On Taking Medication

For the longest time, I believed that anti-anxiety meds were bad or ineffective. They could anesthetize me or make me less ambitious. I decided that it was just better and, in a weird way, easier to tough things out.

It wasn’t until I saw my therapist that she told me I really needed anti-anxiety meds—it wasn’t a gentle suggestion but an urgent recommendation. She got me in to see a psychiatrist quickly.

I remember being so low at that time, and so scared, that I was able to start taking them, to take the leap. It was just one more fear or maybe I couldn’t be more scared than I already was, so I did it.

My doctor reassured me that I could get off them when I wanted and she prescribed a lower dose first of a gentle anti-anxiety med with few side effects—including little chance of hurting myself in case I accidentally overdosed.

One thing that my doctors have to deal with is whether the meds they give me will increase my anxiety or help it or do both and in which proportions. I worry with heavy duty painkillers about addiction or the potential dangerous side effects. And with all meds I worry about accidentally overdosing. I’m so worried that sometimes I’d rather skip a dose.

Like my other OCD thoughts, part of my rational brain knows that I’m unlikely to forget I already took my meds or to accidentally take more, but I have trouble listening to that part of my brain. Instead I listen to the part that says “You could have already taken it, you don’t remember, do you?”

Sometimes I face this by emailing myself when I take my meds or having a check list of my daily meds schedule on my computer. A less useful way was counting. I’d count how many pills were left. I’d do this multiple times, sometimes because I thought maybe I miscounted or that I’d taken one when I was counting… (and somehow I wasn’t looking?).

However, the meds have helped even with this anxiety and I know worrying about my medicine is a sign that I’m not doing great mentally. The resurgence of my symptoms after being on the meds for over two years now is a warning sign from my mind and/or body that something is not right—I’m not getting enough sleep, eating right, giving myself downtime, or I’m taking on too much.

Often, I get a migraine if I let things continue to go. My migraines have gone down in frequency since starting these meds, so it’s a real warning sign if I get one.

The meds have actually taught me better how to listen to my body and mind and take better care of myself. I have some anti-anxiety meds that are just for panic and having used them when I needed them I feel better about my ability to handle my low moments. I’m no longer so vulnerable to obsessions or compulsions the way I was before. I definitely vilified all meds too easily when I was younger.

And one of the things I’ve learned with getting older, is that the pace of anxiety that I was living with in high school and college was long term unsustainable. I used to worry I’d slow down, but now I’m glad to be able to sleep better and relax when I need to. I’m okay, even grateful, not to go a hundred miles an hour.

So are meds for everyone? That’s not for me to judge and I know people react differently to different meds. I’m lucky that I found a combination that seems to work with acceptable side effects (I get really bizarre and realistic dreams, but that’s a post for another day).

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