A big part of this “culture of suspicion” is rooted in the reckless behavior of pharmaceutical companies, which is well documented. I, too, am deeply skeptical of pharmaceutical companies and the impulse to medicate problems that would be better served by something else. But can’t we make space in our brains for both skepticism of a multi-billion dollar industry devoted to getting more people medicated and belief in the science that deems that medication necessary for so many? And can’t we make space in our brains for problematic over-reliance on medication and the equally problematic—and deadly—stigma of medication for those who desperately need it?
Having a mental illness is already hard enough. But then to face this routine resistance to its medical treatment makes me, and others, want to be quiet about this stuff.
Several studies show that one of the main reasons that people who do seek help for mental illness aren’t properly treated is “lack of knowledge about the… treatability of mental illness” among medical professionals. I can’t think of a single other medical condition where decades worth of science supporting the benefits of medicine is dismissed so regularly.For several months this year, I saw a therapist who consistently dismissed my reliance on medication as an “easy fix” that obscured the real work I had to do addressing the circumstantial conditions—traumatic or otherwise—that make me depressed and anxious. She constantly presented stories of former patients going off of medication as inspiring success stories I should work towards. Eventually, I had to initiate a break-up.Undoubtedly, therapy can help treat depression, anxiety, and many of the other conditions medication treats, too; in fact, often, the two treatments work beautifully together. But to deny the hereditary, biological component to some patients’ mental health is to perpetuate the myth that mental illness is a phase, or something you can will your way out of with positive thinking and therapy. Research has repeatedly shown that medical treatment paired with therapy can offer the best results for those suffering from countless mental health disorders. That’s what works best for me.Getting off medication isn’t a big concern (or a realistic aspiration) of mine, no matter how many people who haven’t lived in my body present it as such. Being as healthy as I can be—not as you can be, or someone else can be—is my biggest concern.
I do all the things people suspect might cure me of depressive episodes, which they mistake for sadness, or anxiety, which they mistake for nerves—and I still need pills.