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Antidepressants & Hoodoo Voodoo: How Stigma Prolongs Suffering

psychiatric medicationThere’s help, but we don’t get it. The list of reasons why is long: embarrassment, stigma, fear, confusion, cost, insurance, judgment, the treatment itself. People love to denigrate the treatment of mental illness, whether it’s therapy or medication.

I’m not much of a fan of those who perpetuate the stigma that psychiatric therapy and medication are bad hoodoo voodoo. Yes, some may simply need more sleep (SLEEP! Seriously, the power of sleep.), or exercise, or a better diet, and they’ll find their moods improve quite a bit. Others may need therapy. Others may need medication. We’re all different, but we do all deserve to be better. To be emotionally well.

Andrea Scher recently wrote on her blog Superhero Journal about how long she waited to try medication for her anxiety.

” … I remember wondering often: Is this just life? Is this how everyone feels? I started interviewing my friends Do you feel overwhelmed all the time? Does it feel like there are too many people in the world? Do crowded grocery stores or trips to Ikea make you run for the hills?

Some would say yes. Others would nod slowly, looking at me suspiciously, like, Are you okay? I assumed I was flawed.

That it was somehow my fault. That I was too sensitive. That the overwhelm was an issue of not being organized enough, or calm enough. The word “humorless” started popping into my mind. You are humorless…”

So many of us go through the same thing, the internal struggle in which we argue with ourselves about why we’re like this, why we can’t handle what other people can. We don’t reach out for help because we’re afraid of it or don’t know we need it or aren’t sure we deserve it and besides, it won’t work anyway. Haven’t you read the articles?

Andrea did yoga, meditation, stopped eating sugar, took hikes in the woods, took vitamins, and went to therapy, but for her it wasn’t enough. For some people, it isn’t.

Her last resort was to take medication, Zoloft in her case. And now? Happiness, including hugging more and saying I love you more to her husband and children.

“WTF? Pills are not supposed to do this! My new-age heart shouts. Yoga and meditation are supposed to do this. Hard work is supposed to do this. Copious amounts of therapy is supposed to do this. My mind is utterly blown.”

I’ve been there. So has Jamie Wright, who also wrote recently about depression on her blog The Very Worst Missionary in a post entitled “Jesus or Zoloft?“:

“This morning I shuffled around my house looking for some unknown thing, circled the internet in search of nothing at all, and told myself repeatedly to ‘get it together.’ When none of that got me anywhere, I prayed, telling God repeatedly to ‘get it together.’ I need to write, I said. I need to cook. I need to buy toilet paper. This grimy, stupefied agoraphobe thing isn’t really working for me. I don’t have time for mental illness, I told him. You’re gonna have to make it go away.

And then I remembered the one thing some Christians will never admit out loud, which is that sometimes Jesus isn’t all you need. Sometimes you need Zoloft. I’ve fought with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember … and I know the things I need to do to escape this ditch. For me it requires healthy food, sunshine, exercise, safe friends, and yes, Faith in my Healer and Counselor.

But sometimes it also means addressing the chemical needs of my body. Sometimes it means popping a little blue pill.”

Not all the time. Not for every one. I don’t believe, and I’m pretty sure Andrea and Jamie don’t either given how many other things they do to take care of their health, that medicine is magical and cures all ills. I think a lot of people are handed prescriptions who don’t need them. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that some of us do.

It’s not my fault that some doctors don’t ask the right questions about whether their patients are sleeping or eating right. It’s not my fault that they don’t refer patients to therapy, and that some people don’t understand that medication can’t save them from not knowing how to draw boundaries well or heal from past traumas or develop better coping tools. Yes, our system doesn’t work right in many ways, some having to do with the treatment of mental health and many not. None of this is my fault.

Among other things, I happen to require medication. It doesn’t make me altered. I’m still the same, just not so freaked out all the time. I’m not deliriously happy, or a zoned out robot, or unable to feel highs and lows, or a walking zombie. I’m just me, able to contribute and parent and be a person out in the world, not just under my covers, thanks to the help of many things, including medication.

Jamie, Andrea and I get to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our work and our lives and our families without having anyone question or judge or convince us to delay treatment because it’s SO wrong dontcha know and too many people are doing it. Have you read the articles? What concerns me, keeps me up at night, is not that. It’s the infinitely larger number of people who prolong their suffering needlessly thanks to stigma.

writes here at Babble as well as at her own blog on postpartum depression, called Postpartum Progress. You can also follow her on Twitter as she tweets inane things about her day.

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