A question from my Tumblr ask thingy:
I was just wondering, how did you feel when your doctor suggested going on anti-depressants? My therapist of several months suggested it to me today and while logically I know it’s probably a good idea, I can’t help but feel like I’m broken, you know? Like, I’m worse than I thought I was. Did you feel like this or know anyone who felt something similar?
First of all, Depression Lies. It tells you that you’re weak and unworthy and terrible and that you’re never going to be able to get out from under it.
Depression lies like that because it wants to protect itself and keep on controlling your life.
Depression is a d***, and I want to encourage you to listen to your therapist and let him or her help you.
Now I want you to imagine that you have a fever, and your whole body hurts, and you’ve been coughing up all sorts of awful gunk for days. You’re miserable, so you go to the doctor.
The doctor says, “oh, you have this terrible infection in your body, so I’m going to give you some medicine to help your body get better, and some other medicine to help you not suffer while your body works on that.”
Imagine that you then say, “I don’t want to do that, because I feel sort of broken if I take those medications. I feel like I’m weak or something, and if I take those medications that you know will help me feel better, I’m admitting that my body needs some help so I can stop suffering. I think I’ll keep on suffering and hope it gets better.”
Or you go to your doctor because you’ve been feeling crummy and she runs some tests and she says, “Well, it turns out that you have diabetes, but you’re in luck! You can take some medicine, and it’ll treat it. You’ll probably have to take it for a long time, maybe even your whole life, but you’ll get well and feel better!”
Do you say, “No, I think I’ll just deal with it,” and continue suffering?
Of course not! You would treat any illness with medication if you could, and you’d put a cast on a broken leg and walk with crutches if you needed to, because walking on a broken leg really really really hurts, and you don’t need to suffer through that pain!
Mental illness is exactly the same as a physical illness. Your body has something that’s out of whack – in our case, it’s how our brains handle neurochemicals and stuff – and there’s medication that can help us help ourselves feel better.
You’re not broken, and you’re not weak, and if you’re now thinking that you’re worse than you thought you were? Well, that’s really awesome, because it means that you recognize that your brain needs some help to get healthy, and your doctor is there to help you do that.
It takes courage to take the chance on medication, and the first one you try may not work, because brains are all different and incredibly complicated, but something will work, and you will feel better, and you will be so glad that you took the step to take care of yourself.
Please check in with me in a month or so, and let me know how you’re doing.
I answer a lot of questions about living with mental illness on my Tumblr thing, if you want to go take a look.
And please, remember, if you live with mental illness like I do: you are ok.
Post script: It’s been about 24 hours since I published this, and there are a lot of comments here, a lot of people sharing their own experiences and stories. That’s wonderful. Something that has come up a lot, which I know but failed to write here originally, is that medication for mental illness isn’t a magic wand. We live in a society that too frequently says, “here, take this pill” instead of “let’s look at what’s going on, and see how you can be helped, including but not limited to taking medication.” For me, personally, a combination of ongoing talk therapy plus medication gave me my life back. That may be different for you or someone you know. Brains are complicated, as I said, and what works for one person may not work for another. What works for you now may not be as effective at some point in the future. My goal in writing this post yesterday was to dispel the myth that says mental illness = weakness, because I believe that myth is demonstrably harmful to countless people. There are lots of ways to get help for Depression and Anxiety, and I hope to encourage anyone who is suffering to please seek help, because you don’t have to suffer. The comparison I made between physical illness and mental illness is one way I try to do that.