I’m a man, with three children, a wife, and a career, and I take three pills in the morning and two at night to treat my depression and anxiety. And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that.
I come from a long line of family struggling with mental illness.
It’s on both sides of the family, and trust me, it goes way back. My father, he treated his with alcohol and painkillers because he was too masculine to admit that he needed treatment for depression.
It killed him.
But I’m not my father, so I take my medication, and I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t feel odd or strange or like I shouldn’t need to take pills everyday to feel normal, because mental illness is normal. It’s common. It’s something millions and millions of people live with.
When I don’t take my pills, I’m different.
I struggle to sleep, and I struggle to keep my head.
I fight with myself, and I fight with others. Sometimes I wake up with a pit in my gut that last for days. I’m short tempered with my children.
I yell more. I don’t take the time I should as a father to explain things. Instead, I just make demands.
I hide in the bedroom, the door locked, eyes closed, desperately trying to get a handle on it. Sometimes I go another direction, and instead of being too short with my children, I’m too lax.
I give into their demands (screen time, candy, skipping homework), whatever it takes, so they will leave me alone.
And without my medication I’m not the greatest husband, either.
I went off it for a few years because I was ashamed. I consider myself a champion of partnership, but when I don’t take my medication, I feel like half the husband I should be.
I get quiet and easily frustrated. I bring up old arguments that were resolved long ago. I get irrational and scared.
And I know I do this, but I can’t seem to stop it, so rather than make things worse, like I have in years past, I just shut down.
I hide away, and try not to talk because I know that I’m not thinking clearly. Being quiet, hiding away, well, that’s better than being moody or too accommodating or picking a fight.
But none of it makes me a good husband. It wasn’t until my wife sat me down and told me I had to do something to get a handle on it, that I went back to the doctor.
I know who I am without medication, so I take my pills.
It took me years to find the right mix, but now, between medication and lifestyle changes, and occasional therapy, I live a pretty normal life.
And keep in mind that it’s not only medication that makes my life livable. I’ve had to learn to step back from social interaction when I feel anxious. I’ve had to learn how to set up boundaries with work, friends, and family.
I take breaks at work, and hide in an office that isn’t used at the moment, and meditate once a day. I use an app on my phone. It only takes 10 minutes, but when it’s done, I go back to work, and I feel better. I feel ready to take on challenges.
No one has ever asked about what I do during these 10 minutes. Frankly, I don’t think any of my coworkers care.
Sure, I still struggle sometimes. Some days are worse than others.
Some days I feel like I might as well not be taking medication or engaging in all these lifestyle changes. But those are the bad days, and I’m happy to admit, I have more good days than bad, and frankly, with anxiety and depression, that is huge. That’s a game changer.
Cant we all say we have bad days from time to time?
I’m just living a normal life.
15 years ago, when I avoided treatment, people knew I was struggling with something. They may not have had a word for it, but it was obvious. Now, unless I self-disclose like I am now, no one knows. I’m just your average working dad, and you know what, that’s awesome.
Take your pills. Seek treatment. Don’t feel bad about it. Don’t feel shame.
Don’t listen to the people who don’t get it. Seeking help and accept that taking medication for mental illness is as normal as insulin for diabetes. Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, tell you otherwise.
You deserve to feel happy.
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