One of the hardest decisions of my life was choosing to go on antidepressants. I had no “reason,” really. I didn’t match that typical picture of an individual suffering from depression: blankets drawn over her head, unable to function. I’d worked in the mental-health field for years, and felt pretty secure in my knowledge of which patients required medications, or at least a psychiatric referral to rule out the necessity of meds.

So when a supervisor encouraged me to see a psychiatrist after a traumatic event in my life, I knew the doctor would dismiss any organic concern. Sure, I was experiencing more lows than normal, and even had some suicidal ideation — but I diagnosed myself with dysthymia, a low-grade depression that generally doesn’t require meds. I chalked it up to post-traumatic stress disorder, and I was confident I’d overcome this hurdle.

Because if there was one thing I could say with confidence, it was that I definitely did not need medication.

It’s ironic how, even among those working in mental health, there’s still something of a stigma toward psychotherapy and medication. Even after practicing as a social worker, treating others, I refused to engage in treatment. Me? Need a therapist? Pfft. I’m managing just fine, thank you very much. I am in touch with my emotions, understand the narrative of my life, know why I do what I do, over-analyze to an extreme.

I slowly chipped away at that stigma when I made the decision to enter therapy a few years ago. That decision came soon before my second child was born. Some people get the urge to clean; my nesting is expressed through wanting to go to therapy. I felt there were so many things I had to work through, understand about myself, my upbringing, my marriage, my parenting, before I could bring new life into the world.

It was a challenging decision, and I gained a new respect for my clients who call in to request a session, and then come in to my office, week after week. It was fascinating to be on the other side, to understand the therapeutic relationship from a different perspective.

And although it shifted my view of those who decide to go to therapy, seeing them through more sympathetic, understanding eyes, there was still a clear demarcation of those clients who are on medication. There’s “us” — the normal ones — and “them,” those who are victims of their own minds, who need external input to gain control and be one of “us.”

I was clearly “us,” a normal one, a strong, capable woman who managed just fine. Why would I need medication? If any psychiatrist were to see my profile, they’d quickly see I’m an overachiever… to a fault. I am a writer, a social worker, a teacher, a lecturer. On the side, I moonlight as a songwriter and a ballet dancer. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 573)