When I first filled my prescription for my anti-anxiety medication, I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed and ashamed. It felt like I had lost a battle and was somehow weak because I couldn’t feel better on my own. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and my mental health since then and I can proudly say I no longer feel guilty for needing a little help.
Frankly, it’s nobody’s business but my own. This is the first thing I learned that helped me shed that shame. Nobody has to know what medication I take or even that I’m taking any at all. I never have to tell anyone about it and they never have to know. I’ve made the decision to be open about my experience and struggle but if I wanted to keep it to myself, that’d be OK too. My body is my business.
I wouldn’t want anyone else to be ashamed either. If someone told me they were taking medicine for their mental health, I would feel horrible if they told me they were ashamed of it. Casting off that guilt felt like a step towards helping others come to terms with their own mental health and standing together in solidarity. The more I saw other people accepting and even embracing their depression and anxiety, the easier it was for me to do the same.
I wouldn’t feel bad about taking medicine for my physical health, so why is this any different? I have no problem taking medicine for headaches, a cough, or an upset stomach, and treatment for my mental health should be no different. Learning to treat them equally helped a lot when it came to learning how to shed my shame.
I need it to function and that should be reason enough. Without my anxiety medication, I become a panicked, worried mess who struggles in my day-to-day life. Taking medication restores balance for me, and it’s not something I’m doing that’s illegal or illicit. I’m just taking medicine that helps my brain function like everyone else’s. The thought of being ashamed of doing something that’s good for me is absolutely ridiculous.
So many people are in the same boat, which is somewhat comforting. There’s still such a huge culture of shame surrounding mental illness, and especially surrounding taking medicine to deal with it. That shame makes it harder for those of us who need medication to find and support one another. Thankfully, once I started making connections with people who shared my struggle, I started to realize there are more of us than I thought. Why be ashamed of something that’s so common?
Shame literally kills people. Maybe that sounds dramatic but it’s kind of true. People who get shamed for taking medicine for their mental health could put themselves in danger. Those with mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or psychosis could be really damaged by not getting the medication they need. There’s no way I wanted to contribute to that culture of shame by being ashamed myself.
I’m much happier now. Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but getting rid of that shroud of shame in my life helped my mental health almost as much as my medication did. Sure, the pills helped quell any undue anxiety, but getting rid of the shame around my medication helped in all other areas of my life. And all in all, I’m way happier than I have been in a long, long time.
Being ashamed of my mental health didn’t help me. Usually, shame is something we feel when we do something that goes against societal standards of decency and goodness. Most psychiatrists theorize that shame functions to keep us within those boundaries throughout our lives, which can be a good thing. This shame, though, wasn’t doing that. It was a result of some wild misconceptions about people who took medication for their mental health. Since it wasn’t helpful, I decided the best thing to do was kick it to the curb.
I wanted to help other people. The only way I was going to be able to help other people with mental health issues was by being totally and completely open about it. If I was too busy trying to hide my shame, I wouldn’t be able to do what I really wanted to do. Getting rid of that shame was what helped me be in a position to help others, and it feels great.
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