Mental health medications aren’t supposed to be a prescription for shame

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I want to talk about the shame that comes with being on medication for mental illness. It’s why so many people avoid talking to doctors and getting the help they need. It’s a common phenomenon, but that doesn’t make it less harmful and dangerous.

Before I start this post I need to say that I got diagnosed at six and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t taking pills. You might wonder if I’m really the right person to talk about this subject, but I think that it adds another layer of understanding. I know it added another layer of protection. I got to learn my valuable lessons in safety while I was still being actively cared for.

I remember in grade school telling my mom that I wanted to be normal and that I wasn’t going to take my pills anymore. Since she was with me 24/7 she decided not to fight it and let me stop them. It only took two weeks for me to come to her with the bin of pill bottles and ask what I was supposed to take. I needed those pills not to be miserable, I understood that then.

It wasn’t a particularly long lesson, but since I was pretty dang bipolar it didn’t need to be. It kept me from questioning the need for medication again and it was a blessing that it happened as a small child, not when I was suicidal in middle school or swinging in and out of depression my senior year of college. I had a safety net, which isn’t something most people have as they sit in the doctors office unwilling to share their needs because they’re depressed, ashamed, and scared. So they go home, untreated, and things don’t get better.

That’s when it gets dangerous. That’s when it gets harmful.

Not every mental health problem needs to be treated with medication, but there is no shame in having one that does. Millions of people are medicated for mental health, it’s not unusual, and it doesn’t make you weak. Stepping up to the plate to take care of yourself makes you stronger than before, because it takes a lot of courage to admit that you need help and it takes strength to be the one to bring about change.

Those pills aren’t a get out of jail free card like ignorant people say. They aren’t a sign of failure, you aren’t throwing in the towel, you’re getting prepared to win the biggest fight yet. They’re nothing more than an aid. A tool. Something to help you move on to a brighter tomorrow.

Shame isn’t something that you can easily dismiss, but it is something that you can learn to ignore, that you can start fights with. It is something that you can overcome, and it is something that you can beat.

Your first priority is you. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of everything else. There shouldn’t be any shame in being your best, that should be everyone’s goal.

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