Rosemary Donahue
March 09, 2016 1:59 pm
iStock / Kevin Smart

A friend recently interviewed me for an article about how young Brooklyn couples view domesticity. She asked questions about how my partner and I had made a home together in the city — a refuge from chaos — that truly felt homey, when ideas of home typically pictured milestones (like kids and mortgages) that we had not yet reached. I had been happy to participate — and then, a few days later, she told me the editors wanted to do a photoshoot in our home.

Like most busy young people, our apartment wasn’t exactly photo-ready, and while we were excited that we would finally have a nice photo of us and our two dogs together in our house, we also realized we’d have to scramble to clean. Thankfully, we had a weekend to do it, and while I was cleaning our room, I reached the highly disheveled top of my dresser. The top of my dresser houses my jewelry, hats, and perfume, as well as my anxiety medication. I paused.

The thing is, I’m usually all for talking about my struggles with depression and anxiety, as well as my decision to take medication. It wasn’t a decision that was easy for me to make, partially because I made it at a time when I felt I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I frequently post on Twitter when I’m having a rough time — not to ask for pity, but because I hope to normalize the conversation. 

I hope that if someone else out there is feeling the same but feels alone or doesn’t have the words, they might feel comforted to know they aren’t alone. I like to use HG’s own Sammy Nickalls’ hashtag #TalkingAboutIt so that other people can find my tweets — both successes and low moments — and join the conversation.

For a second, I considered shoving my medication into my sock drawer, hiding the orange bottles from the background of what might otherwise be a “perfect” photo. I sat on my bed for a minute and thought about this instinct — the instinct to curate my life in such a way that I allowed my mental health issues to be portrayed through words, but not through images. It seemed like such a disconnect, and it was one that I hadn’t yet acknowledged. I realized that for some reason, prior to that moment, I’d speak openly about taking medication for anxiety and depression online in flat text but I had a knee-jerk reaction to shove the visual representation into a drawer, if it meant that it would be shown in a photo with my actual face. The more I thought about it, the more wrong it felt to put the medication in a place where it couldn’t be seen, just for the sake of a “perfect” photo — especially when the word perfect is such a bogus term, anyway. My life is closer to perfect now than it’s ever been, much of that is partially due to the medication itself, and my commitment to making sure I’m doing things that are good for my mental health. I put the medication back on the dresser, in a more prominent position than before.

  The photographer came, and we didn’t end up taking any photos in our room, anyway, though I’m glad I decided to leave the bottles on my dresser. In the days since, when I’ve taken my medication each morning and night, I’ve felt more proud of myself than ever — not only for that particular decision, but for the decision to start taking it at all, and for every decision since that’s contributed to my mental health and the conversation surrounding mental health in general. I haven’t yet, but I may take some sort of photo soon with my medication to share on social media. I normally share selfies on days when I feel great, or days when I feel bad and need to remind myself that I can feel cute — and that’s entirely my prerogative, as selfies are often a powerful coping mechanism. However, I realized this week that I also want my image to be associated with all the things that help me get there — including medication. Lena Dunham recently took such a selfie, and it started an important conversation about medication that I’d like to continue.

It’s important that we don’t shove this conversation in a drawer — that we allow both our ups and our downs to be heard, because only then do we get the visibility we deserve.

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