Immediate Relief

Sometimes emotions just rise up within me without a forewarning. A sudden rush that overtakes me, blurring my logic, dizzying the world around me as if I truly am underwater.

In most cases, I’m using this metaphorical terms to describe anxiety. I’m very lucky that mine is kept at bay the majority of the time. I don’t reach a panic-attack level too often, at least I don’t think so. My everyday anxiety, a condition that is still very high functioning, comes out in my acute sense for detail and order, my constant restlessness in my extremities, and a racing mind that doesn’t want to settle into decisions or plans very easily. I mean, it’s not normal to become completely flustered over something simple as what to have for breakfast.

So it makes sense that I have some sort of medication that can help calm me down when a very panicky moment arises. After a year of taking a daily antidepressant for my everyday symptoms, mostly geared toward my chronic depression, I was recently prescribed a short-term, fast-acting medication to soothe panic attacks.

As a side note, I’ve become much more comfortable with the fact I’m on medication. Originally, when first learning of my mental health, I didn’t want to go down the route. Maybe out of shame for thinking I needed that much help or just a distrust in its capabilities, it took far too long for me to actually ask for medication.

But this medication is a little different. I have different fears about this as I learn more about the different mental health medications out there. Whether it’s Ativan or Xanax, the short-acting anxiety relief medications have a tendency to be addictive. That doctors might have to sit down with patients who keep asking to refill their prescriptions far too often. While I know I have the self-control and discipline of a monastery monk (that’s the nicest way to put it), I still fear a dependency on a pill to handle my own emotions. That instead of just breathing through a wave of panic, I turn to outside means to cope.

There’s nothing shameful about that. Not at all. I just believe that medication can and should only go so far. Medication is a valuable technology we capitalize on, but we begin to doubt our own strength to take on the tougher moments. We can not swallow down some pills and assume life will suddenly become a lovely stroll through the park. Handling anxiety should be a combination of techniques. Or maybe even one works just fine. But there’s no hurt in exploring your options.

I don’t only hesitate taking anxiety medication for the sheer fact it’s in a little pill. I just don’t know how I feel about the mentality behind it. By immediately feeling panic and popping a pill, am I avoiding my own problems? Will I self-medicate to know I’ll immediately feel differently versus me working it out on my own, more time-consuming but maybe more rewarding? It’s undoubtedly a tough line to walk along. I cannot speak for anybody else, but I don’t know if I’m willing to sacrifice feeling like myself, even in a frantic mood, for calmed nerves within ten minutes. I guess I’ll try.

So that’s what I did. Since it’s recommended to try the anxiety medication at home before actually needing it to see how you react to it, I did just that. I definitely felt a difference. A slightly uplifted feeling, but not necessarily high. I could see how that might alleviate that immediate breathlessness and calm people down. Except I don’t know if it’s just me getting used to how that feels or my reaction to most medications, it was accompanied with a dull headache and not-too happy stomach.

Will I immediately pull it out whenever I’m overwhelmed by a crowd of people or social situation? Maybe. It, like anything else, is a learning process. Heck, I’m still learning about how to best treat my depression, let alone the anxiety. Would it be much easier for me to just automatically click into an action plan to perfectly handles every symptom I may face? Of course, but life doesn’t work that way. I wouldn’t want it to either.

I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned since first realizing my own situation and the large-scale reality of mental health. It has become a new project and passion of mine that I know I will carry with me in everything I do. Without my years of trial and error, what would I have to talk about every week? And even with all of the work and effort I’ve already put into taking care of myself, I don’t even know if I will find that “perfect recipe.” We cannot set expectations for ourselves and our treatments, whatever they may be, to be an end-all key.

Yes, capitalist society is known for promoting constant productivity and progress and instant gratification for minimal effort. Relying on a strong, fast-acting medication has the same expectations. We expect some magical experience partying on cloud nine. But that isn’t life. That isn’t human. With medication that brings on a high, to breathing techniques meant to ground, where are we supposed to find a happy medium?

So the journey continues. Maybe Ativan isn’t really for me. But I’d like to think something out there is, in pill form or otherwise. With each step I take, I know I’m slowly getting closer to my personal “normal.”

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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