I grew up in an incredibly small town. Think of the first small town that comes to mind, and cut that in half. That’s how small we’re talking, here. Oh, and did I mention it’s a Bible Belt state? Things like sex and drugs were talked about and informed in schools a little more than my parents generation, thank goodness. But for some reason, no one spoke a word about mental health. I mean no one. This was something that I eventually learned was something you kept extremely quiet.
I was bullied quite severely in my early high school years. Shunning and cyber bullying was the poison most of them picked for me. OH! Almost forgot about the teachers that would quite literally let it happen, heck, one even took part! (It’s crazy how much you try to force yourself to forget over the years) I faked getting sick every week so I didn’t have to face what awaited me at school. I would do things to try to be sent home from school. It of course never worked -I was invisible. By the age of 16 I wanted to die. However, the thought of my grandparents and mother crying because of my actions made me hold on and tough it out.
I eventually transferred to a slightly bigger school and happily finished with my high school degree. Fast forward to my second year of college. I had a job and great friends, but darkness started to surround me. I would sleep until 4 PM most days. I found myself physically not being able to find the strength to get up and go to school quite often. I had a short temper and sabotaged some friendships along the way. I started having deep dark thoughts again. I knew I needed help, quickly. Somewhere along the way I had stumbled across an immediate family member’s medicine cabinet while visiting from college. I read each bottle and discovered they had been perscribed antidepressants (thank you, Google). Although I was upset that no one had told me, I found comfort in knowing solutions could be found.
While visiting my hometown from college, my mother and I made an appointment with my doctor at the time. I was so hopeful and could already feel relief. To my surprise, after telling my symptoms to the doctor, I was denied treatment. “You definitely have severe anxiety and depression, but we don’t like to treat the mentally ill here.” The words coldly rolled off her tongue. I will never forget her asking with a chuckle, “I mean, your mom doesn’t need to hide the kitchen knives does she?” Not something a 19 year old girl wants to hear after considering death the week before. I was sent home with an information packet on severe anxiety and depression, a few stickers, and a LOLLIPOP, that day. I cannot make this up.
I eventually had to learn how to cope on my own, I definitely couldn’t rely on a healthcare professional -at least that’s what I told myself at the time. I extensively researched ways to relieve panic attacks and my depression triggers. I developed a hatred for doctors and avoided them at all costs. After having my daughter, I suffered severely from postpartum depression and anxiety. I refused to believe I actually had it. I ignored it for months. I finally decided that if I wouldn’t bring myself to see a physician, I needed to find a natural remedy. After watching a documentary on PPD I discovered the 5-HTP supplement. I ordered as many bottles as I could. I don’t know if this natural remedy saved my life or my mind healing on its own saved my life, but nonetheless I made it through.
I recently had a neck injury that could not be avoided. I headed to a doctor’s office near me and got it taken care of. The doctor and I briefly discussed my mental health, and she thought it was best that I come back in for another appointment so we could chat a little longer. She seemed a little concerned and I rolled my eyes when I left. I eventually came back and disclosed all the details of my mental health history. Without missing a beat, she told me I needed help and that it was okay. As our conversation continued, I realized I had developed a sense of shame regarding being medicated. I had of course come to terms with my diagnosis, but I had made it a point to not depend on a doctor for help. This entire time I thought I had been advocating for my mental health, I forgot to advocate for treatment, too. I selfishly don’t want to share too much of the conversation that my doctor and I had that day, as I will always keep it close to my heart. I left that appointment in tears -the good kind. The thought of a doctor, a complete stranger, genuinely caring about my well-being was something I was not familiar with.
I am so proud of myself for adhering to my doctor’s medical instruction. I am so proud of myself for finding natural remedies and researching techniques to alleviate the pain I endured while not seeking medical treatment. I am so proud of allowing myself to receive the help I deserve, now. I am so proud of overcoming the shame and fear of being medicated. I am so proud of the mental headspace I reside in, today.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, whether it’s medical or holistic treatment you’re searching for, I urge you to talk to a professional about it. Talk to several professionals about it until you’ve found someone that hears you completely. Do not settle for someone telling you that your symptoms are insignificant. I urge you to continue to seek medical counsel until you find someone who cares about you and your well-being wholeheartedly. Get rid of the idea that you should have to do it on your own. It’s okay to seek help. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to use holistic remedies to find relief. It’s okay to use modern medicine to find relief. It’s okay.
I’m medicated and that’s okay.