5 min read
For the past three years, I’ve struggled with anxiety and ADHD in which both of those labels, I became very dependent on medication. I was more so dependent on the medicine for ADHD than the anxiety because my inability to focus and sit longer than a couple of minutes was a daily struggle. So much so, it became a problem in my work as well as school. I became increasingly unorganized and frazzled. I couldn’t focus during conversations, complete my thoughts or complete tasks without starting new ones. Life became hard and out of fear of failing graduate school or losing my job, my anxiety grew so out of control that I began having problems breathing and sleeping. I was in a constant state of worry. There were other triggers of my anxiety such as what I like to call, my unhealthy obsession with death… particularly dying alone. To be clear, I am not a hypochondriac but, if something bizarre happened with my body, I’d freak out to the point of panic attacks. This phenomenon would only occur when I was alone because I’m constantly thinking about something happening to me when I am by myself.
But, I digress… It’s been over two months and I haven’t needed to rely on the medication to manage my life. Something I truly believed was impossible. Being in the mental health field, I see what unmanaged mental health disorders can do. I’ve always believed that for some disorders, medication is absolutely necessary. However, being that I work with clients who are often times looked over due to their lower socioeconomic status, I have also seen doctors push certain medications on clients without presenting them with options or alternative methods of coping. These clients become heavily dependent on medications and those clients, mostly children, are likely given a label that sticks with them and becomes their identity throughout their childhood and adult years. I’ve seen both sides of the coin and I didn’t want to become as dependent on medications as I’ve been a witness to.
But, I couldn’t function without my medicine. Or so I thought. So, why did I decide to leave it all? I’m glad you asked. Because, while my ability to focus improved with medicine, I became increasingly angry. My mood would drastically change in very short periods of time. This lead to a whole other level of problems. So much so, I self-diagnosed myself with some psychotic disorder or a mood disorder at the very least. Anyone with access to the DSM understands this struggle. My anger, I couldn’t not only control it but my level of intensity was through the roof and it would last for hours on end. Nothing could bring me down. I didn’t like the feeling but, I couldn’t control it either. Then, I’d have lows. Lows for days. As a mental health provider, I knew I needed to seek therapy in addition to the medication management. However, it was tough-finding the right therapist for a therapist.
For months, I went without the therapy I knew I needed. And because of job changes, my insurance changed which forced me to seek a new medication management provider. This is where I was forced to make the change I knew I needed. The new doctor I met refused to continue my current regimen and advised a completely different path of medications, to which I disagreed wholeheartedly. During that meeting, we battled about treatment- she refusing any medication except the medicine she was recommending, and me advocating for myself against the side effects and dependency of said medicines. Needless to say, we didn’t come to an agreement, so I left with nothing. I left afraid of what my future without medication would look like. But, aside from deciding to never see the condescending doctor who made harsh judgments about me within a few minutes of meeting me again, I knew I couldn’t live the rest of my life dependent on medication. So, I vented to every friend that would listen then I found a therapist that helped me release the weight I’ve been carrying.
Has it been easy? Not in the slightest. I still struggle with focusing, albeit in conversation or in the workplace. But, I’ve learned to accommodate those areas of difficulty and handle myself with more grace. I remind myself that practicing the techniques that I teach to others really does help and ultimately I feel a lot better knowing that my mind is clear from the cloudiness of medicine and my extreme mood swings have completely vanished.
So, here I am doing the work it takes to become healthy and whole without the use of the medication I so desperately relied on in the past. I’m doing better than I’ve ever imagined and that calls for personal celebration because I know the path I was headed left me fearful of where my anger would take me.
Hope Coleman: Licensed Masters Social Worker, Writer, Mental Health Coach, and Creative Entrepreneur. Founder of Hope In Her, Inc: a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women and children of color live beyond their traumatic experiences. Instagram: @justmore hope