I bet you’ve probably heard something along the lines of “you shouldn’t use medication for anxiety or depression” at some point in your life. There’s such a stigma behind all things related to mental illness, but particularly when it comes to medication. Why is that, do you think? I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing stuff like that, because medication to treat mental illness can literally save someone’s life.
Before you start thinking that I’m pushing medication on people, hear me out. Of course, there are so many things that can be done to treat mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression other than medication. Talk therapy is absolutely fantastic, for example. It’s also been proven that exercising regularly helps minimize the symptoms of anxiety and depression. These are all wonderful things, but they’re topics for another day. Today, I want to talk specifically about the role medication can play in the treatment of mental illness. There’s a lot more to it than you may think.
My journey with medication
You may or may not already know that I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. If you did, great! If not, there’s your fun fact of the day! I’ve always been anxious, but only recently (within the past couple of years) have been able to put a name to what I was experiencing and begin to tackle it. I started on Cipralex in December 2015 in combination with Ativan, which I take on an as needed basis (aka when I feel a panic attack coming on). This past December, I felt like the Cipralex was no longer working for me, as I was having panic attacks fairly frequently. I then switched to Cymbalta and have been taking that since.
At this point, my symptoms are fairly stable. Sure, I get anxious every now and again, but I feel better overall. I hope to eventually go off of medication all together. My reason for this is that I gained a lot of weight since I started it. Now that I’m exercising frequently and living a more balanced lifestyle, I hope to eventually be able to feel okay on my own. My confidence has definitely increased if nothing else! (If you want, you can head over to my personal blog, A Daynna Life, to learn more about my journey with mental illness). I’ve also created some self-love inspiration for those of you struggling with something similar, so be sure to get access to the free resource library to check it out!
Medication isn’t an instant fix
If you’re hoping to find something that will instantly help you to feel better, you may be in for some disappointment. Unfortunately, the journey of taking medication to treat mental illness is often a long one. Oftentimes, there’s a trial and error period when it comes to finding the right medication and dosage for you. It’s a daunting and incredibly frustrating process. That being said, when you do eventually get it right, you’ll absolutely notice a difference.
it might get worse before it gets better
When I first started taking medication to control my anxiety, my body had difficulty adjusting to it. And I was only taking 10mg, which is the lowest dose. For about the first week, I was feeling even more anxious than I was before taking the medication. Had I not known any better, I probably would have stopped taking it right then and there. Fortunately, both the doctor and pharmacist warned me that this would happen, so I stuck it out and waited for things to get better.
The other thing worth mentioning here is the issue of withdrawal symptoms. Girlfriend, let me tell you, the struggle is REAL. When I was in the process of switching medications, my withdrawal symptoms from my first medication caused me to feel the worst I ever had. I was having multiple panic attacks a day. It was to the point where I was scared to leave my room. Fortunately, a slight adjustment in my dosage fixed that problem, but this is something you’ll want to take into consideration if you’re thinking about starting medication.
Just because you’re on medication now doesn’t mean you always will be
This was one of the biggest things that held me back for so long from trying medication. Committing to taking something everyday for the rest of your life is terrifying! For a long time, I just suffered needlessly because of this fear. I was gladly corrected by my doctor when I finally brought up the thought of trying medication to control my anxiety. He told me that should I decide one day that I’m in a place in life where I don’t think I need it, there’s no harm in slowly weaning myself off of it all together. The main thing to keep in mind with this is your well-being. If you think you’re better off taking medication, then do it. If not, then you have the freedom to stop (just do it slowly to avoid withdrawal!).
it’s beneficial to utilize a combination of methods to control your mental illness
Study after study have shown that the best results happen when you combine techniques when controlling mental illness. Think of each technique as a supplement; they all work together to collectively help you feel better! For instance, someone who works with a therapist, takes the proper medications, exercises regularly, and practices regular self-care is far more likely to be successful at controlling their symptoms than someone who only takes medication. You really do get out of it what you put into it. This is something that often gets overlooked, but it’s important to consider.
people who take medication aren’t crazy
If there’s anything you take away from this post, it should be this. Just because you take medication for your mental illness doesn’t mean you’re crazy. Would you call someone crazy for taking blood pressure medication? What about someone who takes Aspirin after having a heart attack? No, you wouldn’t, so why do we shame ourselves for taking medication for our brain? It’s called mental ILLNESS, and medication is just one of many highly effective treatments. People who take medication to control their symptoms are just trying to live their lives, so let them be.
So there we go! I hope this post is able to shine some light on this incredibly stigmatized topic. Now let’s chat: What are some of the wildest things you’ve heard about using medication to treat mental illness? And if you’re comfortable sharing if you’ve ever taken medication for anxiety or depression, what was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!