Like a lot of people on this planet, I suffer with mental health issues, in particular Recurrent Mixed Depressive and Anxiety Disorder. Whilst there are those who with treatment are able to work through their problems and come out the other side, for me it is more akin to a chronic illness – it is unlikely it will ever go away and as such I am constantly medicated; although compared to some not too heavily. Similar to many who have a chronic illness or disability (which I also have) I need that medication to keep me functioning and to keep going, to keep me alive.
Despite knowing this, I still feel like it is a personal failing for needing them. I would never look down on a diabetic for needing insulin or someone needing anti-epileptic drugs to stop seizures. So why am I so hard on myself when I know that without my tablets I would be very ill?
I think in part it is the stigma that still surrounds mental health and psychiatric medication. Even though we have campaigns like ‘Let’s Talk’, it still feels a taboo subject to bring up in conversation. A lot of us already feel outside of and detached from everyone around us, as though we are ‘other’, that we don’t want to deal with people looking at us differently if we admit we have mental health issues and take tablets for it. And when we feel we shouldn’t talk about such things, well in turn it can make us feel ashamed of it.
The following poem I’ve written to reflect the struggle I often have mentally with taking my medication and I hope it helps others understand and perhaps connect with those like me.
Wash Them Down With Water
Every night I take tablets to keep me who I am.
If I don’t, I’ll crack, split and splinter
from the fractures I’ve masked every day.
If I don’t, I won’t
just need picking up off the floor
but wheeled out and no doubt,
locked up on some ward…
…that’s if I made it at all.
…that’s IF I made it at all.
This is not some stretch for dramatic effect,
it’s the fact of my being and yet…and yet
I still fight and tumble with my thoughts
as I look at the white pills in my palm.
I’m pathetic for needing these.
I’m broken. I’m damaged. I’m worthless.
These thoughts are not mine
but they come from within me.
No other patient would I condemn
for needing medicine to endure this life.
And yet…and yet though my own I need
as much for my life to thrive,
I cast it on the ever mounting pile
of my failings as a human being.
I know it is irrational
as many as my thoughts can be.
I know it is harsh and cruel
as my thoughts towards myself can be.
I know they are wrong but they stay,
floating in the back of my brain, waiting
to surge forward when my mental tides change.
And yet…and yet although I struggle
with the words I hurt myself with,
I open my mouth, tip them on my tongue
and wash them down with water.