I thought I’d won. I thought I’d bested my anxiety. With the help of a little itty bitty capsule of Effexor and some strong willed thinking, I thought I’d put anxiety in its place once and for all. Not one to gloat, but I hadn’t had a full blown writhe-in-the-middle-of-the-living-room-at-2am attack in like 3 years.
I thought I had so conquered these things. I had no idea how completely wrong I was. You don’t conquer anxiety. You don’t get rid of it. You just learn to live with it staring at you from the corner, waiting for the chance to lead the parade again.
I had been so proud of myself, I’d whittled myself down to a small dose of Effexor, a tiny little 37.5 mg a day. That made me happy. Somehow a smaller dose meant I was a little less cagey and anxious. Less crazy.
But that wisp of meds was not enough to withstand the insanity of a marriage, family and life ripping apart. Moving, divorce decrees, yelling screaming arguments in the front yard for the whole neighborhood to enjoy.
37.5 mg ain’t gonna cut it with that drama. I was losing. Anxiety was taking over. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t stop the anxious thoughts.
I reluctantly went back to my doctor. I felt like a big crazy loser, I needed more medicine which must mean I was crazier. He upped me to 75 mg of Effexor, sure that would do the trick.
I gripped the steering wheel the entire way home from the doctor’s office, waiting for the increased dose to hit my blood stream and make the monster of anxiety go back to its corner and take a nap.
Nope. The monster wasn’t going anywhere. The 75 of Effexor was no match for divorce court in downtown Los Angeles. The anxious monster was laughing at me.
My anxiety made my head feel like it was disconnecting from my body. My hands were shaking. I stumbled out of the courtroom after they heard our case and ran to the bathroom. I hyperventilated into a wad of toilet paper in the ladies room. My mind running loose like a dog running across lanes of traffic.
Then the shit got real.
I’d go to sleep at 3am, rolling with technicolor anxiety dreams all night. I’d dread the mornings, awakening already mid panic attack, unable to breathe. I was in the middle of a battle that no one else could see. I was fighting to keep the panic attacks from taking over.
I walked around exhausted. No one could see that all my energy went to fighting my anxious thoughts, the overwhelming dread. I was in battle mode.
Fighting to pick up the phone and return a call. Fighting to go on a job interview.
Anxiety was winning. Handfuls of my hair came out in the shower. I ate packs of gummy bears and Balance Bars, the only thing I could keep down, just enough sustenance to coat my stomach for the Effexor. I prayed every single day that it would finally work. Help me defeat my monster.
A few glasses of chardonnay at night was the only thing that helped take the edge off of the panic and let me stop the chattering “what if’s” inside my head.
I was defeated. Anxiety had won. It was back and ruling my life. My every move. Every decision. Take the freeway and have a panic attack or surface streets so I can run more easily from the car in case I go crazy? Go to the school event and risk an attack in front of all the other parents or sit in the parking lot and shake?
I went back to the doctor for more. 150 mg. was the next step. I felt like the craziest person on the planet. I asked him if the higher dosage meant I was crazier too?
And of course, I asked, what if this dosage didn’t work. What’s next? Would they give me 500/700/1,000/10,000 milligrams? What if nothing worked? Would I eventually end up chained to the wall in a bustled skirt like the insane Victorian ladies in those old drawing of mental wards?
But Thank the Lord in heaven, it worked. Kinda. Not 100%. Not a miracle. But the 150 mg. of Effexor softened the anxiety just enough for me to sleep a few hours. Just enough of a pause for me to think clearly. Just enough for me to make decisions not based on hiding how anxious I felt. I was able to think of something else instead of how I was going to avoid the next huge panic attack.
No the 150 mg. didn’t cure my anxiety. There is not a thing in the world that can. But thank the Lord for Effexor, for the pharmaceutical company that let me chain my anxiety back in its corner for a few months.
I stayed at that 150 dose for years to help me through a six year divorce process. I’m glad to report that I’ve now weaned off a bit and am now back at my sweet little 37.5 dosage. But I’ve saved some of the 150’s. A few capsules of the big guns are there, stashed in my makeup drawer right next to the eye makeup remover, just in case the monster in the corner decides to make a move.
When she’s not lying in the fetal position obsessing about her hair, Rosemond writes about divorce, parenting, anxiety and life over 40 at Roundandroundrosie.com.
Compelling. So many can relate to the terror of a panic attack and the relentless anxiety that takes up residence in the mind when a trauma turns our world upside down. Very well done!
Excellent Rose. Really good one. The stigma is real although 70% of the population has some mental disturbance or illness. Like me. And us.