Mental Health The Blog

Wait, you take MEDS?

Yes. Yes, I do! Believe me, there wasn’t always a time when I would proudly proclaim that to the world & there’s still people in my life that think this skeleton should be shoved back in the closet. Nah. It’s out here, because taking medication is nothing to be ashamed of. When I tell people that I take Topirmate because I have chronic migraines, no one tells me to lower my voice. When I tell people that I have to take Zyrtec or Benadryl every day for like 6 months out of the year, they don’t look at me like I’m this incomplete human being or like I’m some kind of unstable addict just looking for a buzz. So, what’s the deal with medication that addresses mental illness? More importantly, what’s the deal with thinking that if we can’t see it on others, it’s not allowed to exist?

I put this picture on my Snapchat story a few weeks ago. Guess what, people’s first reaction wasn’t “OMG, you’re crazy” because they could SEE that something was wrong that the doctors were treating. For my mental health, though, the pain isn’t visible.

My parents getting me to talk to someone at age 16 was hard enough, getting me to take medicine? Virtually impossible. There was no way that I was taking a pill to “make me happier” in front of my friends. What would I say when they asked? When they asked me how it worked, how would I explain that I didn’t really see a difference yet? Nope. Not happening.

Here’s a good look at 16 year old Emily a couple months into taking an antidepressants. I wasn’t good at consistently taking them, nor was I really convinced that I actually needed them. I mean, I could smile….even if it didn’t feel right.

As first-born, my mom and dad didn’t really know how to “force” me to take the anti-depressants I desperately needed. This was like 2013, so it was way before the time of people posting their pills or talking about their dosage. Truthfully, I didn’t have any role models that I could turn to that were also in a position where they needed medication to jump start a mental health journey. Until one day, during musical practice, I saw my friend slip a tiny oval pill out of her bag and into her mouth. To anyone else, it was an antibiotic, a pain killer, irrelevant to their day to day life. To me, though, it was an indication that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t alone in my city, my school, even my friend group. I had no idea that she was taking pills either.

One day, I got up the courage to ask her. “Hey, um, I know this is weird, but are you on Sertraline…? I just got prescribed it, but I don’t know anything about it.” Her eyes lit up. You could tell she didn’t really talk about it either. Just like that… I had a person that took pills just like me.

Now, this isn’t where the story ends. I’ve been on a roller coaster with my meds for a long time. There have been times where I’ve just cut them out cold turkey because I start to freak out about the idea of taking them until I’m 80 years old. Let me just tell you, there’s reasons doctors don’t let you do that. I went She-Hulk on everyone around me. I’ve gained a bunch of weight on some types of medication. Some didn’t work during the cold seasons so I needed to up my dose.

My story with medication is not perfect AT ALL. Even today, I’m writing this blog as someone who has experienced a lot of medications that affect my mental illness. I’m on Fluoxetine now. 60 mg. It’s a decently high dosage, but it’s one that the professionals around me and I are super happy with at the moment. So, why am I writing this?

While my parents were desperately begging me to take my meds, I had no role models that were taking meds proudly that weren’t also in the peak of emotional turmoil. Well, babe, here I am. I can confidently say that I have hit rock bottom, bounced back, hit it again and grown to a point where I feel called to help people that are going through what I did.

I’m writing to say that the weight gain, nausea, stomach aches, and other symptoms are unfair coupled with what you’re already going through. But, you can’t let it deter you from the goal of finding the right fit. There WILL be some prescriptions that are perfect for some and NOT good for you. There will be some doses that actually help you and are WAY too high for others. In this sense, we need to start thinking about antidepressants and antipsychotics in the way their meant to be viewed: as medications. If you were ill and a certain prescription didn’t work, you wouldn’t just give up, getting sicker. No, you would work with your doctor for a new prescription!

I’m also writing to say that the relevance and awareness about these pills is much more real these days. Odds are someone in your life, whether you know it or not, is taking pills for mental health reasons on a daily basis. These days, doctors know more about the pills they prescribe and people know the point in which they need to ask for medical help.

Most importantly, I’m writing to tell you it’s all going to be okay. Taking medication doesn’t correlate with being crazy as I once really thought that it did. If these medications weren’t needed, they wouldn’t exist… it’s not like you can walk up to a dealer on the street and they’ll have a hefty supply of antidepressants on hand. Some professional, who took all the chemistry, psych, and biology classes, thinks this is the best thing for you… you’d trust them for anything else, what makes this different? Taking medicine means that you need help. Guess what, it is OKAY to need help.

7 comments

  1. I understand somewhat of what you’ve gone through. I had so many panic attack’s and lots of anxiety, but I was certain that if I asked for help, people, including doctors, would think I was crazy. I was afraid if the school district found out I was on meds, I would put my job in jeopardy. I finally realized that, like you, if i had any physical ailment that people could see, no one would think twice about my taking meds for it. I have a chemical imbalance that needs to be addressed. I had to laugh when other teachers would ask me how I stayed so calm and didn’t holler at the kids. My answer, “I’m on drugs.” Drugs that help me be my best. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Great post! BRAVA to you for being so open about your need for medications. What’s really sad, is not only friends and family saying negative comments about the “ton of medication” you take, but also people in the medical community. Almost every new doctor my daughter sees, it’s always the intake medical assistant or nurse who says, “Wow, you’re on an awful lot of medications.” or “You’re too young to be on so many medications.” Or “Why on earth do you take this medication, do you have seizures?” Um, no Miss Smarty Pants, it’s also an approved medication for mood disorders. I want to slap them in the face for being so insensitive. But there you have it. Just one more hurdle to jump in the road of treating mental illness. (Like we need any more!)

    1. AH Anne! That made my heart sink for your daughter! I take Topirimate for migraines & most doctors think that it’s way too much with my current medicine load. They aren’t the one’s with me at 3am in the emergency room getting a migraine cocktail when I’ve tried to not have a preventative though!! Tell your daughter that “if it ain’t broke, DON’T BREAK IT!!” There’s plenty of queens on medicine for different things all around her! & ending the stigma that surrounds medication for mental illness is the first step to understanding them more so they can be the MOST beneficial for more people! Thanks so much for your comment. I’m thinking about you and your daughter 🙂

  3. I remember my absolute reluctance to take meds as a teenager because ‘what would my friends think?’ The only time I would take them is when my mom was supervising me because I believed all the negativity and cared way too much about ‘being normal’. Thank you for sharing your story and being so open about your medication journey!

    1. I totally get it, Kie. My mom has definitely had to be with me while I took it a couple times in my youth!! I’m glad that I can put a different face on it!

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