When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with my first mental health disorders. I don’t remember what my first diagnoses were, but whatever they were, they were serious enough that I was prescribed medication and had to go to therapy at least once a week.
And that’s still true almost 15 years later.
I go to therapy every, single week. I also go to a DBT support group once a week. I’m on 3 medications for my depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what the rest of my life looks like.
And that’s okay. You see, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes me more apt to be depressed and anxious, as well as have a difficult time focusing. The same symptoms I have can be seen in several family members in different generations. Some of them are on medication, and some aren’t.
But this is the truth of the matter: I do not want to be mentally ill.
I do not want to feel overwhelmed at everything. I don’t want to be chronically exhausted and sad. I don’t want to have suicidal or impulsive thoughts. I don’t want to overanalyze everything in my life. My mom used to say I would cut off a limb to not feel the way that my mental illnesses make me feel, and that’s still true.
So why should I feel ashamed that I need medication and therapy? I did not choose this. But if there’s something that can make living a little less impossible, why shouldn’t I grab onto that? You would never shame someone who needs glasses or insulin for taking the easy way out, or being lazy, you would encourage them to use the tools available at their disposal to help themselves.
The stigma surrounding mental health treatment is unfounded, and needs to stop. Going to therapy and taking medication for mental health needs to be as normal as going to physical therapy and taking medication for physical health.
An acquaintance reached out to me earlier this year. She’s around the same age as me, and was expecting a baby. She shared with me that she was extremely depressed and anxious with everything going on, in addition to her husband being in the military. She was thinking about going on medication, but didn’t just want to put a “band-aid” on her issues.
I think this mindset of taking medication for mental health reasons being a band-aid is extremely common. But it’s interesting that this is seen as a bad thing. In physical health, band-aids aren’t seen as useless or used to avoid problems. Rather they protect physical wounds from infection and help them heal. People with severe physical wounds are expected to dress their wounds daily to help with the healing process, and putting band-aids on scrapes or cuts is encouraged. So why is taking medication any different? Sometimes, you need to cover the wound in order for it to heal.
I explained this to my friend, and how, without medication, I wouldn’t be able to hold down a job, get out of bed most days, or take care of myself. She did end up going on medication, and while I recognize that not everyone who struggles with their mental health needs medication, it shouldn’t be looked down on if you do. And it’s okay if you need more during certain times of your life, or only need to take it during certain times of your life.
If you take medication and/or go to therapy, you are not weak. You are strong and brave for taking action against something that is wrong. Try not to judge yourself unfairly for it.