I take antidepressants. I have for some years now, and I’ve found them helpful to keeping my emotions steady and stable. I don’t spend a lot of time talking about medication, because it’s not something that inspires strong feelings in me: my medications have not been life-saving or even radically life-changing, they do come with side effects, and overall I’m ambivalent about the fact that I am and will continue to be on meds long term.
But now I’m angry and I do have strong feelings.
A friend of mine posted a few weeks ago about this ass of a picture:
She shared an incredibly personal story about how starting on antidepressants very literally saved her life when she was in the hospital with a severe eating disorder. She wrote quite beautifully about the experience of being at such a low weight with such severe food refusal that she was very literally in danger of dying until she started on Prozac and was able to feel comfortable enough to eat.
And it made me so, so sad. It not only made me sad that this illness was such a fucking asshole, but it made me sad that we have so convinced people that mental illnesses do not deserve real treatment and that medication is bad that someone has to be on death’s door before they’ll consider it. We have to tell graphic, personal stories of how antidepressants very literally and directly saved our lives in order for the medications to be seen as acceptable.
Here’s an idea: my antidepressants are none of your fucking business, and I don’t have to justify using them to you.
Antidepressants have never saved my life. Honestly my antidepressants have never made a drastic enough difference in my life that I can point to changes and say “yes, that.” What they do is give me some slight relief from depression and anxiety, enough that I can engage a whole host of other skills that actually allow me to live a life I like. They improve my quality of life.
The idea that we should not be allowed to take medication to improve our quality of life is part of the bullshit natural fallacy that says medications are inherently bad, but also part of this weird victim blaming mentality that says if someone is mentally ill then it’s because they’re not trying hard enough or they don’t have the right attitude.
Part of this misunderstanding is the idea that if your quality of life isn’t good enough it means you’re not trying hard enough or perhaps that you deserve it. Some people even seem to think that suffering is good or necessary or deserved. They think it builds character or that it’s a badge of pride and purity. That all is horse shit. If someone is suffering and we can make it better, we should. That means that if medication can make things better, a person absolutely should feel comfortable making the decision to take meds.
Sometimes, no amount of therapy or skills will really improve things. Or they might some, but medication makes it even better. Sometimes you need medication to give you a boost that makes therapy and skill effective. There’s all kinds of reasons that people take medication. But if it lessens your suffering or makes your life better, no one has the right to tell you not to take it. No one should feel like they have to justify making a choice that makes them happier at no cost to others. Sure, medications have side effects, but that is an individual and personal calculus to perform. For many of us, improving our quality of life is far more important than some kind of purity from Big Pharma.
There is nothing so wrong with medications that we should feel we have to be on the verge of suicide in order to justify taking them. There is absolutely no reason that anyone should ever feel they have to tell a story about nearly dying in order to convince others that medication is acceptable. The improvement of quality of life is reason enough to do something. We as human beings deserve more than just survival: we deserve some amount of happiness and fulfillment in our lives. Having a mental illness doesn’t change that. People with mental illnesses also deserve happiness. It’s not selfish or bad for them to want medications that make them feel better. “Feeling good” is absolutely enough reason to want to do something. It’s even enough of a reason to take medications that may have side effects. Diminishing suffering is a major part of our goals as compassionate and reasonable humans. The hatred against medication clearly has some other motivation than the good of the people involved if we have to rely on “it’s literally life saving” in order to be believed, instead of simply being able to say “it helps me feel better.”
So for anyone who feels like others need to “prove” how effective meds are: you can fuck right off. The only person that needs that evidence is me.