Coming up without air
In a few months, I will have been on my anti-depressant for an entire year.
I wish it were just a coincidence that this year has been one of the most freeing, truly enjoyable years I've ever had, but a coincidence it is not. I know some people go their entire lives never having found the littlest bit of relief, so I have worked above and beyond to be grateful for this year even if that's meant going out of my way, changing my attitude about a situation or not letting petty matters get to me. An anxiety-free life has been a gift. No needing to scope out where the bathrooms were in places upon entering, no nausea every time I entered a car, no uncontrollable shaking behind a steering wheel, no flaking on someone because of panic, no raging mood swings, no panicking every time I was left alone with my kids, 3AM hospital runs to Emergency, heart palpitations, panic attacks, crying fits, uncontrollable waves of sadness, freaking out I'd get food poisoning upon eating a bite of food.
I drove across the country. I was interviewed by a friend I hadn't talked to in years. I went to a musical and sat in the mezzanine. Nine short months ago these instances would have been nothing but a pipe dream.
I lived. And I lived freely.
Anti-depressants are not for everyone, especially if your doctor rushes you on meds and your case can be remedied by a few lifestyle changes. My case required medicine, and when it kicked in, it felt like my paranoid, anxiety-ridden indestructible shell had been crushed, shattered, and defeated, and I could - for the first time - see and hear and smell. It felt like the person who I wanted to be finally crawled to the surface and could breathe. My internal dialogue reflexively went to is this what living feels like?
With any ailment that demands perpetual management, evaluating progress is required. So as I approach the one year mark, I've got a few things on my mind. Typically, the longer you're on an anti-depressant, the harder it is to get off. Taking anti-depressants is not advised while pregnant (at least the one I'm taking). And it's not unusual for your body to begin adapting to the medicine and it losing its effect after a while. For these reasons, I'm wanting to take a more comprehensive, holistic approach for management and healing, or at least head in that direction.
I haven't found a therapist since moving out to Michigan—something I was advised to do by my Washington doctor. I haven't taken care of my neck and back injuries, and I'm only semi-dedicated to fitness. All of the above need to be taken into account while going down this next path of anxiety management. Anyone who is...'seasoned' in dealing with anxiety knows self-care is vital in beating the demons of anxiety. As a wife, mom, and employee finding that time can be hard, but when self-care equals sanity, some things on the continually-growing priority pyramid must get booted.
I'm scared. When the pill bottle begins to empty and I've begun to wean off, I could go from a functioning, working, driving, playing with my kids, wife and mom to not a non-functioning, unemployed, emotionally removed, agoraphobic invalid. It's the scariest, most nerve-wracking decision I've faced, because I don't want to lose what I've gained. I hid the miseries and realities of clinical anxiety for years dating back to grade school. To have known what it feels like to live without the daily and and often raging symptoms of anxiety has been eye-opening in the most heartbreaking and relieving kind of way. I'm not prepared to go back.
There is always the possibility of me needing to be on some sort of medicine for management indefinitely. With mental illness in the family, this fate could already be written in the stars for me. And if that's the case, let God's will be done.
It's a hell of a process, though, to begin to wean off and to make sure my body and mind is in a state that can cope sans drugs—vitamin cocktails, regimented workouts, designated "me time", breathing exercises, yoga, therapy. Here we go. I've never been skydiving, but I imagine this is what nearing the edge of the plane door feels like.
Here's to hoping for a smooth landing.