As I was walking into the pharmacy today to drop off a new prescription form, I wondered at the shame some people have regarding certain illnesses. I just visited my doctor again today, a follow up on a visit I had at the beginning of April when I talked to my doctor about my dysthymia, a type of low-level depression. He prescribed the generic version of Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant. The initial dosage was for 150 mg a day; after today’s visit, since I had not experienced any of the possible side effects from that medication, he upped my daily dosage to 300 mg—and hence the need for the new prescription.
For many, the thought of taking medication for mental illness is embarrassing in ways that taking medication for high blood pressure or allergies is not. And I also take medications for both high blood pressure and severe allergies. But the reaction people have to news reports about an individual when it is announced “he was on anti-depressants,” is different than if he was on anti-histamines. That someone takes Allegra regularly matters not to the news, unlike if he’s on Wellbutrin.
Given that medication can help something like dysthymia as much as medication can help my sneezing at pollen or my high-blood pressure, it seems rather obvious that there’s not a fundamental difference between mental illness and physical illness. The distinction is artificial. After all, the brain is as much a physical thing as one’s heart. Medicine can help both. It’s ALL physical illness. That’s why my medical doctor has no qualms about prescribing Wellbutrin for me.
I wonder how long it will be before the general attitude toward certain sorts of illnesses changes.