By Hattie Gladwell
I’ve been taking medication for my mental health for a year now, after receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
In this time, I’ve heard some rather crass comments about medication – and have been asked some really ridiculous questions.
I’ve also seen some incredibly unsympathetic social media updates, from people who obviously have never had to deal with mental illness.
And so, with this article, I’d like to educate those who may not fully understand the seriousness of mental health, on what you definitely should not say to someone who has decided to help themselves by taking medication.
Below are some of the comments I’d really like to hear less of regarding mental health and medication.
1. ‘Have you not taken your meds?’
If I’m having a bad day – I’m having just that. It’s really important that people remember that while you have a mental illness, you are not your mental illness. I am allowed to get annoyed about certain things without it reflecting on my mental health. Not all actions can be blamed on mental illness – and therefore please refrain from asking this question if you’ve been snapped at for being rude, confrontational or lazy.
2. ‘Have you tried going for a run, eating healthy, drinking more water or *insert other ‘helpful’ advice here*
While the fresh air is nice, fruit tastes great and if you’re on Lithium, you definitely need to be drinking more water – it’s not a cure. Stop trying to give somebody who has been brave enough to say yes to medication an alternative just because you may not agree with it.
3. ‘It’s because of all of that medication you’re taking’
The medication is meant to be helpful, and while there can be some nasty side effects, when we’ve started the medication, we really need positive thoughts. If we’re feeling really down, it’s either because we’re feeling just that – or because perhaps our mental health is not great on that day. Try and understand that without blaming the pills we’re taking – especially because those pills can seem like a last resort for many.
4. ‘You’re turning into a bit of a junkie’
While this is probably meant to be funny, it’s just not. My medication helps balance my moods, keeps me from being too manic or too low and helps me sleep. Joking about being a drug-addict because I need these to live a stable life is just not funny.
5. ‘You need to man-up, not take medication’
For some reason some people seem to have the idea that taking medication makes you weak or inferior, that by taking them you have given up on all other ways to cheer yourself up. But, as said above, medication can often be a last resort – therefore we’ve already tried other way to ‘man-up’, as you so unsympathetically put it.
6. ‘Your partner must be really strong to be with you when you’re on all of that’
This sounds too unbelievable to be true, but this is a statement I saw the other day while browsing through Twitter, and is also what prompted this article. Let’s just get this clear, just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t have a relationship. And when you’re in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness, it doesn’t mean you’re put through hell, have to be incredibly strong or experience a lot of downfalls.
A person with a mental illness just needs their partner to be supportive, that’s all. I would never, ever want my partner to feel as though he has to channel any of the emotions that come from my bipolar disorder. It’s an insult to assume that a person suffering with mental illness is any sort of burden on their partner because of something that is out of their control.
7. ‘You don’t need that medication’
That is not for you to decide. That is for a qualified psychiatrist to decide and prescribe. Instead of focusing on what we do or do not need to ensure our heads aren’t erratic, filled with horrible thoughts or as though we’re about to self-destruct, worry about yourself. A mental illness is still an illness.
Sure, it’s invisible, but it’s still very relevant. Would you tell someone with a broken leg that they don’t need a cast? No, of course you wouldn’t. So don’t tell someone whose illness may be making them a danger to themselves that they don’t need an equal medication to help them.