Why Should I Justify My Mental Illness Treatment To You?

June 17, 2014 Natasha Tracy

I have been in treatment for bipolar disorder for about 16 years. And during all that time I have tried every medication known to man, vitamins, herbs, chakra-cleaning (really), tinctures and various types of therapy.

And no matter what treatment I’ve been on, two things have been true:

  • People will insist on judging me for it.
  • Some people will disagree with it.

So to all the people out there who are not my doctor I ask: Why should I have to justify my mental illness treatment to you?

Mental Illness Treatments

No one can say I haven’t tried, and no one can say I haven’t been open to the possibilities. But no matter how much you try, it’s never really enough for some people. People who are anti-med will always be against you when you’re taking medication. People who are pro-med will often be against you when you’re not taking conventional medication treatment. You can’t make everyone happy. You just can’t. And oddly, your success and happiness, still doesn’t seem to be enough for some people.

Justification of Mental Illness Treatment

Mental illness treatments range from therapy to medication and others but why should anyone with a mental illness have to justify their treatment choice?And people expect you to justify your mental illness treatments to them. Like, “How can you take an antipsychotic? Don’t you know how deadly those are?” or “How can you not take medication? Don’t you know that all people with bipolar disorder need medication?”

And, in my experience, it’s taking medication that will really get your grilled. Everyone seems to want to get you off medication no matter how much you may need it. No matter how much science and experience is behind you, so many people will demonize you for taking a medical treatment. (I’d love to see people turning on cancer patients because they choose chemotherapy – which kills some people.)

My Problem Is Their Hubris

But my problem is their hubris altogether. My problems is that they think we should justify ourselves at all. My problem is that these people are so self-righteous that they think they know something that my doctor doesn’t. My problems is that these people think that they know something that I – having lived with this illness for almost half my life – do not. My problem is that these people expect justification at all. Their hubris astounds me.

Mental Illness Treatment and Judgy-Judgerson

I think I try really hard not to judge people’s life choices, and of all the things not to judge, someone’s medical treatment seems to be very high on that list, so maybe I just don’t get the need others have to judge.

Nevertheless, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the expectation that others have. I don’t think it’s right to judge others and just because they have a mental illness, that is no excuse. We have the same rights as everyone else and that is to live our lives the way we choose and we don’t have to justify that to you.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitteror at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, June 17). Why Should I Justify My Mental Illness Treatment To You?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 29 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

July, 11 2014 at 11:55 am

"“How can you not take medication? Don’t you know that all people with bipolar disorder need medication?”"
I get this a lot. And actually variations of this have been on this very blog.
It's annoying to have to explain yourself again and again why you chose this way, while being expected to put obligatory "but meds are good" when you talk of alternative coping ways... or you are seen as urging people to get off their meds. Some think that even mentioning I am med free and managing is dangerous (because people will go off their meds and some will not start taking meds).

July, 7 2014 at 11:13 am

Healthcare is deeply personal. What works for you may be terrible for me. If you are satisfied with your treatment, that's all you need to say. However, listen if your friends tell you they notice a change in you. The effectiveness of some therapies diminishes over time and sometimes the people who are close to you will notice before you.

June, 28 2014 at 9:36 am

Just so you know, there are people who criticize those who choose chemo. I have friends who have a "natural" treatment for every ailment I get, major or minor. I smile, thank them for the idea and do what I know works for me.
And for anyone who recommends keeping one's mental illness a secret, that only adds to the stigma surrounding mental illness that's just beginning to be broken. If medication helps, there's something physically wrong. Just because it's in the brain should be no reason to be ashamed, any more than when someone has cancer or arthritis or the flu.

Kathy K.
June, 28 2014 at 4:32 am

I've found, over the course of my own treatment, is that there is no one-size-fits all treatment for mental illness and that treatment is and has to be tailored to the individual. Most people don't know, and the media has a part in this, that mental illness is not like physical illness. A relative couldn't understand why, after I had my medication changed, I wasn't "fixed" yet. That's not how it works. Mental illness isn't a virus or an infection you can treat and then it goes away.
I know that what is working for me may not work for you, but if someone asked me for advice, I would offer a suggestion and frame it in such a way that even though I did this, you should discuss it with your psychiatrist/therapist first.
Another commenter asked why the OP talks about her diagnosis openly. I can answer this question for myself, but I'm sure my reasons are the same as other people's reasons for being open.
I'm open about my depression/anxiety/ADD because I feel that if I am not, I'm perpetuating stigma. Why should I hide a legitimate medical condition that I have? Doing so implies I should be ashamed of having this. The other reason why is that when you're going through this, many people often feel isolated, like they are the only ones who are going through this. It's also very helpful to discover that you are not alone. We can't complain about stigma against us if we're complicit in perpetuating it. I've been made to feel ashamed of what I have for most of my life, and I'm not going to allow others to make me feel ashamed anymore.
I also realize that some people aren't ready to be open about their own conditions and that's okay. I made a choice to be open about mine. That's also something that, I believe, is an individual choice.

Good girl now
June, 24 2014 at 10:49 am

Why are you talking about your treatment to anyone other than your doctor? I don't talk about my bipolar disorder, on the advice of my attorney. He was right because people don't understand. Before I took his advice, I lost several friends who started treating me differently when they found out about my diagnosis. If you don't want criticism, then stop disclosing your situation to people who don't understand your reality.

DIane Cook
June, 24 2014 at 8:20 am

those who judge an individual's health choices, (AND treatment choices for their children) creates the biggest obstacles in maintaining good mental health,keeping families intact, and recovery…stigma and lack of support. Creating shame for someone's treatment choice should put the shame-er on one of two lists: those you care enough about to speak your mind, or those you should say good-bye to.

June, 24 2014 at 4:16 am

Judgmental people need to take a good, long look in the mirror.
I too have been judged, ridiculed and more. Yes, it hurts and why can't people just MYOB???

June, 24 2014 at 2:00 am

People often tell me "you seem fine to me." To which I reply "if you see me I am not in a depression, think about how long it has been since we last saw each other. that's when I don't seem fine. You won't get to see that side of me if I can help it." I guess the world needs a show. Thanks for articulating the things the world should learn to know about.

Taylor Arthur
June, 22 2014 at 3:30 pm

Amen, sister!

Samuel Vain
June, 20 2014 at 1:56 pm

With this nightmare we each have to find what works individually. You are so justified in your irritation of being judged. Some people can go no meds, I am one. Not all can. Though I advocate non pharmacological avenues I also understand if it's not going to work for someone. Find your path to bliss, or at least functionality any way you have to.

June, 19 2014 at 9:53 am

Aaaarrrrgh it makes me so angry when people judge us but don't understand the reasons for the highs and lows and their negativity about not understanding us only adds to those feelings of low self worth.

Jake Thomas
June, 18 2014 at 9:35 am

I have been treated for almost forty of my near fifty years of life. I have no time for people who think they have a better way for me. I have been arrested while mentally ill and I was nearly killed by the police in a psychotic state. I cannot afford to buy into peoples judgements. When they make them I suggest they listen to my story before they decide they have a better way.

Phillip Adams
June, 18 2014 at 8:52 am

I agree. I have been away from my job since the end of September 2013 trying to get the meds right, but this time has not been easy.
I would rather not take medication but it helps me.

Alex Thompson
June, 18 2014 at 2:05 am

There won't be an use of justifying anyone of having treatment for mental illness. Everyone has the same right to live their life as they want to choose it.

June, 17 2014 at 4:12 pm

Hi, I was wondering what do you do when u feel sad?

June, 17 2014 at 4:03 pm

You are so spot on with this post! It is hard not to be totally in the closet about the whole thing because of just this issue. How can you take that pill? Well my family who have known me my entire existence have insisted on it for one thing and they know the illness all too well. I am high functioning with a regular professional level job but I am hurt most in relationships. the stigma and judgments really dig deep and hit hard. Mostly I don't reveal but this hurts those who might have been helped by my story. and what a ride this life has been.

June, 17 2014 at 10:33 am

Your posts always speak to me!I think the situation that irks me most is when other doctors/PAs/nurses make these comments.Recently I had a conversation with my pdoc about a certain med that I was sheepish about taking,even though it works.I told him whenever I have to give my med list to a new doc like when I sprained my ankle this is the one they always stop on.And boy do they have opinions! They literally met me 3 minutes ago!Luckily my pdoc is good and he acknowledges that this is the reality.

June, 17 2014 at 10:11 am

You tell 'em, Natasha!! And I'm sure you've noticed that most of the people who judge are those who don't even have bipolar in the first place. Good article!

D Matthews
June, 17 2014 at 9:14 am

It bugs me too, as a bipolar blogger as well, that if I'm having symptoms and write about it, commenters offer their suggestions for treatment, as though I'm not capable enough of talking with my doctor or therapist. And suggesting a particular new drug is especially annoying. You don't know what I've tried. I share my experiences with you, not my medical history.
All that to say, preach it, sister!

June, 17 2014 at 9:11 am

Amen sister!

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