As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, I felt it necessary to share a mental health update that I have been conflicted on sharing. I am not a healthcare professional nor do I want to sway anyone into taking medication. I simply want to share what prompted me to begin taking anxiety medication after I was against the idea of taking it for so long.
Why Initially I Was Against Anti-Anxiety Medication
My biggest goal when tackling my anxiety was to gain control of it on my own, without the help of medication to do so. I did not want to be dependent on a drug of any kind to feel “normal” or more like myself, as the thought terrified me. I looked at taking medication as me throwing in the towel on my fight to better my mental health. I was especially scared of the possible side effects and how my body would adjust. Both pride and shame had a lot to do with why I felt this way. Instead of thinking of alternative solutions to improving my anxiety, I wanted to be in complete control and try to handle it on my own without even considering the pros and cons. Now I completely regret medication-shaming and looking at myself as a failure if I ever needed to resort to it.
How I Knew It Was Time To Seek Alternatives and Why I Decided To Go On Medication
Back in January, I had experienced a lot of changes when starting a new internship. Change gives me more anxiety than anything and it can sometimes be hard to adjust to drastic changes in my daily routine. The internship was a positive thing for me. The scheduling of literally having no days off (because any day I did not have my internship, I had work) is what took a toll on me, as well as unprecedented things popping up. This began to affect my breathing to the point where I struggled throughout the day to catch my breath and felt extremely fatigued. This was an extreme shortness of breath that I have never experienced- simply walking or doing daily activities made me feel winded and like I couldn’t breath. I made a doctor’s appointment who said everything in my exam was perfectly normal and it sounded like I was having panic attacks caused by anxiety. For years I was seeing a nurse practitioner who was the one that initially diagnosed me with anxiety, so this doctor did not even know about my anxiety. I purposely didn’t mention it when describing my symptoms because I thought it was something more serious that had to do with my heart and lungs (thank God it wasn’t) and I did not want an easy write-off if there were, in fact more serious underlying issues. My doctor suggested I see a therapist or take medication and I decided that it was time. He told me the side effects and although I was skeptical, I agreed to go on a low dosage (5mg) anti-anxiety medication. I felt that if my anxiety had gotten so bad to the point where it was now affecting my physical health, something needed to be done and maybe my anxiety was more than I could handle on my own. I was very emotional and held back tears when speaking with my doctor because in that moment, my anxiety became very real and I was very scared. I decided that I no longer wanted this to be bigger than my happiness, bigger than my clarity and peace of mind (the little that I do have). I knew my mental and emotional state were deteriorating, but again, I was determined to fix it on my own and take it day by day. But, it was time for me to let go of trying to be in control of something that was already bigger than me. I was not going to let anxiety continue to consume me. I was afraid of what my life would be like if it were to get any worse and what wold happen if I hit rock bottom again, but did not have the will to get up. It was time.
Where I Am Now
Four months on anti-anxiety medication and I have back parts of myself that I thought were permanently gone. It is very hard to explain, but I feel more like myself now than I have in the past four years. I feel a sense of peace and my overthinking has improved. I am not perfect and I am not cured, but I am better and that is all that matters to me. I still struggle a lot with decision-making and insomnia, but my adaption to change has been great, especially when faced with this ongoing pandemic amongst other life-altering changes. Anxiety is no longer consuming my relationship and I am much happier and optimistic than ever.
Again, this post was a personal testimony from my mental health journey. In no way do I want to force medication on anyone. I want to let people with the same struggles as me know that it is okay to seek help and take more drastic measures. I can only speak from my own perspective and my personal experience. I hope to continue to shine light on mental health awareness and be a support for others.