I take issue when people judge others for their decision on how to manage their mental illness.
I have found that people who have experience with mental illness use various metaphors in an attempt to articulate what it feels like for them; people connect with metaphor. I fear any metaphor I could conjure would only be as amorphous, distancing and clumsy as mental illness itself, yet they seem hard to avoid. So while I may try to paint you a picture of what it feels like for me, I fear it will end up resembling a Rorschach rather than a Rembrandt. Perhaps that is not unbefitting because mental illness to me is ambiguous and can feel different for everyone. For me it just “feels”. It feels like everything at once or nothing at all.
As a child with anxiety, my inner voice delivered a rushed monologue that was shouted and uneven instead of the calm and steady cadence of prose. I would convince myself that if I didn’t do X, there would be outlandish and devastating consequences. Soon my anxiety began to revolve around social interactions, however I am a social person by nature and thus, much of my energy was devoted to avoiding awkward moments and impression management, which took considerable stamina. I decided to explore the option of psychoactive medication.
I take issue when people judge others for their decision on how to manage their mental illness. In my experience, there exists just as much stigma in seeking pharmaceutical aid as there is surrounding mental illness itself. I myself have internalized some of these beliefs, yet personally, I struggle to find the basis for them. Do we think it’s an easy way out; we are less than if we can’t mitigate our issues through sheer will? Recently I’ve contemplated that perhaps it’s because medication can be dangerous if it’s not employed without caution.
Approximately a month after starting meds, I finally noticed the effects and I was delighted that I felt unburdened and natural for the first time! I could say something silly and not have it play on a loop in my head while I physically cringe at the playback. I only basked in the afterglow of this triumph for about a year before I reasoned that I could afford to feel even better; I am a hedonist at my core and so I assumed, the more meds the merrier! I was prescribed a higher dose which lead to my overmedication and most frightening period of my life. It was not a jarring transition, but a slow, insidious creep that eventually left me steeped in apathy and lethargy; I could not sleep enough and dreaded to wake. Fearing for my sanity, I stopped taking meds and reclaimed control, or at least ownership of my thoughts and emotions.
Recently I have been struggling again with symptoms of anxiety and have decided to pursue the right dose of medication. I feel ready to revisit the best of me, responsibly and without shame.
– Nina McKinstry