On Wednesday I will be returning to see my GP to review my medication just over a year after I began taking antidepressants to help manage my anxiety and subsequent depression.
The end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 was one of the toughest periods I’ve been through with my mental health. My anxiety got a grip of me again and sent me spiralling to the point where I was struggling to get up to go to work everyday.
My condition overwhelmed me, stripped me of my confidence and stole my happiness. It ultimately led me to become depressed as I withdrew from the world and almost lost hope of getting better completely.
Despite hitting such a low, for a long time I was adamant that I did not want to treat my conditions with medication.
I had a really misguided view of medicating mental illness before my recovery that revolved around the following common irrational fears and misconceptions which I had:
1: Talking therapies are the ONLY way to beat anxiety
When things got really tough I began going through counselling. I thought the only way I was going to gain control of my condition was by confronting my problems through talking therapies.
I felt that medication would only supress my issues rather than resolve them but how wrong I was!
Looking back now, taking antidepressants allowed me to get the headspace I needed in order for me to deal with my issues.
It enabled me to think more rationally and allowed me to engage with my counselling in order to manage my conditions.
I should say at this point that counselling, CBT and just being open with people about my conditions have all been massively important to my recovery as well as medication and I will be talking about these forms of treatment in future blogs.
2: Taking medication means I have completely lost control over my mental health
Taking medication was a scary prospect for me because I felt that if I did it was essentially an admission that my mental health had got the better of me.
I thought that I had to keep fighting my anxiety on my own to pull myself through. If I started taking medication would that be my life forever?
On reflection, the decision to take antidepressants was an admission that I couldn’t cope on my own at that point in my life. Taking that step was important though to allow me to get to the positive place I am today.
Medication doesn’t have to be forever but sometimes it is necessary to help you through difficult periods when everything gets too much.
3: People would judge me if they found out
I also felt embarrassed about the thought of taking medication due to the stigma around the subject in society.
I didn’t want people to know that I needed medication to keep my mental health under control. I thought they’d judge me and label me but that hasn’t been the case.
Most people do understand if you need to take medication to manage a mental illness and respect that you’ve sought help when you needed it.
If you broke your leg you would take painkillers while it healed right? When you think about the situation in those terms then it makes taking medication for mental illness more relatable for people.
4: Medication will stop me from being me
This was my biggest fear about taking medication to manage my mental health. I was scared that if I started taking antidepressants then I would lose my sense of self and become a different person.
I thought that medication would numb me and just supress my problems rather than solve them. I was sure it would cause me to feel detached and just leave me drifting through life not feeling like me.
Looking back, the most ironic thing about believing this myth is that because of my anxiety and depression I hadn’t felt like me for a long time anyway!
It seems absurd now that I didn’t begin taking medication sooner as it was only when I did that I actually did start to feel like myself again.
So basically, if you need medication to manage your mental health then don’t be afraid to talk to your GP about it!
I know that people react differently to antidepressants but they have really helped me to be more rational and manage my mental health. I’ve been lucky that I’ve experienced no side effects from my medication and the most important thing is that they have allowed me to find myself again.
Coming full circle, as I said, I am going to be seeing my GP on Wednesday to review my medication. I am happy and comfortable on antidepressants and I am in no rush to come off them. When I do, it needs to be the right time and with the advice of my GP.
I’ll let you know what happens…