I am so tired of people telling me I am reliant on pills, that being on medication for my anxiety means I am just masking the problem. I am tired of being called “crazy” because I use medicine to help me manage my day-to-day life. I am tired of being the person who has to justify myself to people who tell me “you don’t need medicine, there isn’t even anything wrong with you” and “it’s all in your head.” Because that’s the problem isn’t it?
People continuously tell me that anxiety is made up in my head. It isn’t real. If I just tell myself that, I’ll see that everything is totally fine and come to my senses and say “You know what? You were right all along. I can’t believe I just tortured myself for so many years when the answer was right there. All I had to do was think, and boom. Wow. Thank you so much for all of your help!” Except oh, that’s right, anxiety is a real medical condition. Bold print. Italics. Underlined. In blaring lights over every highway in every state in every country in the world. Whatever I have to do to make you understand. It’s real. It’s out of my control. It is a medical condition.
You see, what I just can’t wrap my head around is the fact that there is an actual stigma surrounding the need for medication manufactured to treat a legitimate and extremely common medical condition. I have even had my doctor, that’s right my doctor, question my need for medication. So I am going to throw some medical facts at you real quick. Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications are often the same type of drug. These are called SSRIs (serotonin re-uptake inhibitors). SSRIs allow serotonin (a mood-enhancing hormone) to circulate properly and help stop a depressive or anxious state. In layman’s terms – this is a medicine that helps a body part function the way it should.
Makes sense right? Something in your body hurts, is broken, or doesn’t work right… go to the doctor, get the right medication, take said medication, feel better. Bada bing, bada boom. There you have it, folks. Modern medicine in its simplest form. But here’s the kicker. People will read this and think, “whatever, she’s still crazy,” “whatever, I’m not going to listen to someone who has to take pills every day for her brain,” “whatever, she just relies on her medicine and doesn’t even try to be happy on her own.” Every single day I encounter people who have those exact reactions when they find out I am on medication for my anxiety.
News flash! I am on this medication because I need it, because it helps me control my anxiety, and because it makes it easier for me to work my way through each day and continually make it so I can in fact, be happy on my own. And the thing is, just like many other medications, most people do not stay on this medicine their whole lives. It is a way to manage the pain that comes with anxiety and/or depression while we find other things that help us cope and heal. For me, being on this medicine has helped me come to terms with my anxiety, seek out a counselor, and begin a much healthier and happier lifestyle.
Recovery is always a process requiring multiple factors. Just as you would go through the medical steps of treating a broken leg, I go through the steps of treating my anxiety. You wouldn’t say a cast is just a quick fix for a broken leg now, would you? You wouldn’t tell that person they are taking the easy way out and if they just tell themselves their leg is healed, they’ll see all along they had just made up the fracture and imagined all of that pain, would you? No. You absolutely would not.
So quit acting like an injury in my brain is any different. Stop perpetuating the idea that mental illness “isn’t a real thing.” Stop making me feel inferior to you because I am doing something to help heal my body. Stop calling me crazy, psycho, reliant, addicted, unstable, a flight risk, nuts, a loose screw. Stop. And if you hear someone else doing it, stop them too. Educate yourself. Understand that a medical problem is a medical problem and pain is pain no matter what part of your body it is.
Just stop. Stop yourself, and put an end to the stigma. I for one, have had enough. Have you?
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
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Thinkstock photo by Thatpichai