One of the most important things in life is to have a diverse group of people to interact with, at least for me. I truly believe that you need to surround yourself with all types of people in order to create experiences, learn and expand your own views. I’d like to think I have friends from all walks of life with their own unique view points and ideas. Sometimes those view points have taken me aback.
A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned she didn’t feel that pharmaceuticals and prescriptions were actually “medicine” for those who have mental illness. Being outdoors, eating right and exercising are all that you need. It’s an argument that many people believe due to their skepticism of modern pharmaceuticals. It’s a dangerous argument.
There are millions of people who have tried homeopathic medicine to no avail. They’ve tried almost anything you can think of. I myself have tried a number of things to help cope with my anxiety from meditation and tai chi, to coloring and writing, to exercising and removing certain things from my diet (I haven’t had coffee since 2014). But my disorder still persists as do millions of people who struggle with mental illness.
As shocking as it may be, there are people who believe medication for a chemical imbalance isn’t necessary. I’m always amazed by the amount of people who support this. Recently, an image showcasing nature as medicine and not actual pills made the rounds on social media. While exercising and communing with nature can help relieve symptoms temporarily, it doesn’t cure a chemical imbalance. They are integral parts of self care, but it’s not something that can magically take away your illness. Walking, exercise and eating right can assist in your health; it clearly has benefits for all around wellness including mental health. BUT it’s not always effective on its own. By steering away from pharmaceuticals or informing others that they can cure themselves, a person is distributing possibly life ending ideas. The general public is already apprehensive to taking medication; I know I was. The stigma attached to mental health medication is sizeable, and pushing those who need medication further from it can have disastrous effects. Imagine having a friend who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. A walk through the woods may either 1. be a quick distraction or 2. can assist in making that individual feel more alienated. Do you really want a friend who is struggling with ending their life not seeking medical attention from a professional?
Along with this idea there are those that believe that if you have enough faith, a mental illness sufferer can stop taking their medication and be healed through an act of God. Now, don’t get me wrong…I truly believe it is possible to be healed by God, but I do not believe you should be telling an individual with a mental disorder that they can measure their faith, or lack there of, on their disorder. Not only can it cause guilt and shame within a person who is struggling, but it’s also extremely unwise to tell anyone to stop taking a daily medication. I recently discussed this with another friend who preceded to ask me how I knew that. Not only does every medical professional tell you that you need to be weaned off of any daily medication as your body has adjusted to the chemicals, but most of those who suffer from mental illness have gone off of their medication without supervision. It does not end well. Again she pressed until I told her that I know because I’ve done it.
From conversations and meeting with those who also have a disorder, it appears that many, if not most, of us have independently decided we didn’t need our medication. As it builds up in our system, we start to feel better. The common thought amongst all of us appears to be that since we feel better, we no longer need the medication. While the reality is that it’s the medication that is working and causing our chemicals to level out. For some, it doesn’t take much time at all to feel the difference. For me, it took the half life of the drug in order for me to go into a panic attack. Anyone who suggests that you can just go off medication by faith alone has no true knowledge of mental illness.
It can be incredibly difficult when you have friends who have ideas on how to respond to mental illness but do not have any experience with it. It can be difficult navigating those relationships, and depending on my relationship with the individual, I can have trouble holding my tongue. At times, I just want to tell people to shut their mouths, but I do my best to grin and bare it.
How do you handle off the cuff remarks from friends? Have you ever had to bite your tongue on other people’s opinions?