World Mental Health Day: There is No Shame in Medicating Anxiety and Depression

I guess I’ve always been kind of sad. Looking back at photos from my childhood, you will no doubt see a faraway look in my eyes as I would prefer to be anywhere but where I was. I would be ostracised as being ‘moody’ and ‘grumpy’ for a lot of my youth, leading me to retreat from social situations and prefer my own company.

My teenage years were when that started to change after I discovered the benefits of whisky and cheap cider that tasted like motor fluid. After a few drinks, I was capable of talking to anyone about anything, often for hours at a time, and sometimes even get myself into trouble, be it fights or far worse. I used alcohol to help myself become the person I thought I had always wanted to be; outgoing and interesting, though I have come to realise that I was probably just another drunk bastard. I continued to drink heavily as a form of self-medication and the loneliness that post-University life brought with it. Days would pass where I would refuse to emerge from my ‘pit’, a squalid bedroom with empty bottles lining the floors, incapable of making my way out of the front door as anxiety may as well have placed my front door in Mordor. After roughly four days of only leaving my room to use the toilet, I decided something needed to change and willed myself to seek help from a doctor.

Medicating my anxiety and depression was something I had considered for years, but always thought better of it. It isn’t manly, it’s for cowards and weak people. Why should I change? This bottle gives me all the medication I need. More than anything, however, I worried what people would think of me.Although I hate to flog a dead marketing horse, the mantra of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ is systemic with the people of Britain. We tend to bury problems and go about life as if nothing has happened rather than address the issue properly. It’s especially prevalent with men, detailed in this searingly personal Vice article. Three times more men than women commit suicide in the UK with the fairer sex far more likely to seek mental health help.

Speaking to The Guardian, Prof Louis Appleby said: “Men are more at risk of suicide because they are more likely to drink heavily, use self-harm methods that are more often fatal and are reluctant to seek help.

“We need to make it easier for men to find help without shame or stigma.”

The thought of being shamed was something that kept me from medicating my anxiety and depression for years. I couldn’t bear the idea of someone thinking differently of me because I took special pills that made me not crazy, a ridiculous sentiment when looking back. For those that know me personally, this will probably be the first time they’re hearing about most of this – I am a guarded and often private person, far more interested in talking about other people rather than myself. And that’s okay.

After learning that 1 in 4 people suffer with mental health issues, the idea of taking a little white pill with my morning coffee so I can function the way I should doesn’t seem so wild. The next time you’re on a bus or in a town centre, consider how many of those strangers could possibly be seeking medication for anxiety and depression; there are probably far more than you first considered.

So, why are we still so afraid to talk about it?

Life is a long road and you are the car, either speeding or trundling along it. If your tyre was flat, would you still be comfortable to drive knowing that something wasn’t right? Sure, you can still make the trip, but you’re more than likely to hit a few potholes or break down along the way. Leaving the tyre will just make things worse, just the same way that your mental health will if you don’t seek some kind of help. If replacing a tyre will fix something that’s broken, medicating your anxiety and depression can be also be a “fix”.

It would be incredibly naive (and almost dangerous) of me to say that everyone with mental health issues should be on medication. It doesn’t agree with everyone, but it’s equally naive to outright reject any thoughts of medication simply because it’s the “weak” thing to do.

Sometimes just opening up to those you love and refusing to feel ashamed that you’re suffering mentally can go a long way. As long as we keep having these conversations about mental health and stop bottling it away, the road should become less bumpy for everyone.

Originally posted Nov 26, 2015

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