Why people are afraid of mental health meds

For years there was such a stigma about taking medication for your mental health. The fear of the dreaded drugs was almost as stigmatised as mental health conditions themselves. But the question is, why?

Before I was correctly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I had been to the doctor several times to tell them I wasn’t coping and asked for advice on how to help myself. There were suggestions about mindfulness, counselling and doing lots of exercise, as well as not drinking too much alcohol (something I was doing to try and self-medicate). When they agreed to try me on antidepressant medication, my life changed for the better. So why wouldn’t people want that for themselves?

Ashamed

People are afraid of what others will think of them. I was definitely afraid of what people in my profession would think of me if I told them I was on medication for my brain. When going through a bad patch at work, I ended up having to tell my managers about the depression, anxiety and medication. After a week, they asked me if I was better yet. When I explained that I wasn’t and that the medication was making my brain fuzz, they presented me with a verbal warning. However, despite this lack of understanding and my fear, a few years later I told another employer and they were super supportive.

SILVER LINING: The great thing about medication is that no one needs to know you’re taking it. You can keep that to yourself. If you have the fear of people knowing, just don’t tell anyone. Only tell them when you’re ready.

Looking incapable

This was the biggest fear for me. In the industry I was in, I needed to be top of my game, be the ‘swan’ paddling hard to stay afloat and looking angelic and calm on top. I’ve always been good at putting on different faces depending on where I am. I also got very good at hiding my anxiety, depression and panic attacks behind a forced smile and closed doors.

SILVER LINING: Turns out, I’m actually pretty good at my job and was just in the wrong part of the industry. It took years for me to realise but you learn a lot. I learned that I AM CAPABLE and I CAN DO THINGS and that I’M PRETTY AWESOME. Only tell people about your struggles if you’re comfortable. Confide in a friend, a counsellor or your doctor and only tell people when you feel comfortable doing so. Always know that YOU’RE NOT INCAPABLE and that YOU CAN DO IT.

Side effects

A lot of people avoid taking medication because of the side effects. Admittedly, I had some awful side effects from some of my tablets but when I finally plucked up the courage to tell the doctor that, they were able to help me change over from one to another to another. Not all tablets are made for all people, that’s why there are so many out there. My doctor kept telling me there were only a few but my counsellor said there were so many more. So I pursued it, scary but worth it.

SILVER LINING: If one tablet is making you feel sick or giving you the sweats or night terrors, you can change it. Give it the time it needs to work (6-8 weeks apparently) and if you still don’t feel the side effects fading or that they’re not helping, ask to change them. You have the right. It’s your mind and body.

The silver lining

It’s so hard to tell someone to ignore the above nagging feelings and only because, I’ve been there and I know. I’m not an expert or a doctor but I’ve lived through the fear and the shame and being stubborn and thinking I can do it all by myself. Without the anti-psychotic medication I now take for my Borderline Personality Disorder, I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t be functioning like a semi-human being. When I forget to pick up my prescription, man do I know about it in the way I’m feeling. But they’ve literally saved me so I can cope with the odd hot sweat or night terror.

Please don’t ever be afraid to help yourself. You can do it. You’re stronger than you realise. It might take a few weeks or a few years but if you feel you need a helping hand, ask your doctor about whether medication is right for you.

Why being a Human Book is awesome…

Yep, you read correctly. And, as someone who loves reading, this was a fantastic opportunity.

The premise behind the Human Library movement is to break down stigma and prejudices in society. It’s about finding out more about people from different cultures, minorities and backgrounds and, not to judging a book by its cover.

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So, being a Human Book means you get to tell your story… And choose your book title. For someone like me who’s obsessed with books and reading, being surrounded by books and buying books, this was such an amazing opportunity. My title was ‘Living on the edge…of my seat’, all about turning my mental health from a negative to a positive and what that’s helped me to achieve. There were some amazing books available for talking to including ‘Seeing the funny side’, ‘Thriving not Surviving’ and ‘The Singing Pensioner’! The lovely singing gentleman just filled so many people with smiles and serenaded someone whenever he got the chance.

For me, talking to lots of people I don’t know from 12-4pm was pretty easy and pretty awesome. It also highlighted going from speaking to no one anywhere for fear of rejection years ago, to talking to anyone. My self esteem crept in once we were all seated and I thought ‘Well, I don’t think anyone will come and talk to me but that’s ok. I can go and listen to the other books.’ Oh how wrong I was.

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It was incredible. From 12pm when it started until 4pm when I left, people wanted to speak to me. And I really enjoyed speaking to them and finding out more about their experiences. It was definitely overwhelming but in the best kind of way. People from all different cultures, backgrounds, ways of life and experience came and sat with me. We chatted about everything we could in the 30mins we were allocated.

This amazing gentleman was from Syria and had only just started learning to speak English. He spoke to me for about 40mins and it was incredible. His life story and passion to do well in the UK was inspiring. I kept telling him how well he was doing and how his English ability was fantastic. (In this photo, he was showing me how young he looked without a beard!)

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It was interesting having lots of different conversations but also talking about mental health, how people felt about it’s representation and how they were coping with the stresses and anxieties in their lives. There were some inspirational stories about overcoming depression for family, accepting who you are and people trying to improve their lives with smiles on their faces.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone writes their own stories and create them day-by-day. The difference between you and a paperback book is that you can create your own future. You can escape from what makes life miserable because you, are amazing. You have the power. And you can totally nail being a Human Book.

Find out more about Human Library Cardiff and Human Books UK.