What surprised me about my statement is that I’m not a “take the meds” kinda person. I’m a person who has indeed taken the meds when I’ve needed them, but not without weeks or months of internal dialogue and much back-and-forth. Usually, before I make any life-changing (or even not life-changing) decision, I also consult a panel of friends and family for some “what would you do” advice. And sometimes, I decide I’m too afraid of potential side effects to the meds to actually take them.
My mind works like that–I think of the side effects as a given, but I rarely consider the benefits and improvements. I’m a pessimist, obviously.
When I was depressed at age 20, I took the meds. When I was having terrible bouts of anxiety in my mid-twenties, I took the meds. But over the past few years of milder anxiety, severe PMS, and seasonal depression, I’ve relied on supplements and vitamins and other lifestyle changes instead. Not on meds. Sometimes I think about how life would have been different had I taken the meds. I’ll never know how they would have affected me–positively or negatively. I like to think that if things ever get too scary, I’d take the meds. But I know I wouldn’t take them just because a friend told me to take them.
I told my therapist about my response to my friend after I realized, a few days later, first that I said it at all and second, how it made me feel–like a big fat hypocrite and like I barely considered what my friend was feeling and dealing with before I blurted out “take the meds.”
What I now wish I’d told my friend is this:
Mental illness is scary when you’re first diagnosed. It’s sometimes even scarier before you’re diagnosed! That diagnosis opens up the path to recovery, whether that includes medication or not. Only you and your doctor (and sometimes it takes a second doctor, or a therapist or other health care professional) can make that decision. Don’t be persuaded by friends and family who are probably inundating you with their initial, gut reactions (like “take the meds,” for example). That’s what my response to your news was–a gut reaction because I care about you and want you to feel better. Instead of saying “take the meds,” I should have said “I want you to feel better” and “I’m here for you.” I also should have provided some resources to you, like websites such as NAMI. I should have told you that you’re not alone and that it will get better.
So, I hope you’re reading this. I’m thinking of you.