Dispelling the Online stigma: Twitter, Antidepressants and #MedsWorkedforMe

(image: amyransom.com)

I wasnt going to write a blog on this because it might feed the Twitter trolls. But I have decided that its really important that I speak out about whats been going on this week on there, in realm of mental health on social media. Theres been a lot of stigma against medication as well as much support for it.

This week, a study by Oxford University and published in the psychology medical journal the Lancet, found that anti depressants work and are effective in a large number of cases. It was hailed as the first major study to prove this. Some medications were found to be more effective than others, but it provided a fantastic proof- that anti depressant medications do help relieve depression in many cases. They are not just a placebo pill.

However, of course, there are a large number of people who have had bad experiences with anti depressants and want to make their voices heard- yet often at the expense of those of us who it works for.

On Twitter, using the trending hasthtag #antidepressants and #medsworkedforme, I shared that anti depressants coupled with my mood stabilisers, have very much helped my bipolar disorder. My brain chemistry and illness is such that unmedicated I can have episodes of suicidal depression, psychosis and mania. My medication keeps my moods balanced and well, so I can function and live a normal life. I have been on anti depressants for almost 15 years now. I have been on fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline.

The only bad experience I ever had with them is when my previous mood stabiliser stopped working and due to an increased dose of duloxetine to relieve my depression (which it did), I tipped over into a fast and unpredictable manic episode. This is the risk that those of us with bipolar run.

Yet, by and large my experiences with meds have been hugely positive. They keep me stable and well.

Unfortunately, on Twitter, I got trolled for the first time by people sharing the following ‘helpful’ opinions (they were not helpful and highly stigmatised):

1) You should reduce your sugar intake as sugar causes highs and lows and is addictive as cocaine. If you reduce your sugar, your bipolar will improve.

(To this I had to reiterate that no medication and less sugar will make my illness worse… and that excess sugar does not cause bipolar 1 disorder.. i.e. it does not have that impact on my mood swings.. bipolar is a real illness in the brain. Reducing sugar may help with overall health but seriously you are going to tell me this?)

2) Others asked what alternative therapies I had tried- eg exercise instead of medication. I reiterated the above re psychosis and suicidal ideation. Which unfortunately cant be treated with exercise alone.

3) People shared their own stories eg the man who had multiple severe illnesses and takes no medication because ‘it shortens life span’ and its a medical fact apparently that these medications cause psychosis. (Some psychiatric meds cause side effects but psychosis- really? Also why would you tell me it will shorten my life?)

There was a lot of what I would call militant stigma against medication, either by people who fear it or have experienced negative effects.

While medication is not for everyone, we shouldn’t be shaming people for taking it. I shouldn’t be shamed for keeping my brain healthy and well through taking meds. And neither should any of you.

Make sure you fight this stigma (and the block button is always useful).




31 thoughts on “Dispelling the Online stigma: Twitter, Antidepressants and #MedsWorkedforMe

      1. I agree. What I meant by my comment is to let it go. We’re in a battle to break the stigmas and meds are one of them. We’ll get there. I am determined. I am a bit disappointed with the lack of reactions to my call to rally and voice our opinion regarding the comments made by Trump. It is obvious that we’ll never get an apology but we have to start being more visible and vocal.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Yes, some of those suggestions on your Twitter post were bizarre. I don’t think that this anti-medication backlash within the mental health community helps our overall fight against stigma; in fact, I think it’s more likely to promote stigma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They were really really odd. I agree it doesnt help our fight, it promotes it and thats why I wrote a blog dispelling the myths. How people think reducing sugar intake and coming off medication helps severe mental illness I have no clue.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ppl have so many diffirent meanings about meds and ofc they can have it. But get your facts straight before you say things like they did to you!!! Yes sugar is not good to anxiety along with caffeine etc.. but it doesn’t fix it or cause the illness. Same as exercise and meditation. Many ppl think that meds is a quick fix and bad for you. I think meds is good if you need them. I’ve used it for many years before they only made me worse. So what works for me doesn’t work for you. Respect, knowledge and some pure human behavior is what we need. Ty for sharing💙

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Eleanor, this was a very thoughtful and well-written piece as usual with you! I almost had to laugh at some of the “helpful suggestions” you received, because as someone with ME/CFS, POTS, and Fibromyalgia, I can say that it’s not just for mental health that these bizarre and frankly quack “Google MD” recommendations surface. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the virtues of meditation and yoga extolled–hey maybe they’re great for EVERYONE in general, but that doesn’t mean they’re a valid treatment or even a good idea for one’s particular illness.

    The fact of the matter is, there are some really amazing doctors (to include psychiatrists), and some really bad ones. The same is true of any field. Just because someone had a bad experience with a particular doctor, or even a series of doctors, doesn’t mean that s/he should disregard professional medical advice and yoga their way to good health and demigod status…or something like that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    The same is true about all of these “fad” diets. “Oh try going gluten free, that really worked for my mom’s friend’s cousin’s co-worker!” or “reduce your sugar intake” or “try the GAPS Diet–worked miracles!” Maybe in specific anecdotal cases, the person was helped by a particular diet (I don’t know, like maybe the person had Celiac disease so going gluten free was actually sound medical advice), but it’s unbelievable how much “advice” is out there by seemingly well-meaning people that is not helpful at all.

    I have personally had a very negative experience with two anti-depressants (neither of which you listed), but both were prescribed “off label” to treat conditions other than depression or bipolar disorder. So I don’t really chalk up my personal experience with trials of anti-depressants for something other than depression as proving some kind of negative–that all anti-depressants are bad or are ineffective for treating depression. The fact of the matter is, everyone’s body is different, and as individualized medicine thanks to genome sequencing and other advances looms on the horizon, I think we’ll find less “guess and check” when it comes to prescriptions and a quicker route to the right medication(s) for the right patient. Regardless, if anti-depressants work for you, that’s fantastic! And I don’t understand why anyone would want to troll you or discount your experience simply because they have an inflexible opinion on the subject that is probably not based on science or a medical school education.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excess sugar would probably make you not fit into your jeans, but not much else…
    People who say stuff like this clearly have no idea what’s going on, and i think they are somewhat responsible for some people not seeking professional / medical help.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi There, I’m glad you said something. Unfortunately, standing up for yourself and trying to increase mental health awareness (especially via social media outlets) will always bring positive and negative reactions. Maybe even reactions that sound unwarranted or annoying. However, everyone is entitled to their opinions and reactions. I am a firm believer in utilizing whatever is necessary to manage living with a mental illness. I commend you for bringing up this topic and respectively responding to those comments. Thanks! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For many years I chose not to take medication to treat depression/anxiety due fear of side effects, and said side effects conflicting with the eating disorder I was experiencing at the time. But I would never shame, or criticise anyone for doing what is right for them. I am now starting to take meds as I think I’ve finally found one that doesn’t trigger other issues. We all have a different path through our illnesses, and we should all recognise that what works for one, will not necessarily work for another.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Seems like a fabulous blog. Well done! Anyway, I called by to leave my thanks for your recent decision to follow Learning from Dogs. Thank you! Would love it if you offer a guest post for LfD. Not only to promote what you are doing but also because I’m sure quite a few of my readers would find your blog a valuable place!

    Liked by 1 person

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