There’s a certain amount of stigma surrounding mental health in general, but there is further stigma when it comes to psychiatric medication.
“They turn you into a zombie”
“They take away who you really are”
“You won’t be the same”
These are just some of the phrases you might hear in regards to thing’s like antidepressants.
It’s not just psychiatric medication either. People tend to accept taking medication for things like diabetes or infections, but the minute opioid painkillers come into play, those misconceptions and stigma soon come into play.
I’m not denying that sometimes medication can be over prescribed, but people fail to realise just how vital they are too many of us and that they don’t change who we are.
It’s funny when I think about a few years back. I was struggling and considering whether to allow my doctors to put me on antidepressants. I was unsure because there’s a popular misconception that it zones you out and changes you, but after researching I saw that this generally seemed to be a myth. There were side effects, but they usually subsided after a few weeks.
At first though, the misconceptions about antidepressants almost prevented me from accepting them. I didn’t eventually agree to take them and they although I was very tired at first, it didn’t change me or turn me into an extra from the walking dead.
It’s funny looking back at how I was hesitant to go on antidepressants, considering now I’ve tried and been through a long list of medication and currently take two different types of antidepressants, an anti psychotic medication and dihydrocodiene, an opioid painkiller.
Worry about being over medicated left me a long time ago, but I still get concerned or shocked looks when I mention my medication, but I need it. I struggle a lot with my physical and mental health, but I wouldn’t be able to function at all without them.
I’ve struggled with my mental health for years. I’ve experienced many symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, dissociation, paranoia, self harm impulsivity, attachment issue’s, to name a few. When I was 18, I finally received some answers and I was diagnosed with OCD, severe depression, panic disorder and social phobia. I’d already tried a couple of different antidepressants at this point, but my dose was raised. I had CBT and ERP therapy for my OCD which did wonders. I’ve been in recovery from OCD and panic disorder since. However, my other problems remained and my therapist referred me to as an outpatient to a local psychiatric hospital. It took a while of being passed round from pillow to post, but I eventually got diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and I was put on Quetiapine (an antipsychotic) for the paranoia I was experiencing. I’ve been on Quetiapine for a short time, but my dose will gradually be raised. My psychiatrist decided to put me on it with hopes that it could help my insomnia, stabalise my mood and paranoia. It’s still early days, but my paranoia has subsided somewhat.
I’ve always experienced pain. When I was a young child, I often complained about pain in my legs. My mum had Perthes as a child, so my doctor was concerned I had too. After tests though, they said I didn’t have it and there was no obvious reason for my pain and passed it of as growing pains.
However my pain didn’t go away with age. Through out the years, I’ve gone to my GP with various pain. Pain in my back, my chest, my legs; and I was always given some vague answer that basically meant they couldn’t find a problem, so they weren’t going to do anything about it.
Things got worse when I was 18. My pain got worse and so did my fatigue. When I was 19, I started going the gym to try and improve my fitness and as a coping mechanism, but going the gym was the beginning of my chronic illness deteriorating to point of debilitating me completely. The pain became unbearable. I’d walk for five minutes and be in tears. My fatigue was so severe it was hard to even hold my head up half the time. I was constantly having dizzy spells and my life was deeply affected. I couldn’t go to uni, I couldn’t work, couldn’t socialise.
I went back to my GP who referred me to a rheumatologist. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME. I was referred to physio and put on cocodamol. They didn’t work and I was tried on others. I was put on gabapentin, pregabalin, buprenorphine to name a few. I also tried tramadol, but that combined with my antidepressants meant I had to much serotonin and I ended up going to the hospital. I was fine, but I had to stop taking them. I was given buprenorphine which helped the pain, but it caused a skin allergy so, again I had to stop.
I’m not going to pretend my journey with medication for my health has been perfect. I’ve had bad reactions that have left extremely drowsy, but eventually I’ve found medication that I’m okay with and it’s vital to my life. I currently take dihydrocodiene and amitryptaline which is an antidepressants, but also is shown to be useful to help night time pain.
I don’t get any bad reaction and it means that most days I can get out of bed even if it’s just to go down stairs. I still can’t do what I’d like to, like study or work, but at least it provides some release.
There’s a lot of fear around opioid painkillers due to addiction. They can be highly addictive, however if you stick to the regime your doctor prescribes, you can be on them without being addicted. There’s a difference between dependency and addiction. I do depend on them, but I’m not Physically addicted.
I know some people would judge me based on the medication I take. I know some people would tell me I shouldn’t take the medicine I do and that I’m too young. However, I don’t care. My medication helps me to get by and I’m not going to apologise for that. I’m not saying medication is for everyone or that there’s never any side effects. I’ve had some horrible side effects when I’ve first started taking some of them.
However, what I am saying is that there’s nothing wrong with having to rely on medication to help you with an illness.
I’m still me.
I have the same personality traits and beliefs. My medication hasn’t changed me.
What it does, is allow me be able to get out bed more often. It helps stop me from being paranoid and helps me to be a little more functional. So I’ll continue to take it.
There’s no shame in taking medication. There’s nothing weak about having to take it for an illness and we need to remove the misconceptions around medication. There is no shame in medication.