Anxiety: When The Techniques Are Not Enough
Sometimes relaxation techniques are not enough to get you through an anxiety attack.
Sometimes meditation is not for you.
Sometimes soothing music just does not calm you down.
If you have tried everything you can think of to help lessen your anxiety, maybe it is time to seek alternatives.
Someone reached out to me for help the other day via social media. They are struggling to cope with their anxiety. I tried my best to provide options for them and I hope they consider what I had to say.
After my mom passed away I began seeing a mental health counselor. I also started to attend Al-Anon meetings. If you have not heard about Al-Anon it is a great support group for family and friends of people struggling with addictions. Combined, these two supports really helped get me through a very difficult time in my life.
But the tough times were only just beginning. Life had another hill for me to climb.
Now, I believe I have always suffered from anxiety. (Just ask my school friends and they can tell you how anxious I used to get before tests and exams.) I just never knew what it was until someone told me that was what I was suffering from.
Then my first big bout of anxiety hit. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I could barely function. I do not know how I was able to drive myself to and from work which was a half hour away in the next town. I sat at my desk shaking and experiencing electric shocks throughout my entire body. I went for two weeks without eating a thing. Food revolted me. I could not even watch one of my favourite channels, The Food Network.
But my family and friends were right by my side to help me through it all. My employer and co-workers suggested and supported a decision to go on stress leave for a few weeks. And my counselor at the time offered a different solution to my dilemma, medication.
At the time I was against taking medication. I am just like my father and I dislike taking medicine of any kind. Even for a headache. (Plus, I have trouble swallowing pills in the first place.)
My counselor was aware of how I felt about taking medication. I had indicated to her throughout the couple years I had been seeing her that I did not want to go on medication. I told her that I had seen my own mother on various types of medications and how my mom had abused her medicine. I also saw the side affects of many medicines. Since addiction played a big part in our family history, I was scared that I would become too dependent on the medication to help me through.
But my counselor raised a good point that I have not forgotten. She said because I am aware of what has happened in my past, I carry that awareness into my present and future. I am fully aware that medication can be addicting and that there is chance for abuse considering what has happened in the past with my family. However, because of that awareness, I know how to be careful and can make plans to ensure that that will not happen to me.
When combined with other therapies, medication can provide that extra hand you may need to just get you through for as long as you need.
I found that once my medication started working I was able to take better care of myself and could focus on learning other techniques used for coping with anxiety (such as CBT, relaxation techniques, etc.).
When I was first prescribed meds I started on the lowest dosage and we worked up to a dosage that provided the most relief. I was also provided with options as to what type of medication I would like to try. You need to research all of your options. Look at medications that have the least side effects (and there will be a few so expect them). Search for medications that have the least likelihood of addiction. And if you are prescribed medication that can be addictive, do something similar to what I did. I was prescribed two meds at first. One was for what I call long term relief (pills I would take everyday) and another was a short term solution (one that could be taken if was experiencing an attack that would calm me in about 30 minutes time). I handed my short term medicine to someone I could trust and told them to hide it from me. The stipulation was that he/she would only bring out that medication when it was absolutely necessary. This may not work for all but it is what worked for me. I found that if I did not see it but knew it was available, I felt safe.
Medication does not have to be a long term solution either. Some of us may have to be on medication for the rest of our lives. Some of us do not have to be. Many have succeeded in weaning off. I did once. Before we conceived our first child I successfully weaned off of my medication. And I was just fine. Actually, I never felt better in my life (but maybe pregnancy played a hand in that). One of the reasons I had to go back on was because we ended up having an unwelcome visitor in our “new to us” home, a sneaky little mouse, and I became paranoid another was going to join him. With a two month old I figured that for the sake of my health, sanity and my newborn it was probably best to go back on my meds.
If you want to stop taking your medication be sure to do so under the supervision of a health professional. You do not just stop taking your medication all at once. There is a method to follow.
Taking medication is not for everyone. I know that.
But taking medication does not mean you are conceding.
It does not make you weak.
If the extra help is available, why not take it?
I know it has made a world of difference in my life.
I will not be on this medication for the rest of my life. I know I can stop when I feel strong enough. And hopefully that day will come soon.
Disclaimer – I am not a healthy professional and nor do I claim to be. The opinions stated above are my own. Please seek professional help from your current health provider whether it be your family doctor, a naturopathic doctor, etc.