Women hold themselves to this standard where we’re supposed to be perfect. We all have our own image of what that should be, and it doesn’t involve taking psychiatric medication.
I’m walking up Lexington Avenue towards the subway on a cold Manhattan winter day from my psychiatrist’s office. It’s a route I’ve walked for five years, at varying frequencies, depending on the intensity of my mental health issues.
My doctor is warm and nurturing with a great sense of humor, and I always walk out her door with a smile on my face. But once I hit the street, my mood can quickly shift: frustrated that I need yet another medicine to achieve some semblance of normalcy or disappointed in myself that I can’t cope. I scan the faces of the crowds in busy Midtown. Can they tell I’m crazy? Do they see some vacant look in my eyes I can’t see? Or, conversely, I wonder about them: is she, that pulled-together woman over there, also buoyed by a bevy of psychiatric meds?
When I started an anti-depressant four years ago, I immediately started calling it my “crazy pill.” I want to say that’s just because I have a self-deprecating sense of humor, but that’s not the whole truth. Deep down, I thought it was because I was crazy.
But this time leaving her office was different. My doctor used the words “in recovery,” (probably not the first time she used the phrase) and something inside me shifted. Of course I’m in recovery. I suffered myriad traumas last year: losing my mom, my job, needing to give up my dog, and, hey, let’s throw a summer fling breakup in there for fun. Needing to take medicine to recover from emotional trauma should be the same as if I had been in a car accident and needed painkillers…right?
The word recovery resonated with me, and I finally internalized this: depression is a very real condition, and my doctor is treating me for it. I’ve written that depression can be like an emotional cancer—entirely pervasive and something that may go away. Or it may worsen.
On the outside, I pen essays, like this one, where I tell others that they should treat depression and other mental illness just as if it were any other disease. That it shouldn’t hold stigma. And I meant it…for them.
But why the double standard? Why would I be proud, even, to hear a friend was taking care of her health and taking antidepressants—but think that it made me crazy?
Does it seem like we’re more accepting of others than we are of ourselves? Dive deeper into it in the original article Not Crazy: How I Overcame My Double Standard About Taking Psychiatric Medication at The Fix.