Earlier this week I was sat chatting with friends when the discussion arose about the use of medication and this led me to thinking more about my own need for medication to manage some of the symptoms that co-exist alongside my Dissociative Identity Disorder. Currently my medication regime includes the need for anti-depressant’s and anti-anxiety drugs alongside a plethora of medication for physical health issues.
The public’s attitude towards mental health medication compared to physical health medication means that not only I, but many others too will often feel guilty about the need to take prescription drugs to help stabilise our mental health. It’s often easier to not say that you take anti-depressant’s than to admit that you do, why is that I wonder?
Society seems to stigmatize mental health in such a way that we forget that those with mental health issues are still human beings, for example no one seems to object or mind that I rely on medication to control my levels of thyroxine to make my thyroid function properly, yet may well say isn’t it time you just pulled yourself together and stop relying on anti-depressant’s. Yes people have said that to me in the past!
In reality depression is caused by one of two reasons it’s either situational; as in it has a root cause such as a bereavement, or other life circumstances, or its a chemical imbalance within the brain, in either case the person cannot often change these factors yet we seem to be unable as a society in the 21st Century to show true empathy in many cases.
I don’t like taking all the medication I need but I know without it I am much worse both physically and mentally, hence I accept the medical advice and take the prescribed medications the medical profession deem I need to take. Yet every time I collect my prescription from our village pharmacy I am actually aware and I guess at times ashamed when I come out carrying a huge bag full of potions and pills to help stabilise and treat me.
I never think for example that I should try to reduce my thyroid tablets because just maybe I am using them as a crutch and I could quite simply give them up and be ok, yet that thought has often crossed my mind when it comes to my mental health medication. There seems to be an inbuilt shame of failure because I need those particular medications right now, and yet I am acutely aware that when I have tried to reduce my meds I quickly destabilise.
Society’s attitudes to mental health seems to heap on the pressure, we can easily admit we have this or that physical illness but somehow the room will often fall silent if I am brave enough to admit I take mental health drugs. In some though I have to say not all circumstances it’s certainly can be a great conversation stopper to say I have a mental health issue, suddenly people have something urgent to do and seem to then avoid you for the rest of that event.
Take for example a few months ago when I attended a training event on Mental health, I was there mostly surrounded by therapists and supporters, and a very few service users, people who like me have a Dissociative disorder. I entered into conversation with someone who I later learnt was a therapist, she asked me politely if I had a client with D.I.D, and I bravely decided to be honest and just say I had Dissociative Identity Disorder, she looked me up and down and then turned on her heels and walked away. She choose to sit across the other side of the room for the rest of the day and never again spoke to me.
When others asked me I just fudged the issue, I said I had an interest in Dissociative Disorders, and no one moved away or ignored me or anything, strangely I felt frustrated by my own lack of ability to be brave and bold. I so wished I could just stand up and shout out I have D.I.D and I am not ashamed, nor am I ashamed I take medication, but truthfully I couldn’t do it. I just kept fudging the issue for most of the day and I doubt many people in that room realised I was a service user and not a medical professional.
Near the end of the day one kind, understanding person asked me quietly if I had D.I.D, she’d noticed a few switches and had suspected that perhaps I did, I was honest and said yes. When she asked me outright why I chose to not say I explained what had happened earlier and her words resonated with me, “If you can’t be yourself in a room full of professionals when can you be, don’t be ashamed of who you are”. So for the rest of that day if I was asked I said the truth full on “I have D.I.D”, and yes some people walked away some didn’t and in the end I realised it wasn’t my issue but theirs.
I guess the same applies to my use of mental health medication, I can’t help the fact I need to take those drugs to stabilise my chemical imbalance right now but some people think I should be able too. That is their issue not mine and I have no real reason to feel ashamed or guilty I can’t help who I am, and if truth be known if they the skeptics had been through my life and walked even just a few days in my shoes they’d be taking those drugs too.
Society as a whole needs to learn to accept that mental health medications and other treatments are no different from physical health treatments and drugs, if I had a bad heart no one would question my reliance on drugs so please don’t question my need to take mental health drugs right now.