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)
Ah, success – one of my favorite topics to trash. It’s a concept broader than the multiverse, yet so many of us believe that it’s some kind of concrete and easily definable thing.
I think it’s about time we squash the traditional, or should I say, adopted definition of success. Go ahead – rip it in half, crumple it up, throw it in a waste basket, douse it with gasoline, and set it on fire. When the flame finally settles, go grab a new sheet of paper and let’s start fresh with a new definition. Please don’t actually do this – I’m not advocating a waste basket bonfire. Put down the gas can and follow along.
First and foremost, before we start talking about what success is, let’s start by defining what it isn’t.
American culture is so obsessed with having a standardized definition for it that it’s lost all of its intended meaning. We have been conditioned to believe that success is a specific process with specific outcomes, and after obtaining said success we will all live happily ever after. Yeah, right.
Try this — take money and recognition out of the equation and explain why Bill Gates is more successful than the self-employed guy down the street – you know, the guy that worked and saved his entire life with the dream of owning a home, starting a family, having children? — It’s impossible.
Both men have acted on two completely different dreams, yet both achieved what they had set out to accomplish. Magnitude isn’t how we should define success; it’s irrelevant. The point I’m trying to make is that success isn’t quantifiable – you have either achieved it by your own definition or haven’t yet. Imagine success as a light bulb. The light bulb can either be illuminated or not, but can never be half-lit. By this new definition, both men are tremendous successes.
Speaking of Bill Gates, here’s a fun fact: based on his estimated net worth, BG could afford to purchase 25,542 Bugatti Veyron’s if he wanted to — the down side is that he wouldn’t be able to insure any of them (at least for the first hour or so).
Don’t cry. Money is necessary and it feels great to blow it when it’s available. It also feels good to be recognized occasionally; however, neither are necessary components for success. All that we have is our own set of ideals and the deep desire to achieve success however we choose to define it.
The current popular standard for measuring success is what I call the measuring cup method. Each of us has bought into the notion that success is measured by the amount of shit that can be fit into a gigantic measuring cup. By shit, I mean possessions and all of the things that we like to brag about.
We take this huge imaginary cup and fill it with a person’s possessions, then place it next to our own in order to determine how successful we are by comparison. Houses, boats, cars, clothing, toys, vacations, electronics; any piece of shit that we can scrape together gets tossed into that giant container for analysis.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention — don’t forget to throw all of those beautifully framed college certifications in that cup too. Generally speaking, the more expensive the degree, the more space it consumes in the cup. Get the point? It’s obscene — just like Bill Gates and his Bugatti fetish. According to the standardized definition: BG’s Success > GDTS Success. If that’s the way you want to live your life, knock yourself out. If not, get off the treadmill now and enjoy watching everyone else spin their own hamster wheel of misery.
It’s such a disgusting image, yet we make ourselves physically sick trying to achieve success. Each decade that passes is accompanied by a new set of standardized ideals that we all struggle to live up to. The first decade’s success is defined by achieving good marks and satisfactory progress reports; pass or fail? The second decade is defined by preparing for life after high school; college or trade – pass or fail? The third decade is defined by marriage, home ownership, career attainment, and having children; pass or fail?
Without getting redundant, the point is that we spend each decade of our lives comparing our own set of unique goals and circumstances to everyone else’s, rather than focusing on acheiving our own happiness. It’s a societal flaw. Do you suppose that there’s any correlation between mental and physical health and achieving success? It’s obvious to me that too many people are basing their perception of themselves on a norm that shouldn’t – or should I say doesn’t – exist.
My father once told me a story about a neighborhood kid that he grew up with. This kid was one of those spoiled little ass-wipes that always liked to brag about how fortunate he was. For that reason, nobody much cared for him. One day when all the neighborhood kids got together to play, the boastful one showed up wearing a brand new pair of shined up dress shoes. The shoes were expensive and had pointed toes (apparently pointy shoes were in at the time). The boastful one didn’t come to play with the other kids he just wanted to show off. So, my father did what any other self-respecting adolescent would do in that situation – he buried his heel into the little bastard’s toe, sending him screaming and crying all the way home with only one fancy shoe. Have a nice day chump.
So what’s the moral of the story here? What’s the bottom line when it comes to crowning success? As I see it, the moral is that you’ll never convince me that possessions define success. You define your success and I define mine. It’s a personal journey. Too add, your pointy shoes aren’t doing much to conceal your character flaws – in fact, they’re revealing them.
The shoes in this story might as well symbolize a big unfortified wall of insecurity that you’re hiding behind. But, the moment that you forget humility is the moment the wall comes crashing down. Live for yourself, think for yourself, and let you be the one that determines your own success.
-Happy Blogging Bitchers.