Psychiatric Medication Improves Lives

Writer Julia Fierro describes how this worked for her in a recent article. Plagued by writer’s block and OCD, she gave up writing for eight years. She describes how the medication Zoloft restored her health: “One specific pill is not a cure for everyone, and most people will live healthy lives without medication, but Zoloft was, and still is, my brain chemistry miracle. I haven’t had a panic attack in seven years. I had the focus necessary to return to writing.” She was able to finish her first novel, and far from feeling “medicated” she writes, “I am still myself. In fact, I am more myself than ever, able to tap veins of creativity and insight I never knew existed, once buried under the clamor of anxiety. My writing, too, was born again.”

This challenges the persistent myth that drugs can stifle a person’s true self. Fierro says:

“There are many who claim that antidepressants stifle creativity. Years ago, at the height of my instability, my husband and I saw “A Beautiful Mind,” and I thought, if John Nash can cure himself of his schizophrenia by sheer willpower, I should be able to stop obsessing. It was this cruel expectation of myself that filled my 20s and 30s with self-loathing. I try not to think of all the moments of joy I lost during that time, or the thousands of words I could not write, all because of my fear that medication would kill my creative muse.”

Depression and anxiety do not lead to creative genius: they can murder it. Psychosis, especially, is not beautiful. While John Nash was able to occasionally stifle his demons, most people cannot, and leading them to think they can “white knuckle” through it is unfair. Who knows how much more creative he might have been if he had appropriate treatment? Vincent van Gogh made beautiful paintings when he was mad, but they may have been even better had he been well. He certainly would have lived longer.

Clearly medication is not for everyone, and like all medical decisions, the choice to take it should be made carefully. But it is time for us to stop treating it like a moral decision. It is not a sign or weakness to take these drugs; nor is it a sign of superior character or wisdom about health to decline them. There is nothing noble about suffering, and suffering that can be relieved but left untreated is a great loss. While many people may be too quick to turn to psychiatric medications, there are many others who let prejudice and misconceptions keep them from a valuable source of help, and that is what is a shame. Fierro has done a brave thing by sharing her personal story with us. She concludes:

“I once feared that, if I changed, the world would end. But I have stepped into a better world that continues to astonish me, that has my (still obsessive) mind seeking not just danger around every corner but also wonder…. I can almost see the pages of the books I will someday write. I’m ready and I have some catching up to do.

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