Two Steps Forward… One Step Back…

The last few days have been rough.  I once again tried to quit my anti anxiety medication, Ativan, cold turkey.  My psychiatrist said that would be okay since the dosage is not that high.  The Alpha and perfectionist in me hates to be dependent on pills.  3 nights I went without the Ativan and 3 nights I slept like utter crap.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  Thoughts raced in my head.  I tried to tell myself it was withdrawal symptoms.  By night 4 I found myself crying in bed at 1:20am because I still wasn’t asleep.

I caved.  I tossed the Ativan in my mouth and swallowed.  Not sure how long it took to fall asleep at that point, it wasn’t long, but I woke up at 9:30am the next morning.

I’m upset.  Just furious at myself.  Last night everything came crashing down on me.  I could feel the heart palpitations rising in my chest as I laid quietly on the sofa next to my husband watching a DVR-ed episode of Elementary.  My stomach started to twist and turn just as it did months before.  The old feelings I had were returning.  I was experiencing the beginnings of a Panic Attack.  At the end of the episode it was 9pm.  I had decided to go up to bed then because unlike the weekend, I couldn’t sleep until 9am on Monday morning.  Work required I wake at 7am.

As I lifted myself up off the couch I started to cry.  Tears streaming down my face.  It was happening again.  All the work I did for my recovery and I felt as if I was back to square one.  I was scared to go up and sleep in my bed.  I was scared I wouldn’t fall asleep.  I was scared I wouldn’t sleep at all.  My husband, a truly awesome man for staying with me, tried to calm me down.  Telling me I have come a long way and that no I can’t quit the medicine.  What I see as a failure in my recovery he sees as a success… coming to terms as to what my mind can and can’t handle.  At this point he also realized I was too forgone to calm down and kept demanding I go upstairs and swallow the Ativan.  I was in tears, hyperventilating repeating how much I am a failure because I am dependent on this medication. 

Over and over again, one realization came into my mind… I am sick.  I may always be sick.  And Alaska Stephanie (the perfect vision of myself) may never return to me without the daily use of these medications.  Like I have stated before, I had agreed to stay on my antidepressant, Lexapro, indefinitely and this took years for me to be comfortable with.  Realizing last night that I may have to be dependent on Ativan (or Xanax or Klonopin) for the rest of my life put me in a downward spiral.  It just increased my tears.  As my husband said, “Why do you care?  The meds are there to make you you,” I cried more.  I want to be me without the help of medication. 

Alaska Stephanie (see this blog post seems like a dream that will never be again.  She was strong and not medically dependent on anything.  I now have to come to terms that although she may return, she might have to always be medically dependent.

It also made me realize, and cry more, that although I am such an advocate for breaking the stigma associated with Mental Illness, I never actually thought of myself as seriously being Mentally Ill.  The infinite pill use just solidifies that I am.  Maybe it angers me more because of the stigma.  I am angry that I am sick and at this point may always be sick.  I am angry that I will have to take pills daily for the rest of my life to not spiral into a deep depressive state and to keep my anxiety under control.  I am angry that my brain is defective.  I am angry that there are people out there who do not understand what it is like and do not believe it should be taken as seriously as other lifelong illnesses.  All this fed my panic attack last night.

I did eventually go upstairs but prolonged the swallowing of that small round white pill.  I laid in bed still hyperventilating and watched some shows on Netflix.  At around 10:15pm, I swallowed that pill along with my “sleep med” which is actually an Antipsychotic, Seroquel, and rolled over.  My breaths started to become longer and shallow.  My heart stopped beating fast.  I fell asleep within a half hour and awoke to my alarm clock at 7am.  I could feel the after affects of being so tense last night as my arms and thighs ache.

I am Mentally Ill.  I will always be sick.  I am dependent on an Antidepressant (Lexapro), an Antianxiety Med (Ativan), and an Antipsychotic (Seroquel).  I am Mentally Ill.

Two steps forward… One step back…

2 thoughts on “Two Steps Forward… One Step Back…

  1. Sister in the struggle, stop for a moment. Please. I know you, know how VERY strong you are, know how VERY much you want to be free of the pills. I also know how very committed you are to erasing the stigma of mental illness. It's with love that I ask you to think about this:If our illness was NOT classified as mental illness, how would your feelings towards the medicine change? If we had cancer, or diabetes, or fibromyalgia? Would it be wrong, or weak, to rely on those meds? What if, like me, you had severe iron deficiency anemia? My iron treatments help with many of the same symptoms my anti anxiety and depression meds do… Fatigue, confusion, forgetfulness.Part of the stigma we're fighting is that the world doesn't see mental illness as an illness. As something that can be controlled, treated, maybe cured. Illness, says the world, can be made better by medicine (like anemiae ), by therapy (like cancer), by changes in lifestyle and habit (diabetes). Mental illness scares people because they don't think it behaves like a "real" illness.But it DOES. It responds to medicine, just like any other illness.And ask yourself… Why is it wrong or bad for YOU to get relief from medicine, and okay for hundreds of other people? You wouldn't deny a diabetic insulin, or tell an anemic she was weak to need her iron. So… Why are YOU beating up on yourself?Maybe it isn't really right, what J told you. Your meds don't "make" you who you are, any more than my iron makes me who I am. What our meds do is allow us the freedom from the symptoms that prevent us from being who we are. Just like chemo allows a cancer patient the freedom to regain part of her life that cancer stole from her.That being said, it could be the way you tried to go off-meds that caused a stumbling block. I never, EVER go cold turkey. Never. Instead of telling yourself, "Okay, this is it, I'm done" – try this: "I'm going to work on reducing my intake." Start wayyyyy small. Cut the pills in half. Go one night full dose, one night half. Continue until there is no difference in how you sleep. Then go to a half-half-full pattern. Slowly adjust until you are entirely on half doses. Then start an on-off pattern. Mentally, you will be better able to cope with ONE night of crappy sleep if you know that the next night will be okay. Physically, you will be giving your body time to ramp down. I've done this several times, and I know it works – as long as I take it wayyy slowly.BUT… There is NO SHAME in needing meds to keep our conditions in check. We can live full, healthy, happy lives, even with pills. You are the best you possible… And taking meds doesn't make you less, or more, or bad, or good. It isn't what our illness is. It isn't what meds we take, or don't take. It's what we do with the life we have that makes a difference.Hugs!


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