It’s that simple.
There are too many questions on social media of people asking Pop-Advocacy sites and people with lived experience how they should convince their friend to get back on medication. Let’s be clear that this is often out of love, concern, pain, and desperation. If you are reading this and have a friend or loved one you believe should be on medication, don’t give up on reading this just yet. This article is not here to bash you, punish you, or guilt you. It’s here for guidance.
We’re talking about this because mental health conditions strike unexpectedly at times, roll in and out of our lives in episodes, and put stress on everyone effected. We’re talking about this because often healthy boundaries get left in the dark when we’re all under so much stress. Those of us struggling can become dependent and feel helpless, while those of us who feel responsible for the well-being of our loved-one feel guilt that we can’t make this pain go away.
We’re talking about this to make it easier on everyone.
One of the reasons pestering your loved one to get on medication is often a losing battle is because there is absolutely zero objective conversation when it comes to medication. Often it is “take this because it’s good for you” instead of “What are the benefits of you taking this? What are the consequences? What can I/we do that can help you with whatever your decision is?”
The “take it because I know what’s good for you” argument is given subtly (or sometimes overtly) in the professional setting. To come home and hear it again, aggressively or compassionately, is all it takes to send someone over the edge, or push them farther away from pharmaceuticals.
There is no consideration of what the person who actually has to take the medication feels. If they feel stable enough off the medication and people constantly tell them they should get back on to avoid the ups and down or voices or anxiety, it creates a lot of self-doubt, a lot of fear, and another sense of helplessness. That can feed depression, it can feed anxiety, it can egg on voices.
If they don’t appear stable, if they lost their job or can’t maintain one, if they are having suicidal thoughts or talking to themselves often, and they still don’t want medication, telling them they should get on some can be seen as forceful and power-hungry. When we’re in the throws of an episode or just having a bad day–those exist for everyone, you know, not necessarily indicative of a mental breakdown–anyone who approaches with concern in the form of demands or a “hero” mentality will seem like an enemy. Rather than feeling the love you have for us, we’ll only feel your disapproval. We’ll feel like something is wrong with us or we’ll feel attacked. That could feed depression, anxiety, and could exacerbate delusions.
This is where having boundaries comes in super handy.
The thing about watching a loved one struggle is that we put a lot of their wellness on our shoulders. The thing about their wellness is that it’s not our responsibility.
That is not meant harshly.
People have choice. They are allowed to struggle. In fact, struggle can result in life transformation. Sometimes if we’re blocked from feeling, if we’re blocked from experiencing what we should, we may not come across that one moment in our lives that tells us: “I need to make some changes“.
You are not that voice for your loved one.
And so a boundary would be limiting your involvement. Resist the urge to help them at any time, particularly if they aren’t doing much to work on themselves.
But, give them space. Make statements like “You’re doing well/unwell today. What’s changed?” and when they answer, listen objectively. Avoid judging statements like “well, if you got back on your medication this wouldn’t be such a big deal” or “look, it’s not my fault you don’t want to do anything to feel better”. Arguing will increase cortisol levels in both of you.
If you feel bullied into helping your loved one, or they often use their condition as a means to exploit your help, stop blaming this behavior on the condition. Most often this is a learned behavior and a result of learned helplessness. Being angry is often a result of feeling like a burden, feeling helpless and out of control, but that doesn’t mean you deserve to be verbally or physically attacked, nor does it mean you need to accept that treatment. Medication will often not stop this behavior.
Louder Now: MEDICATION WILL NOT STOP THIS BEHAVIOR.
And if it does, it’s only because of the sedative seffects.
And so regardless, the behavior is never addressed. Your trauma is never addressed. Your loved one can continue to be angry, feel misunderstood and undervalued, and you will continue to feel like a doormat and blame their “sickness”. It’s quite a cycle, huh?
Understand that this is not your responsibility, nor is it your struggle.
You’re concerned, you’re worried, fearful, angry, confused. So is your loved one.
Maybe they don’t need a solution right now. Maybe they just want to feel supported and understood and heard. And it’s time to consider if you’re willing to be more of a supportive force and less of a hero.
This isn’t debate class. Having a stellar argument won’t result in discussion, it’ll result in fallout. You want discussion. Go in objectively. Go in with the conception that this is not your mind nor your body, but it is the mind and body of someone you care deeply for. Go in understanding that they have the right to choose and you have the right to your beliefs and discuss both. You may have to agree to disagree and just enjoy each other’s point of view.
If you’re really invested, research all the advantages and disadvantages of medication. Read stories of people who have been helped and hurt by medication, read stories of those who have successfully lived off of medication. Read psychology research papers (not secondary sources). If this part is confusing to you, read this.
Think of a time in your life when you made a decision or something happened which transformed your perception of yourself, the world, and the people around you. Now imagine that never happened.
Controlling someone’s choices can block transformative experiences. Life isn’t debate class.
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