of his medicines was too strong, and I asked if he could cut it in half like a tylenol, but he explained why that wasn’t possible. Sometimes, it’s a long road to your own journey and that is okay, but I am glad to hear that you are going better because of being back on your meds, and I think this makes you a success.

    1. Thanks, Tiffany, I take some medications that work like that as well. I was always so negative about taking medications even for diabetes, I wanted to be on the lowest dose possible and try to deal with things as much as possible by other means, and sometimes that works but I realized sometimes it’s just not possible.

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