Still Working On My Anxiety Management Plan

The chaos of the holiday season has left me little time to think or write over the past month. A few ideas have run through my head, but finding the time to put them to words has been near impossible. As the first week of the new year comes to a close I find myself with a little time and it has occurred to me that I have reached something of a milestone. It was at the end of December 2011 that I took my last Klonopin. I have now been flying without my anxiety safety net for an entire year.

There are many days that I miss those pills horribly. I don’t want to be back on them mostly because I never want to endure the withdrawal symptoms again, but the truth is I have been dealing with ever increasing levels of anxiety since I stopped the drug. I still find it ironic that the Coast Guard demanded I stop the drug in the name of safety, but without a doubt I would be less useful in a crisis without the medication than I was with it. This idea that the benzo somehow clouded my judgment just isn’t true. I functioned normally. Of course now I sleep like shit, which does affect my mental acuity, and suffer anxiety at the slightest hint of danger whether real or imagined. Oh yeah I am much safer now.

A few months ago I came to the realization that while I have been treated for depression for over ten years I really think the main problem was anxiety all along. The high levels of anxiety and the way it shuts off my access to the things in life that provide me pleasure eventually led to depression. I went to a therapist to begin some CBT to try and make some improvements, but it has taken many visits just to begin getting a handle on the best way to approach what is an unbelievably complex problem. The original visits focused on my Emetophobia, but a successful CBT approach to that problem has proven elusive, so we have begun focusing on some other anxiety sources. I have begun to have more pronounced problems with anxiety in public places, and we are going to try and focus on that.

The last couple weeks have not been too bad, which gives me some hope for the future. The plan is to develop a CBT strategy that will desensitize me to the false triggers and provide some coping mechanisms. I also have a medication management appointment in a couple weeks and I plan to speak with him about some possible adjustments to the drugs. He has mentioned adding super low doses of Zoloft to the current regime, but I am hesitant to try that because of the SSRI side effects. There has been a noticeable uptick in sexual activity within my marriage over the past several weeks and I don’t want to do anything to upset that. I suppose I will know pretty quickly if the Zoloft is going to be a problem and if it is I can just stop, but going down that road makes me nervous.

Feeling somewhat better has brought to light another unfortunate irony of anxiety. Yesterday I brought a part from a broken piece of equipment to a shop that would have the parts I would need to repair it. I didn’t really know all the details of the repair and the guy in the shop was super helpful in getting the stuff I would need and getting the thing back together. As he was gathering the parts it occurred to me that I couldn’t leave without making a scene, but that I felt okay. Okay that was until I went and analyzed the situation which caused the anxiety to flood in. It was a pretty mild event, and I controlled it by telling myself there was no danger and focusing in on what the guy was trying to show me, but the idea that the recognition of improvement triggered a problem is evidence as to just how deeply imbedded this stuff really is.

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5 thoughts on “Still Working On My Anxiety Management Plan

  1. Congratulations on being off the Klonopin for one year . Has it really been that long! Great accomplishment. I am following along with interest as I hope you get a handle on your anxiety with the CBT counseling. I also understand your apprehension about trying yet another antidepressant. It is not fun messing around with the chemicals in our brains. Not at all.

    • Thank you. It is hard to believe it has already been a year. I went by very quickly. I may just increase the dose of Wellbutrin rather than start an SSRI. I will be a little brain dead for a couple weeks, but there dont seem to be any other side effects. Maybe that increase will be enough.

  2. I will echo Daylilly with a grand felicitations on one year sans benzos and also the sentiment of “I can’t believe it’s been a year!” I was incredulous when I read that.

    I think that the addition of an SSRI–in small amounts–is not a bad thing. I think, at this point, that the sort of anxiety that you have if neurochemical. My perspective on anxiety has changed over the years. I used to be very hardcore about CBT because, believe it or not, I did most of my recovery from the things that I experienced before the age of 23 without any drugs whatsoever largely because I didn’t know they were available. Also, I didn’t suffer with depression which seems like some Divine miracle–or joke. I’m not sure which. Anyway, it was only later in life that I realized that a great deal of my inner workings–all those things that I had to work so hard against–were fueled by a brain chemistry that just wasn’t on board with my daily plans. It had different plans. The addition of an anticonvulsant strangely enough was the game changer because it slowed the processing speed of my temporal lobe, and, lo, a huge burden lifted for the first time in my life. Watching my husband go on a mere 50 mg of Zoloft after struggling with what now appears to be crippling anxiety has only reinforced my opinions that CBT alone does little if one’s brain can’t move in the same direction due to “faulty” or uncooperative (as I like to call it) chemistry. I have two daughters who inherited that chemistry and they, too, take Zoloft for almost the same crippling anxiety, and they do so much better One takes 50 mg and another 75.

    As Daylily said, I am looking forward to hearing how the addition of an SSRI PLUS continued CBT helps because I know how much you’ve struggled and suffered. Seems like you’ve surpassed your quota…for life.

    • The therapist I am talking with is convinced I can manage my anxiety with CBT and will be able to stop all medications at some point. I suppose in order to be good at what you do you need to believe in the process, but while I believe it may be helpful I dont see it as the answer by itself. I can see it being useful to manage symptoms and in some cases, particularly PTSD fed anxieties, I can see how it could get a person off medications. I agree with you though that no CBT in the world can adjust my brain chemistry and that is the the crux of my problem. When I was med free I would be sitting on the couch minding my own business and just start feeling anxious. Sometimes my brain would run off into these dark places about what happens when we die, or my son would go from being 3 to 17 in a blink. These issues were huge sources of anxiety leading down a dark pathway to depression, but have little to do with other anxiety triggers like small spaces or being sick. The later I can see CBT helping with, but the former is just wiring.

  3. Well, whatever happens, I’m just so glad that you’re documenting your process. I think it’s invaluable for you in that you can look back (you have a lot to be proud of), and it’s really valuable for others who are in the middle of it and need a road map per se.

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