There's No Shame in Taking Meds
Last updated: March 2023
About 4 years ago, I stopped taking my medications. I had been on mesalamine for my ulcerative colitis and had been in remission for about a year. I was in my early 20s and I assumed that because I’d been well for this long, I really didn’t need the medication any longer. I tapered off without talking to a doctor and felt good for less than 6 months. Then I flared again, and that flare set off a cycle of being unwell off and on until today. I still haven’t achieved remission.
I regret stopping my UC medication
Stopping my medication is one of my biggest regrets. It’s possible the mesalamine would have failed me eventually, but I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve stayed in remission much longer if I had kept taking it. When I think about why I stopped taking the medication, I realize that I believed I wasn’t really that sick. I didn’t think a person like me — a young woman who was pretty active and ate pretty well — would need to be on medication long-term. It was a type of quiet shame. As in, I didn’t feel like everyone else if I was taking medications, so I just stopped.
On top of that, I had subscribed to the idea that long-term medication use is "bad." What I didn’t understand — and that I see now – is that long-term medication use is meant to improve one’s quality of life. What’s really bad is if I can’t spend time with friends or family or doing the things I like to do because I’m in the bathroom all day. What’s really bad is if I can’t enjoy foods I like or I suffer from malabsorption from my disease.
I decided that my medications were "bad" when I actually knew very little about them. What I was really subscribing to was the shame perpetuated by the wellness industry, which says that truly healthy people never need any assistance in being healthy. They are naturally healthy and never need medications. Instead of understanding my body and my situation, I felt shame that I would put something that others would label as "bad" into my body. So, I stopped, and I got myself into a far worse situation.
Medication isn't "bad" – it helps me live
It’s true that some people may decide not to stay on medications, and that might work for them. For some, though, diet modification and supplements aren’t enough. I’m one of those people. Medications are what keep me forging my path ahead in life. So, we must understand that there isn’t shame in making a choice to stay on medications if our quality of life is improved by that. And if isn’t, then we ought to discuss that with our doctors first.
I don’t like to live with regrets, so I look forward. In looking forward, though, I take the lessons I’ve learned. I go to my biologic treatments regularly. I talk to my doctors about my concerns around medications. And I live my life as well as I can.
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