Living on Medication

When the topic of mental health comes up in conversation and I mention being on medication, I often get responses such as, “don’t you think medication is just an easy way out?” or, “I don’t believe in medication, if you’re sad you just need to get up and get on with it”. I have learnt over the many years that I have been in these situations, that in many cases, arguing is futile. Some people are simply set in the belief that medication isn’t necessary, and that mental illness can be easily combated by simply “being happy”.

Mania does not mean that I become extremely happy or jolly and enjoy every experience that I have. Mania is an uncontrollable energy inside that often results in anxiety, anger, and reckless activities. Depression is not simply being a bit “down in the dumps”, it is a seemingly inescapable pit of darkness that feels like it will never end – for fans of Harry Potter, a good way of describing it would be living with a Dementor kissing you non-stop.

I know my own opinion on medication; if there is something that can make me able to function more successfully, why should I not take it? People argue that it isn’t good for you to take medication every day. Would they say the same to someone on insulin for diabetes?

So what is it that puts people off medication? Is it simply a lack of understanding/experience of what it is to need medication for mental illness? Because the response to people taking medication for physical illnesses, such as insulin, is generally not “medication is dangerous and unnecessary”. Or is it the bad press that comes with documentaries focusing on abuse of prescription medication? The numbers of people taking antidepressants have risen dramatically, according to research. For example, a study on antidepressant use in the UK showed that 3.9 million more units of antidepressants were prescribed in 2015 than 2014. In America, the number of people taking antidepressants has nearly doubled in the last decade, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

I have heard lots of people saying that prescriptions are given out too easily – and I must say that in my experience that has happened to me. When I was 15, I went to see a counsellor at an adolescent mental health support clinic. After one appointment, I was prescribed Fluoxetine (more commonly known as Prozac), and sent on my way. This doesn’t really make sense; can someone really conclude that a person needs antidepressants after one session? It turns out that yes, I do need medication, but my current ‘cocktail’ of meds has been worked out with a psychiatrist over three years.

Maybe some of the stigma comes from the recreational use of medication such as Xanax or Valium. Abusing prescription drugs puts them in a different light, and can lead to the assumption that all prescription medication is being abused, whether that is true or not. However, without my medication, I would not be doing so well. I have no shame in admitting that I need medication, because it helps me to function like other people do. Why put myself through hell if medication can help me get out?