To Medicate or Not to Medicate

Gah! I wasn’t going to blog today, because I have found that blogging feeds one of my personality disorders–procrastination. I also feel as if I’m letting myself down, as well as my husband. I have spent the last 3 years in a state of denial, sadness, and complete lack of motivation.

Today, I’m trying to get in as much typing before I finish my coffee, so that my excuse to stay on the computer runs out. So, if I sound as if I’m rattling, I probably am–but then, I usually do. I may even repeat, because I always do. Forgive me for my repetition.

I have written over and over about my struggle with anxiety and depression. Anxiety has been mostly on the top of my dammit list. Social anxiety is the second on the list. I have suffered most of my life with these two life stallers. (made up word here)

For decades – oooh I hate saying that, but it is what it is – I have been treated with antidepressants for anxiety. I hated it, because it made me flat. I also didn’t understand why an antidepressant was used for anxiety. I didn’t have Google back then, so it was the days I had to take my doctor’s word for everything. They knew more than I, therefore, I complied. Until I flattened out.

There were times I made it for years without medication, but used alcohol as a substitute. A couple of drinks and I had the best time at any type of gathering.

After children, I was on and off of antidepressants. I suffered from postpartum depression between all three. However, after a couple of months on the medication, I stopped.

The pattern of medicating and then stopping has been a cycle I have been through for over 20 years.

I tried all of the following, to avoid medications.

I exercised. Yes, I made good attempts at it. I joined a gym in the early 80’s–had all the proper 80’s type exercise gear-the leotard, the hold-your-jiggly parts-stockings/leggings, and leg warmers. Just imagine Jane Fonda.

As with everything I try, eventually, I get off track. It has to do with self-regulation. A part of the puzzle for my life. We have to set goals, and make steps toward these goals, while continually assessing what we are doing is taking us the right direction, and changing what isn’t working. I set goals, but they fizzle rather quickly.

I’ve tried diet changes, with the intention of adding exercise to manage my anxiety. Fail.

I started practicing mindfulness years before it was the “new” thing to do. It took me a while, but I finally learned how to block the thoughts I would dig up, to prove how stupid I was.

Then I had the idea that if I could block the negative thoughts, therefore, I should be able to focus on the beautiful things, and life would be all rainbows and sunshine.

While I was living in the world of ignoring the bad that happens in every life, I was unprepared for dealing with bad things that could happen to me. You know, believe in the best, but be prepared to battle the ugly.

And that’s when it happened. The bottom fell from under my feet. One thing after another. BIG happenings.

Living with general anxiety disorder, and social anxiety, beat me down. I had only experienced bouts of mild depression.

We all seem to have pivotal events in our lives which alter our directions. A cancer diagnosis was a biggie for me. I had a couple of years of therapy and medication–the old regular standbys that had the least amount of side effects for me to manage anxiety.

I lost my sister, and my world stopped. All the positive thinking, all the blocking of negative thoughts were replaced with a lack of will to go on, wishing I would simply go to sleep and never wake up.

Then—there it was. The look in the eyes of the person who has been standing next to me–loving, patient. While he didn’t complain – much – eyes hold all the information I need, and his were hurting for me.

The cancer diagnosis taught me how much we have to be our own advocate for our physical, and mental health.

It’s hard to advocate for yourself when you simply don’t care. I never hatched any plans to do away with myself, and the only harm I was doing, was creating a pit to stay in, with no desire to climb out, until it became too painful to live that way.

I finally found a psychiatrist who spends time listening to me. He’s an odd duck, but he will talk and talk with me in order to find the proper medication. He wasn’t the first psychiatrist I tried, but the former two spent little time with me, handed me a prescription, and that was it. I was a number to be processed through the office as quickly as possible.

It has been a journey, but I think we finally found the right combination of drugs. Along with therapy, I started to semi-live again.

I take medications because it is the only way for me to logically navigate around what causes my depression and anxiety. I learned how to distinguish grief from depression. I learned how to manage most of what makes me anxious. I have worked on my social anxiety – but that one I’m not too stressed over because I’m also an introvert. I don’t need people to exist. Just my inner circle–that’s enough.

I have side effects from the drugs, but they are manageable. The alternative of being off medication is no longer an option for me. I can stop my medications, but throughout my history, I will return to that painful pit.

Today, I can laugh, I can cry at appropriate times–well mostly, grief and frustration sneak up on me, but I’m actually living. I’m looking forward, instead of backward, positive instead of negative.

Please, don’t take this as if I believe that all suffering from some level of anxiety or depression needs medication. I only write this to encourage others to not give up the fight, whether you manage free of medication, or if you take medication.

I have found that existing on the two medications that kept me from falling over the edge was not the way I wanted to live, but I wasn’t actually living either. I was a dud. No spark for life. But I kept fighting. With the medications I am now taking, I have been able to practice more mindfulness, and I have learned a lot about myself that is positive.

Because of all I have learned, maybe one day I won’t have to take medications. But, if I do, I’m okay with that as well. Having a mind which I can control, even though it’s through medication, has been a life saver for me.

However, the biggest thing I learned, is that the medication alone will not magically cure anxiety or depression. Therapy alone will not be the cure. You are the key. The most important key. Medication is what helped me to see that. Nobody will cure you without personal effort and determination, whether you are medicated or not.

Okay, if you made it to the end, I ran out of coffee, so there are probably a lot of errors. I hope it makes a difference to someone.

 

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About April

I'll come back to this when I find out who I really am. I've been through some extremely rough patches but they have made me a better person. I blog if my brain is functioning first thing in the morning.
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18 Responses to To Medicate or Not to Medicate

  1. aviets says:

    I’m glad you spilled all this stuff. It’s important for people to know how very real depression and anxiety are. -Amy

    • April says:

      You know, I keep reading blog posts about how much people hate the medication they are on. Maybe it’s the wrong one? Maybe they are expecting miracles? It took me a while, but I finally found the right combination, after giving up so many times. We just gotta keep fighting.

  2. I love this post. There are too many gems of wisdom in here for me to comment on each one. Thanks for sharing your hard-fought lessons with the rest of us. 🙂

  3. mewhoami says:

    I didn’t see any errors, so for writing this in a hurry, you did great! Medication is better than alcohol any day. Alcohol does loosen people up, but its effects can be devastating. If medication works for you, then I say do it. After all, it’s about what’s good for you and your mental well-being.

    • April says:

      Everybody has their own personal way, and yes, alcohol can be devastating, and I could see how easily I could have gone down that road.

  4. suzjones says:

    Wise words my dear. Wise words from someone who knows.

  5. You are indeed the key April. And an amazing key at that.

  6. I for one needed this. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  7. Gallivanta says:

    I think many people, no matter what their condition, dislike their medication eg I am not keen on my asthma meds but I would have had a terrible quality of life without them. It took me ages to find the right inhalers and dosages and even now I have to adjust doses. It would be wonderful if meds could be made to exactly fit our profile/requirements. Maybe that day will come. It is being researched at least.

    • April says:

      I have the problem with the asthma inhalers too. The last one made my heart race, which increased my anxiety….
      My last breathing test results weren’t bad, but I can tell when I struggle. I use my rescue inhaler, and have been wondering if my shortness of breath was due to the extra weight I pack around, or should I dog my pulmonologist…which it sounds like I should. I use my peak flow monitoring, and it’s pitiful–at least in my eyes. Looks like I should be parking my butt at his office along with the ear doctor. 😀

      • Gallivanta says:

        Gosh yes, sometimes, they make my heart race too. And I got so discouraged by my peak flow meter, I ditched it! It stressed me out because I would feel I was breathing okay, then the peak flow meter would tell me my puff was hopeless, when my good sense told me otherwise. Anyway, thank goodness, I am stable (in my opinion).

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