How medication has helped me manage my mental health

Rebecca details her journey finding the right medications as part of her mental health treatment.

Written by Rebecca O'Brien


I have been on medication for eight years now. If I were to tell someone it was for diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical illness, it would probably be accepted with no further questions. However, when speaking about the treatment of mental illness, the use of medication tends to be perceived differently. People are less willing to understand the fact that some people might need anti-depressants to live an ordinary life just as diabetics might need insulin. Being so controversial, medication is often fuel to the pre-existing stigma of mental illness.

No ‘one size fits all’ medication

As with physical illnesses, there are several different medications used to treat mental health conditions. There is no ‘one size fits all’ medication for any particular mental illness, as each individual experiences different symptoms as well as different degrees of symptoms. There can be two people with the exact same diagnosis, but they might be on different medications.

Most medications have multiple purposes, which I only learned when I was put on a medication associated with epilepsy and was surprised to find out that it is also used to treat anxiety. For me, this medication wasn’t helpful due to side effects, but for a friend with the same diagnosis as mine, this medication was successful. I am now on another medication that, if Googled, will also be associated with epilepsy but this medication is also prescribed as a mood stabiliser, which for my diagnosis of emotional instability has worked well.

Stereotyped medication

While a lot of medications are associated with individual disorders, not every symptom belongs to a single diagnosis. Take Prozac for example, which is referenced a lot on TV and in films. This medication is associated with depression, but what many people might not know is that it can also treat symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Antipsychotics are another stereotyped medication, commonly misconceived as a treatment used solely for psychosis and other ‘serious mental illnesses,’ such as schizophrenia. In reality, there are types of antipsychotics regularly prescribed to improve mood and sleep.

Managing my mental health

Over the years, I’ve been on a pick and mix of medications trying to find the right balance. Finding the right balance is tricky because symptoms can fluctuate along the way. Some medications cause side effects that might require another medication to treat. From personal experience, I have been on medication to improve my mood, but this has affected my energy meaning I’ve had to go on another medication to improve that. This is a concept of which many will find it hard to see the logic. Nonetheless, this works for me and at this stage in my life is helping me manage my mental health in the best way I can.

I understand that a lot of people aren’t as comfortable with taking medication as I am, but if I have any word of advice it is to see it through until you feel ready to come off it safely, with the help of your doctor. I have come across people who stop taking their medication too soon and all it does is set them back. In saying this, medication isn’t for everyone and we are all entitled to our own opinion of what the right treatment is, whether that involves medication or not.

Of course, I long for a life where I don’t need medication at all. Even more so, I long for a life where I don’t have to battle mental illness at all. But unfortunately, I do, and if taking medication makes my life even the smallest bit easier, I have no hesitation.  I won’t lie, I do sometimes wonder what my life would be like or what kind of person I would be if I wasn’t on the medication that I’m on, but right now I’m not ready to find out and I’m okay with that.

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