Netflix star Shannon Purser: 'Medication coupled with therapy has completely changed my life for the better'

The name "Shannon Purser" may not ring a bell. But for anyone who has seen the show "Stranger Things," you surely know the name "Barb." As in #JusticeForBarb. As in the character, played by Shannon, from the first season who was killed by a Demogorgon.

After watching Shannon star in "Sierra Burgess is a Loser," a Netflix film released last Friday, I looked her up on Instagram to gain some insight on the actress who is probably sick of being referred to as "Barb." And, because I'm a weirdo, what caught my attention most weren't the very un-Barb-like glamour shots but, instead, was a picture of a blue and white pill held in-between her index finger and thumb.

The pill is Prozac. And, in the post, Shannon said she's been taking it for several years to treat her anxiety/depression.

She wrote, "I think back on when I first realized that I needed help. I was at the lowest point of my life. I didn't want to get out of bed or eat. I didn't want to be alive. The thing I am most thankful for was being able to ask for and receive help."

"Meds aren't for everyone and that's okay. There are lots of alternatives and your doctor can help you figure those out! Maybe you have a healthy brain and you don't need them at all! I suppose I just want this post to reach anyone who feels like they're alone in their struggle with mental illness."

Did everyone just give a collective sigh of relief upon reading her words? Because I know I sure did. As someone who has been on anxiety meds (Celexa and Xanax) for the last 10 years and who was ashamed of it for probably half of that time, reading those words was like a breath of fresh air. It was the exact written representation of what I had been feeling and, I, honestly, was jealous I didn't write it myself.

I remember seeing a meme a friend posted on Facebook a while ago. It showed a picture of the outdoors with the words, "This is treatment for mental illness," and underneath was a picture of pills and the words, "This is not." And I remember being livid. For some of us, a brisk walk in the woods won't cure our depression. Sure, for some, it does. But, just as Shannon said, for anyone who does need meds, you're not alone. And there's nothing wrong with you.

I've said it time and time again and I will say it again — mental illness is an illness. To cure an infection, you need antibiotics. To cure cancer, you need chemo. If you have asthma, you need an inhaler. If you have diabetes, you need to take insulin. For any other disease, medicine is acceptable. People know it's a necessity, in many cases, to survive. You can't just think happy thoughts and go outside to make your cancer disappear. And mental illness doesn't work like that either.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. And, needing medicine to correct that does not make you "weak." I have a friend who saw a counselor for his depression for years. But he never started to actually recover until he started taking medicine. And I know why — because, sure, talking about it helps, but for many of us who have a chemical imbalance, no amount of talking about it will make our levels normal.

As Shannon said, "Medication coupled with therapy has completely changed my life for the better. I finally have hope for my future and I wanna be there to see it."

So, if your mental illness is making you forget why you want to live, please, I beg of you, go see a psychiatrist before you do anything else. It may feel all consuming. You may feel like what you are going through will never go away. But, trust me, with treatment, it can. In my experience, medicine can truly help and, just as it did with Shannon, it made me want to live again. I hope it can do the same for you.

Shannon wrote these very true words — "Maybe you feel like you're weak somehow for needing medication or therapy. You're not. There's a whole family of fighters all around you, hiding in plain sight. I know saying that it gets better is a cliché, but it really does."

Please, remember the name "Shannon Purser" because I am sure you will see a lot more of her in the future — and not just as Barb.

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