End Pill Shaming

Growing up, I always wondered what was wrong with me. Why I had to be tortured with the thoughts in my own head day after day. I knew it wasn’t normal to want to disappear. I knew sleeping all day wasn’t productive and would only make me feel worse… but I couldn’t help it. It was what I had known, so how was I supposed to change that?

When my depression got so bad that I ended up in the hospital, my family and I decided, collectively, that I needed to get in to see a psychiatrist. I had never really thought of a tiny little pill being the thing that solved the great emptiness and loss of purpose that I felt. I was always afraid of taking medicine, even Advil, but this new path to being healthier brought with it a wave of hopefulness.

I met with my psychiatrist and he explained to me that there are a bunch of different families of antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications… so if one didn’t work, we would move on to the next. I was hoping that all I would need was one and I’d be done and happy. Well, that first pill worked for about a year. My tolerance level increased and so did my dosage, which created a problem. I began to get dizzy spells and my eyesight would go in and out. That freaked me out so, in turn, I just stopped taking them altogether. My mental health really took a turn for the worse after that.

I was anxious all the time, very paranoid. I would go days at a time without sleeping, or if I did sleep it was restless. I knew that I was healthier on medication, even if it was the wrong one.

(Having depression and anxiety has made any small task seem monumental, like calling my doctors. I would have my parents sit down with me while I called, or I wouldn’t do it.)

When I tried to get in to see my psychiatrist, he wasn’t available, and it was getting to a point where it was urgent. Being in a bad state of mind and not having a doctor be able to see you is frightening. I reached out to my therapist to see if she had any recommendations of a new psychiatrist that I could see ASAP. I called the list of doctors that she gave me, and one of them got back to me the same day. We set up an appointment first thing the next day.

My first session with my new psychiatrist went 2 hours long (usually they last 45 minutes). I cried for most of it, explaining my life to her and how unhappy and hollow I felt. She listened and handed me tissues after I had no more tears left in me to cry. She gave me a prescription for Lexapro, which worked for a while until it didn’t. We then tried Lamictal, which is an anticonvulsant, but taken at a certain dosage is a long-term treatment for bipolar disorder in adults. This medication decreases the number of mood swings a person has, and I was all over the place. I would be manic one minute, spending habits out of control, and then I would crash and burn HARD. Coming down from a manic episode meant I was in such a dark place, so when I got on this medication it helped balance me out TREMENDOUSLY. We eased me onto this medication because of some of the side effects, but it seemed to start to help.

After my miscarriage. the medication wasn’t as helpful as before. I was back in my dark place. All of my emotions were heightened, my anxiety was through the roof. I couldn’t sleep for about a month straight. Right before I went to my treatment center (literally the day before), my psychiatrist prescribed me Ability as a partner to my Lamictal to see how that would help. This medication works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural chemicals in the brain. It’s used to treat severe mood swings and decrease how often they occur. Maybe it was placebo, maybe it was real, but I felt better almost immediately (I was also in a center where all we did was talk about our feelings and the shit that has happened to us, so that might also have been part of it).

I’m 5 months into that medication combo and I am still feeling great. Yes, I have moments that are not-so-great, but I recognize them for what they are… moments. I’m able to feel sad when sad things happen, but I come out of those moods pretty quickly, back to my BALANCED state.

Part of the reason I was so afraid to start antidepressants was because I didn’t KNOW anything about them. I didn’t know how common taking them was until I did the research. 12.7% of the U.S. population are taking some form of antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication. Knowing that made me feel a little less alone in my mental health battle.

I’m very open when it comes to my mental health, so when I talk about being on medications, it opens others up to talking about their experiences. I’ve found that many people I know are on some type of medicine and it helps me when I talk with them about it. It makes it feel more normal and less taboo. Someone once said to me, “If there was a cure for cancer, wouldn’t you take it?” That really spoke to me… yelled, actually. It may not be a “cure” for depression, but my medication HELPS ME FEEL NORMAL. It helps me to not feel like my world is crumbling all the time. It allows me to thoroughly enjoy my life again.

A lot of people pill shame, but I feel like that’s because they don’t know enough about them. Despite the trial and errors that I’ve had with different meds, I’m grateful for the ones that work and keep me feeling good. Not everyone has or will have a good experience with them, but until you are fully informed, try not to pill shame. It could be the thing that’s keeping your loved one alive.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Sincerely,

Kate


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