I’m taking anti-anxiety medication. Let’s talk about it.
I’ve visited my doctor a few times over the past year for a series of related issues. The appointments eventually culminated in an interesting conversation on anxiety.
Within the context of a discussion on anxiety, and following a quick-but-formal (and not free) questionnaire, my doctor said, “There are a few paths we can take to address this issue. But first, I’d like to know how you feel about medication?”
How do I feel about medication?
It seems like a harmless question, but it holds this underlying implication that many people are not cool with using medication to solve a problem.
That’s fair. Why take Ibuprofen when you can move past minor pain and go on with your day, right? Or why take drowsy nighttime medication when a cold isn’t holding you back?
But I think it’s more than that. Because within this anti-anxiety/anti-depressant family—be it SSRIs, SNRIs, NDRIs, SARIs, Tetracyclics, MAOIs, or Tricyclics (yeah, there are a lot of them)—there seems to be this cultural stigma. If I said “Yes” to my doctor’s question, and later took the first-in-my-life anti-anxiety pill, I would be crossing a line. Prior to that, I would have been a person who had to work with what they’d been gifted (in the brain department) to solve problems. After that, I would be part of a group of people who needed help in normal, everyday circumstances. It might feel a little like admitting defeat—like I can’t do it all on my own.
But I said “Yes” anyways.
And I did it for three reasons.
#1: My Friend
I’ve been lucky enough to have met and befriended some amazing people in my life—people who have turned my world views upside-down, who have made me see normal circumstances in an entirely different light. One such person was a man I met about three years ago—a man who would eventually help me throw out all my preconceived notions about minor mental illnesses.
I’ll be honest, before I met this guy, I thought minor mental issues were complete bullshit. My internal rhetoric probably sounded something like this:
Oh really, you can’t get out of bed this morning? Yeah, right. And days you get up, you can’t stop washing your hands because they never feel clean? Come on. STFU, get out of bed, take a shower like a normal person, and go to work.
But it doesn’t always work like that. Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsivity—they’re all real things. And once I took my guard down and had a real conversation with this guy, I learned all about how your brain can betray you even when you’re as strong as you can be. And that it can be really difficult to explain to people who haven’t experienced some mental issue. And sometimes you really do need to seek help.
Yes, sometimes we need help. I am a firm believer in this. It’s something I tell my wife all the time. Sometimes you need help. When I originally drafted this article, my wife was at a friend’s house helping the friend install wallpaper (because, little did I know, wallpaper is a thing again). Her friend needed help and asked for it. I do this all the time. For example, I don’t get paid for writing, and I don’t have a publisher or an editor, so I ask friends or family for help when I want a second opinion. Asking for help isn’t bad—in fact, I find it a really important component of succeeding as a human.
#3: My Doctor
My doctor is awesome. He didn’t just ask me about medicine. He offered medication with the long-term goal of ditching it. He’s all about treating the problem now, learning what it’s like to start feeling normal again (so to speak), and then eventually weaning off it and using more natural devices to address my struggles. I like that.
After beginning the medication, I decided to talk about it, having been inspired by my friend (#1, above) who was so willing to share the details of his struggle. I told my family (and as far as I know, I’m the only one undergoing this type of treatment), and I began sharing it with friends.
And, much to my surprise, in the first six weeks alone, I came across three friends (in addition to #1) who have either taken similar medication in the past, or were currently being treated for a mental issue with medicine. And I’m sure I’ll encounter more as I keep talking.
I needed help and I’m receiving it.
If I want to talk to you about it, I hope you’ll listen.
If you want to talk to me about it, I will listen.
If someone wants to talk to you about it, please listen.
And if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
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