The Alarming Side Effect I Experienced on Anti-Anxiety Medication
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
Its what we strive for isn’t it? No fear. But is it really a good thing?
I had an experience recently that made me reassess my position on this subject.
A psychiatrist recommended a medication I should take along with the antidepressant I have been taking for a long time. It was prescribed for nerve pain, but had been shown to lessen anxiety. It wasn’t on the PBS for anxiety, but “luckily” for me I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome so my doctor could prescribe it for me.
So I began the journey that this new medication took me on. It started with very positive improvements. The anxiety disappeared. I fell asleep easily. The intrusive overthinking ceased. Family and friends started to comment on the difference in me. I felt strong, confident. I didn’t have to think whether I could drive to the shops, I just drove there. No hesitation. No fear.
I felt as if I had my life back. The life I had lost to depression and anxiety. It felt really good. I felt really good.
Then a problem surfaced in my personal life. I was hurt by some people very close to me. And I reacted. Badly. I was in a blind rage and lashed out at them with vicious words, writing off our relationship and cutting them off. But I didn’t care. I felt no empathy. No compassion.
I have been a people-pleaser all my life. I swallow my own feelings so that I don’t upset others. I follow a strict code of social behavior. There are behaviors I do not indulge in. Anger. Rage. Fury. These are not part of my persona. I do not lash out. I do not deliberately hurt people. Especially not people I love dearly.
But I did. I was horrified. But also slightly intrigued. It was kind of liberating. I did it. Something I never do. It didn’t bother me. I slept easily at night. I didn’t overthink it or second guess every word and action. I felt remarkably peaceful. But somehow, I also knew it was wrong.
The anger inside me built. And built. I felt rage. Pure, red, angry rage surged through me. I was on a high. An angry, hate-filled high that didn’t let up. My head felt full. My veins throbbed with power. I felt invincible. I could do anything.
I had a confrontation with another person I loved. The fury had become cold. Merciless. I did not care. Not one little bit. I walked away from another relationship. I felt completely alone. Isolated. No one cared about me. And that was fine, because I didn’t care about them either!
Then the intrusive thoughts began. Show them how much it hurts. Kill yourself. That will show them all. Then they can struggle like you are struggling now. Then they’ll understand. And it will be too late. They will have to live with it for the rest of their lives.
I had no fear of death. Dying meant nothing to me. I had nothing left to lose. I entertained the thoughts. I let myself consider how I would kill myself. I did not care how it would affect those that loved me. The anger felt like it was going to explode out of my body. I struggled to contain it. I did some drawing, letting myself freely express what was inside me. It was probably one of the most honest things I’ve ever drawn. Because I held nothing back. It was raw. It was me.
I stayed awake the whole night, battling with thoughts of killing myself or hurting someone else. By some stroke of luck I already had a doctors appointment the next morning. I drove there in a fury. I was ready to take anyone on. If someone cut me off or did the wrong thing I would be out of my car and I would hurt them. I knew this.
I sat in the doctors office crying, wringing my hands, swearing, shouting. I told her I would drive my car into someone or into a tree. I didn’t care. I had no fear of consequences. I didn’t care if I ended up in jail. If I died, so what. I was shaking from the anger. Overwrought from the lack of sleep. She was understandably concerned. She made me a cup of tea. She sat with me. I was in her office for over an hour. She didn’t bat an eyelid, her focus completely on me. She told me she was going to detain me. She couldn’t let me drive. Unless I could ask someone to take me to the hospital. So I called the person I had the confrontation with the day before. He graciously agreed to drive me, without hesitation.
As he drove he pondered the change in me. Could it be the medication? I resisted the thought. The medication had given me my life back. It had taken away the anxiety. Couldn’t it be something else? If I stopped the medication the anxiety might come back. I didn’t want that to happen. But I recognized I could not go on the way I was. I felt like I might explode. I began to recognize the changes within me and to consider it was caused by the medication.
Every psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health worker and general practitioner (GP) I saw at the hospital immediately announced that the medication was well-known for personality changes. Anger, rage and lack of care or fear were all well documented side effects of taking the drug. They all agreed it didn’t suit me. I shouldn’t take it. So my withdrawal began.
I am still angry. Angry that I was given a medication that was well-known for the side effects I experienced. But my anger is contained. Controlled. I don’t want to kill myself, or anybody else. The fear of consequences and social etiquette are firmly back in place. I no longer wish I had no fear. I’ve seen how it is. And it’s not pretty.
Without fear there could be no bravery. I would much rather be brave than fearless.
I would not choose to live without fear. But I will not let it control me or restrict me.
Fear does not frighten me. I see it. I call it out. And then I do what I had planned to do anyway.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
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