A common argument in favor of medication is that, like any other illness, there’s no shame in taking medication for anxiety. It’s true that medications, especially SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro, adjust the brain chemistry in a way that reduces anxiety. Whether this “chemical imbalance” is naturally occuring or the result of our bad habits is a common source of contention, but we won’t go into that in this article. Rather, we will focus on a particular attitude that’s seen among the anxious. That attitude is best defined as “weakness.”

Disregarding medication because one doesn’t want to be “weak” is no different from any other fear. In this case, the fear is that we’re inherently unable to cope with life and that we need medication to help us get by. How many times have we heard others say, “I don’t want to be weak. I don’t want to take medications forever. I can do this on my own.” If you’ve made any progress in your recovery then you already know that what you want is completely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what is. As with all fears, this fear of weakness is something that must be confronted. If you support this attitude, you’re likely supporting it with the same negative thought patterns that create your fears in the first place; this, in turn, only contributes to your anxiety.

Your ego is your greatest obstacle. Your ego tells you to be strong. Your ego tells you that you need not resort to medication. Your ego tells you that you’ll never recover. Your ego tells you that you need to do this, or that, or the other thing. In short, your ego is a non-stop source of worthless jabber. The sooner you stop listening to these irrational ramblings the sooner you’ll be able to see reality. The truth of what you’re dealing with is right in front of your face, but your ego wants to protect you from that truth.

Think of it this way: if your ego is telling you to be strong, that’s because you feel weak; otherwise, you wouldn’t need to feel strong. You’d know you were strong. Your ego is very adept at lying to you. The best solution to this is to learn to distance yourself from your ego’s incessant chatter. Question it at every opportunity. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “I don’t want to take medications, I need to be strong,” then look at this closely. The only reason you’re telling yourself this is because you know you’re weak and you’re denying this. Instead, acknowledge that you’re suffering and that you need help. Yes, you may be weak right now, but strength is something that can be built and the first step in building strength is in embracing yourself, weakness and all.

If you allow your pride to get in the way of your recovery, you’re playing right into the hands of your “anxiety factory.” Forget pride. There’s no place for it here. You’re in the business of recovering from chronic anxiety and this requires a delicate, compassionate view toward yourself. You cannot be compassionate so long as you continuously reinforce your fears with nonsense about “being strong” or doing this “on my own.” These types of thoughts are the antithesis to compassion. They are, in essence, you beating up on yourself.

There is no shame in taking medications. When someone breaks a leg, they need a crutch to keep the weight off while their body does the difficult work of healing. The same goes for your mind and your emotions. When you’re suffering from chronic anxiety, there is absolutely no shame in using medications as a crutch while you’re in the process of recovery. We wouldn’t berate someone with a broken leg for using a crutch. There’s no weakness in it. The leg can’t heal without the crutch. Just the same, your mind can’t heal without a crutch. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need medications, but one crutch is as good as another.

However, if you use medications as a way to avoid acknowledging your fears, then you’re again doing yourself a disservice. The trick is in finding a balance. We should never use medications (or alcohol, drugs, religion, or anything else) as a shield to protect us from what we fear. This behavior, in turn, forces the fear to dive below the surface where it will do more damage, only to surface at a later time of weakness. Rather, we use them as a way to help us develop the proper attitude, the proper perspective, and the proper coping mechanisms to deal with our fears. It’s incredibly difficult to do this while one is in the midst of constant panic attacks or chronic anxiety. You need a crutch to take the weight off while you’re in the process of recovery. If you use no crutch, you will make little progress.

Even if you end up taking medication for the rest of your life, so be it. Sometimes the leg just won’t heal and we may need a crutch for life. So long as you’re always focused on recovery — in the sense that you recognize that recovery requires that we work and not become complacent or lazy — then you’re doing your part and there’s no shame in it. Similarly, if you continually tell yourself that it’s okay to take medications because you’re “broken” then you’re again falling into the traps of egoism. You’re not broken, your ego just tells you this to keep you from feeling the sting of the truth that you’re not as strong you think you are and that you need help. It’s okay to admit that we need help. Be compassionate with yourself.

In summary, if your ego is getting in your way, push it aside. Free yourself from the bonds of pride. Medications are a viable treatment and they work surprisingly well for many people. There’s no shame in using crutches to give the mind and body time to heal. So feel free to explore whatever options are available to you.

Advertisements