Mental Health Awareness Week - "I just want people to know that it’s okay if their path involves taking a pill every day." by Meredith Galyon

These past few weeks have been rough. As a victim of sexual assault, reading the news has opened up my old wounds, leaving me more vulnerable than I like to let myself become. This is something that goes beyond political affiliation - any time survivor stories are prominent in the media, even though I fully support everyone who speaks out, it still spikes my anxiety. I’m constantly on edge, feeling like I’m about to jump out of my skin or like I can’t breathe. When I don’t feel like a nervous wreck, I can barely get out of bed. I have flashbacks and dreams that are paralyzing and exhausting and make me want to disappear. But as difficult as all of this is to deal with, it would be a million times worse if it weren’t for my medication. 

I was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder when I was 16, and have been off and on medication for them ever since. PTSD came into the mix when I was 25. I have often tried to tell myself that I don't really need to be medicated and that I just need to learn how to function properly on my own. It wasn’t until I started having crippling migraines a few years ago that I considered trying them again. My doctor had me try several things to determine what was causing the migraines - I eliminated certain foods from my diet, exercised regularly, had my eyesight reexamined, etc. Nothing helped. Finally, after an emergency room visit where I thought I was actually dying, she suggested that I should try a low dose of Prozac to see if they were stress-related. After just a few months, my migraines drastically decreased. I couldn’t believe that had been the cause all along - a disorder that I knew I had, but just didn’t think was that big of a deal. My anxiety was actually making me physically ill. That’s when I finally started taking my mental health seriously. 

Even though mental health is starting to become less of a taboo topic, there is still an unnecessary amount of pill shaming that goes around. It’s very common to be told that all you need to battle your depression is an organic diet and that some meditation or yoga will cure your anxiety. While I’m very supportive of doing these things supplementally, sometimes they aren’t enough on their own. The truth is that these illnesses can’t be completely cured, so I think it’s important to understand and accept that it’s okay to need medication in order to manage them. We are literally fighting a chemical imbalance in our brains. If you went to the doctor for high cholesterol, they would definitely tell you to eat better, but they would also write you a prescription. Why shouldn’t mental illnesses be viewed the same way? Why can't we just applaud those who actively seek help?    

I won’t pretend like starting medication is a super easy and quick fix. In reality, it can be a lot of trial and error. Even though I knew I needed to be on anti-anxiety/depression meds, there were still some issues figuring out which one was best for me. They’re not a “one size fits all” kind of drug, and some of them have a shelf life. Prozac didn’t work for me at its full potential, so I switched to Zoloft, which was great for about a year and a half, until I started losing all of my energy. Now I’m on Wellbutrin, and I’ve honestly never felt better. It’s been good to me for almost 2 years, and sometimes I worry what will happen if I have to switch again, but there are so many options out there. I’ll take the good days for now and cross that bridge if/when I come to it. 

I believe that everyone is entitled to their own path when it comes to recovery. I just want people to know that it’s okay if their path involves taking a pill every day. No one should be ashamed by what they have to do to survive, because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all trying to do.

Mental Health Awareness Week - "I'm rooting for your rise."

Alright y’all, it’s mental health awareness week so I wanted to share a snippet of my experience with depression. I lost my son, Arie, almost two years ago. After losing him, my emotions were all over the place and I felt like I couldn’t control them. I spoke to my doctor about it and explained to her that I felt like I could have a mental breakdown at any point. I needed to be stable because I still had another son, Harper, who was depending on me. She didn’t give me any options. She immediately put me on depression and anxiety medication and told me it would slow down my grieving process. 

The medication did work for me, but only for a short time. She kept upping my dose until I was on the highest dose possible. I became numb. I couldn’t cry, which I liked, but I couldn’t laugh either. I truly feel like I know what it’s like to be a zombie. I just went through life doing my routine and existing. 

About a month ago, I had this super intense feeling of wanting to come off all these prescription drugs. It scared me but I wanted to feel again, the good and the bad. I want to live, not merely exist. So I talked to my doctor about it. She was hesitant at first, but said it was possible if I really wanted to. So I quit everything cold turkey. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. Because it’s one of the hardest choices I’ve ever made. I told my parents about my decision and they agreed to help me take care of Harper while I went through this withdrawal process. Two weeks of cold and hot sweats, uncontrollable shaking and chills, no appetite, very little sleep, and depression like I had never felt before were my new constant. I wanted to give up every single day. But something inside of me kept saying “you can do this, it will be worth it.” 

So with the help of my parents and the 
overwhelming love and support from my closest friends, I made it. I learned to go with my instinct. I knew what I wanted and I wanted to get there no matter the cost. I also learned that I had to replace those medications with other things. I started eating healthier, working out, and I started opening up more to those around me about how I was truly feeling. I cannot express enough how important it is to have a good support system during a time like this. Those people that really love you and will be in your corner telling you like it is, not the ones who just nod and agree. 

I quickly learned that those three things helped me more than any medication ever could. I can cry again. I can wheeze laugh again. I can feel again. The process to where you want to be in life, nine times out of ten, will not be comfortable. But I promise you it will be worth. This is just my personal journey. This is what helped me. Please always consult your doctor before making any abrupt decisions when it comes to medication. Always listen to your soul and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about your options. 

I’m learning day by day how to be a human being and I am not a professional but I hope my story can help someone else out there to know you are not alone in your feelings. And if I made it, I know you can do. I’m rooting for your rise!