Today’s guest is Nyemade Boiwu. Nyemade recently wrote blog post on the NAMI website titled “It’s Okay If You Need Meds to Be Okay.” This post caught my eye because I’ve been a part of several conversations lately about stigma where taking medication has been the focal point.
In today’s conversation Nyemade and I tackle the stigma of mental health medication from the perspective of two people who both take medication for mental health differences. I hope you learn as much from her perspectives as I did.
You can connect with Nyemade here and find links mentioned in the episode here: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, All her links on Link Tree, Nami Article: It’s Okay If you Need Meds to be Okay
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:
- Nyemade shares with us about her personal struggles with mental illness beginning around the age of 13 that ultimately lead her to attempting suicide. She explains that about 50% of people who will struggle with a mental illness begin showing symptoms by the age of 14. We talk about how this is overlooked and brushed aside as “being a teenager” often.
- She describes her journey with her mental health after that time in her early teenage years as a long and winding road that took over a decade to travel until she finally got the help she needed in the form of medication, and effective therapy.
- She talks about having seasonal affective disorder (living in Rochester, NY) and how she tried to out-run her mental illness by moving to Florida at the age of 19 instead of taking medication or tackling the problems directly. She was hoping that medication wasn’t going to be needed, so she tried to run from it because of the stigma associated with taking medication for mental illness.
- Where does stigma associated with mental health medication come from?
Nyemade explains that society has created this stigma and that the media perpetuates it. Generally people who are taking medication for mental illness are grouped into one of two buckets: 1) a “crazy” person who is running around hearing voices, or 2) someone who is overly emotional and needs to “get over it.”
A lot of people who need help, don’t view themselves as being in one of those buckets so they avoid medication because of how they may be perceived by others as being in one of those groups mentioned above. People think they should be strong enough to “get over it” if it is just an emotional thing.
- Nyemade talks about her journey to find a therapist that worked well with her. She explains that often we aren’t going find someone we click with right away and you may need to try another therapist to find someone that gives you the space you need to open up and do real work.
- What advice would you give younger you about how to deal with this stuff knowing what you know now?
Nyemade explains that she would give her younger self the advice to talk about things more and it doesn’t matter to who, it can be a therapist, or a friend, or someone else who is struggling. She recalls being young, and feeling like she was the odd person out, but as she got older, and started engaging with people on the internet, she saw that she was not the only one struggling. Growing up she felt as if she was the odd person out, but because of social media and connectivity online, she realizes many other people feel the way she does and there’s been a lot of comfort in talking with others (not just clinicians) about how she’s feeling.
- What worked for you, to get better and feel better?
Nymade told me that she started feeling better once she got therapy right, with the right therapist and added medication to her routine. The therapy wasn’t enough for her but with medication, things started to get better. She explains that depression is not the same experience for everyone and that it can be situational, but it can also be medical and ther are different ways to treat it depending on what’s causing it so you have to figure out what’s going to work for you.
- How do we fight stigma?
We need to talk more about how we are feeling. It’s ok to share what we are going through. Most importantly, we need to hold ourselves accountable around the language we use every day. We can’t be saying things like “crazy” flippantly. She talks about hwo hard it was for her to change her language and why we need to be responsible for calling others out when they use language that doesn’t help reduce stigma. We can start by just being aware of how often we say things like “crazy” etc. This is really important because these words lose their significance when we abuse them out of context regularly.