Guest Post from Shirin Chowdhury
For the past couple years, I’ve been prescribed a lot of different medications for my various mental and physical ailments. It’s now obvious to me that my physical issues were influenced by poor mental health—I often feel like my body and mind are working together to make me feel as shitty as possible. It’s a domino effect that keeps me curled up in my bed, crying, avoiding responsibilities, and constantly feeling like I’m not living up to my full potential. When that type of behavior becomes an everyday routine, something has to change—but it’s not always up to me and me alone.
My decision to start taking anti-depressants was not an easy one, but I haven’t regretted it for even a second. I spent most of my life buying into the stigma against mental illness and medication. I was taught that seeking help through medication was an easy way out, a "temporary solution,” and a path taken by those too weak to simply fix it themselves. I’m not going to say that medication “fixed me” or that it even stopped me from getting cripplingly depressed from time-to-time. But it has been an immense help getting me to where I am today. I’m not convinced that I would’ve graduated college if it weren’t for the help of modern medicine. I truly believe that medication has helped me access a part of my brain that had been asleep for most of my life.
I’ve saved nearly all of the empty pill bottles that once contained some type of psychiatric medication. I made them into a decorative piece to remind myself that there is no shame in seeking medical help. It’s a reminder that even when times are tough, something beautiful can grow from it.
Using a metal plant holder I found in my parents’ garage, some string, my empty pill bottles and other various materials, I managed to create a little stigma-fighting chandelier!
Hanging in the back is a page cut out of my journal from August of 2015. It was written about a week before I started taking anti-depressants for the first time. It says: “I want to disappear.” Looking at the entries I wrote in the weeks to come, there's a palpable change in my tone. Journaling has been an important part of my healing process, and comparing entries from my bad days to the words I wrote on my good days is always a reminder that bad days are temporary and that healing is not linear.
I’ve stashed some other items in certain bottles that represent significant parts of my mental health journey. In one of the bottles I’ve sealed the blades from a box-cutting knife I once used to inflict harm on myself. In another, I have a folded up sticky note that my best friend left for me during a particularly hard time. It says: “you are okay.” In others, I have pieces of jewelry I associate with certain memories and periods of my life, good and bad.
I know that if it weren’t for the chaotic and wounded mess that is my Brain, I would not be me. I find solace in the fact that I can use even my darkest thoughts to create something bright and beautiful. Here’s to being open and honest about my personal struggle, in hopes that it’ll help end the stigma that surrounds mental illness! You are not alone.