ain’t no shame in treating mental illness with medicine
By Erin White
May 31, 2019
Stigmatizing the use of medicine to manage mental illness is ableist and ignorant.
And I’m finding that there are some areas in life in which people love to offer their unsolicited opinions, particularly when it comes to the body and health. Then, everyone is a freakin’ nutrition and fitness expert. Especially when it comes to fat people and how we treat mental illness.
As you might have guessed, sharing my personal life on the internets is pretty standard. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I take medication to manage it. Two kinds, in fact. One to help regulate my moods from swinging and the other to help my anxiety, catastrophic thinking. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve been through and I want others to know that they can be, too. So I use my voice to amplify all of ours. Typically, this works out pretty well. Except when I opened up about needing medication to maintain well-balanced mental health. Then, everyone is a doctor of 30 years with their own private practice. And when I spoke about the drugs that saved my life, I was so pleased to be told that, no — no, I didn’t need those pills after all. What I really needed was some “herbs”!
Black people….I love you. With all my heart. And I respect a healthy level of mistrust in the medical field and institutional norms that have, historically, been used to hurt us. But science is a thing and pharmaceuticals aren’t inherently bad. And even if they were, no one fucking asked you. Your pseudo science bullshit is fine while I’m waiting for you to pass the blunt, not when I’m celebrating the fact that I’m still alive. “Herbs” might be all your ass needs. Light some sage and have some lemon tea, or whatever. But don’t presume that they aren’t helpful to other people.
It’s a terrifying feeling to suddenly be so detached from your facilities. Drowning mentally in a sea of catastrophic thoughts of self-sabotage and hopelessness. More than sad — empty and unable to grab hold of anything resembling practicality and rational thought. Overwhelmed with emotions that blanket you like so many feet of snow. Here I was so desperate for the pain to stop I was abusing myself with straight razors to kill what hurt on the inside. Sometimes, when I would put sheets on my bed, I would fantasize about hanging from them. And this terrified me. Yes, the depressive symptoms of low self-esteem and unworthiness were legitimately felt, the persisting temptation to push the level of violence I perpetrated against myself was a delusion that seemed out of my control.
In August 2018, I was hospitalized for anxiety and depression. Fearing I might reach a circumstance wherein which I would dissociate far past my sense of self-preservation that I would accidentally commit suicide. It’s not so much that I wanted to die that I wanted to be dead.
During intake at the Emergency Room is when I lost my shit. The intake nurse spoke to me in a slow, steady voice. I knew she was trying to keep me calm. I knew that I was about to flip my lid. She asked me to take off all of my clothes and took my possessions to a secure room. Everything down to my panties and my chapstick. My mother was with me, she had convinced me to come.
“You’re letting them take me away,” I wailed. Hot tears slide down my cheeks as I sobbed. The room was spinning and every movie I’d ever seen featuring institutionalized “crazy people” flashed in my mind. What would it be like in my padded white cell, isolated from the world with no authority to check myself out if I chose to Trapped, scared, suicidal, and alone.
My mom cried with me. Squeezing me and reassuring me in her fragile voice: “I love you, my baby and I can’t lose you.” I knew she was right; my best girl never lets me down.
When I came home from the hospital, I started my medication. And as the weeks went on and meds ran through my system, everything became more manageable. I could get out of bed in the morning and start my day without crying in the shower. I wasn’t snapping at the people around me who were trying to support me. I was eating, too. I even started to see my future again. It wasn’t a perfect, automatic fix, but it was enough to enable me to live my life again instead of sinking into it.
I haven’t cut myself since September 2018.
There’s a good chance that I may need to be on anxiety medication for the rest of my life. But I choose life. And I couldn’t have done that before.
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