My relationship with my demon named Anxiety.

 

My demon named Depression is currently treated and has been nearly all the time by the medications I have taken since my mid-thirties. When one med cocktail loses its effectiveness, and the Depression comes oozing into my life again, it’s time for a med change. It is not a fun process to move from one set of drugs to another. But it is necessary, as living constantly with Depression would be incredibly difficult and make many parts of my active life off limits. So thankfully, over the years, my mental health med doctor has been able to help me find the right med mix to put the Depression in my rearview mirror.

My Anxiety is a tougher nut to crack. First off, finding the right med (or meds) that compliments my Depression drugs usually involves some trial and error, making the time of experimentation quite difficult. I know things are not working when my OCD rears it’s ugly head. But eventually, we find the right mix and dosage that makes living with Anxiety bearable.

We’ve never been able to fully put Anxiety in that rearview mirror. My doc and I have just been able to reduce the length of time and intensity of anxious episodes. As my doctor says, “Some people are just anxious.” I am one of those people.

I still have extended periods of Anxiety — usually tied to some trigger that sets things off. And I still experience panic attacks — periods of intense physical and emotional pain. But I don’t constantly live in these states. In fact, I must note, my doc and I work to first reduce the number of days I experience panic attacks. As I’ve noted in a previous post these are seemingly “out of the blue perceptions of a clenched throat, frayed nerves, pained and seemingly inelastic lungs, and brick-brain. (And) for me, at times, a panic attack is also accompanied by a period of intense sweating, to the point that I have to change my drenched clothes after the episode has passed.”

My meds are not working if symptoms like these are daily. I usually work to get the panic attacks as something that only happens once every couple of weeks or so.

Once that is successful, my doc and I tweak things — usually over an extended period of time — to see if we can reduce the amount of Anxiety I must bear. Again from that previous post: “for me Anxiety still elicits negative physical aspects (e.g. shortness of breath, increased heart rate, fatigue, etc.). It also makes me fear the future and feel as if I’ve failed my past. Sometimes my Anxiety brings on real or perceived jilted or slurred speech. I feel as if I am making no sense. The attached nervousness makes me feel as if I am shaking, so I feel as if I look ridiculous. My Anxiety also brings on depressive thoughts. Emotionally, I feel small. I feel stupid. I feel beyond insignificant. I feel as if my full essence is completely negative. I feel as if I am a drain on everyone around me.”

As I noted above, my doc and I work to reduce how often and how long these episodes are. And here is where some major cost-benefit analysis happens. With any med cocktail I am on I hope to minimize the side effects — usually fatigue, metabolism changes (i.e. weight gain), brain fog, etc. This tweaking of meds becomes especially sensitive as I work to minimize how often Anxiety rears It’s ugly head and how long the episodes last.

My current meds impact me in ways where the cost-benefit analysis is right on the edge of what I need and what I don’t want. Thankfully, a metabolism change is not associated with my current med cocktail. Unfortunately, slowed response and some degree of forgetfulness are. Also, there are some things I used to really thrive at that are now points of fear for me. I know I am a pretty transparent guy, but I’m going to keep these things off limits for now.

My periods of Anxiety wax and wane. They are usually (but not always) attached to some known happening or trigger.

As readers of this blog know, I do a lot of work to minimize the onset of Anxiety. Some mornings I meditate while looking at pictures from my garden. Many mornings I exercise — although I need to increase the frequency and intensity, I think, to truly have the intended impact I’m looking for.

I also do various things while experiencing Anxiety. Some things I do to “bring me back to the now” rather than being gripped by fear of the future and like I’ve failed in my past (e.g. controlled breathing exercises, meditation, pinching myself). I also ask myself why I am feeling anxious — actually a very effective practice. And, of course, I write.

So there you have it. This is me and my relationship with my demon named Anxiety.

Not sure why I wrote this post. I’m not experiencing Anxiety right now. This was simply on my mind this morning, so you get to read it. I hope it was helpful to some.

 

2 Comments

  1. Tom Sampson 22 April 2018 at 8:10 am

    Michael, I take issue with your Doctor’s comment “Some people are just anxious”. And even more with your comment “I am one of those people”. My wife’s response? “I’d look for another Doctor.” (and she suffered anxiety and depression for years).

    Well, that may be hard to hear, but sometimes we need to hear the truth. I believe you shouldn’t settle for the status quo. Michael, you deserve better! (and so does Rebecca).

     
    • Michael Dahl 22 April 2018 at 3:46 pm

      Tom:

      I am very happy for your wife. Some people are able to find a cure. But it’s also common that people living with Anxiety will have to manage their illness. I’m pretty sure that’s commonly accepted.

      That said, I don’t want anyone to misinterpret these lines:

      –“‘My doc and I have just been able to reduce the length of time and intensity of anxious episodes. As my doctor says, “Some people are just anxious.” I am one of those people.”–

      My doctor and I check in regularly. And she never says, “Well, that’s as good as we’re going to get.” Every time I go in, she asks about how my meds are doing. She’s always been open to tweaking things if I ask and she thinks positive change might be possible. But she also notes to other things:

      1) Talk therapy is likely to be the thing that helps me the most now considering how much improvement I’ve shown with my meds.

      2) Managing my Anxiety is likely to be a long-term endeavor. Sure, it’s possible that someday I’ll be cured. It happens for some people. But considering how long I’ve suffered from Anxiety, and how my brain has gotten use to flooding itself with “fight or flight” chemicals at improper times … well, management of Anxiety (for me) is likely my reality for quite some time.

       

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