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I Am Young, Medicated and Proud

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I am 18 years old, I am medicated and I am proud.

For me being medicated is a sign of strength. It means admitting I need help, something that’s not at all easy to do. It means I’ve gotten myself into that doctor’s office, despite my mind screaming at me to stay in bed, and had the painful conversation of describing how I’ve been feeling. It means I’m being responsible and looking after myself. By taking my meds every day as prescribed, it means I’m doing the right thing regardless of how hopeless or self-destructive I feel that day. Most importantly, it means I’m trying to get better.

I’ve been taking antidepressants since I was 16, and the stigma around being a young person taking medication for a mental illness has been more painful than any of the side effects those medications have caused me. I used to try to keep it a secret. I’d hide my meds from people and take them when I was alone in my room with the door closed and locked. It felt like I was doing something I shouldn’t have been… but I wasn’t.

Taking medication for a mental illness is in no way more shameful than taking medication for a physical illness or condition. I take over-the-counter medication for hay fever because it makes it easier to get through my day without a runny nose and itchy eyes constantly nagging at me, and I take antidepressants because it makes it easier to get through my day without depression and anxiety dragging me down. My favorite way to explain it is that medication is to mental illness what crutches are to a broken leg, or what glasses are to a person with vision problems. Would you shame someone for using crutches when they can’t walk? How about someone who needs to wear glasses just to be able to see properly? No, because it’s not shameful. It’s something that’s necessary for them to carry on with life. It’s the same for someone with a mental illness taking medication.

That’s not to say that everything is gonna to be rainbows and butterflies after your first pill, but it definitely makes it more manageable, and if you have the option to make your daily fight a little easier, why should you be shamed into suffering?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard it from family, friends, or even just heard it around, whether that’s on TV or online or in a magazine. It’s always something to the effect of “taking that while you’re so young is going to mess with your brain.” What they fail to realize is that my brain has already been “messed with,” that’s why I’m taking medication. I can honestly say I wouldn’t still be here if I hadn’t had that helping hand to get through some of the roughest days.

I’m not saying being medicated is fun, it’s not. As I write this I’m about to go through a dreaded med change (that is, having to swap from one brand to another when your current brand stops working for you). It’s only been about six weeks since the last time I changed them, so needless to say I’m not looking forward to having to go through new side effects again. But sometimes it takes a while to find the one that suits you best and that’s OK! It doesn’t mean you’re broken, there’s just lots of brands out there and you’ve gotta play the guessing game until you find the right one. It’s hard, but it’s still easier than being without them entirely.

It’s taken a while but I’ve learned to be open about my fight, meds and all. It still makes people uncomfortable to hear someone speak so openly and unashamedly about it but that just means there’s more work to be done in destroying the stigma. That’s what pushes me to be so open, and I hope that one day my openness may make it slightly easier for someone else to speak up and out about mental illness, and even more importantly I hope it will make the idea of taking medication as a young person just a little bit less daunting and a lot less stigmatized.

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Thinkstock photo via Chattrawutt

Originally published: May 15, 2017
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