Friday, January 29, 2016

Why do we fight against taking meds for mental illness?

 This has been on my mind a lot lately.  When I most recently started a new medication to treat my depression, I asked the doctor, "How will I know when I am ready to stop taking this medicine."  His answer was so clear and made perfect sense to me.  It really was a life-altering moment for me.  He said,"You never stop taking it.  You have a disease that requires you to take medicine for the rest of your life.  Even if you have times without symptoms, you need to face he truth. And the truth is you have been hospitalized six times in your life and every time it was because your symptoms returned and you were not taking medicine to manage the illness.  All you have to do is take a pill every day. So never question it again."

So, why, then is it so difficult for people to accept they need medication for their mental disorders?  When a person has a headache, they don't hesitate to take a pill (whether it be Tylenol or Excedrin Migraine) to reduce or eliminate that pain.

Imagine for a minute that you are rushed to the hospital for a severe break to your lower leg.  The doctor needs to perform surgery to fix the break, and you leave the hospital in a cast and with a prescription for strong pain pills.  When that pain starts to creep up, what do you do? Do you question whether the pain pills are necessary?  I wouldn't.  I would follow their instructions and take the pills until my injury was healed.

Why is mental illness so different?  There is only one instance I can think of where pain medication is refused by a patient in a medical situation (other than menta illness), and that is during childbirth.  Many women fight very hard against any type of pain medication administration during the labor and birth of their children.  So, I think there must be a strong correlation here.  It seems easier to explain why a woman in so much pain would deny something proven to reduce that pain.  While you may say, they are concerned for the wellbeing of their child and don't want to expose the child to this medication, you may be right.  However, these practices have been safely administered for decades.  I honestly think the reason is clearly stated in this type of birth -- "natural" birth.  This is a natural thing, meaning a woman should be able to withstand this pain.  She is not injured or ill.  Pain is a part of childbirth, naturally.  And taking meds for the pain is seen by society or the mother or her family, as a sign of weakness.  As a sign of selfishness, taking the easy way out when the definition of a mother is to sacrifice for the good of her children.

Isn't this so true about menta illness too?  Pain and suffering are just a part of life, right?  Sadness and anxiety and fear are just emotions, and we should all be strong enough to handle it on our own.  If we give in and take meds, are we admitting defeat, failure, and ultimately weakness?  After all, our ancestors centuries ago made it through life without meds (just like women gave birth without them), so why can't we just deal with the pain inside ourselves and figure it out?

Don't you believe if science was advanced enough to safely reduce the pain of childbirth 200 years ago, women would take advantage of this technology instead of putting themselves through unnecessary pain?  Wouldn't your great great great grandparents have taken Prozac for their depression if it was available? Just because they survived without it, doesn't mean you have to.  And just because they did it without meds, doesn't mean they wanted to.  

But I am getting away from the point... My point is physical pain should not be any different in the minds of people than mental pain.  Sure, you may be worried if it is the right medication, or if you will have a negative reaction to it, or if the side effects will be unbearable, or if you'll become dependent on it.  But consider this..  If your had a physical ailment that was only treatable by a certain medication you had never taken, but it would save your life, how would you approach it?  The only way to know if you will have a reaction and the only way you will know what side effects you will have, and the absolute ONLY way to know if it will cure you, is to TAKE the medicine.  It is going to save your life!!!  What choice do you have?  You can not take it because of the risks, but you will most likely die from your disease. 

Psychotropic medications save lives every day.  They don't signify weakness.  They signify strength.  Taking them shows the world that you are strong enough to choose life over pain, suffering, and sometimes even your own death.  Stop questioning whether you really need them or what others would think if they knew.  You are saving your life and that is the most important thing to remember.  

So, please comment and let me know what struggles you've had accepting this idea of taking medication for a mental illness.  What did I leave out?  Do you agree or disagree?  I would love your thoughts.


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