Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
Today we’re talking about mental health. Lots of people are experiencing an uptick in anxiety or depression lately, due to the pandemic, the election, and the general dumpster fire of 2020. What should you do if you think it might be time to consider medication?
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Dear Scary Mommy,
I have had bouts of anxiety and depression over the years, but I’ve always been able to manage it without medication. The past few months have been worse than usual though, and my typical self-care tools aren’t doing the trick. I think it might be time for me to consider medication, but I’m scared. What should I do?
First, good on you for making your mental health a priority. You should also pat yourself on the back for being self-aware enough to know when things are “off.”
I understand that the prospect of taking medication of any kind can be fraught with a lot of mixed emotions. It isn’t always a black and white decision, and there are several things that need to be considered – like potential side effects, other underlying medical conditions at play, whether the medication will actually do what you’re hoping it’ll do, and whatnot.
Bottom line: the decision to take medication should be made when fully armed with accurate information.
Unfortunately, all too often, the “information” we get about mental health is often coming to us under a veil of stigma, shame, and misinformation. We’ve come a long way, but there still seems to be a stigma around medication to treat anxiety and depression in a way that there isn’t for medication to treat something like, say, diabetes or high blood pressure. And it’s bullshit. There should be no shame around medication for mental health conditions. No shame at all. In fact, the decision to take your mental health seriously should be applauded.
Of course, there are side effects and considerations to keep in mind with any medication. So you should definitely talk to your doctor about your options. Medication alone won’t magically “fix” everything, but they can help you get to a baseline that makes all those other self-care tools – exercise, meditation, prayer, therapy, etc. – more effective.
I understand your fears – I’ve been there myself – but please don’t let your fears keep you from doing what you need to do for your health. Gather information as much information as you can. Talk to your doctor and therapist (and if you’re feeling anxious about doing it in person, this is the kind of thing that’s easy to do online). Ask people who have taken anxiety or depression medication about their experiences. Read up on the latest data about efficacy. Set aside any stereotypes or stigma you may consciously or subconsciously be holding on to about mental health. And then make the decision that’s best for you.
Take care of yourself. You deserve it.