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Bitter Pill

I gained a new respect for my clients who call in to request a session, and then come in to my office, week after week

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ne of the hardest decisions of my life was choosing to go on antidepressants. I had no “reason” really. I didn’t match that typical picture of an individual suffering from depression: blankets drawn over her head unable to function. I’d worked in the mental-health field for years and felt pretty secure in my knowledge of which patients required medications or at least a psychiatric referral to rule out the necessity of meds.

So when a supervisor encouraged me to see a psychiatrist after a traumatic event in my life I knew the doctor would dismiss any organic concern. Sure I was experiencing more lows than normal and even had some suicidal ideation — but I diagnosed myself with dysthymia a low-grade depression that generally doesn’t require meds. I chalked it up to post-traumatic stress disorder and I was confident I’d overcome this hurdle.

Because if there was one thing I could say with confidence it was that I definitely did not need medication.

It’s ironic how even among those working in mental health there’s still something of a stigma toward psychotherapy and medication. Even after practicing as a social worker treating others I refused to engage in treatment. Me? Need a therapist? Pfft. I’m managing just fine thank you very much. I am in touch with my emotions understand the narrative of my life know why I do what I do over-analyze to an extreme.

I slowly chipped away at that stigma when I made the decision to enter therapy a few years ago. That decision came soon before my second child was born. Some people get the urge to clean; my nesting is expressed through wanting to go to therapy. I felt there were so many things I had to work through understand about myself my upbringing my marriage my parenting before I could bring new life into the world.

It was a challenging decision and I gained a new respect for my clients who call in to request a session and then come in to my office week after week. It was fascinating to be on the other side to understand the therapeutic relationship from a different perspective.

And although it shifted my view of those who decide to go to therapy seeing them through more sympathetic understanding eyes there was still a clear demarcation of those clients who are on medication. There’s “us” — the normal ones — and “them ” those who are victims of their own minds who need external input to gain control and be one of “us.”

I was clearly “us ” a normal one a strong capable woman who managed just fine. Why would I need medication? If any psychiatrist were to see my profile they’d quickly see I’m an overachiever… to a fault. I am a writer a social worker a teacher a lecturer. On the side I moonlight as a songwriter and a ballet dancer.

(Excerpted from Family First Issue 573)

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