Monday, January 23, 2012

Thoughts on Anxiety and Medication

Note to my three readers: I'm going to be writing about mental health and anxiety/depression and whatnot. I guess it's kind of personal, but also not so personal that I don't feel comfortable putting it out there in the public domain. I think talking about these things is important, but obviously nobody is obligated to read them.

One other note for myself - sometimes I need to have it reinforced that it is okay to talk about these things. I always have this nagging urge to blame myself for feeling this way, like if I was just a better, more moral, upright, and stronger person, I'd be just fine and able to quit bitching about it. But the fact is that I've had anxiety problems since elementary school - I just realized the other day that those times when my parents would pull me out of my birthday parties because I was hyperventilating and freaking out all over the place? Yeah. Those were panic attacks. I've been having them for years. And it's an enormous step forward for me to be able to not just admit it, but to be responsible for really dealing with it.

Today I did something that I've been considering doing for quite a while, but couldn't because of the whole no-health-insurance thing: I saw a doctor about my anxiety, and I'm going to try medication for it. The college I'm at has a reciprocity program with WSU, so I'm able to use their health services and whatnot, which is neat. (I have lots and lots of thoughts and feelings about WSU, but I'm not going to go into them now. Suffice to say that while I love the reciprocity thing, WSU has always pissed me off, and their brand-spanking-new "Wellness Complex" is absolutely no exception to that rule.) Anyway, I figured that, since today was also the first day of taking the medication, it might be useful for me to do some mood tracking, because in the past I've always had trouble really identifying how I was reacting to medication (at least until things got bad, like with the Lexapro, which was a disaster, no thank you).

My appointment went well, I think. The counselor referred me to a really nice doctor, and she and I chatted for about forty minutes about what my anxiety levels have been like (high. Always high. Never not high, unless I'm really zoned out in a book or something), how I deal with it, whether or not it affects school and work (it had better not affect school; that's a big part of why I was there), and what kinds of medications can help deal with it. I told her that I was on Zoloft in high school for a little while, but that while I couldn't remember having any distinct side effects, it also made me wary because I couldn't remember.

She first recommended Lexapro, because apparently it works well for many people, but after I explained the whole depersonalization/dissociation experience, she said that it'd probably be best to stay far away. We settled on Citalopram, which is the generic form of Celexa, and actually pretty close to Lexapro, though I guess it tends to work more on anxiety than depression. I was still pretty reluctant to go on anything relating to depression (I really don't think I've been depressed in quite a while; I have my low points, but one, that's part of the natural cycle of bipolar II tendencies, and two, that's part of life. Which is fine), but SSRIs are generally what they use to treat anxiety, so I guess that narrows the field a bit. Cost is also an issue, since...well, I still don't have health insurance. For right now, my options are limited to what you can fill for $4-10 at Target.

I took my first 10 mg of Citalopram at noon, and while headaches are listed as a side effect for starting the med, I'm not sure whether or not it's too early for me to feel any. I do have a little bit of a headache, and I'm lightheaded when I stand up, but that could easily be because I haven't really had time to eat anything yet today aside from a really delicious slice of lemon cake from Starbucks, which was my reward for marching my butt down to Target right away and filling that damn prescription.

Run on, sentence, run on.

There are some other side effects listed whose possibilities make me nervous, but that's the risk you take when you go on medication, I guess. I just keep telling myself that it's okay; I'm not obligated to stay on anything I don't want to. If something doesn't work, I can try something else, or I can opt to go without. I've managed so far. It's not comfortable, but I have. Mostly, though, I'm sick of the panic attacks, sick of the social anxiety, and sick of the obsessive tendencies that I really try not to think about (re: my fingernails, etc.). There's just no good reason for being this wound up all day, every day, when you can do something about it.

This entry ended up a lot more scattered than I wanted it to be. There were so many things I wanted to talk about! Which is weird, because this is only my second entry in like, six months.

Edit: I left this entry for a little while, and now that I'm back, I can say for a certainty that I do feel kind of weird. Like, there's sort of a pressure in my head, and I'm a little foggy, but also have a lot of energy? I don't know. Every time the phone rings, it freaks the heck out of me.


  1. I'm SO GLAD you were able to get an appointment to try out some meds. We have various mental illnesses all over our family, so you really need to stop thinking that this is something that you can help with just willpower. It might be something that will stabilize over time (like when your hormones change being pregnant). I was on Celexa/Citalopram (10mg as well) for about 10 years for my depression and anxiety. I changed to Lexapro when I was trying to get pregnant (since it has a shorter half-life) but decided to go off of that after my miscarriage in the slightest chance it had something to do with it. I haven't been on any meds since, so I guess I've either just stabilized now I'm not a teenager anymore, or maybe my hormones from breastfeeding are just helping things out. Give the Celexa a few days. You might just be freaking out because you're expecting weird side-effects. I don't remember having any side-effects myself. I used to take something (Ativan I think) for when I was just really wound up like when I was in college and couldn't get to sleep thinking about having to get up for class early the next day. But if your anxiety is 24/7, I definitely think taking something daily is a good idea. Like you said, it's silly to struggle with day-to-day life if there are things out there that can help. I think keeping track of your mood is a really good idea. It will help your doctor/nurse/therapist-whatever figure out what works best for you. It's funny how much you sound like me, though more like how I was in high school. Well, Gavin's awake from his nap and crying so I need to go. Good luck and I hope the meds help :)

  2. Glad to hear the meds are going okay so far. I understand new meds can be tricky, but then, so is managing without. Anxiety is tough. Especially since people (in general) don't seem to think it's a huge deal, like it's all in your head. It's not. And geez... Work and school is enough to make even a non-anxious person a wreck. So. Yeah. I hope you're doing alright. :)

    Sorry. Didn't mean to sound like I doubt you there or anything. I totally don't. You're going to do ossum.

    I also think it deserves mentioning that we have been horribly out-of-touch lately. We should correct that. :)