This has become a very controversial subject according to the interwebMDs.
I am going to share my thoughts on the matter, because my choice to be medicated is legitimately the difference between being able to participate in the outside world, and developing what I know would have been a pretty decent case of agoraphobia.
In Part II of my story, I shared my inability to do anything alone. I also mentioned that I still struggle with that. But I am no where near as bad as I used to be.
When I wrote that I couldn’t go to the mall alone, I mean it. It’s not that I’d be there and something happened so that I never returned. Nothing bad ever happened that prevented me from wanting to return. It was the thought of going out on my own that cloaked me in so much fear, that it just wasn’t something I could do.
I avoided it completely. It was not an option for me.
It was a flashback scenario. PTSD-style. Being seen alone brought me back to the times I had to spend alone in front of my entire high school every single day for months.
Remember this scene from the movie Mean Girls? This was me for a while in high school. For most people, it’s kind of entertaining. But for someone who lived that – it hits the nail on the fucking head. I make an awkward scrunched-up face during this scene.
I spent nearly every lunch hour alone, hiding in an aisle in the school library. I would pretend to do homework, but since I had more than enough time to complete that stuff, I’d actually just be reading Sweet Valley High books.
But our library forbade food and drink, so I always needed to eat my lunch before going in there. A bathroom stall was the natural choice. It was the only place that offered any sort of privacy.
The underlying reason for all of this was not simply that I had nothing to do during my spare time. My goal was to disappear. I would consistently bump into old friends who knew I was on my own, and it was humiliating to be seen. This flooded past just the ones I knew closely. For me, every single person at that school knew I was a loner and a total loser for it.
This intense feeling followed me. I did eventually make new friends, but things were never quite the same for me. Instead of being the outgoing one with all of the ideas, I became reclusive. I hung back. I went along with everyone else’s suggestions. I hoped simply to be invited along for the ride. It meant I just had someone to stand with at school.
It is nearly impossible to go about daily life successfully as an adult if you are in that world. We routinely need to go to the bank, go to job interviews, buy groceries, attend doctor’s appointments. My issues with doing things alone didn’t truly fuck up my life until I was an adult with responsibilities.
There was no thought process behind my inability to do stuff. I never thought to myself “I cannot go shopping, because I am very anxious, and my anxiety is preventing me from doing it!” It was moreso that if no one was available to go with me, it just was not a consideration to go at all. I wasn’t going to go someplace I’d be judged and watched. Would you walk into a flaming building? No. You don’t make that decision though a step-by-step, well thought-out process. Your knee-jerk reaction is “fire. Hot,” and you stay away naturally. You don’t need to think about anything except the results.
For me, going to the mall was like going into a flaming building. It was just obvious that I could not do that.
Anxiety rarely presents itself as anxiety, especially when you have just begun dealing with it. It is just your reality. It’s just how things are.
When I began university, I also began taking anti-anxiety medication. I quickly graduated to the highest dosage allowable, and it was then that I discovered I was capable of doing things.
Just doing things.
It did not happen overnight. It took a while to adjust to the medication. I got over a woozy feeling it gave me that lasted a few days, and recognized quickly that forgetting to take it on time would make me feel nauseous. But aside from that, I was lucky that I have never encountered many side-effects on this particular drug.
Side Note: I have tried several other drugs over the years, all of which I did not continue using because of the intense side-effects I experienced. For anyone considering trying an anti-anxiety med, you can’t expect the first one to be The One. I’m not even 100% sure that the first one I tried is the one that worked for me long-term. But I do consider myself very lucky that I was able to find a drug that does not make me sick or loopy or more anxious than before. It is a tricky business.
The magic that did occur, however, was that over time, I realized that I was doing things the way a normal adult would. I had started, for instance, going to the mall alone, and without even realizing it. My mind no longer considered the mall to be a dangerous burning building. It was just a regular place. My reality had changed.
For me, medication stopped those feelings of being overwhelmed. It wasn’t that there was a medication that went BOOM and I was brave and thought “I know what I’m gonna do today! I’m gonna go to the mall! I am not anxious about it!” It was simply an absence of the feelings that would have prevented me from even considering it in the past.
Anxiety meds taught me that with their help, I can do normal, everyday activities, and that nothing bad happens. That’s all – I can just do stuff.
Stuff like going back to school, building a career that I’m proud of, talking to a cute dude, and creating a life for myself. I did those things.
DOING STUFF IS AMAZING.