Why I am so frustrated with the stigma surrounding anxiety medications.

I am so tired of people telling me that I am reliant on pills; that being on medication for my anxiety means that I am just masking the problem. I am tired of being called crazy because I use medicine to help me manage my day to day life. I am tired of being the person who has to justify myself to people who tell me “you don’t need medicine, there isn’t even anything wrong with you” and “it’s all in your head”. Because that’s the problem isn’t it?

People continuously tell me that anxiety is something that is made up in my head. It isn’t real. If I just tell myself that, then I’ll see that everything is totally fine and come to my senses and say “You know what? You were right all along. I can’t believe I just tortured myself for so many years when the answer was right there. All I had to do was think and boom. Wow. Thank you so much for all of your help!” Except oh, that’s right, anxiety is a real medical condition. Bold print. Italics. Underlined. In blaring lights over every highway in every state in every country in the world. Whatever I have to do to make you understand that. It’s real. It’s out of my control. It is a medical condition.

You see, what I just can’t wrap my head around is the fact that there is an actual stigma surrounding the need for medication that is manufactured to treat a legitimate and extremely common medical condition. I have even had my doctor, that’s right my doctor question the relevance of my need for medication. So I am going to throw some medical facts at you real quick.

Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications are often the same type of drug. These are called SSRI’s (serotonin re-uptake inhibitors). This means that someone suffering from anxiety or depression has serotonin (mood enhancing hormone) that is being released and then being reabsorbed by the brain cells, keeping it from circulating. This in turn leads to a much more depressive state since the serotonin never made it to its destination. The SSRI keeps that from happening and allows the serotonin to circulate as it is meant to and helps to stop the depressive or anxious state. In layman’s terms – this is a medicine that helps a body part to function the way it should rather than malfunctioning and causing pain in the person.

Makes sense right? Something in your body hurts, is broken, or doesn’t work right? Go to the doctor, get the right medication, take said medication, feel better. Bada bing, bada boom. There you have it, folks. Modern medicine in its simplest form.

But here’s the kicker. People will read this and think, “whatever, she’s still crazy” “whatever, I’m not going to listen to someone who has to take pills every day for her brain” “whatever, she just relies on her medicine and doesn’t even try to be happy on her own”. Every single day I encounter people who have those exact reactions when they find out that I am on medication for my anxiety.

News flash! I am on this medication because I need it, because it helps me control my anxiety, and because it makes it easier for me to work my way through each day and continually make it so that I can in fact, be happy on my own.

And the thing is, just like many other medications, most people do not stay on this medicine their whole lives. It is a way to manage the paralyzing pain that comes with anxiety and/or depression while we find other things that help us cope and eventually heal. For me, being on this medicine has helped me to come to terms with my anxiety, seek out a counselor, and begin a much healthier and happier lifestyle.

Recovery is always a process requiring multiple factors. Just as you would go through the medical steps of treating a broken leg, I go through the steps of treating my anxiety. You wouldn’t say a cast is just a quick fix for a broken leg now, would you? You wouldn’t tell that person they are taking the easy way out and if they just tell themselves that their leg is healed, they’ll see all along that they just made up the fracture and imagined all of that pain would you? No. You absolutely would not.

So quit acting like an injury in my brain is any different. Stop perpetuating the idea that mental illness “isn’t a real thing”. Stop making me feel inferior to you because I am doing something to help heal my body. Stop calling me crazy, psycho, reliant, addicted, unstable, a flight risk, nuts, a screw loose. Stop. And if you hear someone else doing it, stop them too. Educate yourself. Understand that a medical problem is a medical problem and pain is pain no matter what part of your body it is.

Just stop. Stop yourself and put the stigma to an end. I for one, have had enough. Have you?

 

Why I am so frustrated with the stigma surrounding anxiety medications.