I often get a lot of peeps asking about medication. Is it ok? Is it a one way ticket to messing me up? Do they even work? Meds can seem quite daunting and scary. And loaded with stigma.
I have to start this off by saying I’m not a medical doctor, and I never go advising clients on medication. Always go and see your medical professional for that stuff. Buuut, meds and psych are closely related, we’re trained in understanding meds and what they do to you, and why they might be used etc. We just don’t prescribe them.
With Mark Latham being a general douche in the media last year (well, a general douche any year really these days. Let’s not get picky here), talking about taking medication equating to being ‘weak’, people get all cagey and embarrassed to discuss these kind of things. Like how cold sores are a form of herpes, medication for mental health is the ‘seedy underbelly’ that no one wants to talk about, or admit they’re dealing with. Like we talked about with PND, if you had a nasty infection, would you just hide away and hope it disappears? No! You’d be up at the doctors asking for help, and taking antibiotics etc. Well our mental health should be no different.
Medication isn’t the first pit stop. It’s never the first pit stop. It won’t fix everything. I think there’s two sides of this debate- those who think that medication will fix all and sundry, and those who think meds are uber bad and you should never take them.
My spiel to peeps is we always try behaviour therapy first. We need to at least give a few strategies a whirl and see if we can get some change happening. However, you know, sometimes mental health issues are so deep they actually fuck with our neurochemicals. Those things that make our brain fire in certain ways. Sometimes levels are erratic, or too low, or firing at the wrong times. No amount of behaviour therapy will fix some of those really ingrained neurochem issues. Behaviour therapy CAN change neural pathways- but sometimes we need a small kick start.
There are times I think that we get a bit too gung-ho about meds, and we get this notion that this little pill will fix everything. But it won’t. It never does. Nothing but you and hard work is going to fix everything. The pills only straighten things up a bit so you can get to work. It’s a shitty realisation, but it’s the truth.
It’s understandable to be hesitant to jump on meds. But if you’ve tried and tried and tried all kinds of therapy to no avail, sometimes continuing on the behaviour therapy path can be more harmful than good. Because you start to wonder why the hell you’re not getting any better, and then blame yourself, and then blame the psych and then blame the air we breathe. It can be a really shitty path. I try to explain it as giving meds a whirl if behaviour therapy has been tried and tried with no success. Then pair the meds with the behaviour therapy, and slowly where possible, fade the meds away until you’re feeling on track and making progress with the behavioural strategies.
The same strategy goes for our kids. I think we can be even more hesitant when it comes to medication and children. For good reason too! Our little cherubs brains are furiously developing, making all sorts of connections. What if we throw some chemicals at them? Will it mess them up? Kids and meds are a bit trickier, and the docs take their developing bodies and minds into consideration when looking at prescribing stuff. Often if kids need medication, they’ve gone through the full gauntlet of tried and true strategies, and they’ll be given a very mild dosage of specific medications. It’s a tough call to make as a parent. But honestly, if you’ve tried it all, and your child isn’t showing any improvement, and may be deteriorating? Are meds really the worst thing that can be offered? I don’t think so.
At the end of the day, if we’re not feeling it, and we’re doing all the ‘right’ things and nothing is improving, then mediation can be a very necessary and important part of treatment. It’s not weak #fuckyoulatham, it’s necessary for some. Is it going to magically make all the bad stuff go away? No. But it can help even the playing field so that you can get back on track.
So if you’re reading this and you’ve taken medication, are on medication, or about to start taking medication- good on you. You’re not weak, you’re clever. Clever for realising that something was up and you needed support. Clever for going to talk to a health professional to get things back on track. Clever for taking a stand and not just putting up with feeling like shit. Because we don’t have to feel crap, we can do something about it.
And if you feel like something is up- don’t let the stigma win. Go and talk to someone, open up. There are plenty of people like me willing to give you a friendly nudge in the right direction. But be prepared to work. I’m a taskmaster. But I do pay in lollies at the end.
What’s your view on medications? Quick fix or important step in recovery?