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When I Realized My Anxiety Medication Just Wasn't Enough

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I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 12, which seems like a young age to most but for someone with dyspraxia isn’t all that uncommon. My parents took me to see a child psychologist who quickly diagnosed me and tried to treat me. It was a disaster, to say the least. I didn’t feel comfortable with him, I dreaded going to see him and found his treatment strange. I used to beg out of going to see him, but my parents, desperate for anything to help me, kept taking me. Eventually they realized that despite receiving a diagnosis it was clear the treatment wasn’t going to work and maybe I needed medication.

The following year I was put on medication. The results were almost immediate, and my parents could see the difference with me. While the medication helped, I still experienced anxiety attacks, and I was hard on myself because I felt the medication should’ve taken them away from me.

I ended up seeing the high school counselor every couple of weeks just so I could talk through the upcoming challenges I was facing and how I felt but never focusing on any coping strategies. I also started to subconsciously avoid any situations that would set my anxiety off. This meant as time went on I kept my anxiety/panic attacks to a minimum and they became nonexistent.

Fast forward to after school finished: I had completed a six-month business administration course (despite some minor anxiety-related setbacks and an increase in my medication) and had just landed my first job.

The first day I was nervous, as to be expected, but I was fine and managed to get through the day, but the second day I had a major anxiety attack, I couldn’t breathe and I felt helpless. In an open-plan office there was nowhere to hide, and I ended up leaving the job after just two days.

I raced back to my doctor, the same person who had been treating me ever since my initial diagnosis, in tears and feeling like a complete failure. He sat me down and told me I maybe I need to see a psychologist and that medication alone often isn’t just enough. He referred me to psychologist who he felt would be a good fit for me despite my prior experiences with one. I realized that no matter which way I looked I needed more help and maybe, just maybe, a psychologist would be the answer.

My mum insisted on driving me to the appointment because she too felt I needed additional help that she and my dad couldn’t give me. I walked in to the office unsure of what to expect and met someone whom I connected with immediately. We were both on the same page and she helped me realize that the anxiety and panic attacks weren’t my fault. She has given me strategies to help and encouraged me to challenge myself. She has helped me understand my limits and that it’s OK to say no. She has celebrated my victories and helps me through the times when I feel like a failure. She has helped me understand how my mind works and how past experiences have shaped my future. When my life was falling apart last year she was there for me and helped me realzee my job situation wasn’t right for me. Then she helped pick up the pieces when I had no idea what I should do next. She has been a huge support through this period of unemployment and I know no matter what else my life (and anxiety!) throws and me she will be there.

Sometimes medication isn’t enough to treat your mental illness, and that’s OK! All that matters is you find the right treatment that works for you. Everyone’s mental illness journey is different, and we need to acknowledge that sometimes you may need a mix of treatments to help you live to be your very best. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it’s OK to not be OK, and there is no shame in needing extra help.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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Thinkstock photo by milkal

Originally published: April 3, 2017
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