This fall left me feeling wrung out. I don’t know that I ever really feel stable and like I have a hold on the various pieces of my life. What I do know is when adverse symptoms grow in severity I feel like I cannot get my head above water. My perception of the world changes so that I am an animal trapped in a cage. I look around me and see everything, everyone as a reason for fear. I become irritable to the point I avoid leaving the house and speaking to anybody. The way somebody talks, the way they close the door, the way they chew, the very essence they exude feels abrasive. I am overstimulated by noises, sensations. A loud truck passing by sends my heart rate upward into the realm of abnormal. The feeling of a certain sweater makes me feel like I am covered in bugs. I rip it off in disgust. Another day this sweater may just feel like any other article of clothing. I cry easily. I tear up sometimes for no reason. The normally manageable feels completely unmanageable. There is a level of stressors I am equipped to handle and the threshold at which I break is exceedingly low. One stressful situation a day is all I can withstand. I constantly feel like the world is falling apart, like I am falling apart and despite my attempts to hold myself together I am in a thousand different pieces drifting away in divergent directions and I cannot possibly hold it together. This was my fall.
For years, I hated being on medication. I hated how it made me feel. As a somewhat granola-loving individual in my early 20’s, I hated myself for taking medication. The people I surrounded myself with told me how worthless I was for succumbing to chemical assistance. I felt like I didn’t belong and to some extent, I’ve always felt this way, but I didn’t belong with the people I actually cared to belong with for the first time in my life. People I thought I find that ever-elusive sense of belonging with. So, after much struggle, I took myself off medication after three attempts. I was free from medication for around four years and I officially went back on medication last spring. I decided to take buspirone to take the edge off my anxiety, but ultimately it was not effective. This fall, I was so unbelievably miserable, I decided to take an SNRI with open arms. I ran towards it.
You know what? I don’t regret it. As a medical professional, I do believe medications are overprescribed. However, I also believe they can be incredibly helpful for throngs of people. They give quality of life. While I am a firm believer in preventative medicine, there’s a point you reach where you need medical advances to complete the process. To provide some perspective, I was doing everything people tell you to do to keep your mental health in check. I was regularly seeing a therapist. I spent time with my pet rabbit. I worked out every single day of the week. I integrated yoga into my life again after a long hiatus. I avoided gluten. I ate lots of fruits and vegetables. I kept a regular schedule, going to sleep at 9:30-10:00 p.m. every night and waking around 6:00-7:00 a.m. every morning. I forced myself to leave the houses, even to run to the grocery store. I started meditating. I put lavender and vanilla oil in my oil diffuser every night. I talked to loved ones. I wrote out my feelings. I started worked towards changing major stressors, mainly, looking for a different job and choosing to hold off moving out of state for the time being. I took vitamins. I avoided alcohol. I cut out caffeine. I avoided scary movies and negative news. I did everything I was supposed to and I was floundering.
When I took the medication, it was the day after a particularly difficult work shift that left me feeling like a shell. The effect was almost immediate. I felt like a stopped had been placed in the bottom of me and all of my everything–my emotions, my energy, my resolve–was no longer rapidly leaving me. I felt like I could, albeit shakily, stand on my own two feet. I felt the emotions simmering underneath the surface and I had the side effect of feeling slightly numb and repressed, but as the days passed, I’ve started to just feel relieved. I have a break from the confusion, the fear, the identity crisis, that feeling of drowning in my own mind.
I know that there is still work to do and I intend to do it. I want to be better to myself. I’m quick to feel like I am worthless, to tell myself I am worthless over and over again. I want to be present in my friendships. I want to be a loving partner. I want to contribute to my community and create that sense of belonging through positive participation.