It's all me, me, me...

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Vivre Sa Vie
London, United Kingdom
Well hello there. My name is Viv (well, it's not really), and, like a lot of people, I'm ever so slightly neurotic... I have panic attacks and anxiety (ranging from mild to pretty intense), on and off. I also have an amazing and quite high-profile job, so I'm choosing to remain anonymous on here. Not because I'm ashamed of the aforementioned neuroses, but because I don't want to be googled and for my colleagues to read bizarre posts about me breathing into a paper bag and popping lorazepam. I've worked for bookshops, mixed arts festivals and charities, and have met (and still meet!) a lot of famous, fetching and fantabulous people for my job. (See, anxiety doesn't need to stop you being AWESOME and doing what you want to do) Here's hoping you'll find some helpful hints and tips on here which will help you tackle the evil panic heebiejeebs... PS. I'm an Australian, but I live in the UK, and have adopted tea-drinking, pubs, Wodehouse, and a Welsh man.
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Thursday, 10 May 2012

An exciting journey through my medicine cabinet...

Me too!

I've got a very special treat for you guys today, so hold onto your pillboxes and lavender sachets...

 I thought I'd give you an quick run-down of the medication I take for anxiety - I'm really nosy and always want to know what other people take (and I assume you're like me), but also it's obviously also really crucial to get a sense of what works on the pharma front and what doesn't.

I think it's also important to be open and frank when discussing this kind of stuff - there should be no more stigma attached to the fact I take anti-depressants for this condition than if I was diabetic and had to have  regular insulin injections. Sadly, there is, but we can all do our bit by being OUT AND PROUD about pill popping for our condition, and not despising ourselves for having to do so.

1. Citalopram 20mg. An SSRI anti-depressant medication (Prozac is probably the most famous in this category). Mostly used for depression, but SSRIs are also very effective for anxiety and phobia related conditions.

Pros: For a lot of people these are the perfect solution - just that extra bit of serotonin is enough to tip them over into a calmer, happier place. But I've been on them for so long, I don't actually know if they work any more. I'm going to experiment with coming off them SLOWLY soon for the reasons below. Then we'll see if they were doing anything at all (eeek, the sword of anxious Damocles dangles above me )

Cons: There are tons, but all I've noticed in my case is their effect on...sexytime. People, they kill your libido. Like stone-cold DEAD. Mine is so decimated that RPatz could turn up at my house in a loincloth with a rose between his teeth, and there'd be nary a flicker in my loins. This is causing me no end of anxiety in itself, so I have to jump off the comfy serotonin cushion and see what happens. I'll obviously keep you updated on this experiment...

Amazingly, this is an actual ad from the 50s...

2. Pregabalin 100mg. A seizure and neuropathic pain medication that works on the brain's GABA receptors (weed works on the same brain bits apparently). They've only fairly recently worked out that this stuff is great for anxiety too, and it's now available on prescription for panic disorder and agoraphobia. Apparently doctors are reluctant to prescribe it because it costs a fortune, so you may have to visit a psychiatrist for a prescription first.

Pros: I found these amazingly effective and calming - much more so than SSRIs. I would highly, highly recommend these to anyone who is really suffering with generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder or agoraphobia.

Cons: Can make you feel a bit stoned and dizzy when you first go on them, but that quickly fades. Also, I put on a bit of weight on these, but as with all of this stuff, you have to weigh* it up . Would you rather be a skinny wreck sobbing into your soft toys and pleading with your  boyfriend to not leave the house, or the calm owner of a spare tyre? (You can tell which one I plumped* for...)

*They can also make you amazingly proficient at creating hilarious fat puns.

3. Lorazepam (Ativan) 1mg PRN . A Benzodiazepine tranquiliser. Valium (Diazepam) is the most famous in this category, but does absolutely nothing for me. These are absolute lifesavers, but are only to be taken sparingly. I take one as and when I need one, but try to keep them in reserve only for very bad panic attacks, as they have huge addictive potential. BUT this doesn't mean you can't take them almost every day for a couple of weeks in a massive crisis, so don't do what I did and freak out and sob and wail each time before you take one because you're afraid of turning into an addict and losing your job/home/family and ending up hooking for cash etc etc etc.

Pros: They are God's/Big Pharma's way of giving us respite when we're going through sheer hell, so don't be afraid to use these (or be intimidated away from them by incompetent doctors) on occasion. If you're worried, seek reassurance from a professional psychiatrist (not therapist or counsellor or doctor) who can explain the pros and cons more thoroughly to you.

Cons: They're very addictive, and are not a long-term, daily solution. But in the short term, they can give you the clarity and respite to seek a more sustainable long-term solution, and can help you to take big first steps (leaving the house, getting on a plane etc) toward recovery.

Hooray for tranquillisers - they bring us peace and enable us to hang out the washing without crying!


Rosie said...

I am glad you put this post, I get the guilt from taking medication, not the citalopram but the valium ones.
I feel sometimes like if I go somewhere and then take one I have let myself down somehow, like I haven't actually achieved anything as I had to have chemical help to do you get that?
p.s Team Edward or Team Jacob, you need to choose

Vivre Sa Vie said...

I *completely* get that, Rosie - I've worked myself into such a ridiculous frenzy before taking them - and used to beat myself up so badly afterwards too (for exactly your reasons).

But then a psychiatrist explained their occasional necessity to me (and he works with patients with addictions, so is very wary of promoting them too much), and I've come to have a better relationship with them as an occasional helper, and I don't beat myself up so much when I take them now (which obviously lessens my anxiety too).

And after all, it is still YOU doing the work after you've taken one. I mean, they're not magic or anything, you still have to confront things and be brave, it's just that you have an extra buffer to help you get there.

You just have to think: I have an illness just like any other, and occasionally, when that illness is flaring up really badly, I need to take medication for it. Just like someone with severe back pain might take a codeine (which is also addictive), but wouldn't have all the self-loathing and feeling of failure afterwards. There's no reason why we should be so furious with ourselves - would the back pain patient hate herself for having a pain flare-up?

PS. Team Edward FOR SURE. Although it's not as if I'd turn Jacob down on a cold windy night...

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