I recently went to the doctor for a sinus infection and mentioned that I battle with anxiety sometimes, which was why I was so nervous to be in her rooms. Her immediate response was, “Don’t you want to go on anti-anxiety medication?” I told her I’d prefer to avoid medication for as long as possible, hopefully forever. Here’s why.
I’m anxious about medication. I’m not saying that antidepressants don’t work—I know many people who’ve said the meds have saved their lives—but personally, the idea of taking anxiety meds makes my symptoms even worse! I hate taking medication in general. I’m paranoid about side effects and withdrawal symptoms, which I’ve heard can be pretty nasty with anti-anxiety meds. I just can’t go there unless I’m desperate and feel that I really, really need them. Right now, the risk doesn’t feel worth taking.
There are some surprising side effects that I don’t want to deal with. These include but are not limited to sweating, panic attacks (that’s the most shocking one really), depression, tremors, and feeling like you’re floating out of your body. Whaaat?
The stats about meds are scary. Psychology Today mentions a Canadian Journal of Psychiatry report that found people on anti-anxiety medication have an increased mortality risk of 36%. That’s insane! As the article mentions, it’s not always safe to give patients the drugs which have many dangerous side effects, and sometimes people remain on them indefinitely because it’s not easy to come off them.
Of course, I also worry about coming off the meds. Since I often think ahead to the worst case scenario (thanks, anxiety), I can’t help but think of what will happen if I go on anti-anxiety meds and then want to come off them in the future. It can be really tough to do this. I have a friend who’s on them and can’t live without them. She goes off them and feels so panicked that she feels she needs them to survive. I don’t want meds to become a crutch.
I’d rather try to treat my anxiety naturally. I’m the type of person who always looks for natural treatments to ailments I have, and anxiety is no different. I try to exercise, eat healthily, meditate, and stay away from caffeine if I’m feeling a bit nervous. Those things work for me because I’m in tune with what my body needs and when it needs it. Doctors might think I’m foolish to avoid meds but I at least want to try. If my attempts don’t work, I’ll deal with that then.
Right now, I’m OK. Yes, I have generalized anxiety and I suffer from panic attack episodes, but I’m learning to deal with those feelings and I feel like I’m not in a place where I need help in the form of medication. I also trust my loved ones to tell me straight up if they thought I needed help. I’m taking it a day at a time. Sometimes I can go for many days without anxiety popping in for an uninvited visit, which is great progress.
I want to learn from my anxiety. A few years ago, I went for therapy to deal with my anxiety and my psychologist gave me some excellent tips. Instead of suppressing the feeling, which is what I personally feel like I’ll be doing by taking meds, I should aim to bring the anxiety out and confront it. I choose to learn from it and I do that daily.
Anxiety has been an amazing teacher. Although anxiety can scare the hell out of me when it strikes without warning, I’ve learned a lot from it. For example, it’s taught me to focus on things in my life that stress me out. It’s a warning bell that I need to switch on self-care mode and look out for myself.
I don’t want to be numb. Emotional numbness can be caused by anti-anxiety medication. In fact, a study mentioned in Psychiatry Research journal found that 60% of 1,800 adults who’d taken antidepressants had experienced feeling emotionally numb. I’ve seen this first-hand with a friend of mine and I don’t want to become like that. Honestly, I’d rather feel things than not feel them even if that means that sometimes anxiety gets in the way and crashes the party.
I want to find my truth. Sarah Wilson, author of the fantastic book First, We Make The Beast Beautiful, writes about how sitting in anxiety can help us find the truth of who we are because it brings us to ourselves. “And when we veer or we deviate from the truth, anxiety steps in and forcibly tells us ‘Wrong Way Go Back,'” she writes. I love the idea of anxiety lighting the way to our truth and helping us stay on track with who we are! Why would I want to shut it off completely?
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