In an era in which there are probably pharmaceutical solutions to aid your goldfish with her seasonal affective disorder, it’s hard to sink your well worn amygdala into the wormhole of brain altering medications. It took a long time for me to accept that I probably needed more substantial help for my chronic anxiety than a bottle of vodka and a nightclub in Vauxhall. I was living in denial.
The idea of accepting medical help seemed “weak”. I didn’t want to be one of those people who “took pills”, forever categorised in the crazy heap. Taking pills meant locking oneself in the bathroom next to the sink, shaking the little white lifesavers onto your hand like a 5mm long secret; then re-emerging to a living room full of guests, normalised.
Or so I thought.
Crunch point came as a lot of crunch points do: with a bang. Post natal anxiety hit me like an anvil. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. I was checking my son was alive constantly, I was imagining that the shelves in MandS would topple on us as we walked by, I didn’t feel safe even when I was surrounded by family. My chest constantly felt like I had a baby elephant resting on it. I thought I was stronger than this.
I was no longer worrying about “standard” things; like my colleagues hating me, strangers thinking I was hideous, my friends only seeking my company because they had nothing better to do. I was actually constructing fanatical scenarios where my son was being squashed, suffocated, or catching a rare form of prehistoric brain termite that I saw on a documentary. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time these were tangible notions.
My first instinct is always to seek out the holistic, the spiritual. A woman cured her anxiety through drinking purified amethyst water? Great, let’s do it. Write down a gratitude list, meditate. Adorn your living room with five point stars if that’s what it takes. Alas, my body and my brain were too far gone for that. The bars of my cage were made of the strongest iron. It got to the point where I gave away my beloved kitten, Zoshka, because I thought she would sit on my son’s face and kill him.
With the help of my family, especially my mother, I began to realise that medication was my best option at that time. I thought of Big Pharma, the omnipotent god of chemical induced numbness to which over half the western world has succumbed. I thought of a line of zombies at the doctors office, with open mouths, dutifully waiting for a serotonin fix. I pushed all of that aside, I had to do it for my son and myself.
I would love to be able to say that a basket full of apples and a 10k run cured me. But it didn’t, being prescribed 10mg of citalopram gave me my life back. I realise that it’s not for everyone. Yet two weeks after taking it I could actually go out in public again. I began to sleep, and actually enjoy being with my newborn son.
I won’t pretend that I don’t still worry everyone hates me (as if they have nothing better to do) and that I have Cancer every time I scrutinise a mole on my arm…. but I’m calmer. I’ve had periods without medication and periods where I rely on it. I make sure I stick to the lowest dose, and get counselling to back it up. I hope someday I will be healed enough not to need it anymore. I look back to the days where “I won’t get anxious” became a self fulfilling prophecy. I look back to when self medicating myself via substance abuse actually created the judgement in others I was so fearful of. It was a sick cycle, and sometimes I will still give in to it. I try not to let myself be a victim. I can’t control people’s opinions and not every spot or scratch is a death sentence. Maybe I will go to a party one day and actually have a good time, instead of sewing on my happy face and pretending that I don’t want to go home and hibernate instead. Medication gave me back myself, in a strange way, and I’m eternally thankful for it.