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Why I Stopped (And Need to Go Back To) Mental Health Medication

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I was previously on anxiety and depression medication for five years. And then I stopped taking it. I did it the right way, weaning off of it with the help of my general practitioner, and always checking in with myself mentally to ensure I wasn’t feeling any rebound effects from tapering off the dosage. Eventually, after a few months, I was off all medication completely.

It wasn’t an expensive medication, and I didn’t feel any guilt or shame for taking it. I truly believed (and still believe) that anxiety and depression medication is, at least in my case, life-saving medication. I often compare it to insulin — my body doesn’t make certain chemicals the way other people’s bodies do, so the medication helps me keep my chemicals in balance so I can live a more “normal” life. And it worked. I didn’t feel abnormal for taking medication; in fact, I finally felt like the real “me” — the “me” before anxiety and depression took over my life.

So, why stop taking it? Because I thought, with the right combination of diet, exercise, positive thoughts and meditation, I could do it on my own. And for the past eight years, I have.

But now… I can’t. I’m not doing well, and I’ve checked in with my family, my doctor, and myself, and I know it’s time to go back. In some ways, this feels like a failure. I’m not able to do this on my own anymore, and admitting I need help is always humbling. I used to tell people there was no shame in needing medication, but deep down, I was secretly proud of myself for being strong enough to do this on my own. I am also someone who likes to be in absolute control, and in some ways, taking medication is an admission that this illness is out of my power.

Today, I need to remember my own words to others on this journey — there is no shame in needing help. If a doctor said I needed chemotherapy, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to take it. I wouldn’t believe it was a failure to take medication that helped me live. I wouldn’t believe that if I only ate better, exercised more or thought more positive thoughts, I could “fix” myself. I would admit I need help to fight this battle and be grateful there is help available.

This is not a failure, nor is it weakness. This is power — the power to fight my battle with whatever means necessary. Fight on, fellow warriors. There’s a “you” we’d all like to meet.

Photo by René Pollock on Unsplash

Originally published: June 4, 2019
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