disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This is my non-clinical, personal experience and opinion.
Each month, I get several hundred, maybe thousand visitors to my site to read about anxiety. Just today, for example, I got two emails from readers saying “thank you” for my posts, asking me for more resources on dealing with anxiety.
As I thought about what I have on my blog, I realized there was a gaping hole – on anti-depressants. I have hesitated writing on this topic for a long time for a number of reasons. But finally I felt like the topic, the story, was incomplete. Since I speak so much about anxiety, and obviously have connected with readers on this topic, I felt that I needed to address it to paint a complete picture of my story and my beliefs.
I started this blog to share my experiences, to help others, and I hope that this post does, too.
The first time I was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” I was 25 years old. She handed me a prescription for anti-depressants, which I promptly crumpled in the trash. And I’m glad I did.
Over the next few years, I was prescribed anti-depressants three more times. The final recommendation was from my counselor, who incidentally was also an elder at my (conservative) church. Each time, I refused.
By the spring of 2012, my anxiety was at the worst it had ever been. Or maybe it just seemed that way, since I had two small, exhausting children to care for, and was getting little sleep. Either way, I was sitting in the doctors’ office (for reasons you can read about here) when he prescribed me – for the fifth time in my life – antidepressants. I was so desperate to become better, that despite the stigma, despite my shame, despite my fears of what else they would do to me…I started taking them.
The first few days were horrible. He did not warn me how I would feel when they entered my system. I realize now the physical symptoms I felt can be normal. At the time I was even more confused, more desperate, more anxious.
I stuck with it – if for no other reason than the people in my life practically commanded me to give it at least a few weeks.
I think it had been about a week. I was sitting in my sister’s house, on her floor, pseudo-watching the kids playing, when all of a sudden, something happened that had not happened in a long time.
I could take a full, deep breath.
A real deep breath.
I had been living in the clenched-fist, tight-chest, panic mode for so long. I nearly cried. Over the next few weeks, as he predicted, I improved even more. I would still feel anxious sometimes, but anxiety did not rule every second of my life. Far from it. I had my life back.
Over past three years, I have had times when I take these medicines, and times when I don’t, and I feel fine. The bottom line is that I am incredibly grateful for how these medicines have helped me. However, and this is a big however, I want to answer a number of questions that those reading may have.
- Could you have avoided taking these medicines? Are they the only, or best cure for anxiety or depression?
I absolutely think I could have avoided these medicines. I think I allowed my anxiety to get to the point that I could not manage it. I have learned many tips and tricks that help me, and I am very, very cognitive now of the fact that I cannot allow anxiety to spiral out of control.
- Are anti-depressants the best or only cure for anxiety?
No. There are better ways, and there are many ways. From experience, I have also had great success keeping my anxiety at bay with regular exercise (which was proven to be as effective as medications in various studies), with Vitamins B and D, with good sleep (this one is HUGE), and with counseling/cognitive therapy, and with positive activities I’m involved in (seriously to this one! Keep busy, keep happy!).
Also, the next time I go through an anxious season, I plan to integrate essential oils. I’m very intrigued by this concept of oils healing anxiety. So again, NO, they are not the only way. I know that I ALLOWED MYSELF to get completely out of hand with my anxiety, to the point that medicine was able to help me in a way that these other things could not.
- What role does have you seen God and faith play a role in dealing with anxiety? Is your worry a spiritual issue?
I would never speak for someone else. I know that for me, there are two components. There is a spiritual aspect to my worry. There is and will always be my stubborn desire to control my life. There will always be a fear to believe that the Lord is good. In other words, my worry is sin.
But also, I know that there is a physical component to my worry as well. Sometimes my body has a physical, anxious response that I don’t think has anything to do with my sin. Only the Lord truly knows, and again, I would never speak for someone else’s mind and body. How could I? But this is what I think for myself. There are both.
- Would you recommend that someone take these medicines?
They are not a perfect fix. Many people suffer various side effects. These medicines work from the gut, and I feel my gut got all out of whack being on them. I have to take heavy-duty probiotics. But for the times that all of my other options were tried and failing me, I am very glad to have them.
- Do you wish you had taken them sooner?
My aunt asked me this recently. It was a quick answer. No. Every season I struggled with anxiety, I have learned something. I have known the Lord more deeply, and while I’m so glad for my life now – for the ability to care for my children, to home school them, to accomplish all I do – I wouldn’t trade those dark times for anything.
If you have additional questions, I’d be happy to chat with you. My sole purpose in writing this is to attempt to alleviate some of the guilt and stigma associated with these medicines.
I’m just one small voice in the corner of the internet, but hear what I am saying. To the person debating these medicines: Try everything else you can. Be thorough. (See my post (coming!) on resources for managing anxiety). But if your anxiety remains incapacitating, my experience has been that while I don’t like taking them, they were very helpful for me in managing anxiety.
So (taking a deep breath) what is your opinion? I would especially love to hear from anyone who has managed anxiety using other techniques. Share with us. What has worked? What hasn’t?
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