It’s been awhile since I posted what I thought would be my last post on the topic, but I feel the need to bring it up again. My anxiety has been catching up with me, and I’m reaching a breaking point. Normally, I keep personal things like this to myself, but this is something that has an effect on relationships when kept quiet. So let’s chat.

Fair warning…this may be long winded.

Acknowledge Weakness

This is a hard subject for me to discuss, because in one way, it’s embarrassing. I’m a husband with a job, a good job. With my good job, I pay all our bills, make sure there’s food on the table, I get to work with amazing people… I’m proud of that. You’d think with all that going for me, I’d be happy, confident, and strong. But if I’m being totally honest with myself, I’m not.

I’m not strong enough to cope with anxiety while simultaneously pursuing my career and marriage goals. Not ony my own, anyway. Anxiety is a beast, and it eats away at you slowly, weakening you until it can devour you.

Reminds me of all those nature documentaries I’d watch growing up where they would show cheetahs on the hunt; they would encounter massive herds of these giant buffalo and decide to move in. They’d be clearly outnumbered, but they were smart.

The cheetah would spin circles around the herd; it’s clearly faster than them, so it can manipulate the herds movement at will and would allow the strongest to leave, all while the weakest of the bunch struggles to find protection amongst its peers.

Slowly, the cheetah scares off the herd layer by layer, until finally, it finds its meal. By now, the buffalo is tired from the constant sprinting. It is weak, weaker than it was, from being crammed in the middle of the herd for such a long period of time.

The cheetah waits for the right moment, then sprints full speed toward its target. The herd is gone, no one is there to protect the lone ox as it tries desperately to escape. But at this point, it’s no match for the cheetah. The cheetah pounces, grabs the ox by the body, tackling it to the ground, and suffocates its prey to death by wrapping its mouth around its nose and mouth. Dinner is served.

Finding help: Lexapro

I hope you liked that hunting cheetah analogy (the cheetah represents anxiety, the herd represents all the boundaries you have to prevent an attack, and the weakness in the middle is yourself trying to escape an anxiety attack).

Now imagine the ox in the middle of the herd who ultimately gets killed…imagine one of his ox buddies handed him a shot gun, to which he would reply, “Idiot, I don’t have fingers,”  to which his buddy would reply “Idiot, we’re talking. This doesn’t have to all make sense. We’re both part of a greater analogy that’s completely fictional!” Sorry, got derailed…

Anyway, imagine he had a gun, and could really use it. I don’t think that Cheetah would stand nearly as much a chance. If only the ox had something to defend itself with, something to help him.

That’s what I think about my new medication: Lexapro. It’s a weapon of defense against my anxiety. I see it creeping up; in fact, over the last couple months, nearly every day I have had some level of an anxiety attack. Some worse than others.

It doesn’t help, either, when it happens so frequently you begin to expect it. It only adds to the stress and the pain.

Lexapro isn’t the only “weapon” at my disposal, though. Thankfully, I have a great couple of doctors, I have a wonderful and supporting wife, my manager and coworkers are incredibly supportive. So it’s not like I have a weapon, I have a full on arsenal.

Aren’t there alternatives to drugs for anxiety?

Let me say this: taking a pill is a last-ditch effort for me. Look at all the things you can do for anxiety:

  • Therapy
  • Prayer/meditation
  • Medications that may reduce heart rate or other physical symptoms of anxiety
  • Exercise
  • Investing time in hobbies
  • Having a daily, morning routine
  • Keeping a thought journal to put your feelings/fears in perspective
  • Getting some rest
  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Working on projects to keep your mind focused on the things you can control
  • Creating small goals you know you can meet
  • Going for walks/hikes

My friends, I’ve done it all. And when you go through all these different exercises, and you’re still waking up with white nuckles, a sore, clenched jaw, a rapid heart beat, shaking, sweating, crying, unable to keep one single train of thought, unable to shake the feeling that the entire world around you is going to collapse…you go through ALL this for months and months…and you realize that this is beyond your control.

Anxiety disorder

Now, everyone deals with anxiety from time to time. Maybe we go through a bad breakup, or lose our job, or a loved one has passed. All these things can cause anxiety, and it often settles down over time and we move on.

But that’s not a disorder. A disorder is something you can’t control. Believe me, I do not wake up in the morning and think “you know, I could sure go for some crippling depression today!”

Just doesn’t happen…

These panic attacks seemingly just come out of nowhere, and in spite of all the different exercises I do, I cannot shake the anxiety. After many a doctor’s office visit, I’ve come to learn that this anxiety is beyond my control right now, and I need help. And that’s OK.

One of the hardest things about facing an anxiety disorder is giving up the idea that you have it all together. We all work so hard to create a life we can be happy in and be proud of. But when rubber meets the road, anxiety doesn’t care. It’ll knock you off your feet, and it doesn’t care how happy you feel, or what you’ve accomplished, or where you are in your life.

The important thing to remember, though, is you can survive by getting help. See a therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Get your feelings off your chest, and get the advice and guidance you need to get life back on track.

The physical sickness

Back to where I am today…I just started taking Lexapro, another SSRI. Some of you remember I was on Zoloft for about 6 months before weaning off it. I stopped taking Zoloft because of how it made me feel over time.

Zoloft did help my anxiety. In fact, after about 4 weeks of taking it, I noticed a heavy shift from constant anxiety to hardly any anxiety at all. However, my depression increased.

SSRI’s are all different, and they affect everyone differently. Zoloft may work for one person, but not work for another. It wasn’t working for me and my goal to be in a happier, less stressed state of mind. It had me feeling physically sick and emotionally depressed on a regular basis, so I weaned off that under my doctor’s supervision.

Lexapro is new, and may have a different effect on me in the long run than Zoloft did. It’s hard to say.

I will say this, though: it’s only been two days, and I feel terrible. I feel like I have the stomach flu, but nothing will come up. But this is pretty normal; I had similar initial side effects with Zoloft for the first couple weeks, and I expect the same with the Lexapro.

It sucks trying to get better using a medication that immediately makes you feel worse. But it’s worth sticking with. I’d rather be physically sick with a clear head, than physically healthy but too stressed and anxious to function.

Next steps

Next steps for me are to get back into therapy. I was seeing a therapist on a regular basis, but she unfortunately closed her practice, and I haven’t seen a therapist since.

But before I even do that, I need to get through these physical side-effects from the Lexapro. They’re temporary, and I’m so happy they are. At the very least, I’m able to lie in bed, get work done, and rest as often as I need until the nausea, dizziness, and light headaches subside.

I will be taking my (ex) therapist’s advice and investing time into hobbies, as well. I’ve been drumming again, which has been a wonderful release for me. I plan to keep doing that on the weekends as long as my stomach allows for it.

From there, it’s back to my normal routine of waking up at 5AM and getting my butt to work. My team is amazing, and I do miss working with them when I can’t make it into the office.

Till next time

All of this is to give you, the reader – who is most likely a good friend, family member, or coworker – a little “heads up”. I haven’t been super active on social media, I haven’t been responding to a lot of messages and emails, and I apologize for that. Things just have not been good.

But at the same time, things are great – I’m still struggling with this anxiety crap, but I’m moving forward bit by bit.