Confession Of A Medicated Woman

I have a confession to make.  

I have asthma coupled with severe allergies.  I’ve battled this disease since I was a child with many doctors weighing in on how to best control the symptoms.  It was decided that early on I would have to be medicated in order to keep breathing.

There were so many different kinds of medications I’ve lost count.  Some worked ok.  Some made the symptoms worse.  And some…some I had horrible side effects with.  Like vomiting and nausea.  I was told by my Dr to just keep using them – the side effects would go away eventually.  Finally we settled on a combination that works for my specific type of asthma.  Ventolin inhalers as needed with Advair to back it up.

Sometimes I’m angry.  Angry that I can’t live without this medicine.  Angry that I can’t be just a NORMAL person who breathes without difficulty.  Who can play sports and cuddle with kittens without fear of hospitilization.

Mostly though I’m ashamed.  I’m afraid to talk about my health issues in public for fear of judgement.  So many times I see posts from people with similar problems asking for help and there is a resounding cry that they can just “work through it” and that medication isn’t really needed.  When I was in grade six I had a gym teacher who believed I could just “walk off” my asthma after gym class.  It took a severe attack for my parents to remove me from that class – an attack that I nearly died from.

According to statistics Canada 8.5 % of the population aged 12 and over have been diagnosed with asthma.  More common during childhood, asthma affects more than 13% of Canadian children.

So I’m not alone.  There are many others like me.  So why does society view having asthma as something I can just “get over”?  Why am I constantly asked how long I’m going to have to be medicated and whether or not I really need the inhalers?  Some even feel the drug companies are to blame and I’m not really sick.  They just want to have me on inhalers so I’m easier to control by the corporations/governments.

I see people telling pregnant or breastfeeding women to “go off their inhalers” due to misinformation about the danger to the baby – despite the fact the mother may be a danger to herself without them.

No wonder I, and many others, are ashamed of their asthma.  Why we hide it.

If I have an attack in public I just tell people that I’ve got a slight cold.  I turn away from people if I have to take my inhaler so they won’t know I’m sick.  I don’t talk about it much online so that I won’t incure the judgement of the internet.

Sometimes I’m afraid to get help for my asthma thinking I’ll be judged.  That my friends and family won’t understand or think I’m a burden and abandon me.  That the doctors won’t think I’m sick enough to warrant medical attention.  It can be so difficult to admit I need help no matter how hard it is for me to breathe.

I live in a society where there is a stigma against asthmatics – especially those who are on inhalers.  Where we are judged from all sides and shamed into silence.  Where we suffer and often times don’t find the help and support we need in time.

………….Wait a minute.  Asthma is a serious illness.  I shouldn’t be ashamed and this is just ridiculous.  Is it though?  Let’s re-write this post with what it’s actually about.

I have a confession to make.

I have an anxiety disorder coupled with depression.  I’ve battled this disease since I was a teenager with many doctors weighing in on how to best control the symptoms.  It was decided that I would have to be medicated in order to keep functioning.

There were so many different kinds of medications I’ve lost count.  Some worked ok.  Some made the symptoms worse.  And some…some I had horrible side effects with.  Like vomiting and nausea.  I was told by my Dr to just keep using them – the side effects would go away eventually.  Finally we settled on a combination that works for my specific type of anxiety.  Ciprolex with the occasional prescription of Prozac if my depression got too bad.

Sometimes I’m angry.  Angry that I can’t function without these pills.  Angry that I can’t be just a NORMAL person who controls their emotions without difficulty.  Who can deal with stress and major life events without fear of hospitalization.

Mostly though I’m ashamed.  I’m afraid to talk about my mental health issues in public for fear of judgement.  So many times I see posts from people with similar problems asking for help and there is a resounding cry that they can just “work through it” and that medication isn’t really needed.  When I was in my twenties I believed it and almost did something irreversible.  I could have died.

According to the World Health Organization depression effects 350 million people worldwide. CAMH says anxiety disorders effect one in ten people.

So I’m not alone.  There are many others like me.  So why does society view having depression and anxiety as something I can just “get over”?  Why am I constantly asked how long I’m going to have to be medicated and whether or not I really need the pills?  Some even feel the drug companies are to blame and I’m not really sick.  They just want to have me on the pills so I’m easier to control by the corporations/governments.

I see people telling pregnant or breastfeeding women to “go off their meds” due to misinformation about the danger to the baby – despite the fact the mother may be a danger to herself (or others) without them.  They quote sources that aren’t even close to being scientific.

No wonder I, and many others, are ashamed of their mental health issues.  Why we hide them.

If I have an attack in public I just tell people that I’m having an asthma attack or allergies.  I turn away from people if I have to cry or hyper ventilate so they won’t know I’m sick.  I don’t talk about it much online so that I won’t incur the judgement of the internet.

Sometimes I’m afraid to get help for my anxiety or depression thinking I’ll be judged.  That my friends and family won’t understand or think I’m a burden and abandon me.  That the doctors won’t think I’m sick enough to warrant seeing me.  It can be so difficult to admit I need help no matter how hard it is for me to function.

I live in a society where there is a stigma against mental health – especially those who are on pills.  Where we are judged from all sides and shamed into silence.  Where we suffer and often times don’t find the help and support we need in time.

……

Did your feelings change when you read the re-write?  Many people’s do.  The point is summed up in one simple sentence.

Everyone, PLEASE, stop shaming those on medication for their mental health issues.

If you wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to stop taking their inhalers, if  you wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop their insulin, DON’T tell someone with depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue to stop their medication.

What people need is support and understanding.  Patience and empathy.  Help them know that they are not being judged and that they are still worthy of your time and love.

With better support at home and in their community things do get better.  I’m living proof.

Someday I’ll talk more about my mental health journey.  The self-medication, the hospitalization, the attempts at…well, we’ll get there.  I know that without that one little pill I take every night each day would be substantially harder.  I wouldn’t find joy in my precious baby and would spend my time agonizing over “what ifs” instead of focusing on “what is”.  That one pill helps me be better and manage my illness and really, is that such a bad thing?

inhalerpills

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “Confession Of A Medicated Woman

  1. Little bit by little bit, I too have been writing about my life with anxiety & depression. It’s not easy. It’s been something I’ve tried to hide for most of my life, but it only got worse. I finally got help and medication, which helped for awhile and then didn’t. I’m off meds right now, but wondering when I’ll be back on them again. Thank you for this post.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. 🙂 There’s a reason I describe it as a journey – there are so many paths, so many different things to try, so many stops and starts. I hope someday we won’t have to hide and there will be better support in place for people to access easily and safely. I hope people will stop being ashamed of taking meds and I’m very glad you were strong enough to get help. It does take strength, eh? Anyways, best to you on your journey in the future. 🙂

      • I can most definitely relate to referring to is as a journey – because it really is. Sometimes I do things that work, and feel like if I could just hold on to that thing, that little trick, I’d be ok. If I could just remember it for the next time, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Although I usually feel like trying to remember these little solutions is like trying to keep sand from running through my hands.

        I used to think that I was severely flawed for not being able to hold it all together. I thought it took away from who I was as person, and who I could amount to be. I felt like I was failing everyone for not being better.

        … and then I started seeing it from the asthma analogy. If a runner suffers from an asthma attack while running a race, they stop, they slow down, they cool it for a little while. If asked why they stopped, they probably share that they had an “attack” and will resume when they’ve recuperated. It’s not something they can control – it just happens. They know they don’t have to feel ashamed about stopping, it’s a bodily ailment that they cannot control. The runner does not start believing he is a horrible runner or less of a person because they can’t control it.

        So why is it that those of us with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses, attack ourselves so quickly? I’ve started to learn to tell myself “it’s not my fault, it’s the anxiety’s fault” and it helps. It helps to know that when I feel like I’m sucking at life, some part of it is a result of something I can’t actually control, event if I gave 120% all the time.

        • Exactly! People with mental illness are so hard on themselves. I have found that many of the people I !talk to have self-confidence issues to start with and the illness makes it that much worse. It’s so hard when you are in the thick of it though to step back and say “this is the illness” rather than beating yourself up. Good on you for working to remember that!

          • My own daughter suffers from bi-polar. She was diagnosed at 27, but has suffered with hallucinations and anxiety as a child for many years earlier. Even though her medications work now and she is stable, she complains that she has to depend on 4 different pills per day to control it. I remind her that I suffer from lactose intolerance…and I have to take 12 pills per day to control it and yet I suffer with the consequences of not remembering that there is sometimes lactose in the simplest most unexpected food ( like cupcakes). Often the pain is so horrendous and so often the pills don’t work, that the pain becomes so overwhelming and I literally want and ask, to die and there is nothing anyone can do to ease that pain for the next twelve hours or more. She has seen me scream and writhe in agony, vomiting for hours on end. Seriously begging to die. Yet she knows and reminds me that as suddenly as it begins, it’s as suddenly over, and the sky is blue and the birds are singing and life is good again. Still it disrupts my life and my ability to do what I need to do on a daily basis. Just as her disability does in her life.
            One in ten human beings now has similar (and worse) painful symptoms of wheat intolerance thanks to the greedy “scientific innovators” who have forever changed the molecular makeup of wheat, making it nearly impossible for millions of humans to consume without horrendous and multiple agonies.
            Remember that everyone has something to suffer—that IS the human condition, each of us has a cross to bear and most of us hide it from friends and neighbors. But Suffering is ultimately what makes us compassionate people willing to help others who are suffering too. It makes us less greedy, more understanding, more tolerant, and more willing to help the stranger as well as the friend. It makes us better people.
            To make the point, I ask my sixth grade students on Day Two of class (It’s a bonding exercise to quell bullying) “Stand up if you have poor vision, poor hearing, (we go down the list and they contribute), asthma, anxiety, hallucinations, epilepsy…. I have students with excema who scratch their open wounds 24/7 until they bleed because they are so constantly itchy and it never ends. The list goes on and on until the whole class is standing with truly serious complaints of illness at such a young age!!! And suddenly they understand: that they are not alone, that youngest to oldest, We’re all suffering terribly and we’re all scared.
            Let’s share our burdens and lets learn to be patient and gentle and caring for one another’s burdens. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Pride is not a virtue, in fact Humility has been found to be the most attractive human characteristic. So share your disabilities along with your abilities. You’ll be happily surprised how many friends, family and strangers care so deeply about you!!! And they might be brave enough and humble enough to share their concerns with you as well.

            • PS My daughter is my hero! She is the kindest, gentlest truly humble human being I know. She has and continues to suffer, yet she is patient and understanding of others who suffer even more (and often less) than she does. And best of all: She is learning to be gentle with herself now too.

  2. The “work througn it” attitude is one of my least favorite. I have a severe, ER-worthy soy allergy. A lot of the time people just think I’m being picky when I won’t eat something without knowing what’s in it. No, I’m not being picky. I don’t want my heart to stop or my throat to swell up. Another “it’s your fault” take on illness is the belief that we bring on our own illnesses because we’re having negative thoughts. What BS.

    Yes to this whole thing. All of it. It all needed to be said. I have bipolar. If I talk about it, people act as if it’s catching. I’m good at faking that I’m ok when I’m really not. That doesn’t mean I AM ok. To friends and family, I’m not sick enough to be on medication (because the medication manages it. Duh.) and to doctors I’m undermedicated because I still sometimes have issues. There’s no winning it.

    I so admire people who can bring themselves to talk about it. It’s so hard to do so. It feels so… raw. So exposed.

    Thank you for being brave enough to address this.

    • I hear you on the allergy – I’m deathly allergic to cats (goes along with the asthma) – so I get it. Also that must suck because there is soy in SO MUCH FOOD.

      Yes, like we can change our neuro chemistry with the power of positive thought! I mean, it has it’s place, but it’s a tool not a cure!

      I’m so sorry that your support is lacking for your bi-polar. You are right though, sometimes there is no winning. I, too, am good at “faking it” and I wish we didn’t have to.

      Thank you so much for your comment. It was…hard for me to write this post. I’m so anxious when I post anything that to have people like it is amazing. I hope to write about it some more in the future. Thanks again for all your feedback it’s super appreciated!

  3. I super appreciate you sharing your life here. It’s important to be honest about what we go through. To know we are not alone even though the darkness makes you think you are. Magic wands and fairy dust…wouldn’t they make things so much easier! Thank you again for posting this.

  4. VERY much agree what you blogged here – it is so unfair that society sees people taking medication for health issues is a weakness. Don’t people understand that some people are just built a little differently? You don’t hear people telling diabetics to “go off” their insulin for a little while for any reason. It’s the same for us, too. The stigma on mental health is the worst, and hopefully, when people like you write posts like this, it will start to make a difference to those who don’t know what it’s like to live with these life threatening issues every single day.

    • I sincerely hope so. I hate seeing people get bad “advice” because those doling it out truly don’t understand. I’m glad to see more people speaking out and talking about their experiences – the conversation has started. Thank you for commenting and for your kind words. 🙂

  5. Thank you for this post. I use to take cipralex as well…. lowest dose possible when I was put on it in 2009. From the age of 11 I always felt “sick” to my stomach with fear, guilt, whatever… all the time. In highschool it got worse… I could cry and cut myself. I started seeing counsellors and it helped a bit… but then when I lost access to them it got worse… and then a break up, and then suicide attempts. I am not on the “generic” version of cipralex which has a name that is a lot longer…. but it costs less….and i now take a higher dose. I know for the rest of my life every few years they will increase the miligram amount of my pill and you know what… its fine because it is not my fault. I am stuck with it for the rest of my life (thank genetics). Oh well. I feel the hardest part of it all is trying to explain to people why I must take these pills for the rest of my life, why I can’t just talk myself down from my episodes….. the only way I can is if I am taking my medication and get into a situation where I do feel overwhelmed. Or why I always forget to take my pills or I’ll do well for a few weeks then forget for a week…. its hard to remember to take a pill that makes you feel good when you are feeling fine. This is life, this is the hand I was dealt, there is nothing I can do. But there are a lot of choices I can make and a lot of things I can do. SO AMEN SISTER! you arent alone. And don’t be ashamed 🙂 It just shows how much smarter we are than them 😉

Draw On My Walls!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s