Augury friend Diana Spechler has recently begun a weekly column for The New York Times’ Opinionator entitled “Going Off.” In this series, she recounts her experiences while coming off of the prescription medications she uses to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Diana sat down with Augury assistant editor Nicolas Amara to talk about the new column.
Augury Books: What has the initial response to “Going Off” been like?
Diana Spechler: A lot of advice. A lot of people sharing their own stories. Some thank you notes. Some anger–that I’m not coming out as staunchly anti-meds or staunchly pro-meds. I love it. All of it. What’s clear to me from the response and what was clear to me before I started the column, is that in 2015 psychiatric medications are still a taboo; now that I’m writing about them in the New York Times, in this very candid way, people are dying to talk. For some reason, we’re supposed to hide our psychiatric disorders and treatments. We’re supposed to feel embarrassed about them. That’s silly. There’s this story a guy once told me, probably seven or eight years ago, that’s always stuck with me: He went out with a woman and was turned off because he found antidepressants in her medicine cabinet. He relayed this information to me to explain why he never called her again. I told him, “You have to be kidding.” For one thing, what was he doing in her medicine cabinet? For another thing, turned off by her medication–her efforts to be healthy and happy? Jeez. Tough crowd! Antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in America. Chances are, you know a lot of people on antidepressants and benzos and sleeping pills and mood stabilizers. Great. We’re all on drugs. Now let’s talk.
A: Did you ever feel nervous about running the column?
D: I was terrified before I started. Even after I started, I was terrified. I had a couple of bad days when the first piece ran. I felt so exposed. I felt like I was mooning the world. But it’s worth it for me to do this, to be as honest and open and straightforward as possible. It’s still scary, but now that I have this platform, I feel intense responsibility: I have a voice; I need to use it. I’m grateful to have public support through such a brutal process. Most people getting off their meds have one or two people to talk to, or they have no one. I’m extremely lucky and I never forget that.
A: Do you think the sort of writing you’re doing helps de-stigmatize depression?
D: That’s the idea. I don’t like any topics to be off-limits. I want to talk about everything. I want everyone to tell me everything, too. You know how people cover their ears and say, “TMI! TMI!”? There’s no such thing as TMI to me. If you’re insanely jealous of someone, or if you’ve stalked someone, or if you have a rash on your genitals, I totally want to know about it. I’m not above talking about my exes on a first date, either. We have all these pointless rules. It’s not hurting anyone if I talk about my period, if I talk about my panic attacks, if I talk about my medication. What are we, Puritans? I hope to help others feel less ashamed.
To read “Going Off,” click here.
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