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We Shouldn’t Pill-Shame – but We Also Shouldn't Do the Opposite

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

“Pill-shaming” is a terrible practice.

I have friends who have found relief from their mental health issues through medication. Many of these friends have also been the recipients of some less-than-stellar unsolicited advice about why they should stop taking their pills. Not only is this dangerous (because stopping medication without the assistance of a doctor can lead to some terrible rebound effects) but it is also outright insensitive. The advice-giver is assuming they know this person’s case better than their doctors, their therapists and them. And really, whether or not someone takes medication is nobody else’s business.

With awareness campaigns and the spread of information, in an effort to remove the stigma surrounding mental health and medication, people are beginning to understand this. However, a lot of people don’t understand it works both ways.

I treat my mental health issues holistically. And a lot of people — the same people who are against pill shaming — have given me unsolicited advice. When I went through an emotionally traumatic situation, many well-meaning friends told me I just needed to get medication.

Just like the pill-shamers, they presumed to know better than I did, regarding my situation and my recovery. They assumed they knew better than my doctor and therapist. They were being rather pushy with this advice, even though they did not know my history.

There are reasons I treat my issues holistically, and I owe no explanation for it. I have had severe issues in the past — self-harming, anorexia, binge eating, suicidal thoughts, a suicide attempt, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. And through a lot of trial and error, I found my way to recovery through a number of cognitive and lifestyle changes.

I spent four years working with a life coach to learn cognitive strategies, so that I could redefine limiting beliefs. I worked with a therapist for two years to learn how to process emotions and put my strategies into practice. I worked with a dietician to gain control over my food issues and eat in a healthy way that helps to balance my mind. I get at least eight hours of sleep, no matter what. I practice yoga daily at a tight-knit, small studio, and that has helped me to calm my central nervous system and better understand my mind and its tendencies.

Unmedicated does not mean untreated. I have had to work very hard to find my way to recovery, but I have found my way there. And in the end, I used the tools I gained on this journey to find my way through the traumatic situation.

We have come a long way with mental health awareness. I am so grateful that pill-shaming is starting to become a thing of the past. But now it is time to take it a step further and stop shaming anyone for their journey.

Unsplash photo via Timothy Paul Smith

Originally published: November 28, 2018
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