1. The medication doesn’t distinguish between “rational” sadness and “irrational” sadness.
Sometimes you feel that you need to feel sad, or that you ought to feel sad, and sometimes you can’t because you are on medication that prevents those feelings of strong sadness. This is good, sometimes, because it stops that sadness you used to feel at such ridiculous and silly things – things that you even knew, sometimes, that it was ridiculous and silly to feel sad about – crying because you woke up too late or too early, or because you said the wrong thing five years ago to someone you haven’t even seen since. But it also stops you from feeling sad about things that you want to feel sad about, that you feel that you need to be sad about in order to process it; going through a hard break-up, or losing a job because you had a panic attack and collapsed on the floor in the staff room at work.
I have really struggled with this – feeling torn between knowing that I need medication to stop me from becoming an anxious crying mess, and knowing that the dosage that I take to help regulate my emotions takes out some of the spontaneity of joy itself. However, I can recognize that I have needed it for the last year and a half; and that it’s probably saved my life.
2. Starting medication for mental health doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re “fine” now.
Sometimes people think that you are completely fine once you’ve started medication – or, at least, that you are “well on the way” to complete recovery – that things are much, much better now. Often, this isn’t the case. It can take a while for the medication to become effective – hang on! If you are supporting someone who has recently started taking medication for a mental health condition, then remember to check-in on them; they might still be struggling just as much as they did before they started the medication – and they might really value that support. You might be really proud of them for taking steps to better their mental health – but remember not to expect too much too soon.
3. It isn’t anything to be ashamed of.
Ignore those people who might tell you that it isn’t a good idea, that they feel so much better now that they’ve given up antidepressants, that they have found their salvation in green smoothies/yoga and meditation/religion/removing sugar and refined carbohydrates from their diets. Sure, those things may well have worked for them. Doesn’t mean they are going to work for you. It is okay to accept that you need that medication now, in this moment; that you might need it for a little longer or for a lot longer. This is all fine. It’s okay to not need it, to need it for this moment, to need it for a while, to need it for the rest of your life. What it’s not okay to do is to shame people who take it.
4. Sometimes it takes a little while to find what suits you.
I used to take a certain antidepressant, recommended to me by a doctor because it was “better for young people”. It wasn’t good for me. It left me suffering from terrible migraines for weeks, being so bloated I struggled to move, and experiencing periodic bouts of extreme insomnia. I was told these were just side effects, and to wait it out. I waited it out, but nothing changed. Almost a year later I was hospitalized, and put on the same medication.
I informed the consultant psychiatrist that this medication did not seem to sit well with me. He told me that I was not able to make my own medical decisions – that was why, after all, I had been sectioned – and I was to defer to the medical professionals. This medication, I was told, was “the best for young people”. I was told that, if I didn’t take it, I would be forcibly injected. I then spent the next two weeks feeling horrible, all over again – and then, the day after I was discharged, I went straight to the doctors and got the prescription changed. What’s good for you might take a little while to discover.