what to say when a friend starts meds

I mentioned on IG in passing that I had started a new medication and should’ve known that such a nonchalant drop wouldn’t fly with you astute humans. I wasn’t sure if I was going to speak about this, but then I had some heartbreaking conversations with some of you behind the scenes that motivated me to at least say one thing about it. Of course let me ramble a bit before I get to that one thing. You’re used to it by now, right? 😉

Thoughts on Medication - an Essay | Small Fry

Image via The Voorhes

It seems that women are very quick to adapt to even the most unideal situations. It’s how I got pregnant when Hayes was 8 months old and told Russ I couldn’t get up with him every two hours anymore because it made me so nauseous, and Russ would have to start. Guess how long Russ got up with him every two hours? One night. Then he sleep trained him and Hayes slept through the night the rest of his life since.

I went 8 months on 2 consecutive hours of sleep at a time and didn’t realize that maybe that wasn’t the best way for me. Or even Hayes. I just adapted.

The past couple years I didn’t really have expectations about how our home stuff would go. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know a soul who had done such a thing. So we adapted, we pushed through and I knew that when we moved in I could rest, I could slow my workload, we could regroup, we could rebuild our finances, we could have family time again, we could have Russ for longer than an hour a night.

We moved in and guess what? None of that happened. (Once again for the people in the back: try not to buy a commercial space right after you build a home yourself with one income.) Pulling equity out of the house to invest in our next project was always the plan, but we didn’t plan for it to happen so quickly. We had to keep moving at an unsustainable pace only now I knew better and it immediately put me into a tailspin. I can’t do this anymore!! I don’t want to!! So what went from livable anxiety, situational, something I could handle… to incessant, unending panic most hours a day… I knew I had to do something. I woke up with dread (not to be dramatic) even terror at the seemingly insurmountable odds against us. The light at the end of the tunnel kept escaping me.

It was at that moment that I realized I needed help! I’ve always been high functioning with anxiety and even depression at times. So from the outside and even the inside, medication didn’t seem necessary. But I knew how much I was suffering. My quality of life was suffering. To someone who lives for a good laugh, nothing was funny anymore. My baseline of existence was now just at the brink of a melt-down, of sobbing, of freaking out, of despair.  Adrenaline coursing through my body all the time. Always ready for fight or flight.

So after a few months of this I finally made the appointment. I went to my doctor and she asked me those questions: How often do you feel ______?

Never, rarely, sometimes, often, alot of the time, all of the time.

Tears burned my eyes as I met question after question with a head hanging, barely audible, sometimes choked out, “all the time.” “All the time.” “All the time.” How did I let it get so bad?

It was SO incredibly interesting to see my own reaction as well as the reactions of others to treating my anxiety with regimented medication. My reaction to this process was to feel ashamed or guilty. I felt like I was cheating the system. Taking the easy way out. This is where the religious rhetoric of my upbringing stopped serving me. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” There must be a way to handle this on my own?

WHO KNEW BETTER THAN ME HOW MUCH I WAS SUFFERING? And still, I put up so much resistance.

Bless my sister’s wise soul for telling me exactly what I needed to hear to shift my perspective. She said “Medication is like scaffolding on a building. Sometimes you need structured support to fix what’s going on inside.”

Doesn’t have to be forever, Em.

So I went into the unknown, I fought my own resistance. And I felt better. I am better. Things are funny again and to-do lists are manageable instead of debilitating.

I wasn’t the only one with a weird reaction. I had odd run-ins with several people I didn’t expect it to come from, never mind the fact that I didn’t really want to tell anyone anyway. ME: I started a new medication for my anxiety! THEM:

Are you going to therapy? or Have you tried deep breathing? or What’s your diet like? or You should go to yoga! or Mediation works wonders for me. 

Yes. To all those things. Tried them all, will continue to use them as a part of my healing and maintenance.

But the trouble is, the second I walk out of the yoga studio, post-therapy, mediation pillow, deep cleansing breathing, the circumstances in my life that induce anxiety (valid, real things) aren’t going away.

So, and now we’re getting to the takeaway, you patient souls, here’s what I think. When someone comes to us and says,

THEM: I’m thinking about getting on medication. Or: I finally got on medication.

VERY FIRST THING, US: I’m so proud of you. I can’t imagine what you must have been going through.

PAUSE PAUSE PAUSE, conversation, conversation.

And then, the cleansing breath thing.

I know we all want to help, but we’re not sure how. We seek to find our common ground, and in turn we negate others’ unique experience. Let’s all give the assumption that a war has been waging in the minds of those who suffer long before they ever opened their mouths to tell us about it. We are merely a blip in their journey, but our reaction can empower or diminish them.

And for those of you reading this who are saying with your head hung low “All the time.” or even most of the time, or maybe just often enough. Only you know what it’s truly like to be you. Listen to that inner voice and do not give up. You will find what works for you, and you do not have to suffer alone. I can’t say this with enough power of my soul, if you ever need anyone to talk to, and you don’t know who. I am here. Maybe not the ideal, but I’ll do in a pinch.




  • Jodie
    March 7, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    So heart warming. Glad it’s getting out there!!! I struggle everyday with depression and I’m on medication. Everyday is a challenge for me

  • Wendy
    March 7, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    First and foremost, you do what’s best for you. I totally understand anxiety and we’ve all been through trying times and if someone says they haven’t.. it’s not the truth. Women need to stick more together and encourage each other even more through tough times. I’ve just started following you and think YOU are awesome just from the little I’ve read. Keep doing you! ❤️

  • Cheryl
    March 7, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    This actually is making me weep. Thank you so much for this. My 13 year old has been dealing with so much with his mental health. We actually got him on some good meds and he is seriously a new boy. I feel like I have my son back, but when I mention it to good friend I get pushback and someone actually today laughed at his diagnosis. This blog post is so perfect I’m going to share with the world!

  • Cori
    March 7, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Oh my word, my therapist mentioned meds today and it was like a light bulb went off. Maybe I do need them and that’s okay! Thanks for talking about this and spreading the word that meds are okay.

  • Sabrina
    March 7, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    You are so brave for sharing this and I am so sorry that for even a second someone made th feel bad about your decision. You are a great mom, wife and friend. We’ve all needed that scaffolding, I know I have, and there’s Nothing to be ashamed of. We are still the strong women we were when the we didn’t need that extra exterior support. Lots of love. Always.

  • Becky
    March 7, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I have been where you are several times in my life, and the fact that there is a medication to take to help with anxiety is a serious miracle! There should also be no shame if you need to take medication for longer than you’d like to or even for most of your life.

  • Pat
    March 7, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    Such an honest and heartfelt post ~ thanks so much for sharing!! I’m hoping that many in need of support will read this and seek help. You know, I feel sad that in this day and time, people still feel a stigma about therapy and medication. We, as a nation, should make it comfortable for a person to step forward and not be made to feel worse than they already do. I’ve had years of therapy which has been the most beneficial thing I’ve done for myself. I take meds ~ so what? Does that affect anyone else’s life? 😉😂 You mentioned that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle…He must think I’m a badass! 😂😅
    Thanks again for sharing!

  • Nakole
    March 7, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for 22 years. For most of those years I’ve taken meds. There were the occasional times where I thought I’m feeling so great, I’m going to get off my meds, only to fall back into the pits of hell. I am happy to say I’m okay being on anti depressants/ anti anxiety. If that’s what it takes for me to be a normal functioning human, a good wife, a mother, a friend, well then by damn I’m going to take that shiz until the day I die. I’d rather be taking my meds on the daily, then laying in my bed, not functioning and feeling like there is no way out of the darkness. It took all of my teen years and twenties to finally come to that place, but man am I sure glad I got there. I’m so happy I could feel comfortable enough with myself, to know what I needed and stop listening to the bs from the outside. It’s not an easy thing to do, to listen to ourselves and what we really need, but if we can stand beside one another and not be ashamed of our mental health then it makes it that much easier. I wish you the very best. Thank you for sharing your story and raising awareness for mental health. It’s okay to suffer but let’s not do it silently and let’s not do it on our own.

  • Charity 😘
    March 8, 2019 at 12:56 am

    Yes yes yes!!!! This should be out life motto for everything. “I’m so proud of you. I can’t imagine how you’ve been feeling!” Because no one knows. No one knows what’s really going on. And btw, God may not give you more than you can handle, but the ass down the street will! And who do we think inspired the scientists who reseached and studied and discovered that meds can help people recover from debilitating stress? To find joy again? Pretty sure Satan doesn’t want anyone feeling joy or peace. Let us believe that others are doing their best. That they are trying everything. And that they are making their life choices a matter of prayer. And even if none of that is true, it’s not our place to judge or give unsolicited advice. It is only and ever our job to love.

  • Camille
    March 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Love you Emily. I think you are amazing and courageous. Thank you for speaking frankly about a challenge subject. I think of you and Russ often. Please feel free to call any time for chat or help

  • Sara Jane
    March 9, 2019 at 10:53 am

    You’re amazing Em! Thank you for sharing so we can all improve! I’m. So. Proud. Of. You!

  • Annie
    March 11, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    “I know we all want to help, but we’re not sure how. We seek to find our common ground, and in turn we negate others’ unique experience. Let’s all give the assumption that a war has been waging in the minds of those who suffer long before they ever opened their mouths to tell us about it. We are merely a blip in their journey, but our reaction can empower or diminish them.”

    Someone finally put it into words. It’s hard to speak out about my sons autism because of this. People say, oh my son has tantrums too. It negates what I’m going through and even though they’re trying to find common ground, it’s not the same. My sons tantrums often leave one of us bleeding and in need of stitches. Same with depression or other health issues. I’ve had life long kidney infections. If one more person asks me if I’ve tried cranberries, I’m going to lose it. I think what’s hard is that they don’t think that obviously we’ve already been there in our mind and experiences. Yes, I’ve tried probiotics for my sons autism related gut issues. Yes I’ve tried exercise and healthy eating for my depression. I always feel bad complaining because they’re trying to be nice but it does make it hard to share and be open. I’m glad you’re getting help. No shame in it at all.

  • lindsay ross
    March 15, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    Well said ❤️

  • Amy
    March 29, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    As someone who has taken an anti-depressant at different times when my life got to where I was answering those same question with “all the time,” I applaud you for being open. You’ll find those people who get it and soothe the soul. Also, I LOVE your suggestion to respond with empathy. “I’m so proud of you. I can’t imagine what you must have been going through” conveys confidence and creates a safe space for people to share more. It really is the only way to help people. When someone is vulnerable enough to share something personal like a health challenge, we should all be that person.


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