As I briefly mentioned in my Initial Impressions post, while I am on meds now, I avoided (or actively resisted) them for a long time. Many, many years. I decided that I do, indeed, want to go into more detail as to why I did so.
I have had issues my whole life (obviously, what with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder). I’ve seen mental health professionals as early as elementary school, and at various times throughout my life. And I have had some *very* bad experiences. In middle school some doctors who didn’t know me well decided that I had ADHD and stuck me on meds, without telling me what they were or what they were supposed to be doing. Surprise, surprise, they didn’t work. (also, I hear a number of stories from people on the spectrum in their late 20’s and early 30’s who were misdiagnosed with ADHD. what’s up with that?)
A few years later I was put on Zoloft. I would get 15 minute med checks occasionally where the doctor would check my pulse, ask me how I was, and at least occasionally raise my dose. I never really knew what I was supposed to be doing, but the zoloft never helped. Not one little bit. Additionally, in retrospect, I suspect I was on MUCH too high of a dose.
So I wound up with an aversion to meds.
I also managed to get an aversion to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. On top of the two previous stories, I once knew someone who was in school to be a mental health professional (of some sort, I don’t remember what exactly) who enjoyed using what she was learning to deliberately tweak and hurt me. She had nothing but contempt for me and my rather obvious psychiatric issues, and wanted to have fun with her schooling before she had to be nice to her patients. Kind of horrifying, to think that people who need help might have a doctor who feels contempt for mental illness.
I have also heard altogether too many stories of women on SSRIs who found themselves dealing both with frustrating sexual side effects to their medications, and with psychiatrists who did not care or made it clear that they believed that women didn’t really need orgasms or a sex life.
Anyway, all that added up to a huge aversion to both psychiatrists and the meds they prescribe.
Tangential to the above issue is one of control. I am fairly insistent that I be in control of what happens to my body, and I respond very poorly if other people try to tell me what to do with myself. This means a couple different things. One is that I am doing much better now that I am an adult and am in charge of my own medical matters. As a child, with the decisions often being not in my hands, or not even being allowed to be part of the process at all, that was quite horrible. Also, I have learned that it is important to find doctors that respect my no’s. If I say no to something, some mental health professionals will respond by trying to change my mind or otherwise convince me that I should agree to whatever they are proposing. This is not at all acceptable. Any doctor I have needs to be willing to work within any boundaries I set, and if I say that I am not ok with a thing, then try other methods. I find that I am much more willing to try things that I am not entirely comfortable with when I know, beyond a doubt, that I can stop at any time and be supported by my doctor.
There was also a matter of identity. By which I mean, depression and anxiety has been with me for pretty much as long as I can remember. I have definitely lived with them for much, much longer than any period of time I was without them. To be honest, while the idea of being without them was appealing, it was also scary. Who would I be? Would I still recognize myself? Much of my identity had been attached to these constant feelings – and really, it would be surprising if it hadn’t. Those feels impacted pretty much everything.
Mind altering drugs
As if all that wasn’t enough, there is also the fact that I’m just a little leery of throwing chemicals at my brain and hoping something works. We can’t test brains to see what chemical is off, or perform any biological test to see what exactly needs to change. All we can do is take an educated guess based on what you tell your doctor, what we know about what different meds do, try one, and hope for the best. It’s considered normal to have to go through multiple different meds before finding one that works, and spending a few months on each one. That’s just the process!
Ultimately, I’m still a little suspicious of doctors and drugs. I spent a lot of time re-working the way I saw myself, to move the depression and anxiety into things that were attached to me, rather than things that were me. Yet I still find myself needing to re-think how I view myself, and I suspect that I will continue to do so. I still think psychiatric medications are bigger deals than most mental health people treat them. I think that it is only reasonable to find other ways to deal, if possible, and only use meds if other methods aren’t working. In my case, I needed meds. But there was a whole process to go through before I could reach that conclusion, and it’s probably one that will still tweak me now and again.