There often exists great reluctance about taking pills to get better……I myself grew up that way, with a predisposed negativity. I still remember the first time I took adult aspirin & what a miracle it seemed to be, when I was a freshman in college. Even in High School, I had never had anything more than baby aspirin.
I remember my own reluctance when I talk to my clients about considering medication. I look at medication as an experiment, it may or may not be effective but it’s worth finding out……
Medication can be a lifesaver for some people, there is no doubt in my mind.
Medication will not make you a “zombie” which is the fear most often voiced by clients. Medication for anxiety or depression is not about tranquilizers. SSRI’s are most often prescribed in these situations. It really is remarkable how they can help people feel able to function…..
Recently I asked one young woman to write a few words about her positive experience with medication (reprinted with her permission):
“When I started to experience severe anxiety symptoms, I was convinced that there was something physically wrong with me. It had seemed to come out of nowhere, and felt really out of control. I was having panic attacks, very physical fight or flight symptoms, and I just couldn’t figure it out. I had all the tests done, and everything came back clear.
I thought that there must be something that they hadn’t found (another reason I should have realized it was anxiety!) I was prescribed Xanax by my PCP to take when I felt a panic attack coming on, and I began to see my first therapist. I hated taking the Xanax, and just felt like medication wasn’t for me.
Things started to get more manageable, but I still felt really uneasy about everything, like an attack could come on anytime, and I had no trust left for my body. A pretty tough year went by, and then, almost exactly a year from when I had the first attack, I had another one. (The first bad one in months.)
I started seeing Rhoda, and we began to make some progress, but I had started having obsessive thoughts about death and dying, which seemed to come out of nowhere also and were utterly miserable. It was like they were on an infinite loop, and I had no control over them. After showing up to therapy and bursting into tears when Rhoda asked me, “How are you?”, we began to talk about the possibility of medication.
I was opposed to the idea.
I had the idea that I think many people have– I should be able to just “get over” this on my own. I didn’t want to alter my natural thoughts, my natural chemistry.
After suffering for weeks, I finally, with the help of Rhoda, decided to begin taking Celexa, a relatively mild anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication. I was extremely nervous about it, read about every single side effect possible, and went back and forth about it for about a week. I finally bit the bullet and began taking it, and I can’t even believe how long I waited.
This medication has made everything easier, in every way, and has taken nothing away from me. I don’t feel “different.” I feel like I’m finally myself again. I’ve always been a worry wart, and I still worry, but the medication has taken the edge off. I have been taking it for several months now and I am so, so much happier.
I finally feel confident that I won’t have a panic attack, which has taken the huge black cloud of worry that hovered over me away. It hasn’t changed me, it has changed my anxiety. I now realize that being debilitating anxious wasn’t “natural” for me, I had an imbalance. The medication has corrected this, and it has made it possible for me to move forward in my life.
I feel like its given me space, breathing room. I can now enjoy a day without feeling anxious, and when I do feel anxious, it is manageable. It is normal. I have even had similar thoughts about death, but they go away. I’m still skeptical of medication in general, but my attitude about medication for depression and anxiety has changed.
I can’t even begin to describe how much it has helped me, and it’s been less than 4 months.”
Medication is an experiment that can be started or stopped, it is not a lifetime decision. It might even be the beginning of getting better….