Alameida writes:

Occasionally a well-meaning friend will look at my bedside table and say, “wow, you’re taking so much medicine! Maybe you’d feel better if you just stopped taking so much! I’d feel bad if I was taking all those pills.”

I’m going to talk slowly, but here’s the thing: people take medicine because they’re sick. Why on God’s green earth would you imagine I am so stupid as not to have tried not taking medicine? The “not taking medicine” state is the very state in which I ever came to the doctor about a given problem, as a little thinking would make clear. “Oh, but maybe that’s gone now and you should stop taking them again!” You know what? I tried that too! Again, not a complete moron over here.

I am myself somewhat medicine-resistant. Not in the biological sense (that I have a tolerance), but in the temperamental. I twisted my back something irksome, and though I vaguely know I would feel better if I took some Alieve, I still haven’t done so. I have the vague feeling that medication is something to be avoided except when you really need it. I don’t take a real position on our “over-medicated society” (except perhaps as it pertains to antibiotics), though a lot of people do.

There is, however, a difference between saying “There are too many people on ADHD meds” and suggesting, to someone you don’t know really well, that they shouldn’t be taking whatever meds. This isn’t an appeal on the basis of “don’t judge me if you haven’t walked in my shoes” but rather an appeal to not personal judgments on relatively limited information. I had a… friend named Sally on anti-depression medication. Sometimes she would go off them. I could tell when she had. She would become erratic. She would become paranoid. She would, all of the sudden, be really bitter. Even on her meds, there was always a Good Sally and a Bad Sally. Off the meds, Good Sally would go to hibernation. There are other people I have known really well who talk about going back on meds where I think “This is less an inflammation of your depression and more just being sad and/or bored.” Sometimes I’ve been right (the medication didn’t help) and sometimes I’ve been wrong (it did). In the event that I was right, comparatively little was lost, in my view. In the event that I was wrong, I would have (if I’d said anything) told them not to do something that genuinely helped. It’s easy for me to say that they should grin and bear it.

This all ties into my original Unsolicited Advice.

Moving from the general (too many people taking medication, too many people going to law school) to the specific and universal (someone taking medication should consider stopping, don’t ever go to law school except under the circumstances I outline) is not just offensive to some, but often counterproductive. The better part is listening. And, if not directing (and definitely not directing), informing (“a lot of people think that going to Southeast State Law School will get them a good career. Sometimes it might, but a lot of those people are going to be very disappointed.”) A degree of humility is warranted, when you’re making guesses at someone else’s life.

Category: Coffeehouse

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7 Responses to Unsolicited Advice II: Meds

  1. Samson J. says:

    Very, VERY many patients seem to have this medication-averse view. *shrug* I suppose I can understand it, but I really don’t share it.

  2. Black and Blue Man says:

    After my first four sessions with my psychiatrist, he said that he would be prescribing me antidepressants in conjunction with weekly therapy.

    I admitted to him that I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. I had already been on other medication for a few years for some physical ailments – but now having to take more? More drugs that I would have to be reliant on? And especially for my mental health?

    Apart from the ongoing cost of medication, I think others have felt like me – there’s that fear of losing independence, and also the fear of perhaps running out of something important that you need to keep going.

    Despite my misgivings, though, I started taking my medication – and along with weekly therapy, my life has been transformed and continues to get better each year.

  3. trumwill says:


    I think for me, a lot of it was the whole “tough it out” mentality I was raised with. My parents thought – and not wholly without reasons – whenever I was sick, I was faking it. Whenever I was hurt, I was whining (insert story here about when a jellyfish landed on my stomach and it was only when I was blistering red did I get so much as meat tenderizer to rub on my stomach). So I suppose I have internalized at least some of that ethos.

    It’s not a bad thing for our health care system, though. I haven’t been to the emergency room since that baseball bat found its way to my eye in the third grade. Even when I got pneumonia, I just took myself to the clinic (over the skepticism of my parents – who, to be fair, have become more laid back over the years).

  4. trumwill says:

    Apart from the ongoing cost of medication, I think others have felt like me Рthere’s that fear of losing independence, and also the fear of perhaps running out of something important that you need to keep going.

    Yeah, that, too. Especially when it comes to dispositional medication. I’m really glad you got the care you needed.

  5. Sheila Tone says:

    A lot of poor people, especially African Americans, seem especially resistant to the idea of taking psychotropic medications. Often long-term incarcerated parents, parents who have otherwise been without custody for long periods of time, and parents with hard-core illegal drug habits who have children in the system will automatically file absolutely uninformed oppositions to their children taking psychotropic medication. Also, my clients with the most severe untreated psychotic disorders, and who are the most resistant to treatment, are mostly African American. Some parents speak of psychotropic medication with self-righteous dismissiveness as though taking it represents a moral failing (“I don’t want to be a pill-popper!”) — even though meanwhile, they test positive for meth or crack or pot.

  6. Sheila Tone says:

    A former friend refused to even take Advil on her period. Yet she bitched about how in pain she was and frequently demanded special treatment and accommodation for that and other minor ailments. She claimed Advil and other similar pain relievers were “too strong” for her. It seemed she had a kind of perverse pride in believing her body was so delicately balanced she couldn’t pollute it with the over-the-counter crap us commoners use.

  7. trumwill says:

    My view is generally… if it’s bad enough to complain about, it’s bad enough to take medication for. I’m not 100% consistent on this, but if I comment to Clancy that I have a headache (for instance), I don’t feel like I am in a position to say “No!” to doing something about it. When I don’t, it’s because I procrastinate and forget (if the headache goes away). I rarely get the sort of headaches that are debilitating. Even my opthalmic migraines are headache-free.

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