I Finally Gave In To Anxiety Meds: This Is What Happened

A surprising personal experience.

I Finally Gave In To Anxiety Meds: This Is What Happened

We all seem to be in agreement: 2019 was a rough year.

Despite my best efforts to fight back against it, last year saw me surrender to the shadowy black clouds of fear, overwhelm and general unease that had been filling my soul for what was probably a lot longer than I realised. My anxiety (mixed in with what I think was a bit of depression) was finally identified, and once I’d opened those gates, I was flooded with more of it than I ever thought possible.

To be clear, there are untold cases in which people have had it a lot worse than me – I can’t pretend that this is on the high end of the scale for these kinds of things. But when my inner storm came in early 2019, it rattled me pretty hard.

Looking back, I can see that anxiety had played a major role in the direction my life took. It commanded a lot of my decisions all through my teens and twenties and was responsible for the excuses I made to bury my dreams at various stages throughout my twenties. I just hadn’t identified it as something separate to me until the point it all became too much.

The day it all went down.

I was working in a call centre when it happened. I’d just finished my music degree and I’d taken a job that I deemed safe, stable and fairly relaxed. “This will be the perfect opportunity to make money while I work on building a music career”, I lied to myself. In case it isn’t extremely obvious, this was purely a fear-based decision disguised as “responsible thinking”.

Things seemed ok there at the beginning. I loved the place. Everyone was nice and the work was relaxed. This might sound weird, but at the time it was close to the life I’d envisioned (in a strictly “realistic” sense). Until it wasn’t.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I started feeling uneasy about going to work. I took a few days off here and there because anxiety was creeping up over my neck, whispering, “there are so many things that can go wrong, just stay home and avoid it”, in my ear.

And then, at the beginning of a particularly normal day at work, I broke. I hid away in a meeting room with my team leader, confused as to why I was unable to stop tears from coming out of my eyes, telling her, “I don’t know what’s going on”.

At the time, I didn’t know, and it hurt. I hated not being in control of myself. At first, I blamed the job, then the fact that I wasn’t chasing my dreams, then my girlfriend (my poor girl), then a bunch of other stuff that was within reach.

Honestly, I’m not sure exactly how or when I came to realise that the problem was attached to me and not everything else around me, but I know it was around the time I started having sessions with a psychologist.

Plans with the psych.

My psych was great. She helped me identify my anxiety, and our sessions allowed me to clear my head and lay things out on the table. For the first time in a long time, I could see the different areas of my life as separate to one another and I was able to make semi-rational decisions about each of them. Most of this came from her letting me talk at length, too – don’t be fooled into thinking a psychologist is just there to tell you “what’s wrong with you”. I don’t know how it works with other people, but she let me figure that shit out for myself (with a bit of guidance).

Working with her, a plan was made. This meant altering my hours at work and making a few changes. The details are boring, but the gist of it is that I stopped focusing so much on my job and concentrated more on my music.

This worked, sort of. Things were clearer than they had been, and I was definitely making progress, but after a while I started to get a hunch that the decisions I was making perhaps weren’t as rational as I first thought. I was still filled with worry and confusion. Did I really want to continue working at this place? Am I really ok with this plan?

Don’t get me wrong, the plan was fine. Working part-time and making music the rest of the time? What more could I want? It was the perfect set up. It was the anxiety that was fucking with everything.

Give me the strong shit.

I let the anxiety run loose for about another six months before I decided enough was enough. Nothing I was doing was working; going part-time didn’t help, swallowing capsules of Seremind and chewing on Rescue Remedy all day wasn’t cutting it. Ashwagandha – while it worked for a bit – couldn’t stop the overwhelming dread. I was even meditating for 20-30 minutes every day and I still wasn’t able to deal. I really support meditation as a tool for wellbeing, too.

I had become completely useless. Everything was either scary, difficult or impossible. No direction felt right, no plan felt solid. I rarely left the house for reasons other than to go shopping. I disappeared from the real world almost entirely and ignored every opportunity I had to come back into it.

After another exhausting anxiety attack, I went to my doctor and told her it was time to medicate me. I’d been seeing her regularly, and we’d both been putting off the idea of using the heavy stuff to deal with the problem. We figured it was only covering up the problem and that it would be better to trying and pull the root out. There seems to be a bit of a stigma attached to mental health Australia, too (at least in my circles growing up), which made it harder for me to accept that I was at the point where I needed to try them.

But I was desperate and defeated. I was at the point where I’d do anything to get rid of the disgusting worm that squirmed around in my belly. So, she gave me a sample and told me to take it every night for about 6 weeks.

Disclaimer :

I want to make this clear: I am not trying to convince you to take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. If you can deal with your shit naturally – and I recommend you try, hard – then that’s a win. I would take natural remedies over pharmaceuticals any day, unless there was no other reasonable way that I was aware of.

What I’m doing here is simply sharing what has happened to me since I started taking them consistently. My experience might not be same as it is/was/would be for you, so please take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt and don’t assume you’ll get the same results.

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Here are the changes I’ve seen since the drugs have kicked in:

I’m able to be honest with myself and see what I truly want more clearly.

The sessions with my psychologist did a pretty good job of wiping away some of the gunk up there, but I now feel as though I’ve washed my mind out with a firehose.

I’ve never felt so clearheaded, which is surprising to me. I thought these kinds of meds were supposed to zombify you, and maybe some do, but it’s been a smooth ride for me so far. I’m able to bypass the layers of lies that cover up the painful truths I need to hear and have an honest conversation with myself about what to do about them. Do you know what it’s like to experience this kind of clarity? It’s fucking liberating.

Imagine you were able separate your real wants and your fears into two different categories, instead of lumping them together and making excuses about why your childhood dream isn’t really what you want. All of a sudden, you’ve got direction, a real purpose, clear as day. You can now see the light without the blinds masking it. This is when life begins again.

In the last couple of months, I’ve stopped lying to myself and started pursuing my creative dreams again. For the last few years, I’ve been pushing the creative calling – screaming, really – down into the pit of my stomach and covering it up with the heaviest blanket I could find. I’m sure you can imagine that it didn’t feel too good.

Now, I feel amazing. I haven’t been this excited about my future since I was about sixteen, and it’s because I’ve been able to be honest with myself. Honestly is clarity and the only way to truly move forward; if you’re not being truthful, you’re setting yourself back.

I’ve been able to face social situations I’d otherwise have avoided.

One of the biggest drawbacks of my brand of anxiety was the ever-diminishing social life, the pull towards isolation. I’m pretty introverted, too, so it wasn’t difficult for me to fall into this antisocial trap.

I can see how social anxiety – if it’s bad enough and left untreated – could easily lead to disorders like agoraphobia. It didn’t get that to that point for me, but I’ve been hiding away more and more over the last few years, and once I was able to be honest with myself, I could see I was really unhappy about it.

Now, I’m able to better deal with social situations that involve people other than just my girlfriend. A Christmas lunch last year helped me to see this – while I was feeling pretty goddamn awkward at the beginning of it all, I managed to get through the entire event without pretending to be on the toilet the whole time, and I actually enjoyed meeting new people and *deep breath* interacting with them.

Admittedly, being more social is something I’m going to need to be consistently and consciously pushing for. I wouldn’t say I’m jumping at every opportunity to be social that comes my way; last year, my girlfriend and I were invited to a New Year’s Eve party of about 20-30 people – I told her my meds weren’t that strong. But I think the fact that I’m willing to do more in general is a huge step, especially when I’ve done everything I can in the last few years to avoid other humans.

There is now a cap on how anxious I can get.

Bar a few exceptional circumstances, this puts me in a position to be able to stomach life’s curveballs and tough situations – at least more than what I otherwise would be able to.

I remember being in the thick of the anxious spiral last year and reminiscing about the times where I felt like both of my feet were planted firmly on the ground during hard times; nothing could knock me over, and I stood up to life’s challenges with a sturdy mind.

Now, I have that feeling back again, at least somewhat more than I have in recent years. I can really notice the difference, too: I’m in a situation that would have sent me running last year, only this time I can withstand the blizzard, like I’ve got a special jacket that protects me from the really big chunks of ice.

When I first heard the feeling described this way, I thought it sounded a bit unsettling –albeit appealing. I thought the meds would “stop the natural flow of energy from going where it needs to go and get stuck in your body, causing problems later on down the track” or something.

I have no idea if this is anything close to how things work, and I definitely won’t pretend I do know, but I’m absolutely positive I would rather feel as stable as I do now than let the anxiety snake its way through my body and inject venom into everything it can get its fangs on.

I’ve become a better boyfriend.

Yep, apparently so.

Since I’ve been fed the meds my girlfriend has reported – with a massive sigh of relief – that I’ve been more present, more thoughtful and more supportive. She also thinks I’m calmer, and feels like I’m “seeing” her again, sexually.

I couldn’t agree with her more, on everything she’s said. I feel like it’s much easier to create the space for her that she, as the divine feminine, needs and can then fill. While she has a much better understanding of the divine masculine and feminine than I do, I’m just happy to be able to give her the attention and presence she wants and deserves. Besides, I like being with her.

On top of that, I’ve tamed my temper. I don’t like to think I ever had a “bad” temper, but I’m noticeably more patient and supportive when it comes to my girlfriend and her own issues with anxiety and the like. This a win-win: she gets the understanding partner she needs, and I’m happy because she’s happy. It also just feels good to be there for her without making her feel like she’s a burden.

I’d love to be able to skip over this bit, but I should probably briefly cover the embarrassing and destructive effect anxiety can have on your sex drive. I’ve never found my girlfriend anything short of the sexiest girl in the world, but during a surge of high anxiety, it can get really hard (or not) for your body and mind to feel connected in the way they need to be. It wasn’t that I didn’t “see” my girlfriend for the goddess she is, it’s just that I was overridden with distracting thoughts and constant worrying. I’m happy to report that this issue is fast becoming a non-issue and you’re just going to have to take my word on that.

I don’t overthink things as much.

I’ve been an "overthinker" for as long as I can remember, and if you don’t know what it’s like, it’s shit.

For me, overthinking amplified almost every worry I ever had, causing me to put a stop to a lot of the things I liked doing. This was especially true for my big one, creativity. I literally tried to convince myself that I didn’t want to do creative work because of the hassle of dealing with the discomfort that comes along with it. Is that not crazy?

I have pretty hardcore OCD, too, which – as I’m sure you can guess – made things even worse. Not only was I consistently steering myself in the wrong direction, I was counting every rock and bush that I passed on the road to Hell.

Since the pills have started performing, my overworked brain has drastically reduced its hours. While that sounds like my brain just goes offline for big chunks of time, it’s done me so much good that I can barely believe it.

Seriously, nowadays when I’m faced with a dilemma, forced to think about something or even just need to make an easy decision, it’s less like, “Ok, let’s make this as complicated and weird as possible for you”, and more like, “let’s make this as simple as possible”. Do I need to explain how much pressure that takes off me on a daily basis?

I still have OCD, but it’s decreased in severity. I check locks and count everything, but it’s much less exhausting to do it now, and I’m able to let things go if I realise it’s getting ridiculous. I guess I don’t feel the need to have as much control over everything now.

My energy has increased significantly.

Honestly, until recently I’d just accepted that energy levels are supposed drop to staggering lows once you get past twenty-five and there’s nothing you can do about it. I thought it was normal to feel like every day there was extra weight that you had to carry on your shoulders, and that there was something seriously wrong with me if I couldn’t deal with that.

I was half right: there was definitely something wrong, and I can now see how much anxiety played a part in the suffering.

I want to be clear: quitting my job and deciding to pursue my creative passions is a big contributing factor to my increased energy nowadays. It’s now incredibly obvious to me that working in a job that was light years away from what I really needed to be doing drained the life from me. However, had I not overcome the anxiety and been able to see more clearly, I wouldn’t have been in the position to be able to leave that job and pursue my creative stuff. You get where I’m coming from with this.

No more being overtired for seemingly no reason, and a lot more energy to live the life I believe I’ve been dying to live. This increased energy has meant I’m able to do more, I want to do more, and simple things like making an appointment to get my weird knee pain checked out don’t seem like such an effort.

Going back to the “better boyfriend” thing quickly, too: the energy increase translates to all areas of my life, and it’s really nice – for all involved – not to be too tired for sex all the goddamn time.

I’m not as worried about my body image.

Like too many others, I’ve spent my life being unhappy with my body. There have been a few patches here and there where I’ve been ok with what I’m looking at in the mirror, but generally speaking, it hasn’t been a walk in the park to deal with.

I definitely don’t have it as bad as a lot of others do, but my body image issues have had a pretty big impact on my quality of life. Since I was about ten years old, I’ve felt uncomfortable in almost any situation that required me to remove clothes, bar some sexual situations (which is super weird, right?).

I can’t imagine what it must be like for some people. It’s a huge part of life and it’s something I would guess most people would think about on a daily basis. So, you can imagine the relief that washed over me when I started feeling like I didn’t have to pay so much attention to it.

It’s not that I don’t still think about my body every day, it’s that I’m not so fuckin’ hard on myself anymore. I’ll look at myself and say, “it would be a good idea for you to work out and clean up your eating habits”, but now it’s in a friendly, self-loving kind of way. I want to be healthy because I love myself, not because I’ll feel like a worthless piece of shit if I don’t.

For me, this is a monumental shift in thinking. Accepting that my body is as it is and then wanting to look after it is – again, for me – a much healthier way to treat myself. And when you want to do something for the right reasons, it’s much easier to do it.

Life is brighter.

This is a simple – but big – one.

Maybe it’s because of everything I’ve mentioned above, but I feel more optimistic about everything. It’s a lot easier to let positivity flow through me (before, it felt as though something was blocking it) and I’m entertaining new ideas and options for increasing my quality of life. If your anxiety is bad enough to let it fuck with your life, you might know that seeing the positives and coming up with new ideas isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

And it’s not just how I’m doing on the inside, either. I’m told I’ve got a better “vibe”, like the energy I’m putting out is overall more light and pleasant and fun. No one has actually said this, but I like to imagine that I’m glowing. It feels like it, anyway.

Glowing or not, it feels good that I’m giving the world a better energy again. It can be so hard to see just how deep in the hole you are when you’re in it, and the odour you emit in those states can be “sting-the-nostrils” foul, at least to other people.

Of course, there are down days, but generally speaking, my days are now filled with positivity, light, enjoyment of the present and excitement for the future. Maybe it’s my new positive outlook, but that sounds pretty sweet to me.

Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash

The negatives?

We expect a lot of shitty side-effects to accompany the positives of these drugs, but honestly, I don’t have a lot to say.

Although I did get some slight nausea while I was adjusting to them (really, it was only for a few days), the typical symptoms of these kinds of pills – vomiting, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, blurred vision, weight gain – haven’t cropped up at all. This could also be due to the particular brand that I’m taking; apparently, the side-effects are less severe than other brands.

I will say that I have been having a bit of trouble sleeping, but I’m not 100% willing to blame the drugs for that, because I’ve been staying up later than I should, in part because I’m excited about what I’m working on. Other than that, it’s all good so far.

There’s also the matter of feeling like I have to rely on something to keep me grounded now. I don’t really like that – I’d prefer to feel like I could survive without them. But to me, it’s the same with anything you have to “take”.

Because I don’t know the scientific stuff – the stuff that goes on behind the scenes when you take drugs like these – it’s always good to take any health conditions into consideration and, of course, talk to your doctor about it all. I’m not sure of what they’re doing to my insides, physically, but nothing feels out of place yet!

Conclusion:

To reiterate, this has been my experience on them so far. I’m not recommending them or trying to convince you to take them. Ultimately, I would love to get off them as quickly as possible and go back to natural remedies and practises but given the insane ratio of good-to-bad results for me so far, I think it’s worth doing – for me.

There’s always more work to do, as well. This is not the sole solution to your problems, and no one thing ever will be, I don’t think. Trying to go for an all-round healthy lifestyle is probably your best bet to stay as balanced as possible.

I hope this gave you a bit of an idea of what it could be like to take these if you’re struggling with anxiety to the point that it’s ruining your life in one way or another. Again, take the words above with a grain of salt, and be safe! This is only one person’s account of what’s happened.

I would love to hear about your experiences on anti-anxiety meds – have they been positive or negative? Are you still on them or did you get off them? If so, how did you get off? Spare no juicy details, if you’re cool with that.

Until the next time!

Cheers :)

treatments
Neander Hamilton
Neander Hamilton
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Neander Hamilton

Music Producer | Composer | Blogger.

I make music and write about things I care about.

neanderhamilton.com

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