In the height of my journey with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, I felt like I had no choice but to try medication. I was at a point where I was experiencing panic attacks daily, feared leaving my own home, and it was interfering with every aspect of my life. I look back and I am honestly shocked that I graduated high school and college, and didn’t lose every job I ever had.
The problem was, I had always been really against trying medication. My body is sensitive to medications, hormones, foods, etc., and I really didn’t want to potentially make things even harder on myself. So I had a really honest conversation with my therapist that went something like this:
My therapist: ‘Shannon, what are the cons of trying a medication?’
Me: ‘Well, I’ve heard that many people experience symptoms while taking medication and I honestly can’t handle any more symptoms.’
My therapist: ‘What if it helps to relieve some of your symptoms?’
Me: ‘But what if it doesn’t?’
My therapist: ‘Then you stop taking it. But this tool could give you some relief, and help you to be able to focus on other tools that help you to ultimately overcome anxiety and panic.’
My therapist was really good at not allowing me to trail off with my what-if thinking.
It was at that moment that I told myself, medication is just another tool that might help, and if it doesn’t, I just stop taking it.
That’s just it, medication is a tool that might help you so that you are able to focus on all of the other tools (mindfulness, making diet and lifestyle changes, positive self-talk), that will ultimately help you to overcome anxiety and panic.
So I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist to talk through trying medication.
Initially I was prescribed Ativan to help calm me during really intense panic attacks. Unfortunately this medication made me feel drowsy, confused, and even more not in the moment, which only heightened the anxiety and panic for me. Then I was prescribed Zoloft because a couple of my family members had taken it for anxiety and had success. The psychiatrist explained to me that if a family member has had success with a particular medication, it increases the likelihood that it’ll also work for another family member. For me, it unfortunately caused insomnia, vivid dreams, and a decreased sex drive (well, non-existent). I tried one other medication, which I honestly don’t even remember the name of, but it also caused more unpleasant symptoms.
I tried these medications for several weeks before deciding (with the help of my psychiatrist and therapist) to stop taking them.
I remember talking to my psychiatrist at the time and feeling so defeated, hopeless, and frustrated. And then she asked me… “Shannon, are you committed to you and your mental health? Because if you are, we can do this without medication.”
I’m sure at the moment I felt like throwing something at her head, but I left there and I knew that she was right. I needed to commit to me. I needed to commit to healing myself and the tools. I needed to stop just saying that I was doing everything I could and just do it.
So I started going to therapy weekly. I started practicing the tools that I learned every single day. I read books, listened to podcasts, and I opened myself up to new tools and healing approaches. I started to face it all instead of continuing to run.
I betted on myself for the first time in forever, and guess what, it was the best bet I’ve ever made.
What I want you to know is:
It’s okay to try medication. It’s a great tool that could actually give you the relief you need so that you can focus on healing and growing.
It’s okay if you don’t want to try medication.
It’s okay if medication doesn’t work for you.
Medication or no medication, I was capable of overcoming my struggles, and so are you!