I have had pretty severe anxiety for most of my life, but I actually attribute that to relational trauma rather than any free standing anxiety disorder. Anyway. I’ve received counseling from numerous clinicians… some were awful. But the one I see now every other week/monthly, I’ve been seeing for 10 years, and that has worked for me. Not all counseling relationships have to be that long standing, but oftentimes with trauma work that’s what ends up happening. I would say that my ability to be so high functioning has everything to do with my self-care and counseling support.
I did try medication for a time and while it served its purpose, my overall experience with it was awful. I’ll paint a quick picture for you.
I was in my undergraduate studies and dealing with near daily panic attacks after spending lectures in crowded halls. I would have to come back to my dorm room, have my attack, then sleep for hours. My roommate can attest to this and it was a miserable existence. It was to the point where I thought I may have to drop out so my counselor recommended trying medication and connected me with a psychiatrist.
I was put on Effexor right off the bat and I’m not sure why. The psychiatrist I met with probably talked with me for a total of 10 minutes before handing me that prescription. At the time I was young and desperate for relief … and I didn’t look into this drug. I will say, that for me, it did stop my panic attacks, but it also stopped me being human.
Please note, Effexor does work for some people, however, it didn’t work for me and the side effects were atrocious.
“I had withdrawal if I skipped a pill: brain zaps, dry heaving, eyes unable to focus, etc. I couldn’t cry while on Effexor even if I wanted to.”
I felt miserable still… just without panic. I can’t describe the sensation adequately. It wasn’t just physically or mentally miserable, it was a terrifying hollowness on a spiritual level. My psychiatrist wanted me to keep increasing the dosage and add Lamictal on top of it. Finally I just said no and switched to a different psychiatrist who said I likely didn’t need any medication, so I was started on Zoloft in order to get off of Effexor. I don’t blame myself or anyone for this poor experience with medication. I know why I sought the extra support at the time and I am grateful that I am able to manage without medication currently.
This whole medication ordeal lasted about 3 years and I haven’t been on any medication for anything mental health related since then. I still have days where I struggle, but I have found what works for me in my situation, I’ll share a little below.
In order for me to function and not get my trauma-response all triggered:
I have to have down time. I have to sleep well. If I don’t sleep well for multiple days in a row that’s dangerous, so I guard my sleep time.
I work to say no when I need to say no and put my needs first. If I don’t have personal boundaries, I am in danger of being trauma-activated, which spells a shut down for me… sometimes for days. It’s very rare that that happens for me anymore, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
I still have regular “tune ups” with my long-term therapist from time to time, which is always helpful.