On being medicated, the stigma of it as a POC and how I got there.
I am pretty sure that anyone that is reading this already has assumed that I take medication for my mental health issues. I would think so since I do have pill capsule earrings that are supposed to represent ‘Prozac’ and ‘Lithium’. What I won’t mention is exactly what type of medication I do take or have taken. But really, I wouldn’t even be able to take either one of those medications mentioned because it would literally be too much ‘serotonin’ and yes, you can OD on too much serotonin. I’ll dedicate another blog to discuss, ‘serotonin syndrome’.
Questions you may have:
Do you take medication?
Have you always taken medication?
When did you start taking medication?
In college, I was having a hard time one particular semester and I was balling tears so much I took myself to my on-campus doctor (yay! for student medical insurance). After going to him once, he told me about Xanax and I still declined it. I had another situation where I was uncontrollably crying, and finally said, I need to take this. And that’s how I got Xanax for the first time.
Aren’t you afraid you’ll become addicted?
No, as discussed with my psychiatrist, they have and do inform me, of when a specific medication can lead to addiction. Some medications like Xanax can be addicting. Xanax was first prescribed to me with the doctor at the time mentioning that, he didn’t see me as someone to abuse the medication and that I practiced many self-care methods that he knew I was trying to ‘fix’ myself in positive ways. Just to clarify, Xanax is typically not prescribed as a daily medication, but more so when one is having an anxiety attack or some kind of episode, that despite maybe the person’s daily medication routine, they need a little extra help. At the moment, they are unable to or weren’t able to manage it, whatever the reason may be.
Do I have to tell anyone?
While you may feel like you are lying, you really aren’t. Your personal business is no one’s to know unless you want them to. For myself, my immediate family were the only ones that knew up until now, because of my personal rule of it being on a need-to-know basis.
What happens when you don’t take your medication?
Nothing really unless I realize it. I may end up having a bad day, or end up worrying the entire time if I did take it or not, but usually, nothing awful happens. It’s usually just thoughts of not being sure if I took it, and if I should take it? Just in case, I didn’t. This does impact my day when I am at work(physically) and forget to take it, so if I can, I will run back home. If I can’t go back home, I will try and take my day one step at a time and try to acknowledge triggers if possible.
Do you regret taking medication?
A big fat ‘NO’ I genuinely believe it has been the best decision of my life. I do regret having waited so long. So here is the rest of the blog explaining my journey about getting on medication.
Continuing from above…
I finally decided to get a daily medication prescribed to me about 3 or so years ago. I had what I call some type of breakdown. I couldn’t and didn’t want to do anything for myself, I just wanted to cry, and while I mainly suffer from anxiety, my anxiety at times does lead to depression. At this point in my life, I had just finished a difficult summer at work, and I was burnt out. In addition to being burnt out, I also knew my relationship, with the person I refer to as, cough* cough* ‘Trash’, was soon to end, had made me change my plans to go seem my favorite band, Arcade Fire in Berkeley because he wanted to go to Laughlin for a weekend trip -_-. I ended up purchasing two tickets to the show in Berkeley, and two plane tickets, as well as booked an AirBNB. After this, we eventually broke up. but before that happened, he told me he couldn’t make it, he paid off his portion to me of all the expenses, and I went alone because you can have fun on your own. No regrets! Amazing show. But what most didn’t see of the trip on my Instagram, was the crying I was doing whenever I was back at my AirBNB. I managed to get myself back to L.A. in one piece but knew something was off. When it’s this bad, I know, something is off. I took myself to the ER, spoke with my acupuncturist that day because I had an appointment, and she agreed with me that I needed help. Trash, never once checked in on me when I took myself into the ER, nor did he bother to ask. Hence, why he is still ‘Trash’, and these are only two of the many other things he didn’t do as a partner for me. But back to the me.
I feel lucky, to never have had any suicidal tendencies/attempts. Even with medication at times stating it’s a side effect, it’s not likely for me. With this, I will say that having experienced the physical and mental pain that comes with depression; I fully understand why people would choose to end their lives. The pain is so great, it’s unexplainable unless you’ve gone through it. This is not to encourage it, but just to say I understand.
Once I got out of the ER, my mom was wonderful and came to stay with me for a while as I waited to get my psychiatrist appointment and tried to function up until then. This came with spurts of random crying, not wanting to eat, not sleeping well, and overall depression.
When I finally got to see my psychiatrist, I was so relieved. Not only was she kind, but she was a woman of color, in a typically white-dominated field. She listened and never pushed anything on me. I told her my concerns, including addiction, and how I had never taken medication, so I wanted to start on something simple and a small dose.
We went ahead with that plan, and the moment I started to take the medication; I was pretty numb to anything that would have caused me any type of mental hurt. I honestly felt wonderful, even if I was having no feelings. Nothing could hurt me. It was amazing!
But I was ok with that momentary absence of feeling because as I’ve probably have stated to friends and family, I feel and think too much sometimes, and it was nice for it to stop for once. That non-feeling feeling, lasted about two weeks. If it had gone on for longer, I would’ve mentioned it to my doctor. This was just the adjustment my body was doing, and from there on I felt, ‘normal’, and even this normal, was something I had never felt before. My brain was quiet, I would still think of things that would typically worry me, but I would not go into the unnecessary rabbit holes that I was typically on. All of this to say, I was no longer too stressed out, I was able to focus and not freak out about a specific comment someone made that I would overanalyze throughout the day, and I was no longer as tired/fatigued.
Fast-forward to now, that medication stopped working. I was told it just had worn off, which is fair after the amount of time I had taken it. I only realized this after I had a similar episode to the one above, except I didn’t take myself to the ER, rather I just laid at home crying knowing I needed to talk to a psychiatrist. Now I have a different medication and dose.
Being on medication can be tricky, as they can wear off over time, they may not even work for you, you have to try a variety of them to get your dosage right, and it’s usually helpful when it’s partnered with therapy.
But yes, you may wonder,
why the heck did you wait so long to get on medication?!
It took me long because I really didn’t know what was going on. In high school, I only knew about depression, with no idea of what anxiety was, and only knowing that I had been depressed momentarily at some point in high school. On top of this, the reason for the creation of ‘Educated Chola’ is to help and bring awareness into Latinx homes about mental health, its symptoms, and how you can try and manage it. But we can’t do any of that, without removing the stigma of mental health and medication.
Coming from a Latinx household, and at the time in the culture, mental health was seen as a disgrace, that you were ‘crazy’, there’s something wrong with you. (This was the 90’s). While that was never really the case in my household, what was happening is that no one really knew what mental health was all about. I have always had a supportive mother, but we just didn't have the resources to access mental health help nor knew about it. My personal reason why I didn’t take or ask for medication up until college has been because I didn’t want the stigma. I was afraid of what people would say, if I had to tell people, that I was weak, they would treat me differently, etc.
After acknowledging the fact that up until going to college and then graduate school, without taking medication on a daily basis, I finally felt comfortable taking it. I realized how much ‘easier’ my life would have been if I had done this earlier. By ‘easier’ meaning, I would not have had to struggle so much mentally from all the stress and pressure put on myself as a Latinx woman, trying to be the best, and overworking herself to get even close to her white and male counterparts in society. Also ‘easier’, by not having to overthink all the time, cause me to have headaches, not sleep, not eat because I was too sad to eat, ending relationships and being ok, and not distraught, and many other things that may sound simple but aren’t to me.
I do want to point out that even deciding to go to Graduate school was stressful because I knew how stressed and anxious Undergrad had been, that I didn’t want to experience that again. But my high functioning side said, ‘No, if other people can do it, you can too’ and the fact that the deferment for NYU was $1,000, I said here I come! Regardless of all the amazing friends I made, that are still friends and supporting me in the Educated Chola journey, like many of them too can relate, Grad school was MISERABLE! even if you don’t have a mental health issue, you were MISERABLE. I don’t know exactly what it is, definitely, a good portion for me was the pressure I always put on myself, but everyone was either drinking, working and studying, or crying somewhere or about to break down out of the stress. I don’t regret it, but as I said, I could’ve made it ‘easier’.
A part of normalizing to myself that it was ok to take medication was this logic: if others like diabetics, people with kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, etc. all can take medication for their health, I can take medication for my health. They clearly need it to continue living, and that’s what I want to do.
With that, I hope that you gain something from my story and if you feel like you need help or would like to try medication to cope with your mental health issue, reach out to a psychiatrist to discuss.
Your Educated Chola