Therapy & Meds: Are They Worth It?

Posted August 16, 2016 by Inge in Features, Join the Dance // Events, Tags & Challenges / 7 Comments

This will work as some kind of introduction of the basics. Once you think you have a mental illness, or if you’ve already been diagnosed, what’s next? Do you go into therapy? Is it worth the fuss and expenses? And what about meds, are you sure you want to go on them? They are rather intimidating, aren’t they?

When I was starting to play with the idea that I might have anxiety, it took me a quite while to gather up the courage to go see a doctor. I had no idea what I was getting into, and everything seemed so intimidating, so daunting. That step of calling a doctor felt massive, like crossing a creaky hangbridge right over a ridge with lots of big, spiky rocks. It takes a shitton of courage to admit to yourself that you might need help, and even more courage to actually ask someone for help.

I called for help pretty early on, very simply because people on the interwebs approached me and told me their mental health stories. They answered all the questions I had and reassured and encouraged me until I picked up the nerve. Without them, it would probably have taken me ages, and therefore I am eternally grateful for their kindness.

Therapy

So let’s start with finding the right kind of professional help for you. First of all, there are three kinds of doctors you can go to:

  • Visit a psychologist if you really need someone to talk to, someone to unload on. They will listen and try to work out any problems you may have.
  • A psychotherapist does this, but is also qualified to teach you exercises, e.g. relaxation and mindfulness exercises. These can be really useful to bring you back from the brink of anxiety.
  • A psychiatrist can do all of this and also prescribe medication. This is done in more extreme cases, like when your anxiety/depression/other illness gets out of hand and you can’t function properly anymore. (Note: You don’t have to be an “extreme case” – if you think you might benefit from going on meds, talk to a psychiatrist.)

For me, the choice was easy, because I’d stopped going to school, I isolated myself from my friends and the rest of the world, and got panic attacks at the mere idea of having to go outside. I knew I was going to need the big guns.

PROS

  • Once you find someone that you click with, that’s it. There’s nothing better. You’ll feel safe and listened to, accepted and taken seriously.
  • Doctor/patient confidentiality – meaning everything you say will not leave the room.
  • These are serious professionals and will do everything in their power to help you.
  • Expenses are partially paid back by health insurance.

CONS

  • Waiting list can be quite long. I had to wait 4-5 weeks to see someone and I think I even got lucky.
  • You might need to try out several doctors in order to find the one you connect with.
  • Can be expensive.

My therapist started me on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – changing the way I think – and afterwards Exposure Therapy. I had to go outside again and make my world bigger once more. It has been extremely scary, difficult, and exhausting, but I’ve been in therapy for a year and a half now, and I’m honestly so much better. Being able to do stuff that I couldn’t do anymore has been really good for my self-confidence. I’ve really expanded my world again. I saw my grandparents after two years of not being able to visit them. I am making short trips and am taking driving lessons. I’m nowhere near the person I used to be, but I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, baby.

Meds

On to meds, which is the subject of a bit of controversy sometimes. It feels weird that you’d need to take pills just to be normal, right? Wrong. Many people think they’re weak because of it. You’re not weak. People with physical disabilities don’t feel guilty about taking their meds and neither should you. Just because your problems are invisible doesn’t mean they’re not real. If it helps, if it gives you that little extra nudge that you need, then why not go for it?

PROS

  • Partially paid back by health insurance.
  • They take the edge off – you no longer spend every second living in fear.
  • Your depression will be a lot milder.
  • I haven’t had a single panic attack since I’ve gone on meds.
  • They are that little bit of extra support that I need.

CONS

  • Again, expensive.
  • Weight gain.
  • Gnarly side effects going on and off them (so always do this under doctor supervision).
  • Feeling off; feeling flat/numb (can be helped with change of dosage).
  • Loss of energy.
  • Might take a while to find the right type/dosage.

I was honestly so scared about going on meds, but I knew I needed them. I just felt really intimidated about the fact that I would be dependent on them and wouldn’t be able to just stop taking them. But I can honestly do so much more now that I’m on my antidepressants (which also work as my antianxiety meds). Things I used to take for granted but could no longer do are finally becoming easier. They’re not wonder pills – you’ll have to do a lot of the work yourself – but they help so much in keeping the worst of the worst at bay.

The combination of the two, the therapy exercises and the meds, have turned me into the person I am today. In just over a year and a half, I have gained so much progress and I’ve learned so much and I’m determined to keep going and broadening my horizons.

So are they worth it? Hell yes, they are. It always depends on the person, of course – no two mental illnesses are the same – but what I’m trying to say is they’re worth giving a try.

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7 responses to “Therapy & Meds: Are They Worth It?

  1. Inge,
    It’s very awesome of you to share your journey with mental illness. I do think raising awareness, helping to normalize mental illness, is the first step we can take as a collective population to fight back. I come from a college-attending family, but have faced, and continue to face, a crap ton of ignorance regarding my illnesses and the concept of “recovery” in relation to medication and therapy. I think I wouldn’t have learned this much unless I was going through it, though, and it certainly gives an appreciation for the little things (and big things). Big hugs, brave girl. <3

  2. Inge, this post is AWESOME! I love how you outlined both the pros and cons of each, because it is SO important to be aware. I think that if people were more informed, there would be fewer problems, especially with medications. I know for me, I had NO idea about the withdrawal effects, and when I lost my health insurance after college, things got UGLY. And there was nothing I could do, no doctor ever warned me! But now, I know. So I can anticipate these things, and hopefully not have to go cold turkey again!

    And I am really glad that you mentioned the struggle about finding a therapist (and wait times and all that) because that has been one of my biggest issues, as you know. It makes you feel so bad, and even WORSE if you don’t know going into it- you kind of think “hey, what is wrong with ME!?” when really, it is just that the system is flawed.

    And also? I am so super proud of you and your amazing progress. It makes my heart happy, because you deserve it ♥♥♥

  3. Cait @ Paper Fury

    This is so encouraging, Inge. <3 I'm super glad you shared this! I think both are important and I also think it's okay to go with just one, if needed. It's all so personal, right?! Like finding what works best for you personally and listening to advice but not feeling like you have to take aaaall the advice. I'm doing some CBT for anxiety too, eep and it is so so scary but it's also hopeful in a way. Like when you do nothing I think it's easier in a way, but also harder because it's not going to change. We humans with anxiety deserve freaking medals sometimes omg. Ahem.
    Anyway this is so uplifting. I'm glad things are working out better for you! <3

  4. Saskia

    So bravs that you share your story so openly. This will definetely help others decide what to do. And you came so FAR in the time that we know each other and I am so glad for you, that you found a way out of that anxiety. I know you are not there yet but if you keep going one day you will and that will be truly great!

  5. This is such a beautiful introduction to therapy & meds, Inge – thank you so much for sharing. I think it will be a great help for those who are not sure what the next steps are once they realise there might be something wrong. It’s also important to mention, I believe, that things are not always smooth sailing the moment you go on therapy or start taking meds – I know for me, at least, life has perhaps been even more difficult once I started them both. But the difference is – you know that, in the end, you are working towards something better for yourself. Learning to swim instead of just treading water, so to speak. It makes the biggest difference, even if only psychological. <3

  6. Thank you for this post! I’ve been slowly building the courage to call a psy for the last three years and reading about people experience and reading YA books that deal with it has helped a lot. I think this year might be the year I finally take the big step..
    Thanks again and wishing you all the best<3

  7. Oh Inge, this is such an AMAZING post. You’ve really inspired me. I remember reading your post about anxiety last year during this event and you’ve made so much progress. Driving can be scary, it’s partly why I don’t want to learn to drive. I love how you mentioned the pros and cons of therapy and meds. I’m so glad both of these things helped you and you’re doing so well. The part about the wait list was unexpected, but I don’t know why. It’s good you were able to get in ‘early’ if that was the case. Great post. <3

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