anecdotes and reflections on life with depression and anxiety
So -- where were we? Ativan. Lorazepam. Pills. Right.
An “as-needed,” or PRN, anxiety medication is the newest addition to my pharmaceutical arsenal, and at this point, it isn’t really new at all. I was prescribed the Lorazepam after some intense physical anxiety had cropped up -- unexpectedly -- for the duration of a tortuous, squirmy plane ride, throughout which the only therapeutic advantages I had at my disposal were Dramamine, squeezing my husband’s hand really hard, and stealthily sipping from a nip bottle of flavored vodka I had in my carry-on (I was desperate). I also tried cell phone games and counting backwards from 100.
My coping skills were limited, admittedly, but so was my brain chemistry. I needed help with both. My therapist agreed, and while we worked on other ways to cope with my anxiety, she readily prescribed me the Lorazepam.
Even after I filled the prescription I took the drug rarely, at first only when traveling (heaven forbid I feel the need to resort to another ill-advised nip of Watermelon Smirnoff on a plane). Then I started to take a pill occasionally at night when those cycling, anxious thoughts would keep me up. Whenever I realized I was relying on it to fall asleep, I’d rein myself in and suffer a few nights of tossing and turning in order to get back into a regular, medication-free sleep pattern. I wanted to be sure I was keeping myself from forming a dependency, which this drug is known to cause. While I am ardently pro-medication, a habit-forming drug does scare me -- I try to be conscientious about how I use it.
So several months ago, when all of this crazy no-sleeping, constant-panic-level anxiety was happening every night, the drug was no longer new to me. I had been taking it at bedtime when I felt like I needed it, but other nights the anxiety would catch me off guard, and then I'd lie awake, restless, gasping for air, debating internally whether what I was feeling justified taking another pill.
I was trying so hard to be responsible.
But what does that kind of responsibility, that kind of self-restraint look like when times get hard? Like, really hard? Like when the ants start crawling under your skin while you’re sleeping, waking you up, forcing you to cope with the reality of a physical anxiety that you cannot connect to any external stressor? Like when the symptoms of this illness are so severe that you start to wonder how many suicide attempts or self-harm incidents are borne out of anxiety, rather than depression, because you can’t imagine how people live with this pain and disquiet long-term? How long do you sit with those feelings? Minutes? Hours? Weeks?
How many times do you toss and turn and wake your husband with your groans and squirms and get up to pee and tap your fingers and toes and rock your body back and forth and pet the cat and pace the living room and mess with the oscillating fan settings and download 3 different books to see if one will bore you to sleep? How many guided meditations and mindfulness podcasts do you listen to in the wee hours, trying not to think about how you’ll get through the next day with so little sleep?
How many times, before you take just one more pill, knowing it will help?
And the next night, do you just start by taking a higher dose to start with?
My therapist assured me that upping a dose to get through a hard time is normal, a healthy choice. Not sleeping has its own consequences. By then we had linked the anxiety to the reduction we’d made in my anti-depressant (stay tuned for that one) -- so, we were fairly comfortable with the idea of solving this temporary problem with a temporary solution.
But still. The internal conflicts continue. The battle is never fully over. The in-the-moment decisions still have to be made.
It’s a lot to make an anxious person think about.
oh, hey --
My name is Lauren. I'm thirty-something, and I like to take naps and read good books and watch bad television. I love my husband and I love my cat, and I live with depression and anxiety, which is mostly what you'll read about here.