After the Prozac proved to be ineffective, we started a journey of trying what felt like everything on the market, virtually becoming investors in the pill business. For anxiety, there was a plethora of options. These drugs are called benzodiazepines. They come under a variety of names and strengths. Xanax was the first experiment. Years prior I had gone in to see my primary doctor and mentioned that sometimes I felt a little anxious. He, without a second question or hesitation had ripped off the prescription of a low dose to take “several times a day”. To this day I think the man should be sued for malpractice. No follow up, no discussion, no warning, just a quick dispensing of meds to quiet his patient. Fortunately, I was so afraid to take it then that I just kept it tucked in my purse for years in case I felt extreme anxiety. Here’s the problem with Xanax, it’s very addicting. One can have a “dangerous dependence”. What they may not mention, and certainly did not to us, is coming off Xanax is potentially harder than heroin and although heroin withdrawal is uncomfortable it will not kill you, but Xanax can. Google it. Xanax is quick acting however. And I did find that taking even a small dosage gave me a rapid, yet short, moment of calmness. It is easy to build up a tolerance so the first time you take it, it works, but within a week you may need to increase your dosage. And what happened with me is after it wore off, I was even more anxious. By far my worse side effects came from Xanax. On one occasion John and I were headed to a funeral. I really tried to be “normal” and attend these significant services. I had taken a small dose of Xanax before the hour long drive. We were in the car and I began to feel like I was about to explode. I needed to get out. To scream. To crawl out of myself some how. We pulled over on a gravel spot next to a vineyard. I got out and paced, considering my options. Go back home to live out the day or get back in and do everything in my power to attend this celebration of a loved one. I chose the latter and climbed back in. People often find that they need more. And sadly many have overdosed. Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, among other celebrities are all suspected to have died from (among other drugs or alcohol) a Xanax overdose. Just take a moment to read the side effects. I don’t think that Xanax should be taken off the table completely, although I personally would never take it again, but if you do, it must be taken with extreme caution and supervision.
Although Xanax was dropped off the drug of choice list, we tried several others. Ativan and Klonopin are in the same family. We found that Klonopin taken in very small dosages gave me just the smallest edge of relief. So I was on a low dose for at least a year. I was not in danger of drug overdose. I was so afraid of this that I was extremely careful and always took less than the doctor even allowed. It did give me some comfort to know I could take this little yellow pill and it became part of my routine. This benzodiazepine takes effect by altering the levels of chemical impulses in the brain that can inflict anxiety and distress. I wish it was not part of my routine, but at the same time I was desperate for any edge.
Anti-anxiety meds were only part of my drug intake. I also was prescribed and tried just about every anti-depressant. All without any effect. SSRIs and SNRIs. We got to the point that the mental health department actually said to me, “we don’t have anything else to try”. John, who was my constant advocate, suggested some other combination that he had researched. I was surprised that the psychiatrist readily agreed to give this idea a try. Wasn’t she the one that had gone to school and was licensed to diagnosis and prescribe? Shouldn’t she be the one giving us ideas and educating us? Yet my diligent husband was now managing my health. We found this to be true too often. Please educate yourself and if you are unable like me to advocate for yourself, get help.
John spent hours and hours reading and searching for answers. I’ll expand on that later. He had heard that Yoga might help so one day he literally walked me into Yoga Works and signed me up for a membership. Of course I couldn’t go by myself so he signed my teenage daughter up with me. We would attend these classes together. It was somewhat helpful, but every session ended with my daughter asleep. Now we laugh. It wasn’t until the little tinkling of the bell that she would come back, having been so relaxed that she drifted off. I wish I could say the same for me. I was definitely not drifting off. I was doing everything in my power to listen and follow through with the yoga instruction. He also signed me up for classes on anxiety. Being dropped off to attend these support classes alone was monumental. At first my mom had to actually sit in the waiting room to give me the courage to walk in and sit there for the grueling hour of group therapy. Again this was helpful, but did not bring any big change for me. Nothing did. Day in and day out, my brain was just on fire.