Spend 5 minutes talking to your GP about how low your mental health has been and I’m pretty sure you’ll be walking out with a prescription for anti-depressants.
Now medication can be life saving. Medication can drastically improve the well-being of so many mental health issues, and it is important to take your medication if it benefits your life.
But is it always needed?
When you reach that rock bottom moment in your life that finds you sitting in a Doctors office, pouring your heart out – chances are you will take anything to just make it all stop. To make life get better. You’re sitting there, feeling vulnerable and confused. You’ve struggled, persevered, tried your hardest to get better, and now you’re wiped out. If the professional is offering you a glimmer of hope, you’re going to be keen to take it.
But should Doctors be so quick to hand over powerful medication?
One of my best friends recently told me over a glass of vino, that she wishes counselling had been mandatory and anti-depressants optional. Depending on the strain of your local borough – chances are, you aren’t going to be referred to a mental health specialist as standard procedure. You’ll be given the option of counselling, if you feel this is what you want.
Being told you can be referred to a mental health department, if you so choose, can be absolutely terrifying. A doctor cannot diagnose your problems during a 10 minute general appointment – nor should they have to – so chances are you have no idea what you’re dealing with, or what would be your best way forward. Therapy has so much stigma attached to it. In my experience, many people’s gut reaction is to avoid counselling like the plague. Not because it’s rubbish, but because its the unknown. And can you blame them for feeling this way?
Sometimes it can be easier to just hope everything goes away. No point bothering someone else. And who wants to bare all to a stranger, whilst lying in a couch, anyway?
Therapy, for me, is the ultimate support. It is the one thing that is really going to unpick why you feel a certain way. You can discover why you’re struggling. You will learn life long skills to support yourself. It’s a journey – a difficult one – but one that can change your life.
However, you’re not going to know that unless you try it. And when you’re faced with a waiting list for something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or a little box of pills that you can start taking the minute you hit the chemist – it’s a no wonder, so many people are turning to medication for help.
My question is: if only a Doctor/Therapist specialising in mental health, can offer you support, surely it should be up to them to decide who needs medication?
After months of refusing to take the Citalopram I had been prescribed, I finally caved and started dosing up. I’d recently visited my GP to tell them my symptoms were getting worse, and I couldn’t cope with life. I was told to take the tablets and that “most people normally get bored of being anxious anyway”. I left humiliated. Tablets seemed like my only option.
The GP had no idea what my issues were. The citalopram was given to treat the symptoms and not the cause. I do not expect Doctors (who can be incredible by the way) to be experts in every field going – but I wish I had been educated more about the range in treatments I could be offered, if I just dared to speak up a bit more.
After a year of highs and lows I started therapy. It was the one thing that impacted me instantly. I got to speak to the most incredible woman about everything. She was able to help me understand why I suffered with anxiety. It was not down to a chemical imbalance in my brain. It was my coping mechanism. Together, we talked, cried and laughed our way through it. I became so empowered. I learnt more about myself than I ever thought I could. I’ll be eternally grateful for that.
I never needed pills, I needed guidance and wisdom. I needed an hour to selfishly vent. A friendly face and a welcoming ear. I needed to hear the scientific theories behind my thought patterns to know that what I was experiencing was valid. It was real. It would be okay. I would be okay.
I’ve decided to come off of citalopram. I know my own mind. I don’t want anything polluting it. For a pill that has not had any impact on my wellbeing, it has dug its claws in, and showed it’s true power, as it leaves my system. Coming off of anti depressants has been harder than any battle I’ve faced in my mind. The withdrawal symptoms have intensified my mental health problems tenfold, and have made me feel like I’m coming off crack.
If I’d known what I had now, I wouldn’t have taken them.
I hope that in the future, time is spent on educating people on what they need. Mental health is complex and personal. Every person will require their own care plan. Every person deserves time, energy and thought to be put into their recovery.
More needs to be done to raise awareness of Talking Therapy. The government needs to put more money into the training of GP’s, the resources available and the staff that have people in their care. We need to end the stigma so that thousands of life’s can be improved, and saved.
There is no quick fix. But there is help.
That’s why I’m speaking out about the power of therapy. I will speak proudly of the fact I’ve seen a therapist, and I will not feel awkward about mentioning down the pub how “after work on Monday I’m gunna pop to Tesco’s for some bread and then see my counsellor”.
There is no shame in getting help. There is no shame in seeing a professional.
Treat the cause not the symptoms.