My medication isn’t a flaw

A student rejects the notion that taking medication is an invalid way to treat their mental illness.

Leslie Grossman

Too often to count, I’ve heard people tell me, “You don’t need medication, you just need to be more motivated to cope with your mental health.” 

It bothers me every time.

Many people that I’ve met believe mental illnesses are not a result of trauma or chemical imbalances in the brain, but rather a lack of personal willpower, strength or healthy coping mechanisms. 

I’ve been told I simply need to get more fresh air, do more yoga, eat less meat and be more positive. I know people have good intentions, but I wish I could explain to them it’s not that simple. 

I’ve met people who could treat their mental illness without medication, but the idea that it’s possible for everyone is frustrating for those of us who may rely on multiple forms of treatment, including medication. 

I constantly feel like I have to defend my decision to use medication as a way of managing my symptoms, even though I’ve had such positive experiences with them. With medication, I’m able to stay focused in work and school, remain calm enough to do class presentations and stay balanced enough to neither slip into depression nor spiral into the euphoric feelings of mania. 

I’ve also been consistently told I can heal myself through holistic measures, like meditation, yoga, daily exercise, nutrition and so on. I’ve implemented proper nutrition, mindfulness practices, positive affirmations and exercise into my daily life for six years now, and they have surely helped me.

I used to feel medication wasn’t necessary for me and that these practices would serve me well enough on their own. In May 2014, I made the decision to stop taking my medication and with the guidance of my psychiatrist, I gradually lowered the dosages until I stopped taking them. I felt liberated. 

On Halloween of that year, the liberation had faded, and so did the color in my face, along with the joy of living life. It took only months before the depression had taken over, and I was back in the office of my psychiatrist, pleading for a new prescription to be filled. 

I realized the reason I was feeling better and felt confident enough to make that decision was that the medication was doing its job flawlessly. All the wonderful practices I’ve adopted — like nature walks, meditation, thinking more positively and eating well — were making a difference because my brain chemistry was allowing space for these changes to be made. 

Mental health is a multifaceted issue, and it must be talked about as such. I will always encourage people to explore all their options, especially ones that involve lifestyle changes and natural treatments, but don’t judge me for the choices that are best for me.

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