A while back, on the Femislay Instagram, I posted something about medication as an option to take for coping with mental illness and much to my surprise (NOT) so many people felt the need to comment on how I and many other people choose to address mental health issues. I was raised by a mother who has always been suspicious of western medicine and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the medicinal field (rightly so, if I might add). I was vaccinated and always went to annual check ups but instead of Advil or cold medicine we took homeopathic medicine. So when I was first diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I followed a similar trajectory, one that many of the people who offered hateful commentary on that post suggested. I meditated. I went to an acupuncturist. I did yoga each day. I followed a vegetarian diet. I limited my intake of coffee. I took St. John’s Worts. I drank yogi tea. I got blood tests to test for deficiencies. I drank milk thistle. I took meditative walks in the woods behind my house. I wrote in a journal. I tried exposure therapy directed by a therapist on the internet. I counted my breaths. I sat in stillness. Stood in stillness.
And yet, my brain was anything but still. I looked in the mirror, not recognizing the person in the mirror because I was so disassociated. I would wake up in the middle of the night, terrified my parents were dead, checking their room to reassure myself they were still alive, only to wake up an hour later and repeat this compulsion. I walked through university campus, my brain assaulted by thoughts that I was one panic attack away from loosing control and killing people. I wouldn’t pick up a knife to cut a sweet potato because each time I did, I thought about cutting myself. I woke up each morning in a cold sweat, my heart racing, running to the bathroom because of constant diarrhea. I sat in my Buddhism class, willing myself to be more like Buddha, but found myself on the floor of the bathroom, dry heaving, with tears running down my face. I hope this gives you an idea of what I struggled through for six months before one day I was brave enough to say “I can’t do this anymore” and booked an appointment for myself at Student Health Services. I was given 20 mg of Prozac by the doctor and told to return the following week to meet a psychiatrist. I continued meeting the psychiatrist at Student Health until we figure out my dosage or my free visits ran out, I don’t remember which came first.
To be quite honest, I remember very little about that time in my life, either because I blocked it out or because my brain was too occupied by the OCD to store the trauma in the hippocampus. The medicine didn’t work over night. I never woke up feeling cured. And I miss some days. And some days my brain still gets attacked by OCD. But I know the medicine works. I know it because it has cleared up so much space in my head, a space that depression and anxiety once took over. And in that space, I was able to fill it with reasons to stay alive. I don’t owe the people who spit hate in the comments on this page an explanation for why I take medication. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for it because it’s my body, my choice. But I want to say this, there is no shame is taking medication. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you failed at taking care of yourself. And it definitely doesn’t mean that you need medicine to save your self. You saved your own damn self and don’t let anyone else tell you differently.