TW: Internalised ableism surrounding taking medication, especially antidepressants
It’s fairly often that I stumble onto anti-medication articles. Especially on social media where journalists are eager to push the notion that women can benefit more from ballet instead of treating their mental illness with the right chemicals that their brain currently lacks to fight off depression and anxiety.
Currently, the NICE guidance is that medication should only be given to those who are the most “severe”, and that in itself is heartbreaking as you have to reach rock bottom before anyone can help you.
After all this time that the world has spent trying to get rid of the taboo surrounding mental health issues, it’s frankly exhausting that with a quick Google search, you can still read articles demonising medication and how doctors should deny patients effective treatment.
Let me tell you why guidance like this doesn’t always work.
I first started taking Sertraline in 2019 after years of trying to heal from childhood trauma. I had been to therapy, joined gyms, had an awful CAMHS experience and ate as many vegetables as I could – but still my anxiety and depression were extreme.
I knew this was because my brain wasn’t producing the right chemicals, but instead of being offered the medication I needed, I had years of being pushed towards alternative therapy.
The moment I began taking Sertraline, I knew things were going to be better. I was lucky that I didn’t have any major side effects and after three months I noticed a massive reduction in my anxiety. I also noticed that I wasn’t looking at the world as if it was the worst place to be anymore.
Unfortunately, I still had some internalised stigma and this is where I challenge the claims that alternative therapy over medication will work.
In June 2021 I boldly believed I would be fine without medication. I was tired of taking it, tired of being a person who needed antidepressants, and so I made the call to my GP and started to come off my pills.
I was impatient and did it badly, I will admit. I came off them too quickly and had all sorts of side effects, and I became an absolute nightmare at work. I was constantly late, slow, complained a lot and was genuinely miserable. The reason I didn’t do anything about my situation was because I’d seen too many articles convincing me that life was better without medication.
Throughout this time I still worked out and hung out with friends, but my brain was disengaged with everything. I had no motivation to read or write and the TV shows I once loved became insignificant.
Worst of all, I became angry over my existence and hated that I had to live out each day – a feeling I hadn’t felt since my late teens. Surprisingly, going to yoga each week did nothing to change this.
Thankfully, there have been better influences than the people who wrote the articles against medication. I was lucky to come across Lottie Bedlow from The Great British Bake Off posting about her medication on Instagram with the hashtag #PostYourPill.
I began scrolling through the tag, drawing comfort from the fact these people weren’t ashamed they had been taking a pill for many years. The stories empowered me to finally call my GP and get back onto Sertraline.
If it hadn’t been for the tag, I may still be struggling through the days. My worry is that young people or those who have internalised stigma will miss these positive influences and instead read the article that convinced me to ignore the need for medication. I fear they won’t get the help they need or will come off their medication like me.
What is dangerous is that some of these articles have no scientific evidence behind them, and are pushing the shame that we’ve all been trying to get rid of for years.
Whilst medication might not work for everyone, it does work for a lot of people and I have lived through the effects of not taking that medication. It has been the worst and most dangerous experience and I’m just so grateful to the #PostYourPill trend for giving me the strength to go back on it.
Since writing this article I have been on Sertraline for three months, now up to 100mg. I’m having more good days than bad and am definitely less anxious. Although fighting depression and anxiety is still hard, I’m confident that my medication will continue to be a help in fighting those demons.
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