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.