I like to think of myself, generally as a go with the flow kind of gal. I haven’t always been this way and there are times when I’m more ‘go’ than ‘flow’ (as in go away, run for the hills, I’m stressssed). For the most part however, I’ve got to a point where things really are trickling along nicely. Life has come together in the past 5 or so months and I’m in a place of genuine contentedness, thankful for what I have and that which I’ve been blessed with.
Certain things however really, to put it
plainly, shit me up the wall and down the other side. One of those things is the misconception around depression and anxiety and the role that medication has to play.
Let me backtrack slightly. On the bus this morning, while listening to Hamish and Andy and leisurely scrolling through Facebook, I came across a status update from the page of a blog I follow. About how many people over the age of 30 are on antidepressants and how much that sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I agree. I find it horrifying that so many of us are struck down with this debilitating condition (or, in my case, with one of its evil twins). That wasn’t the point however that this post was trying to make. Instead, the poster was conveying the opinion that medication for mental health issues is only effective in suppressing the emotions we are supposed to feel. That popping a pill will ‘ultimately screw you up even more’ and that meds are merely a bandaid covering the stuff in your life that you don’t want to or are reluctant to deal with.
In the words of the poster and further commenters, it’s ok to feel low, down, sad and stressed. It’s natural and by popping a little white pill, we’re somehow lying to ourselves. I get that, I do and in some circumstances depression may look like the above and be able to be treated through alternative means.
But what about when you feel so utterly paralysed by fear that you struggle to get out of bed? Or how about when your thoughts are so consumed by the idea that you’ll somehow murder your own son that you cry daily, for months on end? Bath time, change time, walking down the stairs become a living nightmare. Yeh, that was me. I was pretty much in mental agony for the first 6 months of my sons life. I couldn’t trust myself and I hated myself for it. I cried, I didn’t sleep. I was angry at myself to the point of not being able to eat. What about then?
What about when you’re taking the vitamins, exercising, meditating, seeing an acupuncturist and a naturopath. When you’re having regular visits with an experienced psychologist. And you still feel like utter and complete crap. You’re doing everything that the poster thinks we should be doing to treat depression and anxiety. But it’s not working.
This is why posts like this make me so furious. Its the blanket approach and imperious theorizing that ‘all cases of depression and anxiety are the same.’ Magnesium, yoga and realigning chakras worked for XYZ so why wouldn’t it work for everyone? Unfortunately, sometimes, everything under the sun WILL NOT WORK.
Let me just say that I absolutely and fully support an integrative approach to mental health and wellbeing. I think it’s ridiculous that medication can be prescribed without there being some kind of compulsory therapy with a qualified professional. If you’ve ever read this blog before you’ll know that I’m a bit of a hippie. I eat organic, steer clear of sugar, I’m into meditation and I live a pretty clean old lifestyle. I’m hoping to train to be a health and lifestyle coach and eventually, a holistic nutritionist. I am a huge believer in complementary therapies. Hell, I had acupuncture every month of my pregnancy and credit a naturopath for helping me to conceive, despite PCOS. And I take medication. Lexapro to be exact. 20mg per day. It has, quite literally, been my saving grace.
I’ve come on in leaps and bounds this year. I’ve worked my arse off to achieve the peace I currently feel. I attribute everything I do, the bigger picture, to how I now feel. I 100% know that I couldn’t have got to where I am now, without medication.
The first psychologist I ever saw, when I was terrified of getting myself into a terrible accident that would kill me and everyone around me, put it best. She was an amazing therapist and combined western and eastern theory. Cognitive behavior therapy with a side of mindfulness. Exposure with an entree of meditation. She taught meditation in her spare time and had incense burning in her consulting rooms. I told her in my first visit that I was taking medication. I wasn’t sure what her thoughts would be. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that she was glad I was taking medication (in consultation with a GP and psychiatrist) as it would allow me to approach therapy from a calmer, less anxious place. By feeling more stable, I could actually get through the work ahead of me. Necessary work that had to he done, but that wasn’t going to be easy.
Medication might not be the right option for for everyone, just like complementary therapies may not be the go in some cases. Ideally, a combination of both may work best. There is no one size fits all approach. We manage our mental health the best way we know how, with the information and resources available.
It makes me burn up inside to think that there may be women out there, frantically googling to try and find some way to make themselves feel better without having to take medication. Because what they’ve read says its bad. And unnecessary. And just another way for pharmaceutical companies to control the way we live our lives. It breaks my heart because I’ve been that woman. Desperate to find something, anything to help but so afraid to even think about the one thing that could actually make a difference.
You don’t have to take medication forever, you don’t have to take it at all if you don’t want to but I for one will stand up and put my own story, my core beliefs out there to ensure that every woman, especially those who are most vulnerable, is given the option and can choose to take it without feeling like some kind of failure.