Medication can be very important for someone managing their mental health. That doesn't mean everyone needs it or that it is even the only thing someone who takes it needs. But medication is, again, very important for some.
Before I started my own medication I had no idea how big a difference it could make in my life. After taking it, and after subsequently attempting to come off of it for a short time, I have realized that medication might be a part of my life forever now. And given the extreme lows I reach without it, I am very comfortable with that.
But I don't expect everyone knows how big a difference this makes for those of us experiencing some form of mental illness.
I find it really hard to describe what my Bipolar 2 experiences feel like to anyone who isn't me. I don't have free time from thinking about it, it's just always there nibbling at my thoughts. Sometimes they manifest themselves in nice, cute, idea-forming ways, but often they present themselves in detrimental ways.
I am not a medical professional, I am not a therapist. I'm just a guy who struggles and who uses medication to mitigate my struggles. And these are a few of my tips for how those who don't use medication can support someone like me who does.
- Ask questions instead of making assumptions. It is completely possible that someone may not want to talk about their medication given the stigma we build up around it, but for someone like me, I prefer people asking me about my mental health than assuming I don’t want to talk about it.
- Refrain from sharing your own ideas for improved health. Offer to take a walk with them sure, but don’t do so while telling them that just getting a bit of fresh air might be all they need.
- Try focusing your conversations around support. Ask how someone is feeling. Let them guide you through the information they would like to share about themselves.
- Lobby your government to offer affordable access to mental health medication. Do not for a second assume that everyone has access to therapy or medication or peer support. For all the talk people do about breaking stigma, governments and organizations have still been very slow in helping ensure everyone has access to the support they need should they be able to get past existing stigma. Be part of that change by being loud.
- It can be really difficult to verbalized exactly how invasive mental illness can be. For me, it is spending much of my day shaking thoughts out of my head (this is a physical tell of mine), alternating between positive and negative thoughts, and generally just trying to get to the end of the day so I can sleep.
- Other people will experience their mental illness differently than me. What I look to do when listening to others share their experiences is simply to validate their experiences and to allow them to process those experiences ina way they are comfortable with. After that, I’m there to offer my support at their directing. Sometimes it’s just listening, other times it’s giving a hug, and sometimes it’s directing people to resources where they can get more information on something they are dealing with.
- Don’t assume that once someone takes medication they are “all good.” My medication has side effects, my medication isn’t a cure all for my bipolar 2. It simply affords me the time to get a grasp on my mood before it dips dramatically. So what is all good for me may not be what’s all good for you or someone else.
- Help the people around you understand that their language needs to change. Stop using words like crazy and insane to describe situations and gently point this out to others when you hear them using it.