I read a lot of articles on bipolar disorder just so I can stay on top of the educational part it brings that’s is up to date. Recently, I’ve read this article on pill shaming, which isn’t something that I never heard of before. The article first stunned me because it expressed how Kanye West ( a rapper, who I use to be obsessed with), is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and wasn’t taking his medications like he should have been.
First, I was like “wow, I can’t believe this, do you know how awesome it is for a celebrity to come out and say they are suffering from a mental illness”. Celebrities bring a lot of awareness, because let’s face it, most people look up to them and often listen to them. Although, I’ll never wish this disorder on anyone, I was honestly thrilled that someone who is so big in the industry understands what’s like to have bipolar disorder. I hope this gives motivation for those who are ashamed of bipolar disorder the courage to accept their diagnoses and take their medications, while following a treatment plan.
The article didn’t specify on why Kanye wasn’t compliant with his medications however, he was advised to get back on his medications and to not feel any shame on being on them. There are a lot of reasons people feel shame when it comes to taking their meds, as well as many reason to why they don’t take them at all.
According to Hu, who is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology stated, “Many people with mental health issues lack insight and do not believe that they have a problem”. This is very true, a lot of the time when someone gets diagnosed they are in denial for a really long time. I know that because I was one of those people. I was so convinced that if I just pushed it far, deep into the back of my mind, it wasn’t true. “Out of sight, out of mind” kind of thing.
Let’s go down the list of why people stop taking their medications, because after all medication adherence is one of the most difficult & challenging factors when it comes to those with mental health illness.
1. As I said before, most people think “I don’t have a problem”.
These people fail to realize how serious their mental illness is and for the most part it’s because they in are in straight up denial. If they start taking medications they believe that they can’t handle their illness on their own. Sorry to burst this bubble, but you absolutely can’t handle it on your own. It is simply out of your hands, you need all the possible help you can get, and medications is the first and important start. There is nothing wrong with you if you need medications, you’re not weak, you’re not not independent. You are simply just someone who needs medication to deal with the kind of mental illness you may have.
2. Some people think that needing medication says something bad about them.
Anyone who suffers from bipolar disorder or any other mental health issue has to take their medications on a daily basis. That alone is a continual reminder to them that there is something “wrong” with them. This often leads to one thinking less of themselves, because they do in fact have a disorder/illness because they need the medication. These kind of feelings feed shame. It perpetuates behaviors and emotions leaving someone feeling alone and isolated for the most part and when that happens, it can make symptoms of any mental illness more severe. I like to think of it this way, yes I suffer from bipolar disorder and yes I have to take my medications daily, but bipolar disorder does not define me as a human being. I am more than this disorder, and more people need to think of it that way and continue their drug regimen.
3. “I feel better & I don’t need medicine now”.
That is one of the most and I mean most common reason people stop taking medications, and quite honestly the dumbest reason of all ( not to be judging ). But come on people that’s like common sense 101, of course you feel better, that’s what the medication is doing. To stop it isn’t going to continue allowing you to feel better, it’s going to do the complete opposite. It’s only a matter of time before symptoms reoccur once you stop taking your medications and believe me that “I feel better” feeling will disappear in a snap of a finger.
4. ” I don’t have money.”
Unfortunately, some health insurance companies do not provide mental health treatment and pay for psychotropic drugs. Which I personally find disgusting. It breaks my heart knowing there are a lot of people with mental health illness who don’t have the means to get the help they need. I wish this was something that was a priority when it comes to someone’s health and insurance companies treated this situation as a must and change the game on this. Providing full coverage when it comes to mental health. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Perhaps going to a free clinic they can offer medications without any cost. Doing more research on this is highly important, so if you don’t have the funds, try to find a medical office that provides samples of medications that they can give you for free. My psychiatrist office gives me samples of Latuda while I wait for a prior authorization on my medication. There are doctor offices that do this.
5. “The side effects are worse than the symptoms.”
While it’s true, side effects of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicine, and psychotropic drugs can include sedation, insomnia, drowsiness, dry mouth,weight gain, sexual issues, and so on. Often, side effects subside after our bodies acclimate to the medication, but some do persist. You have to find the right drug for you. That takes time and a lot of patience, but in the long run it’s well worth it and the pros start to outweigh the cons.
6. ” I don’t like feeling shamed.”
When it comes down to mental illness diagnose & treatments they still carry a large amount of air in shame for many people. According to a therapist in New York, Dr. Robin Gold, ” In society, there is a common misconception that if you take medication for mental health diagnosis, it means you are not as strong as you should be, or that you’re crazy.” I think that’s a loud of bullshit. You are strong, you’re strong enough to know that you have an illness like any other that needs medications. You’re a fighter, that fights the disorder with medications every single day, and you’re far from crazy!!! Don’t let anyone ever call you crazy, because there isn’t anything crazy about you.
Finally: ” what is pill shaming?”
When someone is consistent and adhere their medical treatment they may start to feel as if some people around them are pill shaming them. Especially if they open up to some close people about the medications they are on. Some friends or family may say you don’t need pills. You just need to work out more, or eat better, or spend time mediating. That is a form of pill shaming. When people express negative opinions when you share the fact that you’re using medications to treat a mental health issues. You start to assume-wrongly- that taking medication signifies weakness of character to work through tough times. But, you got to remember these people pill shaming you aren’t doctors. They have no idea what you’re dealing with on a daily basis. Their opinions do not matter in this case and the best thing to do is ignore them and continue to believe you’re on the right path to recovery. You’re strong. Don’t let societies stigma & lack of knowledge stop you from taking your medications. Don’t let others shame you. You’re better than that to believe they know what’s best for you. You and your doctor know what’s best for you, and what’s best is taking your meds and seeking therapy.
People need to understand that it is never helpful to shame individuals struggling with mental health issues and to discourage them from getting the right help in the same way they would for any other medical condition. We didn’t choose to have these disorders, just like most people with cancer or heart problems chose to have those. And if they are compliant with their medications, why shouldn’t we be ? Treatment for mental health conditions can help end symptoms, restore quality of life, and allow you to feel healthy once again. We need to seek out and receive on going treatment if we want to destroy the disorder. It is the only way.
Stop pill shaming today, share the truth, expand people’s minds, and don’t let them get in your head. Have a blessed night everyone.