Anxiety and Antidepressants



Anxiety isn't a topic I've delved into yet on this blog and that's for a few reasons. The main reason being I wanted this blog to focus mainly on vegan related topics. It wasn't hard to write about vegan exclusive topics either, not at all. My everyday life is a vegan topic so I could go on and on and on. But what's the point of writing a healthy vegan blog if my mind isn't equally healthy? I haven't posted in a few months because I was going through an anxiety-filled period in my life and I lost all interest in writing about the very topic just a few months before I could go on and on about. I'm started to regain interest in these little things again and I felt like I couldn't just write up a new post on a vegan candle without explaining what's been going on in my head for the past few months. So for this post, I'm taking the plunge and diving into the heavily stigmatized, and sometimes glorified, discussion of anxiety and antidepressants.

I've had anxiety for as long as I could remember. Whether it was balling my eyes out on the bus on my way to kindergarten or a surprise panic attack at a truck stop while traveling as a teenager - I've had anxiety my whole life and I've always been fine with that. It was part of me. I knew that I didn't want to be away from my mom when I was having a meltdown on the bus and I knew there were waaaay too many people for my liking in that truck stop. My anxiety has always been, for the most part, what I like to call "situational anxiety" (this may be an actual term, don't sue me if it is). If I was ever feeling panicked, I would take a second, assess the situation, and take myself out of whatever setting was making me feel anxious. When it comes to fight or flight, 99.9% of the time, I am always flight. But, again, I was totally fine with that. I knew what to avoid (big crowds) and I knew where I felt safe (at home surrounded by my family).

I always knew antidepressants were an option to help combat anxious thoughts but I also always knew I would never take them. I like being in my normal state of mind, even if that normal state is filled with taunting thoughts, I never wanted to feel cloudy. I never wanted to feel like my choices weren't mine. I stay away from drugs, alcohol, and most medications, so why would I be willing take a pill that wouldn't just temporarily change my state of mind, but actually change the chemicals in my brain? No thanks.

That was until a few months ago.

Back in March, I started to experience major health anxiety. After having a pretty bad sinus infection, I developed swollen lymph nodes, which are lumps that develop in your lymph nodes throughout your body when you're fighting off an infection. I don't know about you, but when I feel a lump anywhere on my body, I instantly freak. I googled "lumps on neck", which gave the most terrifying search results. I was stuck in a labyrinth of google search after google search which only made me feel worse when I didn't get the answer that I wanted (which was "you're totally fine! Now go to sleep!"). When I finally talked to my doctor, he told me the lump was normal and I shouldn't worry about it. So I was fine after that, right? Nope.

Like what I mentioned earlier, I've always had situational anxiety. I knew exactly what caused my panicky brain and I knew how to make myself feel better almost instantly. But my panicky brain was caused by the fear of something being wrong with my body and how was I supposed to take myself out of that situation? I would see a doctor, but that would only make me feel better until I found something different that could've potentially been wrong with me. It was a daunting cycle and I knew I needed help. In August my doctor prescribed me antidepressants and, though I had such a strong opinion on antidepressants just a few months before, I was desperate for the cycle to stop. So I was finally fine after that, right? Wrong again.

A few days later I woke up having a panic attack. I've never had a panic attack out of blue so I was instantly even more panicked. After half an hour and the panic attack still didn't subside, I knew something was seriously wrong which just made the anxiety grow. That panic attack lasted a grand total of 5 hours, and it only stopped after I got a rushed prescription of xanax. Of course, I blamed the antidepressants since panic attacks were one of it's adverse side effects. The panic attacks didn't stop there, no, that would've been way too simple. I had panic attacks constantly for the week that followed. I would start crying out of no where and I was constantly terrified that I would have another spontaneous panic attack again. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid to take a shower... let me repeat... I WAS AFRAID TO TAKE A SHOWER.

So I talked to my doctor once more and he put me back on antidepressants. He reassured me that the panic attack wasn't from my medicine and, though I didn't have any tests done, he was fairly certain I had a serotonin imbalance which was causing my panic attacks and that I would feel 80% better after taking the antidepressants. That's when I realized no amount of deep breathing or yoga could've ever fully helped me if the chemicals in my brain were out of whack. All negative stereotypes of antidepressants went out the window at that moment.

It's been a little over 7 weeks now since I've started taking the antidepressants, and the fact that I've even typed up this blog post is a testament to how well I'm feeling. I'm now starting to feel interested in little things like writing, getting properly dressed, and frivolous things like shopping online (which my bank account isn't too happy about). I still need to visit a therapist, but as a major introvert with social anxiety (are you surprised?), talking to a therapist isn't on the top of my to-do list.

I'm definitely not on the other side of my anxiety and I honestly don't think I ever will be, but for me, antidepressants have helped so far. I never took antidepressants in the past because I thought, in some weird way, it would be like giving up on myself. Like I took the easy way out. But that can't be further from the truth. I was also always afraid it would change my normal state of mind and make me feel foggy, but again, that couldn't be further from the truth (at least for me). In hindsight, I feel like my constant anxious thoughts were causing a major brain haze that I was too scared to clear because I let my anxiety define me. I didn't know who I'd be without anxiety and that was terrifying. I've always known anxiety was a huge part of me, but I now realize that I don't have to settle and I can get better.

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