I’ve never been one to shy away from my battles with my mental health. In the years that I’ve been active online I’ve documented battles with bulimia, depression and anxiety, and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by the warmth and kindness that engulfs you from strangers the minute you share anything even slightly ‘taboo’. But, at the tail end of 2021 I decided to share with my community of Instagram followers that I had been prescribed Citalopram (a commonly prescribed anti-depressant), and the response has been, well… different to how I imagined.
It’s sometime last autumn and I’m sat on my own in the car having a casual Instagram scroll before I will myself to undo my seat belt and vacate the vehicle. As I’m flicking through stories from random people, most of whom I’ve never met, I see a girl I know sharing a selfie of herself along with a box of medication. She’s tagged Dr Alex George from Love Island and used the hashtag #PostYourPill. A little more stalking and Insta-digging and I realise this is a new thing. Click on that hashtag and you will find thousands and thousands of men and women across the globe taking photos of themselves and the medication they take to treat their mental illnesses. It is chillingly beautiful. It is normal, seemingly-happy, every day people you’d pass in the street admitting that they get it, that they struggle, that you as as far from alone as you could ever imagine. Which, when you’re battling one of the loneliest diseases to ever exist, is truly quite something.
I got out of the car and made my way into the chemist to pick up my own Citalopram prescription (20mg at the time, and now up to 30mg) and made the decision, without overthinking it too much, to share my own #PostYourPill on my Instagram stories. It was viewed by over 30,000 people.
The first time I had made the decision to accept my GP’s advice and go onto anti-depressants was in my early twenties. I told very few people. And the people that I did tell offered a mixed reaction. There was those who supported my choice to do whatever was needed to help fix my head (mostly those who had been there themselves and understood how medication could be an absolute game changer), but there were also those who couldn’t understand. As one friend said: “Oh but Hannah, why? You’re so much stronger than that.”
But the truth is that the strength is in not only seeking help, but in accepting it too – in whatever form that may come in. Whether that’s therapy or a cup of tea with a mate, or in a little white pill that’ll help your brain work in a slightly different way. When I opened myself up on Instagram, I wasn’t met by medication sceptics, I was met by hundreds of fellow anti-depressant takers, many of whom still felt that they were ‘wrong’ somehow by accepting medication. I was surprised by just how many women slid into my DMs, many of them people I’d met in real life or had had multiple online conversations with. Women I didn’t perceive as ‘crazy’ or ‘ill’ or ‘mental’. Women that just looked as though they lived fairly normal lives too.
I’ve continued to try and talk about my anti-depressants without placing too much ‘this is a big deal’ because whilst yes, they can feel like a big deal, I know it’s important to view them in much the same way you would paracetamol or Rennie. I found out earlier this week, whilst at a routine Specsavers eye test, that Citalopram can alter your vision and make it harder to focus, because the medication numbs the nerves. I had no idea, I thought my vision has just taken a dramatic downturn. But I shared that on stories and was flooded with DMs from other women who had seen similar symptoms but had no idea to associate it with their medication.
I hope that by normalising anti-depressants and the vital role in which they have for so many of us getting out of bed and cracking on with life, we’ll start to talk more about them. Not just in the big way but in the little ways too. We’ll learn more about the ways they impact us, and the ways in which they can help us, and in doing so we’ll start to feel less alone and less crazy. I feel as though I am part of the biggest secret club to ever exist – we never even realised each other existed until now.
So here’s to the anti-depressant angels, the coolest gang I’ve ever had the pleasure of being part of <3