This post originally appeared on my tinyletter, Where is my Mind?
A few years ago, my husband, who is loath to go to the doctor, went and found out he had high blood pressure. He had been living with a headache and generally not feeling well for months, living with the misery of it. He was young, still, but had a history in his family, and was in a job that made him miserable and stressed. He ended up on multiple pills, which made him feel almost immediately better. He started eating better and exercising, and while he is off all but one of the medications, he needs to keep taking them.
Around the same time, I started getting horrible vertigo, so bad that I couldn’t work and was throwing up. I couldn’t figure out what it was, and was terrified that it signaled something severe. Turns it was just allergies pooling in my inner-ears. Take an allergy pill and some nose spray. So now, when I wake up feeling dizzy, I have to remember to take my allergy pill, my head clears, and I don’t feel dizzy anymore.
I come from a family who never took a lot of medication. We prided ourselves on that. When my grandmother, who was in her late 70s, went into the hospital with what turned out to be a perforated stomach (likely genetic), no one believed us when we said she wasn’t on any medication. At all. As kids, we took what was prescribed when sick (antibiotics, etc), but it took a lot to get us to go to the doctor. We had to be *sick*. Something had to give for us to take the steps to take action to take care of our bodies, that our bodies could no longer take care of themselves.
This spring, I called my health care provider in tears, at a loss as to what to do for my son. Is there anyone I can bring him to to talk to him and help us figure out what’s going on? It turns out, he has ADHD, and now he takes a pill every day to help him. He was resistant to taking them at first. Daddy, I told him, takes a pill every day that helps him feel better. It’s the same thing for you, I said. This is to help you feel better. We’ve all noticed a change for the better in his behavior and his attitude. As he put it less than a week later, I don’t feel so out-of-control anymore, mom.
This spring, I called my health care provider in tears, at a loss as to what to do for myself. I need help, I said. I can’t go on feeling like this. I went to a therapist a few times, and each time she was alarmed at my “scores” ranking my mood and outlook. Those are really *high* she would say with a mounting level of concern. I would laugh, no, that’s how I feel ALL THE TIME. That is normal for me. This is why I’m here. I’m always anxious. I’m always thinking I’m letting everyone down. I always think everyone would be better off if I wasn’t here. Always. It’s always there. I don’t remember anymore when it wasn’t.
I finally saw someone who could prescribe me antidepressants. I started taking them every day, waiting, waiting, waiting for it to build up into my system to make a difference. I only noticed a difference when I forgot the pills when I went on vacation and spent the whole car ride home crying uncontrollably and spiraling. I notice now, that I don’t dread all the things. I have more patience with my kids. I can focus. I can sleep. I can take pleasure in things again. I can trip in public and not completely deteriorate. I don’t spiral.
I feel like myself again. Or rather, I feel like a best version of myself.
I will probably have to take these pills, or some other combination of pills, for the rest of my life. And I tried everything to “get better” without pills. I exercised. I changed my diet. I took up coaching again, an activity that brings me joy. I got more sleep. I drank less alcohol. I did therapy. I did yoga. I meditated. I listened to affirmations. I did all the things, and while it would sometimes keep the darkness at bay, it would always always always come rushing back.
It doesn’t come rushing back anymore. I don’t even have to try and hold it at bay. It’s receded. As my son said, so succinctly, I don’t feel so out of control anymore. And so we talk about going to see the talky doctor. We talk about taking our pills every day. What our pills do and how they help. We talk about being healthy, both physically and mentally. We talk about who we want to tell, to let into, to share with. We talk about how it isn’t a secret, but it’s ok to be private. And it’s ok to be public.
We all take pills. And that’s ok.