I have Generalized Anxiety, Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder and this is my experience taking anti-depressants to cope.
Terminology & Definition: Generalized anxiety is characterized as extreme worrying almost every day; it is excessive and disproportionate about several areas of one’s life. A panic disorder is characterized as a psychiatric disorder where a debilitating fear and anxiety arise frequent, and without explanation. A panic disorder triggers panic attacks, and its symptoms are (but may not be limited to) pounding heart, sweating, shaking or trembling, shortness of breath, choking sensations, chills, hot flashes, nausea, dizziness, numbness or tingling sensations, fear of dying and fear of losing control. Many people fear that as a direct result from a panic attack, they will have a heart attack, go crazy, faint or embarrass themselves. Agoraphobia is an extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places, which makes it difficult to attend lectures and enjoy a social life.
So whats it like being a 20 year old female enrolled in university with high expectations and ambition with such a debilitating condition, the answer isn’t so simple. It’s tough, however embracing my illness was the best decision I’ve ever made. Acknowledging what is going on is the first step to finding a stable balance, and getting a proper diagnosis is crucial because there are many reasons to explain why one could be experiencing symptoms of anxiety or panic. No two diagnoses are identical and no two conditions are identical – each and every person suffering from mental illness will experience and react differently.
Synopsis: I was diagnosed by my family physician with GAD and a Panic Disorder, she then recommended me to a psychologist for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). After five months of that, medication free, it was decided that I needed to explore the options of Anti-Depressants. I began on Citalopram (5mg) and graduated to the brand Cipralex, a form of Escitalopram (20mg) with the occasional Ativan when needed. After about a year on the anti-depressants, my panic attacks went from 6+ per week to 2 per month, or less. However, my panic disorder under control, my anxiety was not. From then my family physician consulted with a psychiatrist who recommended clonazepam, a benzodiazepine. I now take 0.5mg of clonazepam everyday along with my 20mg of Cipralex.
How does it feel? I have never felt more like myself in the past few years. There is so much fear surrounding anti-depressant usage, a fear that they are not going to be themselves, clouded or worse off in their condition. I don’t dispute this as a possibility; however it could mean that the medication isn’t the proper fit, or that it takes a bit longer to adjust and the side effects will wear off. So if prescribed, don’t be afraid to try anti-depressants because the potential negative effects, are often outweighed by the positive.
I have good days and bad days like anyone, and I’ve found a healthy balance with my medications, therapy and overall health.
I credit a large part of my success to not only my medications, psychologist, friends, family and boyfriend, but I also give credit to myself. I embraced this, never once thinking that I would become my diagnosis. I saw this as a challenge to become the best version of myself that I could be.
My advice to those who suffer from any mental illness – embrace it, laugh about it, joke about it, and become comfortable with it. It is a piece of you, and not one to be ashamed of. Advocate and teach those who don’t understand, because I promise you, you will find a way to live happily despite it.