Taking Medication For Your Mental Illness Does Not Make You Weak

It’s kind of weird to write about the medication I take. It’s extremely personal, but more than that, there is a stigma attached to taking medication for your mental illness. Regardless, I want to share my journey so no one feels like they have to hide the medication they take.

Before I started taking medication, I didn’t think I would ever need it. I didn’t even think I had depression. I mean, deep down I knew, but I didn’t want to come to terms with it. I kept calling it  a ‘funk.’ Then I went to therapy in college. My therapist asked if I had ever considered antidepressants. I said no, that I was very against them because of a family member’s drug addiction. She said that I should at least talk to a doctor about it. 

She knew how bad the depression was before I could even come to terms with it. 

The doctor was the head of the on-campus health services. She explained that she did a lot of research on the benefits of treating patients for depression in a clinical setting instead of a psychiatrist’s office. There is so much stigma surrounding a psychiatrist’s office, whereas a doctor’s office is about total health — which should include mental health. 

I started on a low dose of Prozac. In about 30 days, it kicked in and worked like magic. I was myself again. I was happy and there was a light shining in my eyes that was dull before. I felt great for many months.

Then I moved to New York City.

New York has a way of throwing you around without you even knowing it. It was fine at first, but then winter hit. I could barely keep my eyes open. I was crying every day. I was working 12 hours just so I didn’t have to confront the darkness in my mind. This went on for about a year, on and off, worse in the winter. 

After lots of exhausting research, I finally found a psychiatrist (and therapist) that could treat me and was within my insurance. She doubled my Prozac, and in a few weeks, I could feel it working.

And then it didn’t. 

Winter hit, and my seasonal depression came out of hiding. She put me on a low dose of Wellbutrin in addition to the Prozac. It worked for the winter, like I needed it to. It also made me not want to eat. But it made me a human again. 

And then it didn’t. 

After winter, my body didn’t need the Wellbutrin. I was having panic attacks every day. Literally every. single. day. The anxiety, the shaking, the sweating, and the panic were daily activities, and I didn’t know what to do. 

The doctor took me off Prozac and Wellbutrin by slowly tapering me off. Then I slowly increased to a strong dose of Lexapro.

It worked. 

And then it didn’t. 

Winter came. Depression hit hard. I had to go on Wellbutrin again. But the normal dose I had been taking didn’t work, so we doubled it. It didn’t work. Then we doubled it again. 

And I broke. 

I hit the lowest point in my life four days after increasing my Wellbutrin dose to the highest amount. I wanted to die. My suicidal thoughts terrified me. Is it related? My doctor says probably not, but I say yes. We can agree to disagree. The point is, I was not okay, and we reassessed. 

When shit hit the fan, I was put on Abilify to help stabilize the Wellbutrin increase. It helped. 

And then it didn’t. I was like a living zombie, unable to stay awake through an entire day. It literally felt like I was drugged. Some days were fine, with minimal haziness, and other days, I couldn’t wake myself up and I’d sleep 14 hours. The Abilify stabled the Wellbutrin, and I tapered off the Abilify. 

And now here we are. On high doses of Lexapro and Wellbutrin. Am I stable? Stable, yes. Do I still have a mental illness? Also yes. 

I write all of this knowing that there are people who will recommend that I try a new medication because it worked for them. There are also people who will tell me that medication is a scam. Yoga and exercise will change everything! But I also know that psychiatry is a science, and it’s unfortunately one of the only medical fields that is extremely individualized. Our brains are unique, and each medication will react differently for each person. 

Medication, as much as it may have made me a zombie or created anxiety, has helped me more than it has hurt me. I am able to perform daily tasks, like get out of bed. Yes, my self-care and coping mechanisms (like exercise and meditation) have also helped me through depression, but I truly don’t think I would be on this earth without medication. It saved my life. 

I write this for all the people struggling with a mental illness and against taking medication. It’s definitely a process, and it won’t “cure” you, but it can help be yourself again. It’s there to help you take action. Mental health is a journey. We will have ups and downs. Hopefully, medication can help you feel better. If anything, you are not alone in this process. We are a community, and we will always be here for you, cheering you on along the way.

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