The recipe of antidepressant stigma
Misconceptions 3 cups
Media influence ½ Tbsp
Blame 2 Tsp
Ingredients lists aside, medications designed to treat mental illness get a bad rap. No one questions a diabetic taking insulin, or an old person with arthritis taking pain medicine. They aren’t expected to navigate their conditions on their own. Why is it any different to treat an equally chronic mental condition, like depression or anxiety?
It can feel really embarrassing to admit you need a drug to feel emotionally normal. People want to believe that there’s a simple answer, that you can just control your emotions like everyone else. This just isn’t true– it has been said time and time again that mental illness comes down to chemicals. You’re not at fault for not having a fully functional laboratory in your head.
People think it’s lazy to need medication
Somewhere along the line, someone decided it was shameful to need meds to get you out of bed in the morning. They think you should just have some self-discipline. The reality of mental illness is that the lack of good chemicals kills the motivation necessary to want to do better.
If you aren’t capable of experiencing happiness in any facet of life, it feels as if there’s no point in putting in the effort to live. The sad truth is that depression is a dangerous illness, removing the will to do simple things like eat and brush your teeth.
There’s no shame in needing assistance to wake up that motivation– it’s far better than doing nothing. Medication doesn’t make life changes for you, they just make it possible. A kick of serotonin may be just what you need to actually care about getting to work on time.
People think it’s cheating
At some point, people started to believe antidepressants were like Brave New World’s “soma”– instantly producing joy, arousal, and killing all bad feelings in just one pill.
That’s just… not it. Antidepressants take time, as they’re working to regulate chemical production in the brain. The goal is not to make the recipient happier than everyone else, only to get them to the same baseline as the average person. People on antidepressants still feel anger, and still cry when something bad happens to them.
The point is to experience normal emotional interactions, instead of the deficit they normally experience. It’s not cheating to want to function normally.
Antidepressants are easy to blame
I take Effexor. It’s treated me wonderfully, except for the occasional side effects when I forget to take it for too long.
Recently, I experienced some prolonged writer’s block. Instead of working around it I jumped very quickly to conclusions– mainly the conclusion that it was all Effexor’s fault. I began reading horror stories on the internet about it, and got the heebie-jeebies.
It took one day of not taking my meds to realize they were doing me a whole lot more good than bad.
The writer’s block went away with time, as it usually does. It’s just so easy to blame medications when something is going wrong.
A famous case of this is Kanye West. Kanye is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and has been prescribed medicine time and time again. He constantly tells the world he just can’t be a creative genius on medication, and goes off it each time, always doing something big right after.
This has influenced a large number of people that medication would somehow keep them from being their “true self”.
Medication can’t change who you are, it only increases your ability to experience joy. That shouldn’t prevent you from being yourself.
- Mix together misconceptions, media influence (kanye), and blame in a large bowl.
- Pour it all into a large trash bin
- Replace with serotonin (store bought is fine)