Posted on 20 August 2016 by Michael Dahl

Anxiety, Therapy, Fogginess, and a Pill Cutter

Earlier this week I visited with my mental health med doctor. She dealt me some news I was not happy with … even if she may be right. She said that most of my improvements in health were not likely to come from additional med tweaking — something we’ve been doing successfully for over a year. Instead, now her opinion is that I must really jump into talk therapy and embrace cognitive behavior therapy in a way that could help me manage the Anxiety that still is a part of my life … that still plagues my days and nights.

“Managing Anxiety” were not words I wanted to hear. After all, I am not managing Depression. The meds successfully put Depression in my rearview mirror about a year ago. I had hopes the meds would do the same to my Bully, my demon named Anxiety.

Now, I need to be clear. Meds have greatly reduced my struggle with Anxiety. I rarely have panic attacks (Yay!). And Anxiety is not a constant, although I am frequently aware that It is beside me — ready to pounce when the time is right.

So that’s not fun.

But while my doctor is convinced I need to learn to manage the still-present Anxiety, she also wants to give my brain the opportunity to see what life would be like without Anxiety. I guess she wants me to witness this so that I: (1) I can simply give my brain a little rest; (2) commit to what talk therapy might help me get closer to.

To help me through this she has amped up the “chill pills” which I used to take solely on an “as needed basis.” Now I take them — at a pretty low dosage — morning, noon, and night. And for the past week I have only experienced a tinge of Anxiety … a level I could manage easily and put in the background of my brain until It disappeared. Success!

But there have been side effects. I am living life in a bit of a fog, kind of operating in slow motion, and tired all the time.

Thankfully, my mental health doctor did not command, “You must take this level of “chill pill” for such and such a time.” She’s letting me discover what’s right. For instance, I could decide to live life like this — and take the medications at the current level for a few months. Or, I could decide to do so for a few weeks and then taper off to a more acceptable level.

I may end up at that second choice. But first, I’d prefer not to live my days in a fog and I quite like sleeping through the night and not being struck with fear if I wake up at 2 am. And so, for at least a couple days I am going to try half the already small dosage for what I take in the morning and at noon. For the nighttime dosage, I’m going to keep it as the full pill level.

Of course, when I start up my talk therapy again — which I am a fan of — I’m going to be dealing with some pretty difficult situations and trying to teach my brain how to do an even better job of managing Anxiety. So who knows what I’ll choose to do with the “chill pills” then.

That is not fun work. For me, managing Anxiety is not a “do this or that and the demon disappears.” No, It is more like, “Oh look, there’s a Bully sitting right beside me, and It would love to mess with my brain (e.g. severe anguish and fear) and ravage my body (e.g. constrict my chest and throat and turn my brain into a brick that also seems to be able to hold a hive of bees in it).

And so talk therapy — cognitive behavioral therapy — helps me recognize and do a few things. First, I learn why this is happening to me. (As I have already done quite a bit of this therapy, I know a great deal why … but I am sure there is more to learn.)

Second, one goal is to acknowledge Anxiety as the Bully It is. And sometimes acknowledging the Bully appropriately makes it go away. Bullies like reactions, I can learn ways for It to take little interest in me as I force little interest upon It.

And third, sometimes the Bully pounces. It messes with my brain and ravages my body. In this case, it is key to employ a number of tactics to win the fight without actually fighting. It’s sort of like letting Anxiety do It’s thing, and then It realizes I have no interest in doing anything other than acknowledging It’s there. In other words, the Anxiety sees It has little power to drive me into reactions that simply make things harder for me.

Remember, this is not fun stuff. The therapy is tough. It’s tough to dig deep and learn why this happens to my brain. It’s tough to know that at times — perhaps on a frequent basis — I will “see” a Bully sitting beside me. And, it is really tough to know that sometimes the Bully will jump, I will react, and then I need to find a way to settle myself down to make the Bully tired of even trying to elicit more reactions.

So where does this end? Well, slowly I need to internalize the strategies and tactics my talk therapist teaches me. And, I also need to taper to where the “chill pills” become “use only as needed.”

Friends, send positive vibes my way. I could use a little of that right now.