it’s 4 in the morning and you have been huddled over WebMD. you’re uncomfortable and scared. you have seen twenty doctors, all of whom shrugged your pain off or suggested minor fixes to what you know are bigger problems. you have seen all the message boards for every disorder you know and think you have, and nobody has said anything you wanted to hear; hell, someone with the same symptoms of you got diagnosed with that big terminal illness you were afraid of getting. all you know is that the doctors are wrong, you feel it, you know it, and everyone who has told you its all in your head is going to regret it when you finally get wheeled out of your room in a body bag.
this is my anxiety. i have had GAD and Panic Disorder for almost 9 years now and over the past 2 years it has become debilitating. i have lost jobs, relationships, friends, and most recently dropped half of my class load…for an art degree. that’s right. i can barely go and do what i love to do. everything i love to do has been taken away from me. the anxiety caused a phantom illness which has caused horrid phobias and depressions that all snowballed into a series of nervous breakdowns that have begun to do real damage to my body. and unfortunately, i can reassure you that anxiety disorders can in fact lead to real chronic disorders.
in 2008 i went to the doctor over a fear of falling asleep. i would feel that i was slipping away, and that when i closed my eyes and leaned back i was going to black out and never wake up. it was my first instance with any psychiatric treatment, and i stupidly got it from my primary care doctor. he determined it was anxiety, and did what i believed until recently was the worst thing to ever happen to me: he prescribed klonopin. if you don’t know benzos, they are scary as hell. xanax, klonopin, valium: they provide quick relief to panic attacks and are widely prescribed, and abused, by hundreds of thousands of people. what i wasn’t told at the time was what the long term side effects of these medications are. i won’t scare you, you will probably look them up yourself, but let’s just say its like putting a bandaid on your knee and the bandaid fusing with your leg by the time you are ready to quit. they change the entire chemistry of your brain. they can change you.
and when you find this out too late you feel cheated out of a piece of yourself. i took klonopin just for attacks for a few years, but my overall anxiety started to get worse. i had doctors and psychiatrists increase my dosages, trying to branch out and try different pills.
but i was resistant. what i haven’t mentioned was that one of my phobias is pharmacaphobia. it is the anxiety over taking medication. so how does one treat a fear of taking pills with a pill? IT DON’T WORK WELL LEMME TELL YA. the fear of possible side effects of life altering changes in movements or ways of thinking and perceiving reality actually negates the affects of most of the anti anxiety and depression medications prescribed to help me. for the longest time i didn’t have very much relief, and i was more obsessed with quitting klonopin than willing to let it help with my anxiety. this is a problem! here is why: the cycle created by needing a medication for your anxiety, but fearing it’s side effects and wanting to get off it causes FALSE withdrawal symptoms. i say “false”, because they are not physical withdrawal symptoms, but the symptoms themselves are felt as VERY real.
google “benzo withdrawal symptoms”. go ahead. i’ll wait.
terrifying, huh? but did you notice anything about a lot of these symptoms? these are also mostly ANXIETY SYMPTOMS. what a lot of people searching the web for support weening off their medications don’t realize in their panicked brain fogs is that being off a drug supporting anxiety relief is most definitely going to lead to anxiety coming back, fast and hard. please consider this first, before thinking you are going through withdrawal symptoms.
ask yourself: “what is my dosage?”
hilariously, thanks to my pharmacaphobia, my normal dosage of klonopin has been a .5mg pill, of which i take HALF. so, .25mg. and rarely in my life have i allowed myself to take one every day, never once taking two in one day. the average dosage after initial trial is typically 1 mg a day. the people at risk for the more sever withdrawal symptoms of klonopin are taking upwards of 3, 4, and even 5mg of the stuff. if you are on .25mg a day, think of taking 8 or ten of those. or don’t, i am getting anxious just thinking about it myself.
this isn’t to say what you are going through isn’t withdrawal symptoms. this is a nasty drug, which is why i went a year without it. my dumb ass did it without psychiatric help though, and even then i would have never been able to ween off it without self medicating with marijuana. the problem there is that i was smoking every single night, which had some wonderful benefits but unpredictable side effects, and i realized i was becoming psychologically dependent on weed just as badly as klonopin.
flash forward to now. after stopping weed my body clenched harder in on itself than ever before. in just a few months my agoropobia, hypochondria, TMJ, IBS, GERD, back pain, muscle tension and depression have ravaged my mind and body and i am weaker and in worse shape than i have ever been in my life. it spiraled when they started trying me on new medications, gabapentin, valium, xanax, all that made things way worse. so eventually i ended back on klonopin. and it worked.
and i hate that.
i hate how it works and dont trust it, which sort of makes it work a little less in a way. i managed to go a week without it before an attack last week, now i am three days without it and in a great deal of pain. this is a bad plan, as any sane person would tell you, because it is fucking with my body chemistry. i wait until my body feels like it is about to crash before taking the medicine, and every other moment of my life is a pain creeping towards collapse. if i sleep off klonopin i get 5 hours if i am lucky.
DON’T DO THIS! I have tried all the holistic remedies you could think of while off medication. I am currently in physical therapy and massage therapy, all of which are immediately negated by the fact that my mind and body are not fit enough to begin weening off this medication to find a holistic approach to combatting anxiety. why would you try to start working out a broken ankle before it is out of the cast? you wouldn’t, because that’s dumb and it does not work.
my advice to you is to consider your timing. where are you in life? are you stable enough to make this transition? is a transition even right for you? i would hate to think of myself needing any medication for life, especially considering i am only 27 years old. but the truth is starting to come out slowly, and i am currently half way to accepting that maybe my brain chemistry is just off. acceptance is a hard thing to do with anxiety. maybe it is the hardest thing about it, accepting that you are okay and that you aren’t at the same time.
i just hope you take some time to consider quitting medication if you have been constantly trying and failing. instead, focus on doing what it takes to make the moments of your life as enjoyable as possible. as someone who hasn’t done that in a very long time, i can say that i miss that the most.