I’m not a medical professional. The views and opinions expressed within this article should not be confused with medical advice, or a replacement for it. Consult only your doctor for medical advice. I’m here to share a story and an opinion. Don’t sue me.
I was recently invited to write a guest post on Black Box Warnings, and asked to share my opinion on medications used for treating Anxiety disorders. I encourage you to read the following article. I know it’s kind of long but it has a very positive message. (I know)
Consider it one of my gifts to you for the holidays. [Insert smart-ass grin emoticon]
The Fruitless Pursuit of a Permanent Fix
Those that deal with Anxiety and/or Depression are already aware of the feelings of desperation that accompany the two conditions. There’s no sense going into details. The bottom line is that both can have a serious impact on an otherwise happy and productive life if gone untreated.
I’ve dealt with both for the majority of my life, but there was a point when I didn’t really know anything about either condition. All I knew was that there was something wrong with me and that I needed to have it fixed.
About eight years ago I learned about Anxiety and Depression after meeting with my
drug dealer Doctor. I was relieved to find out that all of the symptoms that I was describing had a name; but more importantly, relieved to know that there were treatment options available.
All of the things that were happening to me were easily explained by a chemical imbalance in my brain. It sounded like a reasonable enough explanation to me at the time.
Obviously, brains have chemicals. Imbalanced Chemicals = Anxiety. Sounds logical?
I didn’t feel the need to start debating brain chemical theories and what constitutes a balanced set of them. I just wanted my life back. I trusted my Doctor. After all, his background was in Medicine. Mine was in Deceptive Advertising. He knows how brains work, and I know how to manipulate people into buying things…
…Looking back, maybe he had a background in Marketing, too?
I’d left the office that day with a vague understanding of my condition(s), as well as a couple prescriptions for medications to treat both individually.
I began taking the daily Anxiety medication immediately, but decided to handle the Depression on my own. It seemed to be the answer to my problems. Life returned to normal for awhile. I started dating again, socializing more, and stopped flaking out at work and school. Problem solved?
Over the course of the first year however, I noticed that the drug was starting to wear off and became less effective. I found myself back in the Doctor’s office with the same complaints. The solution: double the dosage. It was time for a brain chemical overhaul!
It was at that point that the side effects of the medication became really noticeable. I didn’t feel like me anymore. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t have the ability to produce certain types of emotions. I could remember the emotions, but I couldn’t actually produce them. I felt disconnected; sedate. The so-called “highs” didn’t really exist anymore. That’s when I started to ask myself questions like: Was this really the solution? Am I truly chemically imbalanced?
After about a year and a half I decided to stop taking the drug. I went back to my Doctor and he explained how easy it was to get off the drug: gradually reduce the dose each day for one week. At the end of the week, stop taking it.
I found myself in front of a Pharmacist a week later, jittering off questions about why I was experiencing a complete nervous meltdown after the “weaning period”. That’s when I learned that a week isn’t enough time to taper off a long-term pill regiment. I went back on the meds long enough to level my head, and then gradual tapered off the drug over the course of the next month.
After I got off the medication my original problems returned tenfold. It was unbearable. Every day it felt like I was on eight cups of dark roast coffee, and my mind wouldn’t turn off. Every single morbid, fucked up thought that I could possibly imagine was running through my head – all of them simultaneously.
I also remember getting these weird electrical sensations inside my head. It almost felt like my internal computer was re-booting. It was a quick flash of weirdness and an extremely unsettling feeling.
During that period was when I experienced my first Panic Attack. What fun!
At that point, no matter what I tried I just couldn’t seem to get a grip. It felt like I was completely out of control of my body and mind, and I didn’t know what was causing it, or how to stop it. Within a few short months I was at my wits end. I decided to get help from somewhere else.
And How Does That Make You Feel?
There are a lot of misconceptions about therapy. From my experience none of them are true. Going to a therapist doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and I’ve never witnessed or heard of anyone being strapped into a straight-jacket and wheeled to the nearest Psych Ward after a visit to one. To my knowledge they don’t do the foam baseball bat thing either. Bummer.
I will say however, that there’s nothing more uncomfortable than the first few visits with a therapist. Well, maybe a prostate exam. Spilling your guts to a complete stranger about all of your darkest personal matters takes some getting used to. But, it doesn’t take long to establish a personal relationship with one – and he doesn’t have to put a lubricated finger up your ass in order for that to happen, either.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy covers a lot of ground. For me, the experience was about becoming aware of my self-destructive thoughts, and finding ways to change those negative thoughts into positive actions.
Each visit was full of introspective dialogue. It’s definitely challenging at times, and some days were harder than others. I realized that it takes a lot of balls to look deep inside, and that addressing your issues is a lot harder than pretending they don’t exist.
During that span I learned a lot about myself on that familiar brown leather sofa. I discovered so much that was hidden deep — things that I’d repressed, things that I wanted to forget about, and things that I didn’t even know existed.
The most important thing that I discovered?
All of this stuff couldn’t be fixed by a pill.
Medicine wasn’t the cure-all that I thought it was supposed to be. It didn’t solve my problems or help me to understand what had caused them; it was only a band-aid. All it did was cover up the symptoms that my unaddressed issues were not only creating, but continued to create.
Without therapy I would have never noticed all of the life-sucking vampires I’d surrounded myself with, nor would I have realized that I was living my life for the benefit of everyone else but me. I would have never learned about the importance of loving myself unconditionally, and I would have never realized that “What we think, we become.”
I know what you might be thinking right now: “Sounds like a bunch of phony bullshit to me.”
If that’s in fact what you were thinking, then you might be a good candidate yourself, Negative Nancy…
My thoughts on Medication?
I don’t think a vague label like “chemically imbalanced” really says a whole lot. It doesn’t address the individual or the underlying cause. I’m even starting to wonder if a lot of the conditions that are being diagnosed are really medical problems at all?
Maybe we need to question the pace that we’re living our lives at, and learn to identify the kinds of people and things that are toxic to our well being Maybe we need to learn how to be more accepting of ourselves and others, and learn how to be more responsible for our thoughts, actions, and behaviors.
I believe these things are all part of the epidemic *chemical imbalance* problem in our society. A lot of the time they’re never even addressed.
I’m not denying the fact that mental illness exists. I’m also not denying that some medications may be required for brain-related conditions. I am stating however, that I think we’re being over-prescribed, and needlessly diagnosed with conditions that might just be a product of the high stress, fast-paced, unforgiving, and highly competitive world that we live in today.
The reality of it is that therapy didn’t make my life problems go away. But, it did help me to become aware of them, as well as learn how to better manage them.
Truthfully, some days still suck. Some days I’m still a nervous wreck. Some days I still doubt my abilities. And some days I still feel hopeless about the future.…
…but life isn’t perfect. And that’s just the way it is.
At least I’m comfortable admitting it now. And whenever things aren’t going the way that I’d like them to go, I try my best to force a smile and say to myself:
Some days are just better than others…
- [Happy] Blogging
- Anxious? 4 Examples of Anxiety Treaments that Calm Nerves (psychologytoday.com)
- A Note About Anxiety (notadietstory.wordpress.com)
- Is Medication For An Anxiety Disorder Necessary? (drronglassman.wordpress.com)
A Brief Introduction…
The title of this one is a bit misleading. I’m not actually in favor of global warming, especially given the number of horrific global catastrophes the world has experienced in recent times. As a matter of fact, it pains me think that it may be a real possibility. What a thought to consider.
Enough of that talk tough. I don’t want to start some big debate over it. Next thing I’ll be getting solicited by Al Gore, asking me for donations to help support the “adopt a penguin program”. I don’t have the money, nor freezer space to take on any extra house guests – regardless of how well dressed they may be.
So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty — the heart of the matter at hand. Given the time of year, I felt now would be the best opportunity to share with you my melancholy disposition toward the beginning of the dreaded cold season in Michigan.
The Enchantment of Michigan Seasons…
As I write, our brief and beautiful summer is exhaling its last warm breath. The transient warm-season will soon give way to the first brisk winds of autumn in October, bringing with it a fresh palette of deciduous colors. The orchards will once again be filled with apple and pumpkin-pickers, hay-riders, and freshly baked donuts. Ask anyone that has left and they’ll fondly recall it as being a Michigan memory that they will forever cherish.
This fall season will be particularly pleasant too, considering that we’ve had our share of extended, oppressively-hot spells all summer long. It was hotter than I can ever remember. Every day was a record-breaker it seemed. It was the kind of hot that makes sitting in the shade intolerable. Some days it was hot enough that if you left a glass of water outside for a half hour, it would begin to boil. (ok, embellishing a bit).
Unfortunately, despite the stunning beauty and fun-filled activities that autumn brings with it, the season fades as quickly as it arrives. Soon, the painted trees will drop their last strands of color, leaving nothing behind but a still-life portrait of baron limbs.
The sadness is temporary though, with the fast-approaching holiday season re-energizing the low-spirited. Turkey-carving, gift-giving, and the opportunity to start fresh a new year – all of these things shared with family, friends, and even those less fortunate. Grudges are forgotten, memories are told, and festive holiday lights illuminate the long, dark nights.
But, after all of the candy is collected, turkeys carved, presents opened, and half-hearted weight-loss resolutions are made, my cheery outlook begins to waver and the cold, hard reality begins to seep into my brain… Commence the freezing, grey, sloppy, flu-ridden season of winter.
My Thoughts on Michigan Winters…
I’ll preface by stating that I hate winter. Dressing like an Inuit every morning before scraping twelve inches of cold, wet powder off the car isn’t my idea of living. With the exception of a pet lizard, nothing should have to exist in an artificially-heated box for any length of time. Some people love the winter. I’m convinced that those people are in denial.
As the first frigid wind trickles down my spinal column, I begin muttering obscenities to myself (more often than usual), asking questions like “why do I put up with this misery?” I must be crazy, because I’ve finally begun answering back.
Months spanning January and April are what I refer to as the “grey season”. It’s a time when the sun goes on vacation somewhere down in the southern hemisphere, leaving us all behind to wither and rot away. In order to supplement the lack of Vitamin D lost from the sun’s absence, one must drink anywhere from two to four gallons of milk a week in order to stay healthy and balanced.
In order to survive, it’s important to keep occupied to prevent from going stir-crazy. Popular activities include things like skiing, ice-skating, sledding, building snowmen, etc. But while the cold-lovers are out frolicking, I’ll be inside, wrapped in a heated blanket. One of the constructive things I have planned for this winter is to visit a doctor to have my dense skull examined. I’m convinced there is something wrong with me. You’d think that anyone with a healthy functioning brain would opt out of this misery, but apparently I enjoy it enough to stay here indefinitely. I’ll keep you posted on the results.
Coping with it is difficult for many, while easier for others. Some of us drink, others double our dosages of anti-depressants, and some of us travel upstate to snowmobile…
The Autobahn and The Precipitous North…
My Grandparents live upstate; the 45th parallel to be exact, which is exactly halfway between the equator and the fat guy in the red suit. “Upstate” is actually an unused term here to describe the top of the mitten. We Michigan folk refer to it as “Up North”, or “Going Up North”. There, summers usually last anywhere from mid-July to early September. I could never survive it. I often ask why they didn’t buy property in Cabo San Lucas, or the Bahamas, or something like that.
Being up there is even worse this time of year. It’s at a much higher elevation, which usually means triple the amount of precipitation. Its high enough in fact that it begins to takes on a hazy effect upon arrival. Look out any window at their place and you’ll actually be at eye level with the clouds.
Being up there is one thing, but getting up there is another altogether. I try and do my visiting during the summer months, because driving up Interstate 75 in the midst of a snowstorm makes for extreme white-knuckle driving. Everyone is constantly fighting for pole position along the way. If I had to come up with an analogy for driving it, it would be like juggling butcher’s knives; one slip and you’re likely to lose something valuable.
In case you’re not familiar with the Michigan portion of I-75, it’s kind of like the Autobahn, only people drive faster and with heavier vehicles. It’s no place for a smart car. As a matter of fact, if you plan to make the trek yourself, I would recommend renting an armored vehicle, or a salt truck to insure that you make it up alive.
It’s not so much the road conditions that make it treacherous, as it is the down-state jerk-offs pulling trailers full of snow toys. Try it sometime if you’re dealing with constipation. Fifteen minutes on the road will loosen everything right up.
A Solemn Conclusion…
Conclusively, I’ve decided that I wouldn’t be opposed to never seeing winter again, with the exception of on December 25th. Other than that, I only want to see it on TV — preferably a large-screen that is sitting in front of the pool I’m rafting in, while I sip some kind of fruity drink. I want to have nightmares about it only to wake up and realize that it was just a bad dream. Upon waking up I’d roll myself over, fall back asleep, and revisit me floating on that imaginary raft, with that fruity drink straw pinched between my lips.
To all the mid-westerners out there that share my sentiments I say the following: brace yourselves, because it’s coming whether you snowmobile or not. So dig out the ol’ parka and galoshes, put away the patio furniture, and get ready for Frosty to stick his big, fat, snow-covered boot up your ass once again…
Cheers to a rant-filled winter. I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of it.
-Happy Blogging Season Bitchers
- The American Heat Wave and Global Warming (scientopia.org)
- So, Do You Believe in Global Warming Now? (neatorama.com)
- Guardian Says Global Warming Induced Cold Is The New Normal (stevengoddard.wordpress.com)