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  • Writer's pictureAlex Rathbun

An honest evaluation of anxiety medication

Welcome to this week's Brightly Alex Mental Health Monday. Today we're talking about what seems to be a particularly taboo subject: medication for anxiety and depression.

As I've said before, in the case anxiety and depression, I think bringing things out into the light is one of the best ways to take power from them. I knew very little about this subject before I, myself, was exposed to it, so I just wanted to share my experience. As always, this is only my story and I'm not an expert on others' struggles, but hopefully this helps give you a better understanding!

When I first began therapy, my counselor asked if I would be open to taking medication if I needed it. Assuming that wouldn't be something I'd need, I said "sure!". Fast forward a few months and I started having intense panic attacks. One week, it got so bad that I spent my whole week trying to distract my mind from the possibility that a panic attack could hit at any time. I was miserable. Thankfully, at the end of that week, I met with my therapist and she recommended I get on medication. Before that, my anxiety wasn't hindering my everyday life. It would float into my day and distract me. Now, it was controlling my life and I needed some immediate help.

The practical details:

I had to coordinate with my PCP to be prescribed medicine (something I didn't realize I'd have to do. Couldn't someone just give me what I need!? This part was confusing).

When I started on my first medication, it definitely helped. It mostly stopped the panic attacks and helped me to feel more calm. It gave me the mental space to really work through the deepest parts of my struggle. Before the meds, I couldn't think about working through it because I would just become panicky. On the meds, I was given the freedom to not panic but to actually dig into the truth of my struggles (to actually begin to heal).

Unfortunately this medicine that worked well is not recommended for long-term use. Because of this, my PCP prescribed me a new second medication that I could be on for 6+ months, or however long I needed to be. This new medication, after getting in my system, has made me feel pretty good. There are negative side effects like insomnia, lowered sex drive, and occasional dizziness, but the benefits seem to outweigh the negativity.

Two weeks ago, I had to begin getting off the initial, short-term medicine that I had been on in conjunction with the second medication and sadly, my panic attacks started coming back. They have been more mild than before, but still present. So here I am, now waiting to see a psychiatrist who can hopefully help to figure out the best solution for me.

My thoughts on medication:

When I first started taking my medication, I constantly wrestled with feeling like I shouldn't "need" to take it. Or that I was just numbing my pain and this wasn't going to actually solve anything. Or that I will be better off if I take less of it. Or that I wasn't myself if I took it.

But the truth is, I was prescribed medicine because the chemicals in my brain need it. It is not because I am too weak or needy to function without it, it is because I need to take medicine to become healthy. This is easy to know in my head, but difficult to be fully convinced of.

Now that I'm in the struggle of not being on medicine that's ideal, it's really easy to start to fear that I will never be healthy. I can easily jump to the assumption that no meds will help, that I will need to be on medication for the rest of my life to feel normal, or that I don't actually need the meds because I can "push through" my struggle.

But this is where my community, my therapist, and every other self care practice I've written about come into place. I need others to remind me of the truths that I know but easily forget.

I am grateful for medication and I think it can be very effective, especially when paired therapy and other tools to get healthy.

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