(anxiety and depression) going drug-free: and why you may not be ready

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.


coffin maker

who knew that in a dark bedroom
hunched to the shape of sickle
there would be no relief in writing down
one’s woes and worries?
in one way then two, then stacks
by the dark sketches in charcoal
and burnt discs of wailing in the attic
alone, ten ways then twenty.

then a tomb, how long the pharaoh plans
to die takes a lifetime, with one thought:
what to bury? what will go with me
when all that heaven comes?

but i am no king. i may have sixty years
by the look of it, and by the look of it
i’ve become a coffin maker. all this art,

for nowhere but the dark of a grave.


the seeing stone

i despise the seeing stone.
to see the bones beneath the skin,
palm pressed to the mirror
cold as a grown-up’s wish

it is a hot sick. a fever.
a violent infection of fantasy
on a rampage.

i despise seeing the truth.
a nazi nation in my backyard
budding bud light wisdoms
across a blanket of skin,

when will i learn it was always
the skin?

to stare into the seeing stone
you would think it fresh,
you would ask “from where
did such a thing begin?

for how long?”

but since the youngest youths
there have been bones in a body,
did you not know? did you think
in different rhythms?

were you always sung to sleep?


theocracy of tantrums

you trapped me in a birthday cake,
you clever lord, you,
with a red balloon tied to my wrist
full of blood.

“it’s sharp beyond the yard,” you say
with the way you killed the neighbor,
that old so-and-so we saw mowing
the dark green of a dark yard
in a dark mood by moonlight.

“you do not snuff me,” you told him lord,
you playful thing, you little rascal,
ramming his brains in with another drunk
and painting them across the highway
with a slick-wristed brush stroke.
two birds, one stone, eh lord? well,
three if you were to count passengers.

but do you count lord? do you?
who has the time?

who can sit and make lists all day? to say
some sadnesses are the measure of a milky way
full of impossible galaxies, each
full of immeasurable tragedies
silent and expanding,

not you, you precocious fiend, you.
not the birthday boy with the baseball bat
cracking us all on the head while we say
“gods will be gods.”
not i, with the curse of fragility,
with the trick candles forever burning.


a response to the peaceful sage

there is evil, sage, the same way
we who are possessed by the brain
say “depression is clinical” they,
the horrid ghouls of humanity
suffer from an incurable infection
known as “evil,” and though
we can classify by environment,
the upbringing of savages, the south
lit with the fire of stupidity
cannot be swayed, and cannot say
anything but the crooked tongue’s
own worst curlings, something willing
and something of a disease best left
to plague of the hate they spew,
the pepper spray in the eyes of protest
will find the hell it created,
the fiction of jesus will separate
from the fact of love.

the good will learn to fight, we will,
when cornered we will fight.


sherman remembered

we touched the burnt belly of georgia
and she remembered sherman.

where her palest parts blackened
beneath an ivory lace was the prospect
of a new tattoo, the cross
and a crucifixion.
but a great tenderness had spread.

‘the skin is too soft for this,’ she sighed,
but the way the burn faded to white
in the fashion of a marbled cake
she found herself in a long ebony dress
swirling into herself.

the neighbors were not amused. ‘perhaps
a scarlet letter?’ one suggested.
but further down the street she was met
with eyes, ones that smiled and shone
with all the colors of god.

home knows no fences.


equal is equal. protect our lgbt communities.

a fear of chainsaws

i have a fear of chainsaws
which is to say
i have a fear of loud and painful deaths.

but the chainsaw was never made to be
a suicide machine, and neither was i.
i could blame equilibrium, or the urge
that comes at the tallest heights,
the urge to jump, the one that comes
as if from someone else,
but that would be blaming the world.

when the cord is pulled,
when the motor coughs and whirs,
when the chain spins into a blur of a slice
and shakes me to the spine
i have a fear of loud and painful deaths

which is to say
i have a fear of myself.