Why being on meds is OK

I read this article on Glamour today and found myself unable to move along without commenting on it.

Women Are Ditching Their Antidepressants at Higher Rates Than Men—The Reasons Are Complicated

This article is disturbing to me on multiple levels. The title is off-putting because it sets it up as “men vs women” when it’s barely a point in the article. Even the use of “ditching” meds downplays the seriousness of the subject matter. Mostly it seems that the subjects involved are taking their mental health into their own hands and then suffering from it. Or that because a person has a negative reaction to a particular med they were prescribed, that cold-turkeying it and not taking anything makes more sense than finding the proper medication. The author herself states that “despite proof that they worked (I do feel better when taking them),” she couldn’t make taking them a “habit.” That “if you’re taking antidepressants, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to get off them.” UNLESS YOU NEED THEM. Doctors “can help ensure you wean off antidepressants the right way—and ensure you won’t have to go back on them.” UNLESS YOU NEED THEM. There is no way to ensure that you won’t need to take something! It feels like a very blase ho-hum do-what-you-want-it’s-your-body article.

Since I was prescribed medicine in 10th grade (at least a decade after I should have been diagnosed with both ADHD and bi-polar 1 disorder), I have gone on and off meds multiple times. More than once, it was because of the stigma associated with taking them. That I’m broken and can’t fix myself. That I’m different. But other times, it was that elusive “I feel good now, so I don’t need them.” Both reactions have been detrimental to me.

I have weened myself (both solo and with the supervision of doctors) off of lithiam, wellbutrin, zoloft, dexedrine, and others. Most of the times I weened myself off were during times when I didn’t have a therapist and my mental health was being managed by a primary care doctor. But I have gone back because, in the end, they help me. It has taken me years and different types of (constant) therapy to figure out the balance of therapy and meds that benefit me most. And even on meds, I am far from “fixed.” I am constantly in a battle against anxiety and sadness and self-doubt and self-hatred. But I feel like medicine is helping me. I can only imagine the “me” I’d be right now if I wasn’t medicated. I have no idea what the future of my medicine cabinet will look like, but not taking something because “I don’t want to” or “I can’t seem to remember to take them so I guess I don’t need them” is not a healthy approach. I was terrible about taking daily meds for years. Now I fill my pill holder two weeks in advance. I make sure I’m set up so that all I have to do is open the correct slot and wash it down with water. I don’t rely solely on medicine but it’s part of my therapy.

Please don’t misunderstand. Meds are NOT for everyone. Many people ARE over-prescribed and under-supervised. Talk therapy CAN help (and DOES both in combination with meds and for others without meds). Some people CAN banish their inner-demons with exercise or meditation or myriad other solutions. But many DO need medicine to help with a chemical imbalance and many haven’t found the right combination or type of treatment. “The whole reason you go on antidepressants is that there’s some kind of biological imbalance—and biological means it’s out of your control.” But it seems to me that the subjects in the article are celebrating the fact that they are ignoring their doctors’ advice. That the overarching theme is that “ditching your meds if you want to” is ok, especially when reading the paragraph headlines. It seems like everything the doctors are quoted as saying (work with your therapist and MD to find the right combo, never go cold-turkey and stop, etc.) is downplayed by the reactions of those taking/not taking the meds.

Mental illness is not something everyone “recovers” from, a message that I felt was strongly hinted at in the article. Don’t give up finding what works best for you. If it’s exercise and diet, that’s wonderful! If it’s taking a pill every day for a while to get back to what feels “normal” to you, then take a pill for a while. If it’s using medicine as a tool to help you for the rest of your life, do that. Find what works for YOU. This is your own journey. No one else is on it but you.

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