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Why We Need to Stop Calling Xanax a 'Housewife Drug’


Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

It’s time we stop making jokes about Xanax being a “housewife drug.” Here’s why:

I stood at a standstill in the packed pharmacy line. People flooded past the “Prescription Pick Up” sign and down the aisle. I was the end cap of this chaos. I was there to pick up my anxiety rescue medication. The number of people made what is normally an easy exchange one full of irrational anxiety. Overwhelming scenarios and intrusive thoughts filled my brain as I scanned the line:

“What if one of these people are going to rob the pharmacy?”

“What if my insurance denies my prescription?”

“What if they gave it to someone pretending to be me?”

I picked at my fingernails as my anxiety grew. I fixated on grounding myself, a common technique for the chronically anxious. Two women approached the line behind me. I counted their footsteps. I peaked back at them. They were (I’m assuming) in their mid-40s. It looked like they just left the workout facility across the parking lot. I tried to tune them out, but then I heard one say to the other: “Looks like every housewife in town is here for their Xanax.” The other chuckled.

An invisible punch was thrown into my stomach, and a lump grew in my anxious throat.

I was a housewife. I was here for Xanax.

I was the pinnacle of their joke. The overwhelming blanket of a panic attack was on the horizon. I felt anxiety’s heavy hands grip my shoulders and began to plunge me into the darkness of my own thoughts. I left the line, dashing to my minivan and just cried.

Why was this so hard? Why did those words hurt me so deeply?

“I am a stereotype,” I whispered to myself.

It’s been a long-known stereotype for stay-at-home moms and housewives using Xanax and Prozac. I’ve heard both of them called “housewife drugs.” I’ve heard the jokes from a stranger about a stressed-out mom in the store: “Someone didn’t take their Prozac.”

I’ve made that joke. I understand where the stereotype comes from. Xanax is abused by a lot of people. I think it overshadows that there are people who need this life-saving medication. Even as stay-at-home moms, we are so used to it that we make the same jokes. We are absentmindedly contributing to the problem. We’re numb to the stigma. We — and by we I mean everyone — have to stop. We have to stop making jokes about anti-anxiety medication being “housewife drugs.” We have to stop insinuating that people just use these medications for recreational purposes.

There is already a massive stigma about taking an anti-anxiety medication or neurotransmitter-targeted medication of any kind. The mom community sees it 10 times worse. Every move we make is fair game for other people. Our happiness and use of mental healthcare are constantly under attack by people who have been blessed to not deal with mental illness.

“You stay at home with your kids, what is there to be sad about?”

“How are you anxious, you don’t do anything all day?”

These are things that have been said to me about myself and the people I love.

Being a stay-at-home mom and housewife is the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s nonstop work with no pay, no breaks and very limited private bathroom time. I’m anxious about everything all the time. Anxiety isn’t logical. I shouldn’t have more anxiety about picking up my anti-anxiety medication.

I know we live in a time where it seems like everyone wants to get offended about everything. However, feeding the beast that is the stigma of mental healthcare is something that has to end. It isn’t just in the motherhood community. The stigma is around every corner, waiting to make someone feel less worthy. Anxiety and depression are up 50 percent in young moms. We feel isolated, anxious and depressed, yet so many of these hurting souls aren’t seeking help for the fear of society’s garbage opinions on the use of mental healthcare.

This isn’t a problem that will be solved overnight, but the first step is changing our narrative within ourselves, and then to others.

I didn’t correct the women behind me in line. I wish I would have let them know how hurtful their words were. I know it wasn’t intentional. I know they didn’t mean to contribute to the stigma I so desperately try to fight. I know their views on Xanax are socially influenced. That’s the beauty of this time, though; we have the power to change the way society views these things.

Stop calling anti-anxiety medication “housewife drugs,” check on your stay-at-home friends, be kind and remember you never know the battle someone else is fighting.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Getty Images photo via Deagreez