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When the Treatments for Your Mental Illness Give You Anxiety

I wasn’t going to write today. My depression is telling me, “Why bother?” and I want to just crawl into bed. But I am always searching for someone who feels the way I do and maybe if I put some of my fears of treatment out into the world, someone will have a moment where they feel understood. 

I have been actively treating my mental illness for 4.5 years now. In the beginning, I was excited to finally be doing something about my anxiety. However, I now feel a lot of anxiety about the treatments themselves. 

In the beginning, I was thrilled to finally have a diagnosis (of anxiety at the time). I felt as though I had an answer for the way I was and validated in my feelings. I was happy to share my diagnosis with my close friends. Over the years, I have practically begged for other diagnoses to explain my feelings, including depression and panic disorder. After 4.5 years, I have gathered multiple diagnoses, including the possibility of a rare form of bipolar disorder. Even though I knew for months bipolar disorder was a possible diagnosis for me, I took it hard when I first heard my psychiatrist say it aloud. Bipolar is a scary disorder to me. It is hard to treat and very hard to understand. It feels like a life sentence. So far, I have told no one about this diagnosis because there seems to be much stigma around it. It is a lonely place to be. 

My biggest fear every time I go to my psychiatrist is he will have finally given up on me. This fear didn’t come out of nowhere. I have been to one family doctor, three different psychiatrists and four separate therapists. All of whom eventually gave up and said they could not treat my illness. Therefore, every visit to my current psychiatrist (who has so far outlasted them all) is full of fear he will say the same. On one occasion, he brought up the option of group therapy and I was crushed, thinking it meant he no longer believed medication could help me. As a side note, I should mention group therapy is a great option for many people, but we had previously discussed how my social anxiety would make any type of therapy unbearable and useless. I cried for days, believing this was the end of seeing this psychiatrist; I was going to be left helpless and alone in my struggle with mental illness. Thankfully, this was not the case, but I still worry before every appointment. 

Medication is a very controversial issue in regards to mental illness. Personally, I am very pro-medication. Complex disorders such as mine are hard to treat without some type of medication. However, this does not mean I do not fear medication at times. So far, I have tried exactly 20 medications. Each time I start a medication, I fear what the side effects will be. Every time I stop a medication, I fear what the withdrawal will bring. It has been a tough roller coaster to ride, which I survive by reminding myself “this too shall pass.”

Finally, I fear who I would be without my illness. I have had anxiety my whole life and depression for more than half of it. I do not know who I am separate from my illness. People are often afraid of who medication will make them become. Will they be zombies, etc? But I fear who I will be when I find the proper medication that manages my complex illness. Who am I, really?

Getty image by Rudzhan Nagiev