"I feel amazing in my head, but awful in my body"
myself, Friday 13 January 2016
Last week, after many weeks of deliberation, and years of trying everything else under the sun, I started taking medication to help manage my anxiety. It was something I'd avoided for a long time, but as things became worse last year I decided it was time to try something different.
This isn't my first turn on medication, back at law school I spent some time on anti-depressants and was truly miserable. I remember having a desperate need to be 'normal' in an environment where I felt out of my depth and painfully unhappy. Pills seemed like a quick and easy option, I wasn't up for doing the other work to help myself recover, and essentially drifted through the year. It left me with a few scars around what taking medication, I attached a lot of shame and stigma to my decision, and felt that somehow I'd failed and failing at mental wellness can feel like the ultimate taboo. After a year of feeling awful I made the decision I'd never, ever take pills again.
It's an odd one, if it was anything else I'd have been all over the medication, even minor ailments and I'm in Boots like a shot, but not this one. This one I internalised the arbitrary decision I'd made and struggled through, tormenting myself without any relief. It was only when I realised I was damaging relationships with people I loved that I really realised I needed more. So I took a deep breath, walked in to the doctors office, and asked for more help. I think it was one of the scariest things I've ever done.
Past experience taught me to anticipate some side effects, so it didn't phase me when I started to feel some nausea and couldn't sleep. It was annoying but I figured it'd pass and be worth the effort, so I sucked it up, cleared my diary and hung out on the sofa most of the time. I started to feel calmer, I was looking forward to feeling good again. As the week progressed my side effects became more intense, my head started hurting, the nausea got worse and my temperature soared. Lying in bed on Thursday night I was restless, really restless, my arms and legs tremoring uncontrollably. It turned out that while the medication was great for my head, my body hated it. I was having a fairly major reaction.
Speaking to my doctor it turns out this isn't uncommon, and there are lots of different drugs I can try. While I've felt pretty awful for the last few days, and I'm frustrated that my week has been consumed by managing side-effects, the experience hasn't put me off. I've spent years in therapy, I manage my diet, practice mindfulness and do all that good stuff, but it isn't always enough, sometime you need more, and right now I need more. So it's back to the doctor to check out more options, it's off to CBT to get some parallel support and it's continuing with self-care and seeking balance. It's been an interesting week, but despite it's difficulties it's affirmed to me that I am making the right choice for me. Plus, how many opportunities do you get to sit in bed, a little like Gollum, peering at your flatmate's new man and announcing, in a slightly manic way "I feel amazing in my head, but awful in my body".