(disclaimer: I’m not a mental health professional, these are just my own experiences and thoughts)
As we all know, there is so much stigma surrounding mental health and it needs to be reduced! I’m really passionate about mental health issues because of my own experiences. I hope that by sharing those experiences I can raise a little bit of awareness and reduce that stigma.
There has been one thing that I have noticed in mental health which is the odd culture surrounding medication. A perception of weakness exists when it comes to antidepressants because they aren’t a natural treatment or because you require help. This culture really frustrates me because taking medication is completely ok and we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about needing an extra little help!
Let’s get personal and chat about my mental health
Around the time I turned 13, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). My parents tried to get me all the help they could without wanting to medicate me. I can’t count how many different counsellors I have seen but none ever really worked for me. I would spend hours telling them what was going on and they’d give me coping mechanisms, but I never improved or felt any better!
Instead, I just kept pushing myself further and further into isolation because it seemed the only way to cope slightly. I didn’t go to school properly for about 5 years. I never saw my friends or left the house. I was horrible to my family because I didn’t want to let anyone get close. I felt like I was going insane because everyone thought that I could get better but I couldn’t on my own. It just seemed to be getting worse.
Somehow I managed to survive, pass all my GCSEs and A-levels exams and get into uni. I thought ‘finally, this will be my fresh start and I will actually beat this’. However, that really didn’t work so well. I found going to uni just as hard as school and I really considered dropping out. I couldn’t get myself out of bed most days and I would just lock myself away in my room without speaking to anyone for days on end. It all just got really difficult to deal with.
Things get a little better
Finally last summer, I was diagnosed with depression. After years feeling in myself that it couldn’t be only anxiety because some days I didn’t panic or worry as I just didn’t feel anything. I can’t explain the relief I felt to have a professional reassure me that I wasn’t just suffering with anxiety!
However, that relief was short-lived and I had to start thinking about treatment. My local GP referred me to Minds Bucks but all they could offer me was group therapy sessions or an online course type thing. The NHS mental health services in Buckinghamshire are so poorly funded and limited (but that is a whole different issue!!). I decided to bite the bullet, ignore the anxious voice telling me ‘but taking medication is bad…you should be able to do this yourself…you are so weak’ and ask my doctor about antidepressants after Christmas.
My GP was brilliant in making sure I was aware of the possible side effects and adjustment period. The adjustment period was hell, there is no denying it! I have never felt so anxious, sick and shaky. I was sure that these tablets weren’t working because I wasn’t feeling instantly better. My mum constantly reassured me that it would get better eventually and she was right. Slowly my brain started to level out, these side effects went away and I started to feel really good.
You are not weak
Over 6 months later, I’m still taking citalopram daily and I would not change that for the world because I am finally truly happy and stable. I don’t panic nearly as much. I can get out of bed almost every day (unless I’m really hungover). I go to uni nearly every day. I hang out with my pals and don’t have to overthink anything. I even just flew halfway across the world completely by myself without feeling anxious once. Don’t get me wrong there is still the odd bad day, but they are much fewer now. For once, I’m not struggling to do the simple daily tasks. This is probably the first time in years that I have felt so free.
I felt like I needed to write because there is a lot of stigma surrounding antidepressants and I don’t get why. I completely understand if people feel it isn’t right for them, you gotta do you! But there is such a fear of seeming weak if you decide to take medication. Antidepressants are totally ok and there is nothing wrong with choosing to have a helping hand from medication. You aren’t weak for taking antidepressants, you are strong for even seeking help!