I don't know about you, but I've never liked taking medicine. Ever since I was a little kid, I've tried to avoid it at all costs. I didn't learn to swallow pills until I was 19, so up until that point, I was relying on liquid or chewable children's medicine. If I had a headache or period cramps, I could tolerate liquid ibuprofen, but I didn't love it. If I had a cold, the false grape Cough and Cold medicine was enough to make me want to stay sick. And cherry NyQuil? I'd sooner die than drink that.
There's nothing wrong with powering through an illness. Especially if your cold or headache is just going to go away on its own eventually, or if medicine won't improve your ability to function. And since "powering through" was easier for me than forcing myself to sip gross liquid medication or chewing Ibuprofen in a peppermint patty, I just didn't take medicine unless I absolutely had to. And most of the time, I didn't.
I've since abandoned this philosophy. I still don't take medication unless it's an absolute necessity, but now, my life has been forever changed by the small Fluoxetine pill I take every day.
At age 19, I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a revelation that came as no surprise to me or anyone who knows me. It was simply a matter of making it official.
For years, I struggled to control my anxiety. It was so bad that at times, I thought it was going to kill me. It feels so long ago now, but I was so paralyzed by anxiety that I couldn't even function a lot of the time. My eating habits were a disaster, I was constantly scratching my skin and picking open scabs, I immediately cried if anyone seemed even remotely angry or raised a voice... the list goes on. I was even too anxious to follow my friend group into the cafeteria every day for lunch. I would get so anxious and afraid of some things that I would completely shut down at times.
I tried mindfulness, hypnosis, coping strategies, better self-care, more sleep... they didn't hurt, but they certainly didn't help enough. It was holding me back.
I was smart and creative, but this was making it hard for me to do, or excel at...anything.
Starting that conversation with my (now former) primary care physician, and later my psychiatrist, opened the door for new possibilities. I'd thought for a while that maybe I would benefit from the one thing I hadn't yet tried: medication. And my doctor agreed. My family was skeptical, and I'll admit, I was a little nervous too (the liquid form of Fluoxetine is absolutely disgusting). But at that point, I felt hopeless, and I was desperate.
Once I got started on medication and got to an appropriate dosage, everything changed. My new friends at college said that it was like I was suddenly alive. I was more relaxed and my true personality came out without being masked by anxiety. Around the same time, I got my official diagnoses for Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) and Excoriation (Skin-Picking) Disorder. I started to see a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, and a therapist, who started helping me work through the anxiety and eating disorder with me. I started eating better, gaining weight, and I even learned to swallow pills!
Now, I am a really well-functioning, successful young woman with good grades and great jobs. It's not perfect: I'm still anxious, I still have trouble with food, and I still scratch my skin.
But I'm able to function on an everyday basis without abruptly crying. I'm a lot better able to handle things. I am so, so grateful that I was given the opportunity to try this medication. I wish every day that I had been able to be this FULL and ALIVE of a person as a high school student, and I often wonder how much healthier and more successful I would have been had I gotten the help I needed sooner. We had no idea how much this could help me, and it's because the option wasn't on the table until it was a "last resort."
My point in all of this is NOT for you to go out and find yourself some psych meds. They're not some magic fix, and they certainly aren't the answer for everyone. I powered through my anxiety as much as I could.
But anxiety is not a headache or a cold. It's a chronic illness brought on by chemical imbalances in the brain. Self-care and at home remedies are great, but they aren't everything. It's hard to recognize the power of illnesses like depression, ADHD, anxiety, and others. They're invisible, no matter how influential their effects may be. It's understandable why so many people assume that the person can fix it on their own, but that's a lot easier said than done. Why rule out an entire treatment option?
Certainly don't consider this to be a blanket statement that medication is the solution and everyone should try it. All I hope you take away from this article is that it shouldn't be automatically ruled out. Medication doesn't have to be a last resort. Make that decision with your doctor, not before you even talk to them. Consider all your options -- because it doesn't have to be this way.