Taking Mental Health Medication Doesn’t Make You ‘Weak’: Fighting the Stigma by Eleanor

(image: Matthew Ball for Unsplash)

Disclaimer: All medication must only be prescribed by a psychiatrist or GP dealing with you individually. Advice from medical professionals must be sought before taking any medication., Never take someone elses medication or try to cure yourself!

This week, I had a conversation with someone about being on mental health medication, in this case, anti depressants for clinical depression. We reminisced that as teenagers, we just weren’t taught properly by school or in society about mental illness. It wasn’t talked about here in the UK back in the 2000s and everything was really hushed up, cloak and dagger, as if you had to be ashamed of it. As if anything to do with our mind was shameful- no one really had much education, unless it happened in your family.

I know that for many people, even in 2022, taking medication for their mental health carries this sense of shame.

For me personally, I was so ill that there really was no choice for me as a 15 year old, but to be started on medication. My symptoms of bipolar disorder first appeared at the age of 15 with depression and anxiety episodes, followed by mania and psychosis. So, I was on anti psychotic medications as well as what is known as a mood stabiliser, a medicine for mood disorders that stabilises moods (in this case, the bipolar poles). I also took regular anti depressants and anti anxiety medications and still do daily. My medicine regime is pretty intense but it means that my bipolar is well controlled and in remission- and that I am stable. My family has a hereditary illness that can be severe- so medication was the right choice for me.

However, for those without a severe mental illness like bipolar or schizophrenia, you may be recommended to try anti depressants first. There are varying different types which work on seretonin reuptake in the brain and help to balance brain chemistry.(although scientists cannot pinpoint the cause for depression fully yet). These can be used in combination with therapy and exercise to help treat depression and anxiety.

Some families and cultures hold great shame to be seen taking mental health medication and so hide it from loved ones. Others stop taking it, believing they are stable and well because the medication has balanced them out- and then crash into depression. For some though, anti depressants are a shorter term thing. The point is, its all so individual and there is no one size fits all medicine- you must do what is right for your recovery but definitely do not suddenly stop them.

In my family, my Dad was already on mental health medication- Lithium for bipolar, when I became ill. So, I was lucky that I had a loving supportive and accepting family, including plenty of medical professionals who understood. It was a steep learning curve for everyone though. And yes, as a teenager, I did hold some shame for taking medicines because I just wanted to ‘fit in’ and be a ‘normal’ teen. Coupled with the fact no one openly talked about mental illness at school or in general (this was just before social media!) and I felt this overwhelming sense of shame that my brain chemicals had let me down. I never once skipped taking medication though.

The thing is with mental health is that you can’t see it. But, you can absolutely feel when something is wrong and when you feel chemically depressed or other mental illness. This is usually depression unlinked to a life event- you wake up with it and you know its back, you feel despondent and unable to cope.

Yet, because you can’t see it- shame is even greater because how do you explain it to others? And are you ‘weak’ or ‘crazy’ to need medication to function?

The answer is No. To have to take the correct prescribed medication for you daily is an effort. You have to commit to it and to seeing how some medicines go. To go through episodes of mental illness makes you stronger and more resilient, surviving each day. You are not weak, your brain just needs help (like helping diabetes or a heart problem) and the words ‘crazy’ or ‘unhinged’ just serve to reinforce stigma. There is no need to be afraid or filled with shame or self loathing- but it is valid to feel this way as you are human!

In 2017, it was estimated that 792 million people worldwide lived with a mental health disorder (one in 10 globally). 46 million of those had my disorder, bipolar. However, this is the tip of the iceberg because mental illness is often underreported due to stigma. So- you are not alone. There is treatment out there to help you.

Remember not to be ashamed of needing medication to cope with life’s challenges (alongside therapy etc). The stigma is slowly falling and I will continue to write and share to this end.

You are not weak! You are powerful beyond comprehension .

Do you take medication? Does it help you?


Love,

Eleanor x

The Difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist. Which can best address your needs? By Anita Ginsburg


It’s always important to seek professional help if you are dealing with a mental health issue. Unfortunately, finding a professional can be harder than you might think. Even if you can find someone for you, you’ll still have to decide upon which type of professional with whom you should work. For most, the answer comes down to knowing the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.


What Is a Psychologist?

Generally speaking, a psychologist is a person with an advanced degree in psychology who works with patients on their mental health. These individuals usually use various types of talk therapy to help individuals work through a diverse number of mental health issues. When many people think of the basic idea of therapy, they’re thinking about what a psychologist does.

When to Choose a Psychologist

It makes sense to choose a psychologist when you’re looking to address your mental health issues without medication. Attempting to change behavior of the long-term is usually best done with the help of a psychologist, especially if you’re looking to get to the root causes of why you feel how you feel. It should be noted, though, that even those who do seek medication can often work with a psychologist as well as a psychiatrist.

What Is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is specifically an individual who holds a medical degree and specialises in psychiatry. While psychiatrists do conduct many of the same types of therapy as psychologists, they differ from psychologists because psychiatrists can prescribe medication to their patients when needed.

When to Choose a Psychiatrist

The most common reason to choose a psychiatrist is because you are considering the possibility of pursuing some type of medical treatment for your mental health problems. This can range from specific types of medical therapies to medication, but all of these therapies do require a psychiatrist’s oversight. While most do choose psychiatrists because of the medical angle, many psychiatrists do still use talk therapy in a manner similar to psychologists.

It’s important to know what you want from therapy before you make a choice between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. While each type of professional does deal with mental health from a specific angle, whether one is better than the other has everything to do with your personal situation. While you will ultimately need to make the choice between the two, choosing to pursue at least some kind of therapy is a good step on the path to a brighter future.

This article was written by freelance writer Anita Ginsburg

Looking to the Future and Life Dreams: by Eleanor

 

Dream big lettering on watercolored background

(image: 123RF.com)

Hi friends,

It has been a while since I have written a personal blog as there has been so much going on here that I was just focusing on getting through it all. Robs dad had surgery to remove a second brain tumour and is thankfully recovering well, the surgeon amazingly got all the cancer. Success.

Alongside this, I have been in therapy since November with a wonderful therapist and we are doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy). This therapy helps to process trauma that can get ‘stuck’ in the brain if not processed. That trauma can stem from childhood upwards- I was an anxious child from an early age even though I had a good childhood! I have also been through a lot due to my bipolar episodes and hospitalisations. So, I am working with my therapist to process memories and we are doing it slowly.

My therapist will either ‘tap’ on the side of my legs while I recall the memory to help process it or my eyes will follow a light or her finger as we process. Understandably, there has to be a lot of trust in this type of relationship as well as me being protected and not triggered by the therapy. For this, we have developed a ‘safe place’ memory that I go to when we bring up anything too distressing. We have just started to go deeper with this and I will update you with our progress. I am far less anxious than I was and it has been really helpful to build a positive, working relationship with my therapist.

The reason I started therapy was because I was having intense panic attacks and finding it difficult to manage my life due to it. I hope that by working on these triggers that I can react differently and live a healthier and better life. Stay tuned!

A month or so ago, I also went to see my psychiatrist for the first time in 2 years, mainly as I had worries about my weight and physical health. My medications means I have put on a substantial amount of weight and this is worrying me health wise more than anything. I have been advised to diet and exercise and maybe work with a nutritionist. So, this will also be a new journey and I will try my best with this, not easy as the meds may stop me losing weight due to slowing metabolism or encouraging cravings. We considered reducing my Quetaipine, a mood stabiliser and anti psychotic to help but because I have been more mentally stable, I have decided to keep it at the same dose for now.

Rob and I have also started to look at new homes, which has been good. There is a lot happening right now and important that I rest, look after myself and keep calm.

Life with bipolar disorder can be uncertain. I have some fears about the future, which I will talk about in another more detailed post. My medicines thankfully keep me mentally well, but coming off them for future life changes eg pregnancy could be a big risk for me and one I am not sure I should take due to being bipolar 1 (risk of mania and psychosis). This is not currently imminent, but is still a future fear, especially as I love children. A decision for a later date.

Overall though I am hopeful and excited about life and will keep you all updated with my therapy and health journey and news.

Thanks for reading and following Be Ur Own Light as we come up to our 4th anniversary,

With love,

Eleanor x

 

 

On being kind to myself: Mental health update

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Life at the moment is much slower than normal as I am not in full time work. I have the time to write and blog and pitch articles, and to work on social media. I have the time to read and I have started a book blog (bookstagram) on Instagram. I can see friends and catch up with family.

However, for me, I am waiting to see my Doctor next week to discuss ways they can support me better with my morning panic. I desperately want to be working and be doing all I love. Its quite exhausting if I am honest, because I so want to be applying for jobs and doing and feeling 100 percent .

The key is being kind to myself and practising self care. I know I can get better again from the anxiety and be productive again but I need proper and sustained support from my medical team. I hope I can get it soon and that they will really help me. I have so much support from my family, boyfriend and friends but they can only do so much.

Life with this is not easy at all- but I know, like my other mental health challenges, that I will overcome this again. I just must have the support in place from my medical team and the right therapy. So lets hope that my almost 2 year wait for therapy will end soon!  I am reading self help books too in addition and trying to do all I can. I just hope that help for my anxiety disorder will finally arrive.