To me, telling clients that I take anti-depressants is like a cardiac specialist telling his patient he takes a certain heart medication. Clients are often nervous about taking medication, and I’m telling them, hey, I have some personal experience with this. I can relate, and I understand the worries.
When I first started taking Prozac, back at age 30, I was advised not to tell my boss, and I didn’t. Part of the reason I feel freer now is because I work for myself and I stopped judging myself for taking Prozac a long time ago. I’m 45 – I know my brain. I know my brain off Prozac, and I know my brain on Prozac, and believe me, my brain works a whole lot better on Prozac.
I was depressed as a child, a teen and a young adult. When it finally reached a breaking point and I couldn’t eat or sleep, I reluctantly saw a psychiatrist. She looked at me at the end of the interview and said, “If I felt like you do, there’s nothing I wouldn’t try to feel better.” Because I SO wanted to feel better, I tried Prozac. And damn if my brain didn’t turn “normal.” I could not believe how fabulous “normal” felt. I still am amazed at how wonderful “normal” feels. I have ups and downs, but my goodness, they’re within a “normal” range. I’m not struggling to keep my head above water. I can relax and enjoy myself. It’s not taking all my energy to go to work and maintain friendships.
People call psychotropic medication a “crutch.” “I don’t want a crutch,” they’ll say. I respond, “If you broke your ankle, and couldn’t put any weight on your foot for a week, would you refuse crutches?” “No, of course not,” they laugh. “Would you feel like you were somehow more deficient than the average person because you needed a crutch to walk?” “No, but that’s different…” they say.
I’m saying it’s not all that different. Crutches are to help you when you need a crutch to keep walking. I take allergy medication too, daily, because my nose is ridiculously allergic to anything that can float in air. Do I feel it’s a character flaw that I’m so allergic? Of course not. My brain needs more serotonin than it produces without medication. That’s not my fault, it’s not a character flaw, and it’s only an obstacle when I don’t treat it. My willpower is not going to change my serotonin levels.
I do admit, there are a few people I wish I hadn’t told that I was on anti-depressants. There are a few people in my life who continue to hold the view than depression is a mind-over-matter issue and I’m just not trying hard enough or am not strong enough to persevere without the “crutch” of medication. I’ll have to live with that, because now they know and although I’ve tried to educate them, they’re going to think whatever they’re going to think and apparently I’m not going to change them. That’s on them.
Some have even counseled me that I shouldn’t be revealing this to my clients. Maybe some prospective clients will read this and decide they shouldn’t seek my services because I may be flawed. It shouldn’t be news to anyone that we’re all flawed, including therapists. The fact that I am on anti-depressants is a much smaller flaw, in my profession, than my inability to return all phone calls in 24 hours (I’m working on that one, believe me. By the way, I’m faster with e-mail).
I refuse to walk around afraid that someone is going to find out I have Prozac on my medication shelf. It’s not all I do to treat my depression (which, by the way, I haven’t had a relapse of in 8 years – I had a short issue with PPD after my first child was born and treated it). I also exercise, nurture my relationships, seek spirituality, watch my sugar intake and try to live the best life I can. But taking Prozac has been a big part of my journey and if I, a mental health practitioner, can’t be comfortable admitting that, than how can I expect my clients to seek treatment without shame?