E006: ACCEPTING HELP + MEDICATION WHEN TAKING CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
After 5 years of struggling to accept help, I've decided to take action on it. In this episode, I'm sharing my experience over the last 5 years about a topic that I'm NOT talking about as much: Medication when taking care of your mental health. Mental health management is more important as we move forward to 2021, so take a listen if you're struggling with figuring out how to accept help or if you are just interested in hearing my story.
Remember: You get to decide if medication is for you or not. My decision may not be yours, and that's OK.
> What it means when you accept help in terms of medication (01:40)
> Who I was back as a kid (06:00)
> Back into 2020, dealing with grief and how working with a coach helped me accept help (14:51)
> How I accepted my form of medication (18:40)
> Questions to ask your self (23:18)
E006: Accepting Help + Medication When Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Accepting help can be hard. Accepting medication can be harder.
Amy: [00:00:29] Welcome back to this week's episode of What We're Not Talking About. We're going to be talking about medication and its role in mental health management, its role in society, and what it means to accept help in the forms of medication or something else. So you're probably going to notice that my voice has changed from the last two solo episodes.
And that's because I've decided to switch the formats up slightly. So before I had written it all out, I had shown up with my best presentation voice for you ladies and gents out there. And I realized that that's not really who I am. And also my podcast producer told me that I should probably not talk like that cause I sounded like a robot.
So, I decided to show up in a way that is honestly slightly uncomfortable for me. And that's because I'm totally myself. So we're going to be talking about medication and also accepting help. I just want to put a disclaimer out, this episode does not advocate for medication or against medication.
I believe that medication is on a case by case basis. And I think that it's up to a variety of people dealing with the individual in question who is thinking about starting a medication route to figure out. What I'm going to do in this episode is I'm going to share my experience over the last 30 years, but really the last five years is what we're going to focus on.
And then I'm going to leave it up to you to decide if maybe medication is for you.
Maybe you're just interested in hearing this conversation and you're like, “I don't actually need it.” But please listen to the end because it is a lot to take in and there's going to be a lot of honesty in this. And I am going to let you know that I'm not talking in forms of medication when it just comes to prescribed anti-anxiety medication in the form of pills.
I want to talk about cannabis, psilocybin, and a variety of other medications that are available in various places throughout the world. So remember this doesn’t only talk about North America. We're really trying to highlight how mental health management is currently and will be even more important as we move into 2021 and the rest of the 2020’s. Which, I just can't even begin to imagine how crazy it's going to be.
But this episode is actually really hard for me to talk about because for the longest time, I had problems accepting help. I didn't want to admit that I was on a form of medication, I didn't feel like it was part of my journey or healing process. There are a lot of reasons why, and I will get into it. But just so you know, this is a conversation that is not really talked about.
And I thought it would be apparently appropriate to talk about it on a podcast. So, for all of you out there that don't really know what I'm about, I'm going to do my best to make it as short and sweet as possible.
[00:03:53] At a young age, I started suffering from chronic anxiety.
Which means that my body was almost constantly in fight or flight. This resulted in a lot of disease and illness throughout my childhood and then into my teenage years and young adult life. And then also my twenties, because I'm currently just 30 years old.
And I knew that it was a problem. It made no sense to me that I always stayed sick in the head and then also always sick physically, and no correlation could be found. Like for somewhere deep down inside, I knew that there was a correlation, even if my doctors didn't want to admit it.
Fast forward, and I'm living years and years with a nervous system and a body that has been out of equilibrium and in constant state of fight or flight. Which means that there's adrenaline pumping through my body. Most likely, my body is trying to figure out how to escape those woolly mammoths around the corner that I believe are going to be there. Or in my case, the adults that were going to kidnap me and take me away from my parents. Because that's what my anxiety was based on at a young age.
I just could not take it and with a physical and a nervous system that has been out of balance for so long, it makes perfect sense to me, and hopefully to you, why my brain was also out of balance. I didn’t think rationally. I made crazy decisions that, looking back on, I don't know why they sounded like good ideas at the time.
That being said, I was also a teenager, and we do make stupid decisions.
So one of the most intriguing things for me is deciphering what was a dumb decision that my anxiety decided or what was a dumb decision that I, Amy Demone, as a teenager decided. But that's another story for another day.
So as I move throughout life, I adopted coping mechanisms and behaviors that I'm not proud of. But I want to share them with you. I was let's call - I'm going to say for the purpose of this conversation - a drug addict. I also was a sex worker, was consistently in codependent relationships, was verbally and emotionally abused, and once or twice physically abused, but nothing too crazy. And this went on because I wasn’t ready to go about accepting help.
And I just was watching myself become a person that I did not know. So in 2015, I finally decided to get the help that I could deal with: therapy. So we spoke for quite some time. The reason that I first originally sought her out was I felt that I was going to use again. In 2015, I had been five years sober. Not from alcohol or cannabis, I want to be very honest and open with you. But for me, my sobriety meant hard drugs.
So, I abused ecstasy, meth, crack, cocaine, some ketamine, and GHB (which is the date rape drug, which if you take it in small dosage gets you high). And honestly, so many other prescription drugs that I don't know what I took. And I felt nervous five years later that I was going to reuse. So, naturally I went to therapy.
We really worked through a lot of stuff.
And this is when I started to realize that, “Hey, maybe I have some issues with my parents that I didn't realize I had,” which in retrospect is absolutely insane that I didn't see this. And it was a struggle. I couldn't communicate. I had a really hard time standing my ground and setting boundaries, which for all of you listening who doesn’t know what codependency is.
That's pretty much codependency in a nutshell. And I just didn't know what to do. I felt I had hit a brick wall head-on about six months into therapy. And I understood that my therapist also felt the same. So, nearing the end of our time together, she did something that to this day still bothers me. But what are you gonna do?
[00:08:00] She gave me an ultimatum. She told me that if I wanted to continue my work with her, I needed to go to our narcotics anonymous meeting and I must attend regularly. And believe me, I really did not want to go. I still hadn't used at this point. Arguably, I was still drinking and smoking cannabis. But to her that was a big no-no.
And I eventually gave in and went to this NA meeting against every single solitary bone in my body. And before I share my experience, I want to be very honest. And I want to say that this contains only my view of it.
I know it has helped thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of people.
I am not knocking it, but for me, it was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. And I have done some insane things. The reason that it was so uncomfortable was they fed the narrative that I was and always will be an addict. And I felt like that made it very confining for me in my identity.
That means that, from here on out, the thing that I would be known the most for was being an addict. And that, one, honestly scared me and, two, didn't sit right with me. It didn't feel right. It didn't feel that I made a bunch of decisions when I was younger and that was setting up my identity for the rest of my life.
So, what I did was I didn't go back to any NA meetings. I have not been back since. I've thought about it, but I've not been back. And I quit my therapist. Arguably, I probably should have taken this opportunity to go to her and talk to her and be like, “Hey, what you did made me uncomfortable. And I don't think it's fair that you made me an ultimatum. And you've also stuffed me with this identity that I actually don't want.” I did want to go about accepting help from her any longer because it was not the type of help I felt comfortable with.
I was just like, “Peace out, girl. Like, it's been fun. Thanks for helping me communicate with my parents. I'm moving on.”
Unfortunately for me, that experience prevented me from showing up to another therapist office for almost two years.
Those were arguably the two years that I needed therapy the most because I was in this reintegration period of my life, where I had realized, woah, my conceptualization of my story was not right. And in fact it wasn't just this one ridiculous little thing that happened when I was as a kid, it was a lot of things.
It was the fact that I grew up in a household with a father who became morbidly obese, who suffered from multiple mental health illnesses, who suffered from chronic physical illnesses that I still have not seen a lot of, and I've never heard of some of them outside of my father having had lived with them. And also, so the effects of making a bunch of stupid decisions as a teenager.
The one thing that I found that was quite interesting is that I really was never offered medication and, in fairness, I made it very clear that I didn't want medication because... If this identity was that I was a drug addict, how was I supposed to take medication to help me with my mental health?
So it was this really confusing time for me, where I was like, okay, they're shoving me down this identity that I'm a drug addict. They're saying that this is the only thing, like NA meetings and therapy is the only thing that's going to keep me together more or less, but yet... Like, there's this idea that in order to manage it, you can take a pill and everything will go better.
And that just didn't make sense to me.
It made no sense. Why am I viewed as a negative person in society for doing drugs, but yet that pill wasn't? And I now understand why. But when I was 25, 26, 27, it made no sense to me. It made me further hate the establishment, because I'm a rebel at heart. And I just could not understand this contradiction in the medical field.
Granted, you have to think about where my head was at. You have to think about how young I was and arguably how low, how much lack of experience I had in this specific area. But, just something energetically, feeling, emotion, whatever you want to call it. It just didn't sit right with me.
So, I did my best, and I made it through the next two years of my life and then I went back to therapy with a new therapist. I'm not gonna go over everything that I've done with my therapist, but essentially what happened was I realized that I've actually been medicating for most of my life through using cannabis. The way that I had viewed the situation was that I was escaping through cannabis.
Because that was the narrative and the viewpoint of so many Western doctors that I had dealt with in Canada was that any form of medication, except for anti-anxiety medication and anti-depression medication that comes in the form of a pill, was viewed as a bad drug. Also at this time, cannabis was still illegal in Canada.
However, medical marijuana license was still a thing.
Or it's still thing, but it was a thing. People were managing their mental health illnesses through the use of cannabis, but that was not the case for me. As I move through the next few years of my life, the role of cannabis in my life became one of the most focal points of my unrest, let's call it.
And that was because, and this is in retrospect, I was fighting with the idea of, I don't want to be an addict, so I can't smoke weed because that is the view of society. So even though back in 2015, I was like, “Fuck the establishment. Like I know they're full of crap!” I didn’t want to go accepting any kind of help from them.
That doesn't mean that those beliefs didn't engrain in me, because as much as us rebels out there, I want to say that we just don't care about anything, a lot of us do. We just don't show the world.
And I know if you're listening to this and you're like, shaking your head, like we need to be friends. So message me, let's do this.
But back to cannabis and the role that it's had in my life. And this is why I precursor this episode with the fact that this is not for everyone. And it took me a really long time to get this point. And I really urge that you talk to doctors, counselors, friends, parents, whatever, when it comes to this.
Just because I'm telling you my experience does not mean that it is right for you.
So in 2020, I'm not sure if you know, but the world blew up and it went insane. And I had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life. My father passed away in front of me. So I've been dealing with grief and a little bit of PTSD.
[00:15:05] I've also been dealing with the end of a few “chapters of my life” in relation to my father that I had to for the, for cliche purposes, close and move forward.
And, and there's just been a lot going on in my brain. I'm also, you know, someone that has dealt with anxiety for literally 25 years, almost non-stop. So I think about a lot of stuff. I overanalyze it. I'm really in my head, and it is a habit because this is how I've been through my anxiety, my chronic anxiety, since I was five, six, seven years old.
But one day I decided that I just, I couldn't live in this really confusing dichotomy that was going on in my head. Intuitively I knew that the cannabis that I was using was helping me, but my analytical brain was telling me that I wasn't good enough because I was using cannabis to get me through the day.
And this is where it comes back to accepting help. I was working with a coach, Matt Cama. He's amazing. If you don't know who he is, I'm going to link him in this podcast description because he is dope. And he asked me this question.
He said, “What if marijuana, wasn't an issue for you? What if it didn't bother you the way it does? And what if you just let those emotions around it go?”
And yes, I paused for cinematic effect, but honestly I did pause in real life and I was like, is that possible? Am I allowed to do that? And that's when I realized that I have been waiting for a very long time for someone to give me permission to accept help. I’ve also been waiting for someone to, I guess, demonstrate how my cannabis use was actually not a form of addiction, but it was a form of medication.
Again, I really need to hit this home. I am not someone that smokes weed and sits on the couch and that is it. Smoking cannabis allows me to center. It allows me to focus because I have ADHD. It also allows me to not think as much, assuming I take the right type of, I smoke the right type of strain. It also calms down my nervous system.
Again, assuming I take, I smoke the right type of strain. And it also is a bit of a coping mechanism as I was a cigarette smoker for 12 years of my life as well. So, that action of smoking a, you know, it looks like a cigarette, a joint, was also comforting and gave me memories of the past, if you will.
But this is, this is a lot to take in. You're probably like, “okay, what's the point?” The point of this story is that we have a hard time accepting help in whatever form it comes in. And, for a lot of us, the type of help we need is not necessarily the type of help that is offered by mainstream mental health practitioners.
Sometimes the help that we need is actually a diet change.
But isn't really talked about by a psychologist, in a psychiatric facility, or by a therapist. Sometimes it's that we need a different form of medication than that has been offered to us in the past.
[00:18:36] Sometimes it's, we need permission to allow ourselves to accept help, because I'm a perfectionist. I've done everything pretty much by myself, most of my life, because my parents did not have the emotional bandwidth to parent me, unfortunately, because they had their own shit going on and it was part of my identity to do everything alone.
So I've been fighting with this. Internal, almost unknown battle inside with me for so long. But after that conversation with Matt, it really got me thinking. I was like, well, what if these feelings just disappeared? Like, what if I just accept that this is my form of medication and that's what I did.
So, I told you I had long-term chronic anxiety, all that stuff. I've never taken medication in the form of what is prescribed by GP’s (general practitioner doctors), because they may... It's ironic. I was so against it because they made me feel like I was an addict, but yet now the type of medication that I use is more viewed as that I'm an addict than had I taken a pill.
And it's kind of funny. And I laugh at myself because I'm basically a walking contradiction and a lot of them, but I do want to share the story because this is the thought process I went to. And I think a lot of us are probably going through this thought process. Maybe it's not showing up in forms of cannabis.
Because thinking of it as a form of accepting help scared me.
Maybe it's showing up in other forms, but whatever form it is and whatever type of medication that you're thinking about taking it is important to really think about it and see what negative feelings come up around that prescription, whatever it is. Because our mindset does play a huge role in how we adjust to the medication.
And this is all medication and yes maybe this isn't scientifically backed up, but I don't believe fully in science. I believe a lot in it don't get me wrong, but I also believe that there is so much more room for evolution in all realms of science that we have to be open to the opportunity as well as the chance that we don't know everything just quite yet. And in fairness, we're never going to know everything right at this moment.
[00:20:58] So, what do you do now? You've heard my story. You're like, “Whoa, she's been all over the place with medication. Maybe it's for me, maybe it's not.” And again, that's something that only you can decide. But for me, I chose to stop struggling.
I had to get out of this mindset that I wasn't good enough that I wasn't worthy enough to accept help from other people. Or worthy enough to accept help in the form of medication. I had to realize that the only person in this specific situation that was holding back was me and my beliefs.
And I'm not blaming anyone, I know why these beliefs were all compounded.
Partly, it was my therapist, partly it was society, partly it was me, partly it was because I wasn't thinking about things from a point of health. I was taking things from a point of survival. There were so many different factors that went into why I believed accepting help in the form of medication was so bad.
But once I finally did let go of that belief that if I was medicated, I wasn't as good enough, or I wasn't as worthy or I couldn't show up and do these podcasts for you because wasn't quote unquote, ”fully healed.” Something just changed in me, actually a lot changed in me. I remember the day in which that belief system just fell away from me, and it sounds so crazy.
I literally woke up and it wasn't there anymore. And it was the day after I had that conversation. What if these feelings weren't there right anymore? Now here's the thing. Medication is a slippery slope, because we use medication to hide. But we can also use medication to get better.
I did use cannabis to hide for quite some time. Probably 10 years. I've been using, I've been smoking marijuana from the time I was 15, pretty regularly. There were days, there were years where I'd stopped, but most of all, pretty regularly, especially in the last five years, almost every day. Accepting help can be scary because it doesn’t allow us to hide.
But when do you know when you're hiding, when you're not?
And I can't tell you that, unfortunately, that's something that's totally up to you. It's something that I just, I don't know enough about your story to help you with, but I can help you start to think about if you're using it for hiding purposes versus medical, like, it's actually helping you purposes.
[00:23:18] So let's ask some questions. First question is: what exactly is your ailment? Like, are you an anxiety sufferer? Are you someone that's dealing with PTSD? Are you someone that is chronically ill through fibromyalgia or something like that? Figure that out.
Then the second thing is: how do you react when you take that medication? Do you shut down? Do you become a person that you don't like?
And I just need to interrupt. This is something on a regular basis. This is not a day by day, because some days I wake up and I just, I don't feel great. Sometimes it has to do with my mind. Sometimes it has to be with medication. Sometimes it has to do with neither. But on a regular case day by day, like, what is your average or your baseline?
So, that's where we're asking the questions. So does it, do you hide, do you go to bed all day? Do you watch TV and don't do anything? For me, I was beating myself up, but yet I was still writing blog posts. I was applying to my master's program.
I was showing up for my mom who has cancer.
And I was showing up for my grandmother and my aunt who are mentally and physically disabled that I am now the legal guardian of. You see, I continued to show up in my life and I was still medicated. I was showing up safely in my life too, I want to be very clear about that. So I know I knew that for me, it was helping me. Accepting help allowed me to show up in life.
[00:24:44] It was allowing me to show up. It was giving me the extra, let's say oomph, to get out of bed and show up for all these responsibilities I now had. But used to not look like that, it used to be I'd wake up, I'd freak out, and the only thing that calmed me down was a joint. And then as soon as I smoked that joint, I was like, screw the world, I'm not going to do anything. And I'd watch TV and I'd eat my bodyweight in food. And I would be super unhealthy.
But now that's not what happens. So I also need to show you and highlight this is because it can be both. It can be a coping mechanism in a bad way, but it can also be a coping mechanism in a good way. And by accepting that coping mechanism, I was accepting help.
And again, I can't tell you which way it is.
I could just get you to start thinking about your own situation, your life and how you are showing up in it. I just want to remind you of one thing, whatever course of action you take when it comes to medication, remember that it does take time and that there is a lot of medication. I forget the actual term. It's not a refractory period, but basically there's a period of time that can last from weeks to months that your body needs to take to adjust to the substance. Meaning it most likely is going to get worse before it gets better (depending on the medication you take).
And that is another reason why you have to be really clear the reasonings that you are medicating, because if you are aware of the fact that it gets worse first, or it could potentially get worse and that you're medicating in a way to run away from things you can't run away from things if it's going to get worse. In fact, it's going to be probably a little bit harder when you're first adjusting.
And that's scary to think about too. So that's another reason why medication may or may not be for you. And I also want to be very clear. This isn't a question of, do I take medication or do I not? It's, “do I accept help or do I not?” Because medication, when it comes down to it, is help just like going for a walk is help.
Just like making sure you get adequate amounts of money, just like making sure you get adequate amount of water per day, just the same as if you get enough sleep.
That's all helping yourself. It’s all accepting help.
And medication is just another way that you can do that. Accepting help can look like medication or simply taking care of yourself and letting others help you.
[00:27:16] So I hope this story/ramblings of way longer than I had anticipated is helpful, insightful. And I'm sure you have a lot of questions. I mean, part of me even has a lot of questions cause I was like, did that make sense? Did I get the point across that I needed to?
But I think that's the one thing that's kind of cool about this topic. And I mean, on this topic of mental health is that I'm not right, but I'm not wrong. And there's really no way for me to tell you if I'm right or wrong. I can only tell you that I was right for myself. And I know I am because I've seen a progression in my own personal life. I have started a master's program, I've lost 20 pounds since this belief disappeared for me, and I've just woken up most days, really happy to not only be here, but to be able to see the effects of accepting help.
And I'm also a little, you know, not gonna lie you a little mad at myself as I'm like, why did I fight this for so long, but it'll come when it comes. So, you really got to think about if medication is for you in whatever form it is.
If you have questions about anything, please reach out to me.
I love talking one-on-one about these things.
You can find me on Instagram, Amy dot Demone. D E M O N E. And we can have a chat or two. If you want to find me on TikTok, I know most of you Americans don't have it because your guy's crazy, but Canadians holla at me. I'm here. The Empathy Front. All of these links will be in the show notes.
And I'd love to hear your opinion on this topic of accepting help. If it's the opposite of mine, let me know. I'm okay with holding a different opinion than you and I love to see some insight. And that's the cool thing I think about. I'm going to just flex a little bit. The cool thing about me is that I know that we can both be good people and share different opinions on certain things. And I'm not going to yell at you. But I am intrigued by you. So please reach out to me. Let me know. Let's have a conversation.
If you want to be on the podcast and talk about it, let me know I'm down for that. Reach out to me, Amy, at the empathy front.com, please. If you've liked this episode, please subscribe to my podcast. Let me know that you're liking it. Go over to iTunes, Spotify, wherever you listen to give it a rating. I don't actually know if Spotify allows you to rate, but either way, let me know that you're enjoying this content.
Show me some love, and it would be an honor for me to help you get through this crazy thing called life. Until next time, this is Amy on What We're Not Talking About. I hope you have a bitching day.