Matthew Butt

Mental Health, Medication and the Burden of Self-Care

Posted in mental health, personal by bnathyuw on 19 July 2018

I tweeted something about mental health, medication, and the burden of self-care. It seems worthwhile capturing my thought on here.

CN: mental illness, suicide
Blimey, beneath the reasonable headline, this article is dangerous nonsense:
Drugs alone won’t fix our epidemic of depression

I had a major relapse a while ago, and believe me, I tried the self-help remedies mentioned in that article.

I tried meditation. It was lovely. And it helped a little, for a while. But it didn’t fix my problems at all; I got worse.

I tried exercise. I already cycle for two hours a day, but I pushed that up and found other ways to exercise too. The result: exhaustion and malnutrition, which worsened my depression.

I tried attending to my diet. This did help somewhat: I realised I was eating far too little, probably too ‘healthily’, and with a poor balance of nutrients. I became better at spotting and dealing with hunger. But my moods still worsened.

I reached a point where I was preoccupied with thoughts of killing myself. I had several melt-downs. That’s when I sought professional help.

Which two things have helped me begin to recover? Psychotherapy and drugs.

Within days of starting the medication, my suicidal thoughts began to disperse. The medication has given me the stability and resilience to start healing.

The therapy is an ongoing project, and its effects are subtler and more gradual, but it’s giving me the strength, the self-knowledge and the tools to heal and find a new way to experience the world.

I am fairly confident that many of the sources of mental distress and illness fall in our society and the systems in which we exist. That’s why I was attracted to the headline “Drugs alone won’t fix our epidemic of depression”.

But it is poisonous to use a platform like this to suggest that the solution is self-care.

Self-care is a coping mechanism that transfers the burden onto the individual.

To advocate self-care as a solution is to place the responsibility entirely on the sufferer: the person who is least able, has the scantest resources, to make the difference.

And this is toxic. Yes, let’s address the systemic and societal causes of mental illness.

Let’s find ways we can build societies that give people the support and safety they need to heal.

But we must stop stigmatising medication. If it weren’t for medication, I might not be here today. It is a lifeline. And every article like this stigmatises it.

When you’re in a pit of depression, it’s all too easy to feel guilty for seeking help. Your brain tells you that it’s your fault that you’re not coping.

Asking for mediation feels like cheating. It took me months of misery before I finally caved in and approached my doctor.

And articles like this reinforce that guilt. This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Right, now I’m noticing that I’m feeling hungry. It’s time for lunch.
– fin –

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