Taking a Break from Medication

After a whirlwind of good and bad days over the past month, I’ve also decided to shake things up by going off my anti-anxiety medication!

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I’m just kidding – but it is kind of scary. I feel like I have been doing better at being more in touch with my anxiety and doing everything I can to manage it. I have gotten back into meditation. I’ve managed my alcohol intake (See: here). So, it’s the right time for me with a little bit of self-doubt (THANKS ANXIETY!)

Some History: I have been on Lexapro on and off for about two years now and I have seen great results from it with a few annoying side effects. I am a firm believer in medication but only if it is suggested as part of an overall wellness and health regiment. I think it’s so frustrating and alarming when you sit in a psychiatrist’s office for 10 minutes (from experience) and you come out with three prescriptions for benzos, SSRIs, etc. I’ve heard so many horror stories of addiction and significant changes in behavior from friends and writers that I admire.  It all stems from people who were over prescribed or not prescribed the correct medication. I had a friend who was prescribed Latuda for her anxiety and sent off into the real world (with little to no follow up plan), where she began having panic attacks, psychical side effects and basically downward spiraled into having suicidal thoughts and having to call an ambulance. All because she went to a licensed doctor for anxiety… That makes me so nervous for the future of mental health.

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One Google search shows that Latuda is not primarily used for anxiety… but don’t we all just trust our doctors?

I’m super thankful that I had a great therapist who warned me about this and the fact that psychiatrists can be really fucking weird…. and she came up with the plan for the medication, including other holistic approaches and weekly therapy sessions to balance the medication instead of just popping a pill and expecting all my problems to disappear. I remember her saying, “I truly think Lexapro will help you clear your mind so you can start taking my advice and working through CBT exercises. The medication alone can only do so much.”

During this stint, I have been on Lexapro since August. It was two months before my wedding and I felt like I couldn’t dig myself out of the anxiety/panic attack hole no matter how many other methods I tried. Getting back on the drug made me feel like my mind was more clear and I could reason with my anxiety more than without it.

But now it’s June! I’m a married woman who has gained 20 pounds since August (Lexapro is known for noticeable weight gain or weight loss – lucky me!) and I’m going to take a stab at working strictly on natural solutions. My new and equally great therapist is looped in on my plans and suggested that I order the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook so I’ll be armed and ready to report back.

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Back to school. Back to school, to prove to my anxiety that I’m not a fool.

It will be tough but it will also challenge me to be mindful of my day to day actions as well as plan for the days ahead. Hopefully these initiatives will head towards a more mindful, happy life. Stay Tuned.

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a certified therapist or a health professional. I definitely don’t have all the answers and I’m not perfect. I just know what works for me! You should always consult a doctor or therapist before beginning any sort of medication routine.

What is Relapse? Hint: It’s Different for Everyone

What is Relapse, exactly?

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While at a work conference across the country this week, I decided to have a drink at the dinner event after day 1 of the conference. Per usual, 1 drink led to 4 over the course of a few hours. But, instead of blacking out or making a fool of myself, I *gasp* actually had a really nice time. I was socializing with girls that I work with remotely through a vendor and we spent the night cruising dive bars and requesting 90s hip hop from a less than enthusiastic DJ until 3 AM. No drama, no fighting, remembering everything.

Flash forward to the next morning. Because the conference was on the east coast and I live on mountain time, I woke up groggily and stared at my phone. 8:15 AM. TWO HOURS after I had set my alarm.

Andddddd away we go.

I immediately felt my heart start racing at a million beats per minute, but I couldn’t move. I was hungover, in the same way that 99% of people are after a night of drinking. But when you also have generalized anxiety disorder, hangovers are the iceberg to your Titanic. The little tip of feeling shitty, after about 30 minutes or so, turns into a full-blown breakdown of your failures and why you will never be good enough or feel good or stay sober, with an unstoppable case of the “what ifs” sprinkled in for good measure.

What if I am missing something in the morning at this conference? I didn’t. What if they notice I am missing and they judge me or don’t want to work with me anymore? They didn’t care one bit. Two of the other girls came strolling in an hour after I did. What if I puke in front of the entire room during a speaker? Hint: I didn’t. What if I don’t make it back home to my husband and my dog? Hint, hint: I did.

When you spend your day in a panic, it’s extremely hard to think past the current moment. I called my parents, who helped me get on an earlier flight home (I can’t tell you enough how much their support means to me) and I did my best to stay as positive as possible. But I still spent too much time in various bathroom stalls throughout the day with my head in my hands or in the toilet – mentally asking myself, is this worth it?

The question is: did I relapse after 12 days of being sober? I honestly don’t know the answer to that.

My dad sent me a text yesterday that said: “Please don’t forget also… I quit at 40, not 28…not sure at 28 I could have talked myself into it either. Best thing about it is you recognize it and are working to keep it in check – it will all turn out the way you want it to.”

So, that’s where I am at. I am going to continue to keep trying and try to be as mindful as possible. I can go another 12 days without drinking, but this time if I DO decide to drink, I will be more mindful about how the next day makes me feel and if it’s worth it. It’s no one else’s decision but my own.

How do you feel about relapsing?

Day Nine.

I am currently sitting in my new “Summer Writing Station”. It’s a plastic lawn chair parked in front of a baby pool that we bought for the dog. Although my feet spend more time in it than his little paws. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping even though it’s getting close to dinner time. I am sipping on a Passion Iced Tea from Starbucks, switching off writing between a laptop and a journal. I haven’t journaled in what feels like forever.

I am nine days sober. And in this moment, I am truly happy.

“I don’t know why I stick with things for two days and the quit.” That was a line from my journal from last November. A lot has happened since then (both amazingly great stuff and not so great stuff) but I am happy to say that I have officially stuck with being sober for nine days. I have more energy; I’m feeling lighter and stress free. I used to call bullshit on people who said those types of things about being alcohol free. But I can feel it.

Not everything is all rainbows and kittens though. I struggle with imposter syndrome when it comes to balancing who I want to be and who I feel like I should be. My dad has been a huge advocate for what I’m doing and has texted me every single day checking in to see how my progress is going. It makes me feel so happy and proud of myself, like I’m really living my true self and doing what I set out to do.

Then the other part of my personality feels like I have to please certain friends with an end date to this little sober test I’m conducting. The ones who say, well it’s just 30 days right? You should drink for {insert various “important” event here} don’t you?! As if I would ever HAVE to drink at all. So, I lie. “Of course! I’ll be all done with this detox by then.” Deep down in my heart I know that if I start drinking again, it will only be a matter of time before the cycle of happiness, anxiety, self-medication and extreme depression sets in yet again. But for right now it seems easier just to lie and deal with the awkwardness later than conquer everything at once. I can only do so much!

My favorite reaction came from one of my dear friends– and it was no reaction at all. I may as well have told her that I had a smoothie for breakfast. “Oh, sweet!” she said, as she ordered herself a glass of Chardonnay from our server while we were out to dinner one night. She then continued right into the next topic of conversation – something that happened at the office earlier that day.

I exhale with a sigh of relief. I may be able to make this new life work after all.

DAY ONE.

“Remember this day. You are going to need to remember this day and how you feel if you are going to overcome this,” my dad says to me over the phone as I stare at the ceiling fan in my bedroom, tears rolling down my face.

Rewind to a few hours earlier. I woke up in bed on a Friday morning with a pounding head and no pants on. There were cuts and splinters on my hands. The bathroom was covered in puke and piss and shit among the strung about clothes from the night before. One of my acrylic nails was completely torn off. I struggled per usual to remember what I did, what I said, what I picked up and threw across the room (something is always thrown when I’m blacked out). But none of it truly matters. What matters is that yet again, I am in a full-blown depression and panic. I don’t go to work – which no one even notices since we have such a lax work from home policy – and instead answer any emails that are pressing from my bed with one eye open. I cry, a lot. I cry because there’s literally no one else to blame but myself. I am avoiding my brother and husband, who had to drive around a Denver neighborhood to look for me for thirty minutes because I didn’t know where I was. Fun shit, for sure.

My dad has been sober for almost 20 years. I hate to blame things on genes, but it’s extremely evident that I have his addiction genes. He has told me time and again that at some point the drinking will take over my life. He relates to the crippling hangovers and remembers them still, to this day.  And it has. 9 out of 10 times, going out is fine. But that underlying anxiety over that one time – that one time that I black out and make a fool of myself is just not worth it and the rabbit hole of depression that follows is just not worth it. I had a long talk with him the day afterwards and have come to the conclusion that I can’t drink.

At some point I’ll probably reveal other things about me. My name, where I live, other details about my life. But for now, I want to use this space to journal my sober journey. It’s not going to be easy. As a 28 year old working in a digital agency space – alcohol is very prevalent. Happy hours, bachelorette parties and weddings are still coming down the pipeline. At some point, I will have to tell friends about this decision that I’ve made. But for now, I’m going to focus on one thing at a time. Day one.

YOU ARE THE WORST: What to do when your mind messes with your own self-worth

I am working away on a typical Thursday when I hear the *ping* of my AIM chat ring. My work bestie copied and pasted a conversation that she was having with a guy we work with, who is also a mutual friend. “Hilarious!” she writes. Keep in mind, there is NOTHING malicious about what she is doing. We are friends, she has my back. She is part of my girl gang. Little does she know, however, that she has thrown a cantaloupe sized grenade into my anxious mind.

It starts with a pit in my stomach that makes me feel like I’m going to puke. Then my mind takes over the conversation. They are talking without you. Do they always talk without you? Probably. Is this a daily thing? Probably an hourly thing. You haven’t had your own conversation with him in days. Most likely because he’s over being your friend. Doesn’t want to talk to you anymore. Do you need to find a new job? Does everyone hate you? Are the new girls who just started much better than you? Will they take your job and your friends?

By now, the dizziness and tunnel vision sets in. As everyone continues to chatter around me in our cubes, I secretly panic, remembering that I’ve gained twenty pounds since I graduated from college 6 years ago. That’s probably why everyone is over you. Because you are fat and gross. I begin to job search. All of the best jobs in my field are in LA. You should have gone to school in LA. If you went to school in LA, you’d be rich. And skinny. I can barely move.

And that’s how – in a span of 20 seconds or less – I’ve lost complete control over my mind.

Regaining my mind is something that I have to practice on a daily basis. Some days are easier than others, and this situation was particularly difficult.  I had a really bad fight with my husband the night before so my anxiety was already high by this morning. When you can’t get up and leave (like when you are sitting at your desk at work or in a meeting, for example), it can be really hard to dig yourself out of a negative mindset. But it can be done and it’s really important to do so as quickly as possible. Not everything has to be sunshine and bunnies every single day, but by wallowing in your negative thoughts you are only allowing that anxiety to grow like a weed. So what can you do?

Write it down. This blog post is currently serving as my therapeutic remedy to heal an anxious mind. As I continue to type, I can feel the weight being lifted. I am fighting my anxiety by realizing that I am in the present moment. As everyone calms down and gets back to work around me, I realize that there is no reason for me to stress if I am not involved in one short conversation. I am loved. I have a support system. I will be okay.

Practice your breath. I have found that deep, long breathing allows my body to relax and that automatically helps my mind to slow down. It’s scientifically proven that there is a connection between your body and your mind when related to anxiety and stress. The ADAA has a few resources for this that I have found to be very helpful.

Stay present. If you are in a situation like I was, at work, try to do everything you can to stay focused in the present moment. Think of it as a battle with your mind. You are not your mind and you can overcome it. Continue to answer emails, plan your calendar for the day, or anything else that allows you to focus on what tasks are at hand at that exact moment. It’s important to realize that while you can blame these anxious thoughts on your mind, it is still your responsibility to rule your own well-being.

Walk away. This needs no explanation. If you can’t get out of your anxious mind, walk away. If you are working at your desk, go for a walk. If you are in a meeting, politely excuse yourself and take the long way to the bathroom. You will feel better just by focusing on your change of scenery.

Once you start to feel better (and you will – it might take a few minutes or a few hours, but I promise that you will), you need to applaud the fact that you got through it. The fact that you able to recognize your anxious thoughts means that you are self-aware. You have self-worth. That is something worth celebrating!

24/7 news = 24/7 anxiety

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No joke, this is an actual screenshot of my current Facebook news feed. Where the fuck do I even start? In approximately thirty seconds or less, I have been exposed to Donald’s latest racist antics, missiles fired from North Korea, John Legend and Ariana Grande bringing back the classics, our US Marines sexually harassing female colleagues, and hundreds of animals dying at a zoo exactly 4,468 miles away from my current location. Feeling anxious 24/7? Um, of course you are.

It’s truly no wonder why our generation is overprescribed Adderall and underprescribed meditation. Why we have trouble focusing or why we are constantly trying to save the world, one online petition at a time. Up until the last 10 years or so, people – especially easily swayed young people – did not have access to information as easily as we have it now. This obviously had led to so many positive things as we connect with people all over the world. But it has also led to an overwhelming bout of anxiety as we are as equally exposed to the negative happenings. So, how do you deal?

  1. Take a social media break. After a certain point in the night, take a break from your phone. I’ve found that even watching trash TV (I am NOT the type of person to cut out all tech before bed #sorrynotsorry) helps to ease your mind instead of tackling a new topic before you end your day.
  2. Meditate. Be in the present moment. Realize that you are a being on a planet of 7 billion. While it is obviously important and encouraged to help others, it’s also important to help yourself. Realize that the only thing you can control are your own thoughts and actions.
  3. Focus on your inner circle. There are times when my anxiety kicks in and I begin to feel helpless. Like no matter what I do, the world keeps turning and it’s good, bad and ugly. I like to call my best girlfriends and get together for dinner or drinks (just a couple) and chat about the good, bad and ugly in their lives instead. It’s a personal connection that you can control and help a sister out.

Do you ever get overwhelmed by your news feed? How do you handle it?

purgatory is the life of a 28 year old girl

These types of memes are everywhere these days. Making fun of the fact that most 28 year olds are in total limbo, and it couldn’t be more true. My best friend got engaged last night and I congratulated her on the way out the door to dinner with my husband. After dinner, we went over to another friend’s house where shots and beers were free flowing. We accompanied him to a ridiculously boujee bar downtown where he was meeting up with a new girl. Because we are such great friends (ha) we stayed out until 2am drinking and trying to dance to obnoxious EDM music. Literally two different worlds – my husband and I stuck in the middle of them.

Today could have gone one of two ways. I could wake up in a panic. Beat myself up for staying in bed all day or missing the gym. Or I could take it easy. I could realize that I’ve got NO plans until later this evening and spend the day slowly cleaning the house and doing laundry. Doing things that I enjoy, like reading and writing. And that’s what I’m doing. I am realizing that I am in control of the way that I shape my day. Each day does not have to be the most successful day of your life. Sometimes, if the coolest thing you can do today is guess the movie that’s on Comedy Central by only watching the opening credits and without looking at the title (mine was Napoleon Dynamite), that is freaking enough.

I can become the world’s next biggest success tomorrow. Or at least make time for the gym.

Lazy Day Essentials

where do I begin?

“I was talking to your father today, briefly,” my mom began. “He said when you finally figure this stuff out, you are just going to be kick ass.”

I know that this was her way of making me feel better, but God, that felt like a lot of pressure. This happened a day after I finally let my anxiety win in a very public way. After a week of stressors like work deadlines and a flat tire and parking garage fender bender, and a trip planned for the weekend, I thought I could take the edge off by hitting the town for a friend’s birthday the night before I left. Now, keep in mind – this has NEVER worked in the past for me but  after persuaded myself into thinking I could juggle it all I ended up thinking that things were going to go my way. That I was going to wake up Friday morning feeling refreshed and satisfied with my party antics. Yeah, totally.

Instead, Friday morning catapulted towards me in a complete state of panic. When 6 AM rolled around I wasn’t packed, wasn’t ready to go to work, and the booze leaving my body left me feeling dizzy and disoriented. Physically and mentally sick and exhausted, I literally could not leave my bed. I had to get my car fixed, head into the office and then run off to the airport for the 5th time in 2 months.

My depression (which usually comes after a bout of panic) set in and I couldn’t think of anything more horrible than getting ready for another weekend of excessive eating, drinking and socializing. So, after hours of overanalyzing and worrying I pulled the plug.

Cancelling on my best friends made me feel horrible. My depression began to creep up on me even more and convinced my mind that they will never speak to me again. That I will end up alone, with nothing but the drunk memories of Thursday night to haunt me when I get to work on Monday (keep in mind, nothing “bad” happened on Thursday. But when you suffer from such bad anxiety, you literally comb through every waking memory and dissect it until you are convinced that you somehow made a fool of yourself.) Of course, my besties were not upset. I didn’t get into the details of why I couldn’t make it. Just that I was so terribly sick that I couldn’t get out of bed. Which really isn’t wrong. It’s just hard to explain that my symptoms were more mental than physical.

Back to what my mother said. “When you finally figure this out…” It’s hard to put a countdown on something like that. Will I ever truly “figure it out”? How many more times do I need to go through this before I realize that a combination of alcohol, lack of sleep, shitty food and focusing on the wrong people in my life is really not helping. When I visited my therapist the following week, she told me that I shouldn’t look at it as “letting the anxiety win”. Instead, I should look at my decision to cancel my trip as a personal self-care choice that I made for myself.

That’s why I am starting this blog. As a personal self-care choice that I sure hope will help me stick to a plan of wellness and health and help other people battle with their own anxiety and depression as well. My journey needs to begin now. Do you suffer from anxiety or depression? How do you cope?