When you have a physical illness, you go to the doctor. When you have a mental illness, you go to the doctor. Right? Wrong! 1/4 people (which is around 450 million people- probably someone you know) suffers from a mental illness, but only 1/5 of those people take medication to balance out the chemicals and hormones inside their bodies and only 1/3 people go to a doctor to seek help when they are mentally ill!
Why? If we know something isn't right, if we know what we are feeling is abnormal, if we lose interest in the things we used to love, feel on edge on all the time, have out of control mood swings, having unwanted or intrusive thoughts and use compulsions to relief anxiety, feel sad, depressed, upset for days on end, feel worthless and hopeless or become to scared to leave our own house- why do we not talk about it? Why do we not go to a doctor? One little word;
I take antidepressants. I take a little pill called fluoxetine. 20mg a day, every day to help control my obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. Sure, it's not ideal. I mean, who actually wants to be on anti-depressants. No one. When I went to the doctor, to first be diagnosed with OCD and he said ' How do you feel about taking some medication?" My first internal reaction was; what the hell was he expecting me to say?
Of course, I would be delighted to have to admit to everyone that I have a mental illness and that I failed, gave in, couldn't control it on my own and had to result to taking antidepressants. What struck me, was he never referred to them as antidepressants, he never told me what he was giving me. As soon as I nodded my head in a state of shock and disbelief that I would be going on medication to control something which seemingly seemed so irrational before I knew it, he had printed out the prescription and placed it in my hand.
Stigma. When you say you're on antidepressants, some people automatically start to act very differently around you. People joke all the time, that their flat mate's OCD or they are so depressed, but when you say you take antidepressants for these seemingly harmless states of mind, some suddenly think you are dangerous, out of control or suicidal.
It's like WOAH you take antidepressants; it must be serious! Shouldn't you be in a physiatric hospital? Are you like going to take your life? If they don't say these things to you, they are probably thinking them in their heads. Why would people say or think these things? Don't they understand that taking anti-depressants is one of the bravest things you could ever do?
The media. The media; which includes TV, books. Music and films portray mental illness in a very inaccurate and irresponsible way. If you don't suffer from a mental illness yourself or know someone close to you that suffers, your understanding and perception of mental illness feeds directly of the information which you absorb from the media around you, which most of the time is false and inaccurate. This creates a stigma.
And it's the same for antidepressants. Going back to what my doctor said, or lack of. Not mentioning the word antidepressants made me feel like the word was a dirty or bad word. Like my English teacher always used to say; bad and nice were swear words, due to their inability to describe something effectively. But I wasn't in any English lesson anymore. This was real life. Something I was about to start taking, for what could be a very long time. If the doctor couldn't even say the word, how was I going to talk about it openly with others or even admit it to myself!
What sucks about anti-depressants is there called 'anti-depressants' but you can be on anti-depressants and not be depressed. Jokes on me, because I am depressed, but you can have a number of mental illnesses from OCD to bulimia and not be depressed, but you just so happen to take anti-depressants to help control and balance the chemicals inside your head. When you say you're on anti-depressants, lot's of people will just assume you have depression. What if you don't? You are yet again stigmatised into a corner.
When I first went on anti-depressants, I was ashamed, shocked and to put it quite bluntly; bloody shitting myself with nerves. Not only do I have to admit to the fact that I am now on medication for a mental illness, but I also had all the potential side effects, some quite worrying to be looking out for! Plus having none of this really explained to me, thanks Doc!
Lot's of people choose not to go on anti-depressants, for various reasons which are absolutely fine! You do you! But if stigma is one of those reasons, then I would seriously consider reevaluating your choice. Anti-depressants are not a cure-all, and it's important that you know that. Lot's of people see medication as being a last resort, sometimes they are and sometimes they are not.
But one thing anti-depressants definitely doesn't make you is weak. Whether you have tried, meditation, mindfulness, exercise, healthy eating and yoga beforehand or if antidepressants are just put straight in your hand. YOU ARE NOT WEAK. Going on anti-depressants is not a sign of weakness, your not giving in, you are actually doing the complete opposite.
You realised something was wrong. You plucked up the courage to talk about it; you were brave enough to go and talk about your thoughts and feelings, and you are strong enough to give them a go. Millions of people suffering from a mental illness, never seek help or take medication, so if you CAN do it, you are taking a step in the right direction towards recovery.
There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to your feelings and moods but it's the choices we make to deal with these feelings is what defines us. Going on on anti-depressants is one of those of choices we make. When you can accept that going on anti-depressants is one of the bravest things you could ever do, you will start to feel better, more open and more proud.
Going on anti-depressants and finding the right anti-depressants for you is a journey and everyone's journey is different. We are all different, our chemicals and brains are different. You can't hold yourself accountable for what happens with your mental illness, but you can hold yourself accountable for having the strength to try.
Thank you for reading, as always X