In early 2009, after being diagnosed with anxiety, my doctor prescribed me medication. Venafalxine, more commonly known as Effexor, and Ativan, in the case I had a panic attack.
A crutch, is what the doc told me. More like like support if you ask me! I could take it with me, in case things got bad. Well, things were pretty bad.
But the shame that accompanied that, at that time in my life, at 19, when I was “supposed” to be the happiest person on earth, was completely and totally mortifying. I felt like I was a total failure, a total embarrassment.
I felt ashamed. Why did I need medication to cope with the day to day? None of my friends (or so I thought) needed it.
I was comparing myself to everyone else. I thought I was the only one in the boat I was in. And that boat was sinking. I was on the God damned Titanic. Noone else was using medication to deal with the typical realities of daily living. And if they were it was a well kept secret. Well, little did I know how well kept it was. And I kept it too.
I would hide my medication. As my friend tried to console me, “noone had to know.” I could take it at night. I could take it in the morning. You know, a time when noone was around to see. When noone was there to witness how weak and pathetic I was. How big of a loser I was.
It was like a huge weight. Those pills weighed a kazillion pounds. And I could hear them. I could hear them rattle around in my purse. And I wondered who else could hear them. I’d sneak one when noone was around to see me. I didn’t want to have to lie and say I had the flu. Antibiotics again?
Well, here’s my truth. Medication has saved my life. I have tried everything to stay off medication but I just, simply cannot. And I am no longer embarrassed by that. My brain doesn’t produce the same level of the serotonin neurotransmitters as most people. And so I need medication to help restore my brain chemistry to normal.
I remember hoping, years ago, that maybe the doctors would find that it was something physical. That I was misdiagnosed. Maybe it was my thyroid that was the problem. Maybe it’s actually not my fault. You see, you feel like it’s your fault, somehow, when it’s a mental cold and not something else.
Well, it’s not my thyroid. It’s not a brain tumour. It’s not physical. You can’t see it. But like my neighbor across the street, when I reach for my medication it’s because I need it. It’s not that much different than when she reaches for her inhaler, or you reach for your insulin, or someone else takes a pill to regulate their thyroid.
And, after trying for years to quit taking medication, and having had horrible relapses months after, I have decided that I will be likely using medication for the rest of my life. Yep, I take medication. And medication has saved my life.
So, there it is folks. I’m not saying it’s your answer. But why struggle for the rest of your life if there is something out there that can allow you to live a quality life? Why do we continuously believe we need to do this on our own? I’m so done with that.
I feel normal. My panic attacks are less. I worry about the normal things most people have a tendency to worry about. I feel great most of the time. I still have my days. I can just think, on the whole, more clearly and rationally. And that’s something I wouldn’t trade for all the treasure in the world.