In every therapy group I have ever attended, there is inevitably a session that I refer to as “drug day”.
It’s typically not the first meeting, but the second or third. We’ve all met, spilled our guts about family history and personal traumas and which mental illnesses we have and what symptoms we’re suffering from. There’s always at least one cutter (me, if no one else), one person with GAD and a serious case of imposter syndrome (no worries, kids, you do just as well as anyone else in group), and one person who’s just too god damn sparkly and bubbly to have a serious case of the crazies… but they do. (This one is also me more often than not these days.)
But in every therapy group I’ve attended, there has consistently been a majority drug use. I’m struggling to remember a group where there wasn’t 100% medication in our history. There may or may not have been one, but my point is this—medication is stigmatized. In spite of the fact that we’re all in group therapy, and in spite of the fact that we’re all baring our traumas to one another from Day 1, no one seems to be comfortable talking about psychiatric medication.
I’ve written a bit about how people view medication as the thing that destroys you, rather than as the thing that heals you. There’s a widespread belief that psychiatric medication is a conspiracy by big pharma to pick our pockets and drug us into compliance. I won’t lie and say there aren’t days when I entertain this idea—particularly, on days when I have to spend money on refills at the pharmacy—but I know that this is a symptom of healthcare in the US being a for-profit industry, and not a symptom of some vast global conspiracy.
I know this because the medication works, even when the placebo effect does not…but that’s a post for another day.
In 2011, Time Magazine reported that 1 in 5 American adults was taking psychiatric medication, and that antidepressants were the most used kind of psychiatric medication. According to the 2010 census, the population of the US over the age of 18 was some 234.5 million—almost 50 million adults would have been taking medication at the time of the survey.
50 million adults…and we were scared to talk about it in a group of young adults who were clearly struggling with mental health problems. Inevitably someone would bring it up, and there would be a sigh of relief as everyone suddenly began spilling a laundry list of medication we’d tried—laughing about the absurdity of it, sympathizing over shared side effects, and occasionally sharing horror stories about drugs gone wrong. (One time I went off of lamotrigine cold turkey. 0/10, do not recommend. Seriously guys, DO NOT DO THIS.)
There was inevitably a shift after the drug day. Things would ease up, we’d be more comfortable with each other, share more personal stories. Everyone was calmer, more comfortable with themselves, with each other. I wonder what would happen if we could bring that honesty outside of group… ❀