If you take medication to manage your mental health, chances are you've encountered someone who's said something like, they're all for you managing your mental health, but that they would never put something in their body that changes its "natural rhythm." Mental health stigma takes many forms, one of which is the implication that mental health medication isn't "natural," or is a "last resort," or a temporary measure, when in reality, medication can often be lifesaving. Enter the #MyFavoriteMeds hashtag on Instagram, a powerful message about ending mental health medication shaming.
The movement was started by Jen Gotch, host of the podcast Jen Gotch is OK... Sometimes and founder and CCO of ban.do. Gotch, who talks about mental health on her podcast, posted a snap of her mental health medication on Instagram on Dec. 1, and the trend was quickly picked up by My Favorite Murder co-host and mental health advocate Georgia Hardstark, who posted her own snap and credited Gotch as her inspo. From there, MFM fans, aka murderinos, began posting their pictures with Grace Ford McCabe adding the hashtag #MyFavoriteMeds along the way. While medication isn't magic, those of us who take it know it's a big part of staying well.
"Taking medication for mental health has always been a normal thing amongst my family and friends, so I sometimes forget that it's a taboo subject for so many people," Hardstark tells Bustle. "As soon as I saw Jen Gotch's post showing her medication it hit me what a simple but powerful message it was to just say 'I need a little help and I'm not ashamed of it.'"
Hardstark and Gotch posting photos of their medications on a public forum like Instagram allows others to feel safe doing the same, including me (pictured above). This is so important because mental illness and medication shaming is a real problem, and it can create a barrier to treatment for those who need it most. When high profile people disclose that they live with mental illness, it can make a big difference.
"Some people with mental illness never seek treatment because they feel shame. Knowing that they are not alone, that someone they admire has mental illness too, can be a powerful motivator to seek the help they need," Dr. David Hu, medical director at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches in Florida, told Healthline. Gotch says that for her, medication is an important part of her overall wellness plan, and she's not afraid to let others know.
'"Medication is not a cure all. It's important to have a holistic approach to your personal and mental wellness," she tells Bustle. "But for those of us that suffer and are committed to doing everything we can to feel good, it is a vital part of the equation. Treating your mental illness is a major responsibility that should be approached with self awareness, emotional intelligence, knowledge, and qualified professional help."
Deciding to go on medication is a personal choice, and not one made lightly. When someone who takes medication discloses that they've made that choice, it's not helpful to ask if they've tried diet changes, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, etc. (Yes, I've tried it all and sorry, but yoga is actually not a cure for every problem.) While these tools might relieve symptoms for some people, everyone is different. It's important to create an individual wellness plan in conjunction with your doctor, and while that might include yoga and meditation, for some people, it also includes medication. While meditation has helped with my anxiety, I still need my meds, and that's OK.
If you've experienced the swirling pattern of non-stop negative thoughts, self-loathing, anxiety so bad you can't leave your home, depression that flattens you to the point you can't get out of bed, or any number of the debilitating effects of mental illness, and medication is part of a wellness plan you're working on with your doctor, there doesn't have to be any shame in your game.
"I think it's important to let people know that having your shit together isn't an easy thing, and attempting to make your life better through pharmaceuticals is something that demonstrates self-care, not weakness," Hardstark says. "I've read so many of the posts from the hashtag and it just fills me with hope, which is hard to come by these days."
"It's so important to end the stigma around mental heath medication — not only so that those who need it have the tools and the support to pursue that journey, but also to increase everyone's understanding of and empathy toward those who need it," Gotch says.
Brit Bronson, founder of spaceMVMNT, a platform built to empower people living with or affected by mental illness, said in her #MyFavoriteMeds post that she, like a lot of people, has a love-hate relationship with her medication.
"Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. I’ve struggled with taking my medication since first being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The reality for me is that it doesn’t get easier, but I have accepted that I can’t function without them. Grateful to have found the perfect cocktail of anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers to help get me through this thing we call life #myfavoritemeds."
As more and more mental health advocates with a platform, like Gotch and Hardstark, come out and talk openly about their struggles with mental illness and their decision to take medication, more people suffering in silence can see that it's OK to ask for help. That there are other people just like them who also need help with their mental health. This is why #MyFavoriteMeds is so beautiful. It not only allows people to feel safe enough to disclose, it connects them to each other.
In fact, Hardstark chose #MyFavoriteMeds as her "Fuckin' Hooray," a segment at the end of each show where Hardstark and her co-host Karen Kilgariff each name something they're grateful for, on episode 150 of My Favorite Murder. "I know it's a really weird topic for a lot of people to talk about, so the fact that they're doing it is really incredible. [People posting it] says there doesn't need to be a stigma behind this. We all need help sometimes." Hooray to that.