Anxiety: Holistic vsModern Medicine
I've had anxiety / panic disorder for 9 years now, (wow that's crazy to say out loud. Time flies when you can't breathe, am I right?), and I can safely say that I'm still figuring this whole thing out. Anxiety is a complicated thing to try to decipher. One, everyone is different. Everyone has different triggers, different symptoms, different experiences. Two, it is both mental and physical, so trying to figure out why you're overthinking every situation, but also why you're having cold sweats and the shakes is a bit of an overwhelming challenge. A year ago, back in January of 2018, I went down from my 15mg daily dosage of Lexapro to 10mg. Why you ask? Well, I, like a lot of people, don't really love the idea of having to rely on a medication to help me function on a day-to-day basis. I can't take certain medicines because of potential drug interactions, so even having the common cold is difficult. I can't take Nyquil, I can't take Sudafed. Just good old fashioned Alkaseltzer (the basic one that doesn't have dextromethorphan, because look, more drug interactions), and soup. On top of that, Lexapro can potentially cause birth defects if you are pregnant while taking it, and if having a family one day is something you want to do, that's just an annoying thing to have to deal with. Things, haven't exactly been going well since I've lowered my dosage, so today I made a decision. But first, let me explain.
The Holistic Approach In the beginning, when I was first figuring out what was even "wrong" with me, I tried everything. I was doing everything in my power to avoid having to take a medication. Supplements, a low sugar / no caffeine diet, yoga, meditation, therapy, the works. Nothing worked long term, and by long term I mean that I would be anxious 10 minutes after trying any of these things. Some people like therapy. Me? Not at all. There's something about venting to a stranger about all of my problems and hurdles just to get an "Aww you poor thing, have you tried breathing exercises?" right back that I don't exactly love. Yoga however, I loved. To this day, I still do. I have a vivid memory of me going to an early morning yoga class that focused on meditation and relaxation, and behold, I was not anxious for the entire morning, and I was anxious ALL the time so I knew there had to be something to it. Later that day though, right back to my crippled anxious self. It was great while it lasted though, so I kept trying to replicate that feeling. My life was falling apart, my relationships were dissolving, my grades were dropping, and the "old me" was basically nowhere to be found. I was tired, stressed, and hopeless.Then my doctor recommended Lexapro. I was desperate and looking for answers, so I thought I'd finally give it a try.
The Medicinal Approach The first time I took Lexapro, I had a panic attack. A hardcore sweating, hyperventilating, "I am literally dying right now" panic attack. The usual. Starting Lexapro was a feeling I will never forget. The process took MONTHS. Food tasted different, but I couldn't even keep it down. Smells were stronger. I was dizzy, lethargic, anti-social, bland, and just basically a zombie. Panic attacks still happened, they were getting less frequent, but still happening, so my doctor upped my dosage. (I started at 5.) I started seeing a psychiatrist. She was sweet, and understanding, and genuinely wanted to help me. She made me feel hopeful. One day, I went in for a visit and found out she had moved to another state. I was so bummed, but confident that the other doctors would be the same. I was pretty damn wrong. The next woman I saw, was nice enough. I soon found out that she had other suggestions of dealing with my anxieties. EVEN MORE MEDICATIONS. So okay cool, I thought. She has to know what she is talking about, so this has to work...right? Soon enough, I was on Lexapro, Buspar, and the occasional-but-rather-frequently Klonopin. If you know anything about anything, you know that Klonopin is horrible for you. It's addictive, and STRONG. Yes, it worked. I would feel anxious, take a pill, and feel over the moon. Loopy and sleepy, but over the moon. A magic pill! I had been looking for this for years. However, when I wasn't taking Klonopin, I was still anxious. The Lexapro felt the same, the Buspar didn't add any additional comfort or benefit to me, and the Klonopin was just a quick fix for when I wanted it. So what gives? Soon enough, I wasn't just feeling the same. I was feeling WORSE. I was dizzy, my stomach was constantly upset, my anxiety was back...but, different. My body felt different, my skin felt cold. One night, my mom was talking to me, and suddenly, I couldn't understand her. It's like she was speaking in gibberish. So naturally, we rushed to the emergency room. Long story short, I had Serotonin Syndrome. Those very medicines that were supposed to be helping me, were poisoning my body, eating away at my stomach lining in the process. I found a new doctor, she was, and is, an amazing woman. Got me off of Buspar, got me off of Klonopin, and just back to my 20mg of Lexapro. Again, this process also took MONTHS. During this time, I met my now boyfriend, Assad. Long story short, he got me into fitness, which I slowly started dabbling into as I recovered, and I felt pretty good. My doctor and I decided that next year that I might be well enough to try to bump it down to 15mg. This, THIS, is when I felt the best I have ever felt in my life.
Combining The Two: The Ultimate Weapon I had found my perfect dosage, but on top of that, I was exercising, eating right, doing yoga, hanging out with a small group of amazing and supportive friends, limiting my caffeine to just tea, getting decent sleep, monitoring my sugar intake, and occasionally meditating. I was using everything in my arsenal to feel better, and it was working. I could be social, funny, witty, outgoing, bubbly, optimistic, driven, and just, good. Now back to last January. Since I was feeling so great, we decided that after a year of feeling like my best self, we could try to lower it again. One more slow, safe, and calculated step to not having to be on these meds forever. The first month or two had me loopy, kind of emotionally all over the place, and a tad anxious every now and then. To be expected when you're changing dosages of any amount. Now, another month would go by, a little less loopy, but not much else, another month, not much change. I was slowly feeling like my former zombie-depressed self, only it kept getting worse. The depression hit me hardest, like a train going full speed. I lost all of my pep, my hope, my personality, my spunk. I didn't have any motivation to go to the gym anymore, or even get out of bed. I forced myself to do shoots and occasionally travel, but I hated it, and it wore me out. I just wanted to be in bed. Fast forward to now. I'm still in that rut, and honestly going through the worst of it, but today I made a decision. I saw my new doctor in Miami and told her everything I've just told you, and she said something that clicked with me. "Sure, one day if you don't want to be on medication anymore, you can try to wean off, but if right now you're anxious and unhappy, why put yourself through the unhappiness?" and she's right. I am at the peak of my career, traveling, working, making a name for myself, and I deserve to be happy. Today, we decided to put me back on the 15mg that I was so comfortable at, because guess what? There IS a place for modern medicines. They CAN work. The key though? Do not rely solely on medications, they are a band-aid to help you figure out your life, your regiment, your triggers, etc. They can help you in ways that yoga, meditation, breathing, supplements, and oils ever could. Now, does holistic medicine work? You better believe it does, and a lot of the times in ways that medication ever could. It goes both ways. Trust me. In the past few months, I have been experimenting with different dosages and forms of CBD and let me tell you, this stuff is magical. I was in the middle of a panic attack this past Christmas Eve, (the first real one I've had in years), and after I vaped my CBD just twice, my panic started to subside almost immediately. No more shakes, no more sweats, no more hyperventilating. Magic. The CBD in conjunction with my Lexapro is an unstoppable duo, and one that I think could really continue to work out for me. Some people with different forms of anxiety and depression may have found that one thing works for them and another thing, and that's okay! Every single case is different. Like I said, it can be a tough thing to figure out, but it is completely possible! Sometimes, you just have to do a bit of trial and error. It takes time and consistency and a LOT of hard work. Talk to your doctor, do your research, be patient, and definitely, definitely, trust your gut.