For a year, I took a low-dose of Celexa to manage some of the anxiety symptoms that were affecting my ability to cope with life’s challenges and causing a significant disruption in my life and in my relationships at the beginning of this period of time. Now, I am in the process of working the drug out of my system because I am at the point where I feel the medication did exactly what it was supposed to in my life.
Here is my experience, and my experience only, with mental health medication. It was a poignant experience in my lifetime that I am eager to share with others, because through it, I developed a lot of empathy, and recognized the important place that medication does have in mental health treatment.
Making the Decision to Try Medication
My journey through mental health (with a prominence of anxiety disorder) has been long, and life-long, having explored and used medications at particular points in my youth. Over the last decade prior to my trying them again, I believed that I could get through life, and my anxiety, without medication. I was (or at least thought I was) a true adopter of that “Life is 90% what happens and 10% how you react to it,”; I had gone through some significant life-altering events, including the illness and death of my father, job loss, and difficult relationships and hadn’t felt that I needed any help of medications for coping.
That didn’t last forever.
I finally got to the point that I found that my reactions were not working in my favour in the grand scheme of life. My thought process wasn’t clear. I was beginning to feel paranoid about things that I had only felt comfort with before. I was starting to do damage in my relationships.
I needed something to help slow everything down in my head so that I could literally save myself.
I needed help, and I turned to my doctor for it, who had walked the long road of mental health with me and who had been respectful of my medication-free wishes. Recognizing that I was falling short on the coping strategies he had helped build with me, he gently suggested, “Perhaps now it’s time to consider medication again.” I teared up in his office because I knew that I had come to that point and finally was open to embracing what anti-anxiety medication had to offer. He was so comforting of me when he handed over the prescription and we made a plan to see each other every 2 weeks to monitor my progress. I was terrified when I took that first pill, because I was scared that I would be reliant on medication all my life, or that a big part of me would change, or that I would lose control of “me” through the work of the medication. Of course that was my anxiety talking.
As my body adjusted to the effects of the Celexa, even in its small (tiny) dose of only 10mg, I could feel the symptoms of anxiety: self doubt, obsessive thinking, over-planning, and being afraid to make decisions peel away just enough so that for once, I saw everything as I wanted to and desperately needed to.
I was able to finally listen to that voice inside me that was telling me that I needed something different than what I had been doing for the past few years; that voice I had been pushing away believing that I just had to push further on the path I was on because I had no choice but to continue. I realised that I could be the one who could relieve myself of that feeling of being stuck that I’d suffered through too long.
I finally felt that push to move past the place of complacency that I was feeling for my life. It gave me the courage to not take others’ problems with me and opinions about me as the definition of my identity. I was able to have the courage to decide for myself how I deserved to be treated, and took action to address it. Most importantly, I was able to identify the aspects of my life that were the causes and the triggers of my anxiety – work demands, societal pressures, interpersonal relationships, financial stress, unnecessarily necessary obligations – and then recognize that I could actually walk away from things if they were not adding to my happiness or well-being.
My year with Celexa showed me that if I created a life for myself that excluded all those things that I identified as causes and triggers for my anxiety, perhaps anxiety wouldn’t be such a big part of my life.
I Understand It Now
After this year, now that I am starting another path on my journey towards my own treatment of my mental health, in which I have chosen to again go medication-free, I am glad that I have better understood why medications exist and why some of the most capable, deep, and motivated people in the world find them useful in their lives.
This year, my year with Celexa, proved to me to be a perfect application of pharmaceutical medications in a situation where mental health needed to be treated with something a bit stronger than diet and exercise, lifestyle changes, cognitive behavioural therapy, journaling, yoga, and the vitamins and supplements that can often be a perfect solution through mental health struggles.
I started on Celexa because my life was at a point of transition, where I experienced one of the greatest shifts in my life, not only professionally, but personally, emotionally, mentally, interpersonally, philosophically, and most important, geographically, where I would physically uproot myself and my family to move to a new country with a whole new set of professional pursuits. It helped me tremendously.
My year with Celexa gave me the space, the focus, and the courage, to face what I needed to in regards to my mental health. To a larger degree, it gave me the space to get myself and my inner well-being to the place it needed to be to feel as though I could build that better foundation for mental health that I needed in order to actually be mentally healthy.
I am so incredibly glad that I went on Celexa when I needed it, but have been struggling for almost a month now with what I’ve deemed to see as a necessary evil in using medication: withdrawal.
Every day, I’ve felt unsteady and have been experiencing what I call “buzzybrains” which to me, feels like a shift in my physical and mental existence that feels like a literal zap to my head. They happen several times an hour. They have been so bad that they have at times made me question why I have altered my body so much to be experiencing such strange and powerful withdrawal symptoms.
My withdrawal makes me reflect on how incredibly altering these drugs are for the human body. I keep thinking of how hard it would be to come off of higher doses or other medications. In the future, if I ever use medications for my mental health again, this will be a major consideration, although I will remain on the positive side of remembering the mental health benefits the drug actually produced.
Don’t Take My Word for It
I write about my experience with medication with a sensitivity and caution of how it could be perceived by all those who read this, especially those with closer ties to the mental health community, and certain mental health experiences, than I do.
I recognize that my particular life situation allowed me a certain freedom to actually make the changes I needed to move towards changing my environment and lifestyle that contained the causes and triggers of my anxiety.
Where I didn’t have the financial backing to make my big life change (but somehow made it up), I had the support, the skills, the know-how, the freedom of serious obligation (like children!), and a pretty solid plan on how I was going to make my change that I needed. I also had the support of my loving partner with me every step of the way, making these transitions along with me.
I realise that not all situations with mental health involves some need for change; sometimes people are okay with the status quo and how everything is all set up with their lives – and that’s fantastic. I’m getting there! But I do know that a lot of stress and anxiety comes from trying to fit ourselves into boxes, sets of expectations, jobs, ideals or images that our souls simply aren’t meant to occupy. That was my biggest contributor to my anxiety: being someone I wasn’t.
My sensitivities in my writing of this post also come from the awareness that the use of medication will be a life-long and necessary treatment for some. I am sensitive to the fact that different issues of mental health, psychoses, physical health, and those who have had different traumas and life experiences of mine shape people and their needs for chemical balance within the brain. I am not writing to suggest that we all need to opt out of pharmaceuticals as an option for mental health treatment.
What the medications did for me will always be a reminder that they are so helpful, and so necessary, for different people, different life situations, and different circumstances. I do hope that sharing my story will show how medication helped me be able to work on taking anxiety out of my life before it became something I simply had to “deal with”.
Where I Found My Mental Health Treatment Going Forward
For me, becoming mentally healthy required an assessment of how I was living my life – where I lived, what I did, who I surrounded myself with, and who I actually am at my core as a person. Now, instead of focusing so hard on working on that internal locus of control that I was trying so hard to develop as a way to be resilient to my environment, now I’ve actually changed my environment to fit me.
I am finding my way through anxiety. It’s still there, it’s ever present, even now that I’m living in a beautiful country and I’m doing new work that pleases my soul. As the old Confucius adage states, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I know in my heart that the work I have done with the help of Celexa to recognize my causes and my triggers are going to be what I base my healing and further mental development on. I’ll still always work to pay attention to my mind, my body and my heart so that I can stay in tune with keeping my life and the needs of my soul congruent.
On a social level, we don’t talk often about medications, but I can guarantee more people than we all know have used, or rely, on various mental health medications for their daily lives. I know that there is a great deal of people who believe that mental health medications are over-subscribed. I know that there are a lot of people who stigmatize those who are on mental health medications. I know that there are many who struggle with finding the right medication and path to treating their mental health. I know that there are a lot of people who are having similar struggles within their life that I did, and for many, much worse.
On a day that we talk about mental health, lets use our various experience to help others navigate theirs. It’s a tough world we live and and sometimes just sharing your perspective, and your heart, with someone can be the push they need to try new approaches to their self-care and mental health.
I am especially grateful to the role models, friends, professionals and confidants in my life who shared their experiences with medication with me so that it helped me get the bravery to try them myself when I knew I needed them. This is why I’ll keep talking.