Eat me, drink me.



“Around the neck of the bottle was a paper label with the words “drink me” beautifully painted on it in large letters. It was all very well to say “drink me”: but Alice was a wise girl and was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first” she said and see whether it’s marked poison or not”. She had never forgotten that if you drink too much from a bottle marked “poison” it is almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later.

Heather: If only it were as simple as a label. A black and white little note that said poison or not. Yet, like Alice, all I had were the directions “ingest me” from a doctor I barely knew. I had thought I could handle it by myself. I wasn’t crazy, I kept telling myself. Medication is for crazy people and I’m fine. But I wasn’t. I was choking, drowning, in a fear I couldn’t justify or even explain to myself. I was tired. Tired of fighting through a fog that had no signs of lifting. But I was also scared of the tiny white pill in my hand. Would it change me? Would I be the same person? Were my mood swings not intrinsic to who I was? Would it affect my art? It made me feel weak. I couldn’t even do what everyone else could. I needed chemical help to be normal, to be happy. But in the end, I gave in. I closed my eyes and did what the label said.

Hannah “
I think we should put you on medication” were the last words I wanted to hear Screen Shot 2018-01-30 at 6.16.17 PM.png
from my psychiatrist. I had thought that if I worked hard enough with my therapy, I wouldn’t need to go on medication. That I was strong enough to cope with the voices inside my head on my own. I had to work hard to hold back the tears. Why was I so weak? Studying psychology at University, I’d done numerous research papers on anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications called Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is still unclear exactly how these medications work and I knew that there could be side effects. As an elite athlete, I was afraid of how they would affect me. Would I be less aggressive on the field? Also, how were these little white pills going to affect my brain? I was afraid of them, and in some ways I still am.

“Who are you?” he asked.“I hardly know, sir, just at present,” Alice replied shyly. “I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I have changed several times since then.”“What do you mean by that?” said the caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself.” I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice “because I’m not myself, you see.”

Heather: I’ve kept every one, every tiny orange bottle I’ve emptied over the last few years. I have a drawer full of them, hidden from view. Not even I could tell you why I’ve kept them. Maybe as a reminder. Maybe as proof of how much or for how long I’ve been medicated. It scares me, and I can’t even begin to comprehend why. Three years ago, I was unrecognizable. I was unhappy all the time. I lived in constant fear that was as powerful as it was irrational. All I wanted was to be ordinary. My whole life I felt like I was different, that I didn’t react normally to things, and that I was more bothered and more easily overwhelmed by things than others. It was as if I was the wrong size, constantly changing. It took me years to realize my mood swings were linked to mental illness.
Screen Shot 2018-01-30 at 6.20.26 PM.pngHannah: Every day when I wake up the first thing I see are the giant prescription pill containers. And every day I stare at the tiny white pill like it’s the enemy; a poison that I swallow. After a year of taking medication you’d think that I would have gotten used to it, but I haven’t. As it turns out, my body reacts negatively to SSRIs and they caused all those side effects that I researched as a student – fatigue, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, acne. YUP, I got every single one of them. In most cases, I was able to cover them up, but there was a period of over 6 months when I felt that the medication did more harm than good. During one of my fitness tests, I even pooped my pants in front of the whole National team and coaches, and had to run off in the middle of the test. Needless to say, it’s been hard.

So why do I take medication if it doesn’t help me? The truth is, I can’t tell if the medication actually works, but I trust my psychiatrist. I don’t want to be defined by my illness, and if these pills get me closer to my usual self then why would I not take them?

Heather: When I started medication I didn’t notice a change. I had no side effects, but everyone else seemed to see it. “More stable” they said, “more rational,” “more positive.” The only difference I saw was that I cried less easily during movies, and I wasn’t sure that was a good thing. I was the same, and yet I wasn’t. I started noticing things around me again: the colour of the sky on a winter morning. A little sprout poking through the concrete. I still heard my doubts, but they were quieter. There was more room in my head to fight back.


 “I don’t see,” said the caterpillar. “I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,” Alice replied politely, “for I don’t understand it myself. It’s very confusing being so many different sizes in one day.” “No, it isn’t” replied the caterpillar.“Well perhaps you haven’t found this out for yourself yet,” Alice said. “But when you have to turn into a chrysalis, your next stage of life, and after that into a beautiful butterfly I should think you will find it rather odd. Don’t you think so?”

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 Hannah: What makes it even more difficult is our society’s negative outlook on prescription medications for mental health issues. I am shocked at the number of people I encounter that still believe that mental health issues can be remedied by simply thinking positively. And, that those who take medication “need serious help” or are “overmedicating.” These comments are ill-informed, and far from harmless. Believe me, if I didn’t need to take medication, I wouldn’t. It is exhausting trying to justify it to everyone else, while also justifying it to myself.

 Heather: You might ask if they helped me, then why do I still hide the pill bottles on my bathroom counter? Why am I more comfortable talking about mental illness in general than medication? People I have loved and love struggle with mental illness. Some are diagnosed, others are not. Medication is not the answer for everyone, but even the mention of it throws anyone I talk to into a frantic state of denial. If it’s me taking medication, that’s my choice, but they can’t fathom taking any themselves. And that hurts, because then what does that say about me? There’s still stigma. There’s still fear. There’s still the belief that such medication is for someone so seriously beyond help that it couldn’t possibly be applicable to them. But honestly, I battled depression and anxiety without medication for 5 years. It was pretty damn hard, but I survived. However, while medication still scares me, when I am on it, I am a version of myself that is less confused, less selfish, and less overwhelmed. It was depression and anxiety that made me someone else.

Hannah: They say do something every day that scares you. I complete this task before I even roll out of bed in the morning. Instead of feeling weak for taking medication, maybe I should feel strong for grabbing that pill container even though I don’t want to. I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I’m working on changing my outlook. Society should do the same and changes begin with honesty.

*Excerpts taken from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

**A big thank you to my intelligent, insightful and loving sister for contributing her experiences to this post.

5 Replies to “Eat me, drink me.”

  1. Overwhelmed and so appreciative of your honesty and intelligence to post such an amazing article. Thanks ladies ❤️❤️❤️❤️


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