Author: Lianca Lyons
I was crying uncontrollably at work because I was mentally, physically, and emotionally EXHAUSTED. I would wake up in the middle of the night sending work texts and emails about things I had either forgotten about or needed to remember. My mind was constantly racing and wouldn’t rest, therefore neither would my body. On this particular day at work, I had a nudge to “kind of” ask for help. I knew one of my co-workers had anxiety so I walked into her office, closed her door, sat in her chair, and sobbed. She just looked at me with empathetic eyes and asked, “How can I help?” I asked her, “What does it feel like to take medication? I think I need some, but, I’m scared.” She didn’t judge or ridicule me. She simply shared her experience with me. The most powerful tidbit she shared with me was, “Medication takes the edge off. It allows me to catch my breath. It’s the only way I’m able to function.” That conversation was the tipping point for me to get help.
Why don’t we talk about how mental illness medication makes us FEEL? I had only heard the negative stigma associated with taking meds but I had never heard success stories. Especially not as an African American Christian woman. I really wanted to hear from someone that looked like me to tell me HOW DO MEDS MAKE YOU FEEL? Because the reality is…I was afraid to take medication for my mental illness.
Why was I choosing to live in emotional anguish instead of going to the doctor to get pharmaceutical HELP. WHAT WAS I AFRAID OF? I absolutely hated the way I was feeling. Emotional pain is VERY present and VERY overwhelming. Yet, psychological symptoms are incredibly difficult to describe and/or explain. I was experiencing uncontrollable crying spells at ANY given moment and it was utterly exhausting. Everything made me nauseous so I was barely eating and had lost 25 pounds. I had developed acid reflux so when I did eat, it was painful. Yet and still. I knew I needed help but my rebuttals were STRONG:
God will fix me if I pray hard enough
It’s not really “that” bad. I’m FINE.
How will medication make me feel?
Will I have to take medication forever?
What if it doesn’t work or I have a negative reaction and I feel even worse?
But my BIGGEST rebuttal: I can figure it out on my own. I don’t need medication to help me. I’ll be OK.
Depression and anxiety had followed me my entire life like a shadow but now extreme mood swings and anxious attachment jumped in the party bus and they were driving me into a busy intersection during rush hour traffic. This pentacle moment in my life created no other choice for me. My psychotic break presented me with an ultimatum: Get Help or DIE. Deciding to take medication was a matter of LIFE or DEATH and NECESSARY. I chose to get help. I chose LIFE.
Initially, I had a placebo effect: I immediately had an appetite. I wanted to eat and I was no longer nauseous. I asked my dad to make me waffles, bacon, and eggs and he eagerly obliged. A week after starting to take medication, I remember driving with my sister and the euphoria of nothing bothers me was incredible! I was actually able to BREATHE. Before taking medication, I felt like I was drowning underwater with only my nose touching the surface for quick sips of air. After taking medication, I felt like my head was above water. Over time, without even noticing, the water was gradually lowering to my shoulders, then my chest, and the next thing you know, the water was at my waist and I was walking onto the shoreline! It was a physical peace that I had been longing to feel my entire life. As I looked out of the window, admiring the scenic view, and noticeably being able to BREATHE, I said to my sister, “Why didn’t I do this ages ago?!”
I do want to highlight a few caveats or misconceptions about taking mental illness medication. While medication DOES seriously take the edge off, it DOES NOT fix bad behavioral habits that have developed over time while living unmedicated and/or unmanaged. It is NOT a quick fix to your problems; it just allows you to see them clearly. Now that you can BREATHE, you’ve rested and you can see clearly, you will want to address these behavioral problems. Medication helps get you to a mental space where you are able to wrap your head around approaching the SELF-work. This is the perfect opportunity to find a good therapist to help you unpack any emotional burdens you’ve been carrying. A solid support team of licensed professionals is crucial to your wellness journey.
I am happy to report that 10 years later taking medication for my mental illness is a decision that I will NEVER regret. I don’t want to invalidate the feelings of fear that I felt prior to taking medication because hindsight is 20/20. But I literally have NO IDEA why I was so scared and pondered for so long the most life-changing and absolute best decision of my life.