Since I first opened up about my anxiety two years ago and my subsequent experience with anxiety medication, I regularly receive emails from readers asking me more in depth questions about my experiences.
While I love chatting one-on-one about anxiety and am more than willing to answer any and all questions, I figured it was high time to do a frequently asked questions post about anxiety, medication, and everything in between.
“I feel like I’m crazy.” This isn’t a question, but it’s a common statement made by anyone who reaches out to me. I feel like I can’t adequately express how NOT CRAZY you are if you experience feelings like a tight chest, or worrying about bad things happening, or feeling guilty because you have a really good life and no “real reason” to feel the way to do. You are NOT CRAZY if you have panic attacks on a “good day” or feel utterly exhausted by the constant feelings of anxiety (it’s draining!) While I’m not here to play psychiatrist, I am here to tell you that you’re NOT CRAZY if you live with anxiety.
How did you know it was time to try medication? I’ve lived with anxiety my entire life, so just like I accepted my eye color, I accepted my anxiety as nothing that I couldn’t change about myself. Even with my background in psychology and mental health, I assumed I was different and that nothing could help me.
When I ended up in the hospital and had several doctors say physically, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you I knew it was time. While I had experienced anxiety all my life, it normally ebbed and flowed. At that point in my life, it had become relentless. It was like the anxiety switch in my brain had been kicked into overdrive (a medical explanation, obviously)
But even then, I was hesitant, feeling like medication would be a metaphorical waving of the white flag. Defeat. Admitting I was weak, broken, crazy. So, I saw a therapist in hopes of dodging the medication bullet.
When I told her I had tried every single coping strategy I knew (exercise, deep breathing, meditation, etc.) she said it’s time to think about medication. We discussed my feelings of defeat, and she put it all into perspective by saying, if you had diabetes, would you consider insulin a defeat? A weakness?
Uh no. Message received.
What medication were you on, and what was the dosage? I was prescribed 20mg of Celexa.
Who did you go to for the medication? It’s a common misconception that you have to go to a psychiatrist for anxiety medication, but you can go to your regular PCP. That’s what I did.
What side effects did you experience? My doctor made it very clear that I was not to go home and Google side effects of Celexa, and I obeyed! As you know, the mind has the ability to create what it fears, and I didn’t need any more of that. I was fortunate and didn’t notice any major side effects.
I don’t know if this is a real side effect, but for the year and a half that I was on medication, I did not cry. I was absolutely able to feel sadness, but I could never get real tears to the surface. Some people have an issue with that, but I did not. I remember writing in my own journal that I felt “emotionally constipated” but it didn’t bother me, because prior to Celexa, I felt like I had lost the ability to control my emotions. I was all over the place. I enjoyed having a healthy baseline. I never felt like a zombie or that I wasn’t able to experience emotions, but I was unable to be overly emotional.
Why did you get off medication? I know there are some anti-depressants you can be on while pregnant, but I was told Celexa isn’t one of them, so I weaned myself off before getting pregnant. Luckily, somewhere within the raging hormones, my serotonin leveled out, and I didn’t experience much anxiety during my pregnancy.
How did you stop the medication/did you have any side effects? Most people, myself included, want to know there is an out before they start medication. And I’ll be honest, once I was on Celexa and feeling great, the thought of stopping medication made me so anxious. Go figure. I talked to my doctor about weaning myself, and she gave me a simple schedule to follow. One week I took a pill every other day, the following week I took a pill every two days, so on and so forth until I was off. I think because I didn’t stop cold turkey, I saved myself from any adverse side effects. It was really very easy.
So that’s that! The most frequently asked questions I get about anxiety and medication. As always, it’s my goal to shed light on topics that people feel they need to keep in the dark. Anxiety (depression, or anything like it) does not define you, nor is it something you should ever be ashamed of!
I normally don’t filter the comments left on the blog, but I will today. Only positive questions and comments on this post, please!