As someone who has lived experience with mental health challenges, particularly depression, I don’t think we will ever move past the stigma that is associated with mental illness.
We have come an extremely long way when it comes to awareness, campaigns and people opening up and feeling liberated enough to share their stories.
But the stigma surrounding the issue itself is something I think all people who have lived experience with mental health will probably have to face for the rest of their lives, because there are just some things that continue to be deemed as a societal issue in this world.
That being said, let me get one thing straight:
You are NOT less of a person or a liability to anyone in your life because you take medication for your mental health.
There is absolutely no shame in taking a medicine that will help you to function and feel better, something that will actually help you to get out of bed in the morning and pursue your dreams and aspirations.
Medicine that will heal you enough to finish school, get a job, smile and laugh with others, a genuine smile that is, put your clothes on, take a shower, and see some glimmer of hope that life will get better and is worth living.
A medicine that helps lift depression so debilitating that you want to die each and every day, every second of every day. A medicine that can help regulate thoughts of self-harm and suicidal thoughts and ideation.
According to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people die due to depression each year. In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year olds.
So to put it straight, depression can be debilitating and deadly, particularly if left untreated.
However, there is often a perception when it comes to medications that it is a quick fix and because they aren’t natural, the people taking it aren’t experiencing true happiness and may even be lazy and aren’t trying enough in life to attain what they need to attain.
Or the most obvious, medication is a true indication that you are mentally unstable and therefore a threat to yourself or others.
The list of stigmas can go on and on and when you are the person on the other side of these statements, it can hurt and it can hurt real bad.
You see yourself as a walking stigma and even though no one but you knows that you take a pill or three each morning to stabilize your mood, you feel like people just know, just by looking at you.
I know when I first started taking medication, to treat my depression, I wasn’t particularly thrilled.
I didn’t want others to know that I needed to take a pill to regulate my mood and despite the fact that people often compare taking an antidepressant to taking insulin for diabetes, the relation is hardly the same.
I also worried about the side-effects (still do) and what its effects have on my body, especially long-term.
But after nearly dying last year for coming off of my medication, I now know that it helps me and I do need to take it.
So I do. I pray to God to bless it and I take it with my water each morning.
Only a certain amount of people in my family know that I take medication for depression and my close friends. That’s it.
Because like many others, I just feel so ashamed and judged. Like I have a dirty little secret that is only between myself and I.
But at the end of the day, many people suffer with mental illnesses and medications save their lives even.
I know the stigma may never diminish, but I want you to know that you are normal even though you take medication for your mental health.
Everyone deals with some shit in life that they would rather not deal with, but when you step out on the streets, people are not seeing your mental illness, they are seeing you.
Your boyfriend loves you for you. Your friends love you for you. Your family loves you for you and no depression, no antidepressant can take that away from you.
You are still an amazing person with some amazing things ahead of you and what you have battled has not weakened you, it has only made you stronger and has given you a story to tell.
So yes, you may be reminded of your battle every time you take your medicine to be better, but you aren’t your struggle.
Think of all the people who have battled mental illnesses and are slaying life right now if you ever need a reminder of your story and resilience.
People such as: Demi Lavato, Kirsten Bell, Adele, and Lady Gaga.
We all have a story and your battles with mental illness are a part of that story. Do not be ashamed by the lengths you have gone to be well and stay well.
The stigma around mental illness may never end, but how you react to it is in your power. Please take it back. You deserve that much.