As someone with mental illnesses, the choices I make to take medication, change medications or not take medications are often met with strong reactions varying from support to criticism. I like to attribute these reactions to genuine concern on the part of people who care about my wellbeing. Nonetheless, it’s frustrating when it seems no matter what I choose to do I will inevitably be met with judgement.
Over the years I’ve heard it all…
“Medications are for real health problems, not emotions!”
“You’re too sick, you have to take medication!”
“Benzos will ruin your life!”
“You’ll feel better if you just smoke weed!”
“Mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Taking medication is only thing that helps.”
“You’re kidding yourself by taking medication. Eat healthier, exercise more. Mental illnesses can be totally cured by lifestyle changes.”
I am not alone in having faced conflicting opinions, judgement and criticism over my medication choices. Many of us have been questioned, criticized, judged, demeaned and shamed for our decisions. We have been given opinions we never asked for from people with varying levels of understanding. We receive conflicting messages from family, friends, acquaintances, professionals, movies/TV and popular science articles. We have been instructed what to do as though we don’t have the authority on our own healthcare decisions. We have been told what drugs to take, what drugs not to take, not to take drugs, to take drugs, to change drugs, not to change drugs, etc. It’s dizzying. Some of us have been pressured in to decisions we don’t feel comfortable with. For many of us, the cycle of judgement seems to start again every time we make a new decision about psychiatric medications. This can all be isolating and overwhelming. Honestly, a lot of us are tired of it.
Are psychiatric medications the only solution that works or a scam? Are they helpful or harmful? Are we over medicating? Opinions differ on these and many other questions. Part of the discrepancy in opinions about medications can be explained by an overvaluing of individual experiences. Medications used to treat mental illness have varying levels of efficacy and side effects from person to person. Likewise, some people respond better to medications than others. Our personal experiences are important, but no one person’s experience can encapsulate the efficacy of a treatment. What is right for me isn’t necessarily right for you and vice versa. The information available to most people through popular science is also confusing. When we go looking for answers we often find more questions. It’s no wonder strong opinions form on an issue that is polarizing even amongst mental health professionals and advocates.
I have come to realize that the only people I want involved in decisions regarding my medications are myself, my medical team and anyone whose opinion I specifically ask for. Simply put, I am in the best place to judge what is right for me and my doctors are the only people whose authority I trust on medications. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the concern of others. What I don’t appreciate is concern expressed in prying questions and unsolicited advice. My decisions around my mental health care treatment are my own. I should not have to defend them for fear of being judged. Nor should anyone else.
Please allow us the right to make our own decisions without judgement. We should be able to choose treatments that we feel comfortable with without fear of the reactions they will provoke. These choices are personal and they should be. Bottom line: when it concerns our bodies and our minds, it should be our decision.