I’m a Hypnotherapist, which means I’m a big believer in recovering as naturally as possible from the knocks we take to our mental health as we go through life & building inner resilience & resources.
I try to help people to do that by looking with love and compassion at what’s really going on under the bonnet of your subconscious & supporting people to make people better life choices. We’ve got a pretty good track record there – my Associates and I have some fantastic successes when it comes to helping people recover from bloody horrific childhoods and extremely difficult life circumstances.
But even though I believe passionately in what we achieve here at Zoe Clews & Associates, I’m also not foolish or dumb or arrogant enough to believe that what we do is the answer for absolutely everyone, despite what the one-session-fix merchants would like you to think.
Do you want to know the truth? Sometimes what we do isn’t enough. Sometimes life has given someone such a pasting that they need the kind of help that we’re just not qualified to give.
So, believe me when I say there is nothing wrong, per se, with taking medication to help treat relentless anxiety, poleaxing depression or chronic and obsessive negative thought processes.
I know that’s not a popular opinion in some quarters, but I’ve lost count of the number of people who come through my door at their wits end because they’ve refused medication on the basis of judgemental point of view held by a complete idiot.
And yes, the psychiatry-denying scientologists at the back there, I’m definitely including you in this.
Pressurising someone – one way or the other – when it comes to medicating for a mental health problem is a dangerous practice, especially when, as is so often the case, it’s done from a position of total ignorance.
And you know who else isn’t qualified to decide or judge whether someone should or shouldn’t be taking medication to deal with a mental health issue? Me, and other hypnotherapists and counsellors like me.
I mean, apologies for paging Captain Obvious here, but the process of diagnosis and prescription when it comes to mental health is a privilege you only earn through having a bonafide medical degree.
Even so, that doesn’t stop ill-informed, though perhaps well-meaning, people trying to persuade someone they don’t need medication to help them. That taking pills somehow makes them weak-spirited or puts them on the road to some form of helpless addiction.
Let’s be straight here: for some people with certain mental health conditions – especially those around serious conditions like extreme depression and anxiety or psychosis – medication can and often is about the only thing that starts or keeps them on a path to recovery.
The only choice in these cases is not whether the prescription is justified, but whether the individual wants to take the advice and medication their doctor has recommended.
Beyond the patient and the man or woman with a medical degree and specialist experience in treating mental illness, no one else’s opinion on whether or not someone else should be taking medication to help their recover really matters at all.
It’s important to respect people’s personal choices and to remember there’s a very real difference between being prescribed proper medication by a doctor and self-medicating with booze or the myriad of other monkeys that will happily take up permanent residency on your back.
Properly prescribed medication as part of a treatment that is supervised by a responsible pyschiatrst or doctor should not leave anyone trapped in addiction’s snake pit. And I want to be crystal clear here that I am only too aware of the horrors of benzo addiction & the slippery slope of sleeping pill dependency (Ambien tweeting / driving / sleep-eating anyone?) these particular type of medications are meant to be used short-term.
There are plenty of people who apply pressure on a friend or family member to reject taking medication and a lot of the time, that comes from a genuine – though misguided – need to protect that individual from dependency.
In a lot of cases, though, it’s just macho bullshit that comes from the same stable as someone who has made the personal & brave choice to face their alcoholism through 12 step recovery getting told: you don’t need to go to AA, you just need to learn some self-discipline. (DUH)
And people who don’t deal with third party pill shaming often face it from their inner critic. This type of shaming can stem from a shaming episode in childhood and is often linked to unresolved post-traumatic stress or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Which gives us even more reason to not shame the individual suffering greatly and taking medication, because more often than not they are already giving themselves a really hard time.
Every individual journey is different and for some people the virulent inner critic needs to be quietened through medication before therapy can have any sort of positive impact.
When someone has suffered grievous injury to their psyche the inner critic is especially violent, and sometimes medication is required at the beginning to quieten the inner critic enough to be able to function and keep going through therapy.
As a society we’ve been raised on the mistaken belief that all we really need to get through any given problem – whether it’s a late-running morning train or a sky full of German bombers trying to obliterate London in 1941 – is a suitably stiffened upper lip and a jolly good cup of tea.
Just as we’ll happily wait until a leg is on the verge of falling off before we’ll bother the nice doctor, so we’ve been programmed to believe that using medication to solve a problem makes us somehow less resilient or capable.
It’s all nonsense. some people’s recovery might just require a kind, compassionate therapist who can ‘reparent’ the client – one of the most important factors in therapy when a client has been very traumatised.
Another person may need 12 step recovery plus medication
For someone else, exercise and CBD oil plus therapy might be the answer (someone get the smelling salts for the scientologists)
Then there’s the approach that uses natural and nutritonal supplements and meditation plus CBT
Or perhaps someone needs medication, the care of a psychiatrist and then hypnotherapy to resolve old wounds.
What anyone who suffers with a mental health condition needs from you, above anything else, is your support rather than your judgement.
Recovery isn’t an off-the-peg deal – many survivors of complex PTSD and developmental trauma, or those under chronic stress or with a chronically stressful lifestyle (which is what I believe is behind nearly almost all mental health issues) will need to try a few approaches, including lifestyle changes, before they find the one that works.
Some degree of medication may very well be necessary – especially to get through a really dark period whilst they do the necessary therapy work and implement the lifestyle changes that recovery requires.
That’s not to say medication alone is the answer, either. And I’m all too aware from working with clients that medication can cause it’s own issues too. I also believe that therapy work absolutely has to happen to resolve the root of the problem, all medication really does is give people a mask to wear and the ability to function, but let’s not underestimate that often lifesaving intervention.
And used in line with therapy, it can be the rope ladder that helps people emerge from a pit of despair.
The reason we’re prone to judgement isn’t hard to understand. We’re now the first generation that’s really getting to grips with trauma and mental health and working to clear trauma – and we’re not just dealing with our own mental health, but that of the generation that went before us as we become their carers.
People need the permission, freedom and space to be able to talk about their mental health and to feel they have enough ownership over their recovery to be able to make the choices that are right for them without fear of being outed for decisions that don’t necessarily fit someone else’s world view.
I applaud anyone who goes down the route of natural recovery, but sometimes it isn’t enough for those who are in crisis, and in that situation, and as long as they’re not harming themselves or others, it’s vital that we don’t shame anyone for doing what they need to do to ‘get through’.
It’s this differentiation between need and choice that we need to get in perspective.
If we’re to deal with growing mental health crisis, then we need to have a balanced approach to it. It’s a vast and complex issue and we’ll make headway by modernising our thinking around it – not by retreating into the stereotypes and tropes of previous generations.
And that means not shaming the choices people make in order to get better.