When I first started doing this work over twenty-five years ago, I had very strong views about medication. I had been raised to believe that medication was a “cop out”, a belief that was reinforced by my studies in graduate school that, informed by a Jungian depth model, sought to heal symptoms at the root. I don’t recall anybody outrightly telling us that medication was “bad” when I was graduate school, but the message was in the subtext: If you’re taking medication, you’re not really doing your inner work.
My early work with clients was also filled with stories about the downsides of medication, which reinforced to my negative view.
Clients shared their horror stories of being put on one medication after another until their brain was a confused cocktail of chemicals that caused more anxiety than they had had originally.
Clients talked about how they would go to their general doctor to talk about anxiety and, instead of discussing diet, meditation, or therapy, would only be given a prescription for Prozac.
Or clients who had been on medication for years and hadn’t noticed any difference except for a slew of negative side effects.
However, in more recent years I have come into contact with dozens of clients who have benefited enormously from medication and would not have been able to delve into the deeper work without it. I have clients who have taken medication for a short run – 6-9 months – then weaned off it. I have clients who know they’ll need to be on medication for the rest of their lives. And I have many in between: they stay on meds for two to three years and then slowly wean off of them.
I’ve also noticed that there has been a shift in the field of psychiatry over the last several years where psychiatrists are much more mindful about dosing and seem more aware of the deleterious effects of changing medication too quickly. There has also been a rise in holistic psychiatry, which seeks to use traditional medication alongside natural supplements to treat anxiety and depression. These shifts give me more faith in the field.
So what do I think about medication now? I am completely supportive of each person finding their own way with it.
And do think that medication is a cop out? Absolutely not.
Here’s the thing: People who are drawn to my work aren’t looking for a quick fix. They’re not seeking to bypass doing the hard work of emotional healing. So there’s really no danger of emotional bypassing. And, for some people, it’s the medication itself that allows them to do the deeper work as it quiets the mind enough for them to drop into the body.
Here’s the bottom line: Life is hard. Very hard at times. Within reason, I support anything that helps take the edge off and give us some relief. I am grateful that medication exists and I’m blown away that some brilliant humans figured out how to create a pill that can offer psychological relief.
I felt compelled to write this post because several people over the past few years have shared with me that they were nervous to tell me that they wanted to try medication. That makes me sad, and yet I completely understand their hestation because of some of my early writing on the subject. So, I wanted to clear the air and tell you that my purist has calmed down :). Writing that makes me think about our Gathering Gold episode on Purity and Perfection. Time for me to listen to my own medicine – hahahahaha!
I hope this post helps clarify my position. I’d love to hear your thoughts on medication in the comments below.