There are so many messages out there about how to appropriately deal with grief. Talk to someone. Find an outlet to channel the energy. Just deal with it. Face it. Don’t be afraid to cry. Don’t cry too much. Take as long as you need. Be mindful of the stages of grief. Pray. Meditate. Give over the grief. I’ve heard it all from articles I’ve read, been sent or suggestions that have been made to me. But what happens when you have tried all of the above and none of them worked so you take a route that isn’t as openly discussed?
The treatment of mental health issues through medication is still a taboo topic. Society makes jokes all the time about people who need their “crazy pills.” Or, someone needs a, “chill pill.” Hey–no judgement from me. I will openly say I’ve been guilty of this myself over the years. I really started to think about this taboo when I realized none of the touchy feely articles of how to deal with grief were working for me.
I had severe anxiety after my loss. I would wake up in the middle of the night with a panic attack. I’d terrify my poor hubby with those episodes. In the middle of the day another attack may present itself while I was doing something as simple as grocery shopping. To top it off I was under a tremendous amount of pressure at work. I was going up for promotion and tenure. That is an extremely stressful time in the life of an academic. I knew I needed professional help, but something was still stopping me from making the appointment.
Two of my dearest friends finally told me if I didn’t make the appointment they would make it for me. They were witnessing my deterioration and they were very afraid for me. They followed up with me daily to make sure I made the call. But, I was still nervous about that first appointment and then this idea of “being on drugs.” In my mind I kept thinking, “I am a strong woman. I have dealt with so much in my life. Why can’t I just handle this? Am I weak? I am not THAT person” In turn, the appointment itself was causing anxiety.
A full five months after my Dad’s death I saw my primary care giver. Heck, I was already self medicating with food. What did I have to lose? My primary care giver never batted an eye when I told him all I had dealt with in the last months. He was reassuring and walked me through several options in a clear manner. We made the decision to start with two pills–one for everyday and one for emergency anxiety attacks. He wanted to see me at two weeks, six weeks, and then six months. I felt so reassured.
Now, let me shout from the mountain tops, I LOVE MY MEDS! After seven months of combining the medications to work on my anxiety and then relying on the coping skills I’ve used for years I finally feel more like myself. I don’t know why I waited so long. Wait…I do.
We need to have more open conversations about the necessity of proper mental health. We need to call people out when they make fun of people who have mental health challenges. We need to hold the entertainment industry accountable for their portrayal of people with depression, anxiety, etc. We need to be mindful of those dearest to us and reach out to them if we notice drastic changes in behavior. We also need to demand adequate coverage from our insurers for the treatment of mental health. WE need to take away the stigma attached to mental health and the medications used to help people.
Because of two concerned friends I am well on the road to recovery and I fully attribute that to finally seeing my doctor and pairing coping strategies with a medication. I encourage you–have the hard conversations with either yourself or maybe with a loved one. Do not hesitate. Do not delay. Do what YOU need to do to be healthy again following loss.