The Biggest Thing I've Learned So Far After Weaning Off My Anti-Anxiety Medication
Editor’s note: This story is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please talk to a doctor before starting or stopping mediation.
It has been about a month since I made the conscious, sober, uninfluenced, clear-headed decision to start easing off of my meds, and tonight I sit here wondering why.
So, I realized I better write about this. I better capture this in everything that it is so I can continue growing this conversation. So I can continue reminding people why it’s important, and reassure people that it’s OK to feel and share raw emotions. That we can learn so much from them, and grow so much as individuals. We can learn from each other, support each other and be inspired by each other to keep going, and I don’t want to stop being a part of that.
The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that patience is a virtue.
I made my decision based on a few factors. One, is that although I’ve been on this medication for about four years, and it has certainly helped, I feel it may have plateaued for me. Two, I am in the best place I’ve ever been in in my life. I’m more confident, more happy and more inspired than ever, and I’m in a healthy relationship with a woman I love. I have a job I’m excited about, and wonderful friends and family to share life with. Three, it’s not yet the dead of depressing winter. Four, I just felt…ready. My instinct told me it was time to try leaving the nest.
However, it also reminded me to do it slowly.
After talking to my doctor, I eased into taking three-fourths of a pill for about two weeks, and then half a pill for about three weeks. Now, I am on one-forth a pill and have been for about two weeks. I think I have about another two weeks to go. Easy does it, that’s for sure! I can’t stress enough, you should never go cold turkey on your medication, especially without first talking about it with your doctor. In my case, my doctor told me late last year that when I felt ready, I could try easing off, but to do it gradually. The idea was always that I wouldn’t be on this medication forever, just for awhile. I had one brief episode two years ago where I quit cold turkey, got depressed, tried switching to a new SSRI immediately and then had vertigo and suicidal tendencies for a few weeks.
So this time, patience is my greatest virtue. And so far… it’s basically worked!
I’ve had the odd, blue day, and when stress hits me it hits me harder. I have turned both my apartment, my girlfriends’ apartment and my desk at work into the place where to-do lists go to die. I have to constantly rearrange things to feel the sense of control I need. And today, I heard familiar inner voices making me feel less than, making me feel small, making me feel confused.
Luckily, I have 10 plus years of living with mental illness under my belt, and a “tool box” full of techniques I have learned through experience and counseling to help me work through the tricky moments. I also have a wonderful support network, and they keep me strong and grounded.
The other thing I have learned rather quickly is that vulnerability is allowed, and it is in fact more of a strength than the weakness it is often perceived as. My vulnerabilities when it comes to my mental illness are (surprisingly) not so much to do with the stigma of having mental illness; I’ve made my peace with that, and am obviously happy to be quite open about it. My vulnerabilities are that I second guess everything I say or do, and then I lose any sense of confidence I have worked so hard to find. Mental illness strips me of that. It makes me feel lonely, unacknowledged and unwanted even in a room full of the kindest people. It makes me feel less than, and it makes me question if anything I put my efforts towards is worth it.
As I go off my meds, slowly but surely, some of this vulnerability and insecurity has been resurfacing. It’s scary, it’s frustrating and it’s confusing. But enough of me is still in control that I can acknowledge this is not weakness. I can see that it’s teaching me a lesson about what it means to be strong. It’s teaching me about worthiness, and about finding my voice again. It’s teaching me that I am not the only one scared shitless in this world, and I think we all need to talk about that more. Cause we’re all awesome, we’re all vulnerable about something and we can all learn and grow from that.
Tomorrow is a new day, friends, and I will feel refreshed and ready to take it on in the morning. Tonight, I acknowledge that it was a hard day, and I acknowledge everything I felt so deeply, and every scary thought I had.
I also acknowledge this is temporary. It’s a transition back to the light, and back to myself. Although I never left, and I’m not leaving now either.
It’s just a shadow dance in limbo, reminding me of how far I have come if anything.
But it’s a long dance, and I still have much to learn from it. This time, I have candlelight to face the shadows. I am prepared, I am willing to face it and I more confident in myself that I can. I think my beautiful mind is coming back to itself, even if it took an odd, dark detour in this transition. So it keeps telling me to push forward and continue this journey — to see what I’m really capable of this time.
Only time will tell! I’m thankful I have so much of it.
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