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How Psychiatric Medications Saved My Life as a Child With Anxiety

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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.

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

I’ve struggled a lot with my psychiatric medication. In the past few years, I’ve switched a few medications, gone back on previous ones, dealt with rare side effects and even grappled with a pharmacy mix-up that had me on twice the dose I was supposed to be on. It was frustrating, exhausting and I cried more than I ever thought possible. But now I’m finally in a good place, and I know those months of struggling were worth it.

And as hard as I’ve struggled at times, I’ve never once considered going off my medication entirely. I’m sure some people would have. I’m sure some people think I should have. But it never crossed my mind. Because I remember life before medication. I’ve been on psychiatric meds, specifically for anxiety, since I was a child. Some people, I’m sure, would think that’s terrible. I’m sure people wondered why my parents would “taint” my childhood like that. But the truth is, I wasn’t a “normal” kid. And I needed help.

Life before medication was terror. Pure terror. I never really knew what I was afraid of, I just knew I was afraid. Afraid of living, I suppose. Leaving the house was terrifying. School was terrifying. Living was terrifying. And, to be clear, by all accounts, I shouldn’t have been like this. My home life was idyllic. My family, my parents especially, were enormously supportive. I was bullied a bit, but I always had friends. I was never abused or anything like that. But it didn’t matter. Something, somewhere, was wrong. And my parents did their best to fix it. It started with therapy. Medication wasn’t the first choice. But it became clear I needed something else, something more.

Because I wasn’t going to be able to have any sort of childhood or any sort of life without help. I already mentioned the fear I felt. The constant anxiety. But, perhaps worse than the anxiety, was the guilt. The guilt I felt for feeling that way. I felt like I was letting everyone down. Like I was a failure of a child. After all, what child felt like that? I was supposed to be happy and carefree. I was supposed to be better. And I felt my parents deserved better. I also felt that, maybe, if they didn’t have me, they could have a better kid. In retrospect, these feelings made no sense. But that didn’t matter, I still had them. And I hated myself. I was too young to understand suicide, but there were absolutely times I wanted to die. Times I wished I would die. I just wanted everyone around me to be relieved of the burden of my existence.

Of course, now I realize that wouldn’t have been a relief to anyone. I wasn’t a burden. But that’s how the young me often thought. Those thoughts aren’t normal for anyone, let alone a child. And I needed help. The help came in the form of a tiny pill. My mom, being the amazingly supportive woman she is, would always make sure I had homemade chocolate chip cookies to take the pills in. And, though there was some trial and error, in the end, they worked. My childhood, as I remember it, was mostly good. It had its up and downs, but most do. That medication didn’t give me a happy childhood — it gave me a childhood. It let me experience life to its fullest. Something I never could have imagined before I started taking it.

So, there you have it. I’m not a scientist or a doctor. I’m just a young woman living a happy life. A life I’m not sure I’d still have without the various psychiatric medications I’ve been on. Now, medication isn’t for everyone. And I don’t think it should be the first choice. But it shouldn’t be disregarded. It shouldn’t be stigmatized. And it certainly shouldn’t be demonized. Because, for some people, it means the difference between life and death.

Unsplash image by Artur Aldyrkhanov

Originally published: March 31, 2020
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