How often have you taken aspirin for a headache? What about cough syrup to ease the crappy way you feel when you have cold?
Chances are that anytime you’ve done so, nobody has given it a second thought. You haven’t hidden your Theraflu at the checkout lane. And you have whispered that you’re taking Nyquil. People rarely judge others for treating their physical ailments. But what about illnesses that people can’t see?
Hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. take medications like Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac to treat mental illnesses. And many of those same people live in shame.
I have been very open about my battle with anxiety. And taking medication to manage my anxiety disorder as part of that battle is something I’m not ashamed of.
When you think of medications used to treat mental illness what do you assume? Maybe that the person taking them will become even more depressed or suicidal? Or that the person will become emotionless, or zombie-like?
These are some of the assumptions I heard from people when I decided to start taking Zoloft three months ago. And these weren’t things people assumed from their experience with medications. These were assumptions born of stereotypes perpetuated about mental illness – especially from people who don’t live with them.
My decision to take Zoloft was not one that came easily. It wasn’t spur of the moment. I knew for a long time before that I needed help.
I worked with my doctor. We talked about how I was feeling. I talked about how I was ashamed to even consider taking medication because of what other people would think of me. But my doctor worked with me on a treatment that we thought would be best for me.
My life has changed since I started Zoloft. I wrote in a previous blog post about how it has made me happier and calmer. I would say I was more of a zombie before starting an antidepressant. I was just going through the motions and trying to get to the end of every day so I could go back to bed and do it all over again.
I have not become more depressed or suicidal. I have not become more anxious. Medication has helped my brain match the person that I’ve always felt I was.
Nobody wants to shout from a mountain top that they are somehow damaged. Nobody wants to have to use a little pill just to feel human each day. But I do both.
I am willing to share that I’m on medication because I’m not ashamed. For me, treating my anxiety is no different than someone treating a condition like cancer or diabetes. Mental illnesses are real. They take a real toll on your mind and a real toll on your body. Diseases like depression kill every time someone takes their own life because they can no longer deal with the pain. Things like anxiety can make it hard just to get out of bed each day.
These are the reasons I’m not ashamed to share that I take medication for my anxiety. I don’t care about side glances or whispers or judgement. I’m doing what’s best for me, regardless of the stigma that surrounds it.
I’m not ashamed to take medication to treat my anxiety disorder because it makes me a better wife, a better mom, a better friend, a better student, and a better employee. It makes me a better person.
Medication isn’t for everyone. It’s best to work with your own doctor to come up with a treatment plan that works for you. And even if you do decide to take medication, it often involves side effects, brand changes, and trial and error.
But if this is the path that does work for you, don’t be ashamed of wanting to be healthy.