As someone who has been taking mental health meds for the past 10 years, I’m not ashamed to speak openly about it. And I’m not alone. Mental health advocates across the country have been sharing their #ShowUsYourMeds selfies in the hope of breaking down the stigma surrounding antidepressants.
There’s an age-old stigma that says that by taking tablets, people are taking the easy way out. They don’t want to help themselves out of their troubles, they’d rather pop a pill instead (Source). There’s a lot of ‘blame culture’ around taking this medication but, like many others, it can save lives.
So here’s my selfie…
In my hand I’m holding my Quetiapine (an anti-psychotic) and Zopliclone (to help me sleep). Over the years, I’ve been prescribed antidepressants like:
..but none of these helped with my Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of them actually made me feel worse, especially when coming off them with the side effects being brutal. However, before I was diagnosed with BPD 2017, I was being treated for anxiety and depression which might be why I never felt the above helped properly. After that, I was given the right medication to match my diagnosis. I was given antipsychotic medication called Quetiapine. Antipsychotics help with mood disorders and help to control the symptoms of psychosis. The Quetiapine has some side effects, which include an exacerbation in my Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) but I’m learning to deal with that. These tablets help me to function and I’m so glad that I take them.
Before any medication, my emotions were so overwhelming that I wasn’t sure what was going on or how I was feeling. I would experience extreme highs and lows which involved erratic behaviours. I would go running, try to meditate etc but none of these things seemed to settle the extremes. Taking medication alongside these things has definitely helped.
So, here’s why there’s no shame in mental health meds:
They can save lives
Before I started taking medication for my BPD, my moods were so erratic they were scary. The highs made me manic, impulsive and on edge. Some of my behaviours were dangerous in the earlier years. I wouldn’t sleep for days on end because I was feeling ‘creative’ and ‘needed to get all my amazing ideas out on paper’. Then, the lows would come and I couldn’t think properly, I was so down and felt like I didn’t want to be here anymore. After I had a breakdown in 2017, I was properly assessed and given the right meds. If it wasn’t for these tablets, I don’t know if I’d be here. So many other people feel that they’re lifesavers too and I’m inclined to agree.
They work alongside self-care measures
For me, the approach to looking after my mental health has been a well rounded one. I don’t just rely on the medication to make me feel better as I’ve found other things that help too. Like running or exercising. I was once told that I should stop taking my medication and focus on keeping fit and getting a natural high that way. This wasn’t helpful advice as a culmination of everything helps me. Doing guided meditations, breathing exercises and going for counselling has provided me with different outlets. If you can, see if any of these things work for you too.
They help with the chemical imbalance
Antidepressants work by balancing the chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters which affect your emotions and your moods. That’s why some people find that once they start taking them, their moods get better, they sleep more soundly and have better concentration. While I tried to take antidepressants, they didn’t help contain my sometimes manic episodes which is why I now take antipsychotics.
For many, taking tablets is something that they’d rather not do and that’s OK. It’s your choice as to what you do to help your mental health. If tablets aren’t for you, there are so many other ways of looking after your mind. If you prefer to take them, that’s alright too.
In the end, we’re people not prescriptions. But they can definitely help.