The breaking point for me to begin taking medication approximately 3 months ago was an argument with my boyfriend. The argument was ridiculous, and I knew it. And to be honest, it was not so much an argument as it was a one-sided venting of my emotions. We had just gotten out of the shower and an intrusive thought popped into my head as had been known to happen countless times a day for the past few years. The thought itself does not matter. But I felt myself beginning to worry out loud that my partner (my wonderful, patient, understanding partner) was uninterested in me. And that was it. Before I knew it I was in hysterics crying, telling him to leave me, that he deserved better, and that I felt as though he was wasting precious time and energy on a girl who cried to herself every morning on the way to work for reasons she could not grasp.
I sat there on the floor in the doorway of my ensuite half covered in a towel, dripping wet from the shower and now my tears feeling so hopeless and guilty. I felt guilty that if he stayed, I would hurt him, and I felt guilty that by trying to protect him from said pain that I had begun to push him away. I hurt him anyway. I looked at this man sitting on the edge of my bed with his hands in his head. His eyes were so lost and so scared. But he did not budge. I screamed, I yelled, I cried, I banged my hands against my forehead hoping to relieve myself from the conflict within my own head. He sat. He waited. When I finally calmed, he spoke. “I think you should see someone.”
I had contemplated this for years. I had been to GP’s for mental health care plans, been referred to psychologists, counsellors, tried diet and exercise, fell off the wagon, laid in bed for days avoiding the phone calls from the clinics I did not show up to because I could not get myself out the front door of my house.
After that breakdown in the bathroom my boyfriend had an open and understanding conversation with me about my mental health. I explained how I felt, how long I felt this way, my fears and reservations about medication, my fear about the stigma of needing medication, and how I felt so hard done by that I was burdened with a possible chemical imbalance and that I might need to take “some sort of pill” to feel normal. “My brother is a diabetic”, he said. I stared at him blankly. “He takes insulin every day to survive. He is normal.”
Those words made something click. I mulled them over in silence for a few moments. I opened my search engine on my phone and started researching antidepressants and chemical imbalances. Not opinion-based pieces, actual facts, and things began to make sense. I sat and read segments to him excitedly. In all my years of experiencing anxiety and depression not once did I consider that mental illness was as serious a threat to my life as other very common physical illnesses. Even though I found myself contemplating non-existence, I felt that this was my own fault, thus continuing the cycle of self-blaming and treatment avoidance. I never considered medication as an option to treat my anxiety and depression, because I considered them a result of weakness and not a bodily issue.
I made an appointment with a GP again. This time was no different to any of the others, and yet somehow felt like the first time. I showed up, I was honest, I was open to treatment options, and that afternoon I walked out wiping away tears and handing in a prescription to the pharmacy next door for an SNRI beginning treatment the next day.
Fast forward 3 months and I sit here writing this blog post with tears streaming down my face cross-legged in the nest of pillows and blankets I needed today to survive. I missed my medication yesterday. I spent the entire day anxious, angry, irritable, apologetic, scared, worried, and sad. Not realising that I had even missed a dose I began to question the effectiveness of the medication and I was terrified. My boyfriend spent the entire day being supportive, calm, loving, patient, and understanding. This morning I went to take my dose and noticed the extra capsule in the blister pack and a wave of embarrassment and guilt flooded over me. I have spent the entire day apologising for how I acted. My boyfriend has reassured me that he is ok and feels happy and content with me.
I have cried all day and felt like a failure for needing this medication to feel normal again. Then I remembered the conversation we had 3 months ago. If I were a diabetic who forgot to take their insulin I could end up with debilitating symptoms and lasting negative effects on my health. I am a woman suffering from anxiety and depression. I forgot to take my medication for common illnesses which leave me with debilitating symptoms. Constantly experiencing these symptoms could leave me with possible lasting negative effects on my health.
I am not sure my boyfriend knows it yet, and I do not know when I will show him this blog piece. But he saved my life. That simple comparison and his patience shone a light on the fact that I did not need to feel useless or embarrassed that I needed help managing a common illness in order to survive.
I am a long way from feeling like I am managing this as best I can. But I will continue taking my medication and treating these illnesses and my body with the respect and attention they deserve. I hope that anyone who is struggling with similar guilt may read this, realises the same things that I did, and has the confidence to accept one or more of the wide arrays of help and treatment options out there.
Here’s to thriving.