Tag Archives: medication

Anxiety Thoughts

Chest pain

I’ve written about anxiety and medication before but I am wanting to write again. Warning: some strong language in this post, to reflect some strong feelings on my part.

I’ve been on my medication for only a little under a year by now. We’re still tweaking my dose, but things are starting to get settled. I recently had a very brief experience that has reminded me of just how much things have changed for me.

I’ve been slowly doing more local driving in my efforts to get more mobile. It’s going fairly well and little by little, getting easier for me to do. Recently I was driving for an errand (as one does) and had to creep around a couple of police cars that were on the side of the road. It was one of those situations where you had to partly enter the opposing lane as the road had few shoulders to speak of. So I was carefully going past, and just when I got around them I suddenly heard a siren.

HOLY CRAP that scared me. I got one of my old anxiety stabs that I haven’t had pretty much since the meds kicked in. I call them “anxiety stabs” because that is exactly what they feel like – like something stabbing through my chest. They HURT. They make my breath catch in my chest and for a brief moment I can’t inhale. It’s painful and icky and no fun.

And that reminded me – that’s what I used to have to deal with ALL THE TIME. Anxiety was quite physically painful, and whenever something triggered the anxiety (which happened pretty frequently), I would get a stab in my chest. Sometimes it wouldn’t be quick – then it would feel like giant bird talons were wrapped around my chest, squeezing and stabbing with big, long claws. Again, it hurt. For real. Physical pain that would make it difficult to breathe.

I used to think I was weak. I couldn’t figure out how other people could so easily do things that I found so difficult. It seemed that the most obvious answer was that I was just of weak moral character. Now, though… now that I’ve gotten that reminder…

Well, I think I must have been DAMN strong to have done ANYTHING through that shit. No wonder it was such a struggle to get through my anxiety! I was in pain and couldn’t breathe! Anyone would find that difficult!

When I was making plans to get assessed for Asperger’s, my dad decided to do some armchair diagnosing of me, since he thought I couldn’t possibly have Asperger’s (he still thinks that, but that is neither here nor there). He told me that he thought my problem was avoidance – I avoided lots of things, so I must have some kind of avoidance disorder.

Well, he was sorta right. I did avoid lots of things. Then again, it is, in fact, COMPLETELY FUCKING REASONABLE to avoid things that cause you pain. People who get migraines avoid their triggers. People with chronic pain avoid things that trigger the pain or might make the pain worse. I avoided things that made my chest feel stabbed and made it difficult to breathe in anything before quick, little gasps. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with avoiding physical pain, and a whole lot right with it.

So I suppose what this really means is that I forgive my past self. This will probably need to be an ongoing thing, but that was a heck of a reminder. Now the worst I generally have to deal with is a flutter in my chest, which is NOTHING compared to the pain I used to feel. For me, anxiety is physical in the worse way possible. I am very glad to have made the progress I have, and I’m glad that meds are able to help me the way they are. And in a weird way, I’m glad I got that stab. It’s reminded me of how far I’ve come in such a short time, and that’s nice for me to get a glimpse of.

Oh, and to finish up the story – I was on a bridge, and it turned out the siren was from the highway below. It had nothing whatsoever to do with me, and I was totally fine. Yay happy ending!

 

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“Just Feel”

Time for more on journeys in chemically-induced emotional changes!

Several weeks ago I was talking to my psychiatrist about how it’s actually the negative feelings that I’m having trouble adjusting to. I mean, they’re better. Lots better. Tons better. Holy CRAP better. They are also, however, different, in a fairly fundamental way. I find it throws me a bit for a loop.

My metaphor for my strong emotional states tended to be either a river or a sea. Basically, a raging torrent of water threatening to carry me away or drown me, or both. These emotional states were dangerous to me on a number of levels, and I had to be careful.

So my coping methods were largely about staying above them, or staying grounded, and creating barriers between myself and my depression or my fear so that I could stay sane and at least partially functional.

Letting those barriers down so that I could just feel what I was feeling was always a risky proposition. If things were bad, it meant losing at least a day in overwhelming feels, and simply accepting that until it passed I would not be able to function beyond the very basics of survival, and even those were really difficult. As such, “just feel” was not a thing I did very often. It was very low on my coping method list (probably just one or two items above self injury, actually), and even when I did use it, I usually tried it in mitigated forms first. To extend my metaphor (my emotional metaphor got really quite involved), I did a lot of “riding the wave.” Tread water, keep my head up, wait until it passes but don’t let myself drown.

Now, though, it’s all different. I don’t seem to have that depression river anymore. Now it’s more like a fog, and it’s so different that it’s really quite confusing. The river was dangerous. When it flooded its banks and tried to wash me away, I had to be careful. However, the river also had direction. I knew where it was going and where I would end up if it swallowed me. I also knew that if I could get to high ground and wait it out, things would be really rough but ultimately I’d be ok.

The fog is different. I can’t make a barrier between myself and my feelings anymore. It’s also no longer threatening to wash me away. It’s just sorta… there, and I find myself wondering what the heck to do with it when it shows up. The things that used to be high on my list – barriers, higher ground, cling to something solid, ride the wave – all no longer apply. My psychiatrist reminded me of the “just feel” option, and I was actually a little amused. The option that had always been dangerous and scary and better avoided if possible is suddenly supposed to be at the top of my list. So basically, this is yet another type of change that I totally didn’t anticipate – the nature of some of my emotions have changed, and the basics of how I should deal with them have changed as well.

Here’s hoping I get used to this “just feel” thing being a primary, go-to technique.

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Strength Within Anxiety

Sometimes I write about strength and weakness, as perceived from within and without. I’m going to again.

Sometimes people see anxiety as weakness. Externally, it’s hard to see the barriers that anxiety puts up that we need to hurdle. What’s seen is often simply that a person with anxiety is having an extremely difficult time with something that most people don’t find that bad. At times I’ve had encountered with people who sincerely believed that I should be able to just do it. That it was weakness on my part that was holding me back. If I say it’s anxiety, they only heard that anxiety = weakness.

I always protested this mentality. It’s simply wrong. However, now that I am finding my anxiety dramatically reduced and I am more easily doing things that used to be so hard, I protest it even more. As much as I tried to protest it, I also internalized it. I thought of myself as weak all too often. That’s crap. I wasn’t weak then and I’m not weak now.

Let me tell you about horseback riding. There is a legitimate amount of nervous-making when pretending that you can control a massive, muscular animal (they *let* us control them, seriously). However, my anxiety was massive. Frequently learning to do new things was more about maintaining control over my body as intense feelings of fear coursed through me than about actually learning the thing. Cantering was a huge challenge. Not because cantering is difficult, but because it’s really hard to be loose when a terror knife is stabbing through my chest.

People say “well just do it anyway!” but it isn’t that easy. I have had many experiences of trying to “just do it anyway” and failing because my limbs refused to respond. I would feel fearful, take a deep breath, decide to do it anyway, send the commands to my limbs, and not move. I had to battle my anxiety just to have control of my body at all. And to ride a horse, to ride the way I want to ride, requires quite a lot of fairly fine-tuned control. I had to battle my anxiety and win, and I had to keep winning and keep fighting, and I had to have enough left over to actually do the thing and do it well.

Expletive’s sake, that’s HARD. You think it’s at all possible to do that when you’re weak? No! It isn’t! But I did it.

And now, now that it’s not so hard due to my anti-anxiety meds… I’m barreling forward in my riding. I do things that used to give me panic attacks with only a minor twitch of nervousness. When I get nervous about a thing, I can take a deep breath and just *do it* when before I would need to fight. The hurdles are so much smaller.

Just to make it clear, I am no stronger now than I was then. These pills I’m taking, they don’t magically increase my reserves of internal strength. I am the only being in the universe that can directly change that. No, my medication shrinks the obstacles. What used to be a brick wall is now just a regular hurdle. This means I have to spend far less effort than I used to in order to get through those obstacles, which means I have more strength and energy left over to move forward with other things. With the things I want to do.

Anxiety isn’t weakness. Anxious people are not weak people. Anxious people are probably strong, because it’s hard to learn to live with anxiety without also developing significant reserves of internal strength.

In fact, I’d broaden that. Fear, in general, does not make you weak. Dealing with that fear, moving forward even when you feel it – that is strength.

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Better living through chemicals (initial impressions)

Ok, on Thursday I talked about the impact depression has had on me. Today, I am going to talk a little bit about my attempted journey away from that.

So, as I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before, I have quite a history with both depression and anxiety. The earliest concrete memory I have of anxiety is from when I was four or five – my very first experiences with gym class and my refusal to even enter the gymnasium. I was too scared. The earliest I can concretely say I had depression is from when I was eight – when I first started to self injure. Suffice it to say, these have been very long struggles for me, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that they have been with me my whole life.

In my adult life I’ve had people push me towards medications and I always resisted. I had a number of different reasons that I imagine getting into would call for a blog post all it’s own. Suffice it to say, I am a little leery of brain-altering chemicals. I am also leery of people who push brain altering chemicals on others. I still think my reasons were good ones and I intend to continue to respect my decision to try everything I could to manage myself without meds.

However, eventually I reached a point where I realized that I had gone as far as I could on my own, and I really needed help. The depression and anxiety were impacting my life in serious ways and I really could not continue to live like that. So, I finally decided to try a med that would act as both an antidepressant and antianxiety.

I haven’t been on it for long – a little over a month – but I am definitely feeling the effects and it’s kind of amazing.

Part of my depression was The Voice. The Voice was a constant in my life, screaming if it could, whispering if it could not, flinging a constant stream of hate at me. It would latch onto anything it could use to hurt me and would twist events around to insist that everything was my fault. Depression is a jerk, and The Voice was well and truly horrible. However, I had gotten used to it. If I could keep it to a whisper and lock it off into a corner of my brain, I figured I was doing good. When I couldn’t do that well… that sucked. But it happened.

However, lately The Voice has been gone, almost entirely. Once in a while I’ll get a second or two resurgence, a faint whisper of some of the things it used to say, and then it fades away again. I am able to go about my daily life without that Voice constantly telling me how awful I am, and I don’t even know how to describe the difference. My head feels so different. It’s kind of weird, honestly. So quiet. So still. I try not to think about it too much because I have some trouble wrapping my brain around the change. It’s such a relief, though. I actually, physically, feel like a weight that I’ve been dragging around for years has been lifted or taken away. I literally feel lighter on my feet.

The anxiety is dramatically improved as well. Talking to people is no longer a point of terror that requires working up to even ask “what’s your name” or something. I feel it significantly in my horseback riding – an activity that is legitimately nervous-making, but used to cause me intense amounts of anxiety. The past few weeks I still get nervous, but the level of nerves is, as far as I can tell, far more typical of your average person. Something I can easily manage, rather than needing to dedicate enormous resources to controlling. I like this change. I hope it continues.

Sometimes I hear antidepressants referred to derogatorily as “happy pills.” In my case, at least, that would be a serious misnomer. These pills do not make me happy. They do, however, allow me to experience happiness and joy and contentment in a way I never could before. They take away the constant background drag that had been trying it’s hardest to bring me down. They allow me to feel a healthier range of emotions, without the constant struggle that I had grown so accustomed to. I still have sads and I still feel nervous sometimes – but I don’t feel them ALL the time, and I am able to feel them in a cleaner way.

This is an interesting change. It’s a change I like and I’m glad I was able to reach a point where I could try it. I guess we’ll see where I go with it.

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