With the second Friday of May comes my second post on mental health for blank. Last week I dove into a review of adopting a pet during COVID-19 and the pros and cons of dog ownership with mental illness. I’ve had pets my entire life, and I wouldn’t want to go without one again. I feel the same about my anti-anxiety medication.
Many acclaim the joys of pet ownership to be beneficial for mental illness, but the opposite is true regarding medication. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication have a negative stigma attached to their prescriptions. My experience with mental illnesses and their associated medications started late into elementary school, and I remember a few friends who took them complaining of side effects. Some of these included a foggy head, tiredness, and mood swings. I must admit, when I heard of these complaints repeatedly until college, I believed that those pills we’re a terrible thing too.
In my third year of college, my boyfriend looked at me and said, ”please get help.” I knew it was time to head to my campus’ physician, and I booked the appointment. At first, there was a slight push to go for traditional counselling, but previous attempts I hadn’t found to be very valuable. My plea was for medication to help myself calm down, going into tests and such, but I walked out of that office with a prescription for a mild, daily antidepressant. Try it out over the summer going into my senior year to see if we needed to make adjustments come fall.
Boy, we changed my medication. That fall, I changed medicines on the first day of my fourth year and started seeing a counsellor and psychiatrist. I also changed my medication again eight weeks later. Finally, in January 2019, I was given a prescription for Lorazepam and Paroxetine. I have stuck with the latter to this day, and I am now a massive supporter of using the medication as part of daily self-care.
If you’re wondering whether an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication will work for you and your current state of mental health, keep reading.
The full diagnosis I received was a generalized anxiety disorder (some aspects of panic disorder, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In my day to day life, every decision or thought could trigger my overactive fight or flight response. By the time third year had ended, I had multiple panic attacks a day along with crippling agoraphobia (and I needed help).
The benefits of taking medication should outweigh the side effects experienced. The first two medications I tried didn’t work due to the lack of improvement in my anxiety, and I stopped taking lorazepam as it made me sleepy. Working alongside my psychiatrist at the time helped explain his reasoning for using different medications for different mental illnesses and specific symptoms. Common side effects like insomnia or tiredness are unfortunate, but often mild compared to the benefits experienced. There are many doses out there along with formulas, so if one drug doesn’t work, there is always another that will work better.
Several techniques were given to me to aid in calming myself down when I started experiencing anxiety or panic. Until I began to Paroxetine, the methods never worked for very long, and I found myself repeating some techniques obsessively. Being on an anti-anxiety drug reduces my overall anxiety level and the tricks that didn’t work before I started to feel relaxation from them finally. I began using the self-care techniques in tests and exams, and my professors noticed an improvement in my clarity in responses and grades.
Our family cat, Charlie, is a handful. Her vet recommended an anti-anxiety medication to help minimize her mood swings and overall demeanour with people. During her transition period onto the drug, Charlie was much more willing to get her claws trimmed, and chest brushed (two tasks impossible before). The ear cream did its job, and we took her back to the vet a month later – purring.
Social anxiety and depression can affect humans and our furry friends alike. Just like your dog’s training program or your self-help routine, medication is available to establish a better baseline for your mental health. Looking back, I wonder if the experiences I heard could have been different with different drug trials or concentrations. A psychiatrist (and their prescription) are there to help you in the right direction, and moderate to severe symptoms shouldn’t stop anyone from an antidepressant or anti-anxiety that is the right fit for them.
It’s finally mental health week here in Canada. I hope all my readers take this coming weekend to dedicate a bit more time to themselves (and our pets) in celebration!