We Need To Talk About Medication

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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.

Pill-shaming is a big deal. So much so that this BBC video by Laura Foster prompted leading psychiatrist Dr James Davies to come out and add more context to the issue.

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.

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.


Why This Government’s Stance On Mental Health Is Nothing More Than Tokenism

Have You Got A Mental Health Issue….Or Is It Your Lifestyle?

Doubtless the Whitehall apparatchiks thought themselves terribly clever when they sold the Prime Minister the notion that using World Mental Health Day to launch the Government’s new mental health would be a brilliant PR coup.

Enter Jackie Doyle-Price, stage political right. A junior minister within the Department of Health, Mrs Doyle-Price is probably more celebrated for her apparently bottomless supply of hairstyles than for any great political achievement in her 8-year Parliamentary career to date.

Yet this week she finds herself paraded before the world as the UK’s dazzling solution to the problem of suicide. Sadly, though, our very first Minister for Suicide Prevention is unlikely to be the last participant in a very grand tradition of political tokenism and bureaucratic grandstanding.

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The Inconvenient Truth About Quick Fire Therapy

Squashed Food Cheeseburger

Walk into any of the big three fast food restaurants these days and the chances are the emphasis will be on getting you in and out as quickly as possible.

The technology is designed to allow you to order your food, pay for it and then collect it from a collection point when it’s ready.

In possibly the only instance where it was actually ahead of the curve when it came to retail trends, this ‘convenience’ approach to buying was originally pioneered by catalogue store Argos.

On the surface, this ‘hit and run’ approach is a good thing when it comes to the fast food industry because in principle – and the words in principle are the kicker here – it serves both ends of the sale process: you want your food quickly, the restaurant wants to move you on so it can sell its tasty burgers someone else.

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The One Thing You Need To Do To Improve Your Life Instantly

Boxing Gloves

Give a man a fish and he’ll feed himself for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll feed himself forever. Or so the saying goes. It’s probably true, but who really knows? Fish can be damned smart. Particularly the ones that have been caught before.

Here’s a saying which I know is absolutely true:

Give someone five minutes with nothing to do but think and they’ll find a way to beat themselves up about something, no matter how small or trivial.

It’s a sentence or thought that starts with the words If only I hadn’t

… said that, done the other, been mean about Rachel’s new hairstyle, bought that dress, maxed out my credit card, asked out the guy/girl in the Costa queue on an irrational impulse, inhaled an entire packet of Hobnobs in a single sitting, been quite so unkind to my mother, jumped to that conclusion about Dawn Smith when we were ten, poked the cat with a stick, got back with her / him for the 30th time, thought bad things about that woman before I knew she had cancer, turned down that job promotion, frittered away my teens … the list is endlessly long.

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This White House Legacy Will Be Felt For Generations. And Not In A Good Way

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There are times – many times, in fact – when the current Presidency of the United States feels like a practical joke that has gone spectacularly and tragically wrong.

How we all laughed when he started his run for the White House. How we snickered at the impudence of it all. How we guffawed when he talked about the ‘big, beautiful wall’ he was going to build between the US and Mexico, not realising the punchline was still to come: Mexico would be made to pay for it!

We branded him a clown. But a man in greasepaint driving a small car in circles until the doors fall off is actually funny (unless you suffer from coulrophobia). Watching the doors fall off the supercharged Buick 8 that is the most powerful country in the world has been a long way from funny.

There have been times when watching the leader of the Free World has been akin to being in the audience the night Tommy Cooper collapsed during the Royal Variety Show and everyone thought it was hilarious. Until we all realised it wasn’t and that it was too late to save him.

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Why Pretending Is Bad For Your Health

Woman's Head Replaced By A Black Balloon

Last week, TalkRadio presenter and former contestant on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Iain Lee published a blog which laid bare his struggles with his mental health.

Reading it is a deeply uncomfortable, moving and raw emotional experience and if, like many, you’re someone who is disinclined to have sympathy for well-paid celebrities who seem to have it all, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you take some time to read it.

It will teach you more about what it’s like to live with depression and low-self-esteem than you can possibly imagine.

Iain Lee often polarises opinion. He can be outspoken and provocative. His views and opinions can sometimes appear obnoxious or ignorant. But, like so many of us and as those of us who watched his journey through the jungle last autumn saw for ourselves, at heart he just wants to be liked and loved.

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5 Good Reasons To Stop Calling Your Ex A Narcissist

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The more I read and hear about narcissism these days, the more I think that it is to contemporary emotional psychology what the Atkins Diet was to weight loss in the Nineties: everyone’s got an opinion about it, but no one seems to quite understand how it works.

Google my ex is a narcissist and you’ll get 2,650,000 results. Which is a crazy number. Though arguably not as crazy as some of the advice they contain.

The pearls of largely uninformed wisdom I found in the first dozen or so pages of search results included advice on how to break up with a narcissist, the signs to look for in a narcissist, the three phases of a narcissistic relationship and, most worrying of all, how to win back your narcissistic ex.

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The Path Is Not The Punishment

Lovcen Mountains National Park At Sunset Montenegro

I have a friend whose favourite theory is that Hell isn’t a place you go to when you die, it’s the place you go to live. And you get to do it over and over again, until you become a decent human being.

He’s fond of arguing that reincarnation is simply the re-taking of life’s exams. Then again, he’s also fond of arguing that the people who learn the fewest lessons in life are destined to live in Middlesbrough, so I’m not sure how much credence we can attach to his ramblings.

But if you ignore the religious context for a moment, there’s something of truth in the notion that life will continue to give you the same lesson until you finally learn it.

Giving in to human nature and casting ourselves as victims of life ‘continually’ might elicit more sympathetic hugs on Facebook, but it’s also a sure-fire way to guarantee missing the key lessons we should be learning.

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Are You Taking Your Mental Health Offroad?

Old Car Instrument Panel Detail

If you have a really good dig down the back of your sofa and scrape together the £180,000 you’d need, you could buy yourself a Ferrari 458 (in the obligatory Ferrari red, obviously).

With nearly 500 horses under the bonnet, it’ll take you from 0-60mph in just three seconds and, if the law permitted and the roads were clear, could take you from London to Liverpool in just under an hour.

Chances are, having found yourself in the lucky position to be able to afford to buy one, you wouldn’t then drive your shiny new supercar through a ploughed field or pull donuts on a gravel drive.

And why? Well, because a hundred and eighty grand is a fair bit of money, you’re probably quite proud of the car and having invested so heavily in a machine that comes as close as it’s possible to come to engineering perfection, you want to look after it.

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Does The Financial Wellbeing Of Your Business Mirror The Mental Health Of Your Team?

London Cityscape At Sunset

On Monday I had the privilege of being asked to lead a session on mental health in the workplace for the TruMunity Unconference in London, a recruitment event for HR leaders and recruitment professionals with informality and learning at its heart.

When thinking about what to talk about, I kept coming back to the role business has to play in tackling the mental health crisis the UK faces.

A study into wellbeing in the workplace recently estimated that around 97 million work days are lost each year in the UK to mental health issues.

Imagine the impact of that figure for a moment. It equates to more than a quarter of a million years. And if you’re having trouble processing that, it’s around 50,000 years longer than we’ve been on the earth.

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Additional Credits

Video by Weeks360.

Photography by Liz Bishop Photography.

Production by Mark Norman at Little Joe Media and Joanne Brooks.

Hair by Jonny Albutt.

Make up by Olly Fisk and Nabeel Hussain.