Updated: Nov 6
Coming to terms with a diagnosis, or realizing that you may need help at all, typically means establishing some course of action. When I fully understood that I needed support for my anxiety, I was desperate to find a solution. I think this is a common human response to most things; when presented with a problem, we want a solution. For myself, with the options that my doctor provided me with, I chose the prescription route, due to the perception that this would provide me with the most immediate and obvious result.
However, in my opinion, this was my mistake. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking viable medicinal options for your mental health, though, it is important that while on your journey, you are legitimately weighing all your options. Only after doing so, are you able to select the most suited option for you. While this may sound like a painfully obvious statement, you’d be surprised by how quickly common sense dissipates in moments of desperation.
As a university student, I was exactly that. I was desperate and on a time crunch to find something that would alleviate all my physical symptoms of anxiety. As such, I assumed that medication was my most viable option, and rushed to fill my prescription without considering the side effects. I was in my final exams and simultaneously studying for a professional school entrance exam – it felt as though there wasn’t any time to contemplate. I began taking my medication without a second thought. I was high-functioning and hyper-focused on my GPA and exam results. All I wanted was to be able to fall asleep without sweating or throwing up. It didn’t occur to me that anxiety and depression were treated in the same way, and I was now becoming reliant on antidepressants.
I must reiterate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking antidepressants. I believe that my problem was that I never actually thought about it, my alternative options, or what it meant for my mental health if I decided to stop taking this medication. I had never made an informed decision about my mental health.
One day, two months after I had taken my first pill, I realized that I couldn’t button my jeans up anymore. I tried on another pair and to my dismay, I could barely get into them. I stepped on the scale and realized that I had suddenly gained 25 pounds within the span of two months, without any change to my diet, physical activity, or daily routine. I was devastated. Just as I had begun to feel a greater amount of control over my mental health, I had completely lost control over my physical health. Of course, I then began to frantically research and visit doctors about my weight gain, only to find out that this was a common side effect of the antidepressant I was taking that nobody had informed me of. While in these situations we can blame our physicians, I realized that I had also never legitimately researched or contemplated the potential side effects of the very serious medication I was taking.
Looking back, I can see that my panic over my weight gain was likely over-dramatized at that moment, and over time, I have been able to research better methods of treatment for myself, to keep both my mental and physical health in a delicate and happy balance. However, it was a valuable lesson to continue to make informed decisions about my mental health. In any given situation, you may feel pressure to make a decision and find an immediate solution to the pain, anxiety, or turmoil that you may be feeling. While taking action is important, you’ve already taken a valuable step by seeking help; I encourage you to take the time to weigh all your options and make the most informed choice you possibly can.
Thurka is a 20-something Tamil woman who is interested in politics, with a fervour for social justice. She is a passionate feminist who recently completed her Master’s in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, focusing on the ongoing injustices faced by Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka.