Taking the (anxiety) pill

I took half of an anti-anxiety medication about half an hour ago.

It was prescribed to me on Monday. I decided to start taking it on Sunday (to let the iron supplement I have supposed to have been taking for years get into my system before starting something new). And yet, here it is Saturday and I made the impulsive decision that I was going to start today.

It was just half a pill. The nurse practitioner who saw me said I could take half a pill for the first eight days. Instead, I have filled up my pill box so that I take half for the first four days. It’s like the instant I make a commitment, even a tiny inconsequential commitment to myself, I feel some overwhelming need to break it. I do this every day, repeatedly. Goals and dreams are my guilty pleasure. I get more delight from deciding to do something than chocolate or bread. But I never follow through.

Sitting in the behavioral health center, I checked nearly every box in a column full of symptoms. Restless and fidgety? Prone to distraction? Worried? Binging? Impulsive? Starting new things and never completing them? Check them all. Except impulsive. I don’t think I checked impulsive because I consider myself to think a lot about many things. And I do – I obsess – researching and reading accounts and talking to people and asking opinions. But given all of the information that I’ve collected I generally end up going with an instinct, a thought that came from somewhere, and just winging it. So I might have to reconsider my stance on my own impulsiveness.

But this pill. This tiny white pill that is “a low-dose anti-anxiety medicine.” Something “that lots of young women your age are prescribed.” It just happens to be “also an anti-depressant so it can work on those issues as well.” This pill scares me.

What if it doesn’t work?

Actually, that’s not what scares me. I’m more afraid it will work. I’m highly reactive to medication. When my asthma flares up, my inhaler works. When my muscles go wrong, physical therapy and muscle relaxants fix it. So long as I do what was prescribed, my body will respond. So what if this pill works? What will that mean for who I am?

This scares me. This scares me incredibly much. What if it dulls who I am, reduces my drive, reduces what makes me mildly interesting. I’m already a little too much like a 59 year-old woman, and not in the quirky hipster way. What if they only thing propelling me forward, making me successful, making me smart is my anxiety? This constant fear resounding in the back of my head that if I don’t keep moving at breakneck speed I’ll be a failure, worthless, unlovable, useless.

Or worse, what if it works well? And just evens me out? What if it lets me complete projects, stop obsessing on pointless things, lets me move forward instead of in eight different directions simultaneously and then dropping them once I realize how unsustainable that path is? (And why is this worse in my head?) What if I need it? I guess that’s why I’m scared. What happens when this drug works, like so many others do and I have to keep taking it. For months, for years. I have to remember to take this tiny pill because otherwise the withdrawal could really mess me up and I have to take this pill in order to live the life I want. What if I’m dependent? What if my life depends on this medication?

After I was prescribed this I called my boyfriend and my brother. My boyfriend reassured me that if it does change me in a way I don’t like, a measured withdrawal will bring me back; changes are not permanent. He told me what I asked him to, that he would still love me even if I needed this medication, that my anxiety was affecting my life and maybe it was worth a try. My brother told me to weigh the opportunity cost and to start taking it on a workday, not in the middle of the workweek.

My parents don’t know. They’d probably be supportive. They always are. But there would be little comments of other things – that if I visualized or meditated it would help me so I might not need this from my dad. That I needed to be very careful because there could be so many side effects and what if this gave me cancer from my mom. They mean well and would be supportive but I can’t deal with their fears and neuroses right now. In order to try this I have to not have them worrying about me doing this.

I haven’t told my best friend. Her life is really stressful right now and she has some history reasons to be very wary of mental health medication. So I can’t deal with the stress this would cause her right now.

I asked a reddit forum about it. I haven’t even read the responses people gave – good responses, long responses – 5 days after the fact. (Part of this is because my landlord’s morality router blocks reddit so heavily I can’t use the password to navigate to the site.) I Besides that I haven’t sought out information about this besides a basic google search for side effects. This is bizarre behavior for me and something that indicates how anxious I am about trying this.

But in a moment of change, I opened up Feedly and found an article titled “The Day I Almost Ran Away From My Marriage.” I wasn’t expecting this to be about anxiety but it was. And it was painful and terrifying to read. I wanted to highlight entire paragraphs. Ultimately, despite it’s incredibly terrifying contents that make me want to cry in recognition it gives me hope. It gives me hope that this medication that works for so many people could be useful for me. It could do good things for me without ruining who I think I am.

And so today I took half a pill. And tomorrow I’ll take another half.

And every day for the next 30 days I’m going to attempt to post. Because part of living alone is that there’s no one to monitor how I’m feeling but me. And so I’m going to attempt to do it through here. I have no idea what the posts will be about; I have no clue exactly what will happen but I’m going to try.

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Review: Off the Sidelines by Kirsten Gillibrand

I have always tended towards books written by or about women. You can see it in my childhood and young adult collections and it continues to this day. I’m now making a conscious effort to ensure diversity of background and nationality as well. I think this is important because a huge proportion of books recommended are very male and very white. And while I have read plenty of them (and continue to read them) I don’t feel bad about angling towards books that are different.

A few years ago I started a project trying to remember all of the books we were mandated to read in school and categorizing them by demographics. I would love to see how it varies by region and generation. If you remember what books you had to read during school add them to the comments along with your geographical area and time frame of education! [Datapoints!]

But anyways, in the past, oh, 18 months, I’ve become more interested in politics than I ever have before (I wonder why?). I’m an avid user of Google Rewards and so when Kirsten Gillibrand’s book popped up at a discount I was excited to buy it. I had seen her name around the internet, especially as she pushed back against the 2017 White House Agenda. I have to mention that the subtitle also got me: Speak Up, Be Fearless, and Change Your World. I’m easily captivated by the idea of making change.

“We’re all shaped by the challenges we work through. Those fights for justice and basic fairness taught me the single most important lesson in politics: To be an effective voice for the voiceless, you have to speak and fight from your heart.”

But anyways, Gillibrand’s book details her path into politics and how she negotiated her life while doing so. It is complemented with research on women in politics and in general. Her tone was honest, frustrated, and encouraging as she has tirelessly pushed for more opportunity and representation while being one of the few women in Congress, especially with small children.

I’m particularly glad that she spoke about the “sticky floor” concept rather than the glass ceiling. It’s so important that we look at the women who are stuck at the very bottom and work to improve their lives, for there is a vast number for whom any kind of advancement is a pipe dream. Our infrastructure just doesn’t allow it. This is not to say that we shouldn’t break glass ceilings; we can in fact do both simultaneously and the measures to clean up the floor would help with the ceiling. However, focusing just on the ceiling only seems to put more dirt on the floor, so to speak.

I was also pleased to find that she gave real ideas for how to get into politics, make a difference in your community, and advocate for people. I’m not going to list them out here, you should really read the book. However, this is a pretty good taste.

“What do you do when an issue finds you? First of all, don’t feel like you have to attack it on your own. Regardless of what you’re fighting for—speed bumps on your block, more-nutritious lunches in schools—know that you will find allies. These allies may not be obvious from the start. Often you won’t see who they are until you’re out on the field. The same is true for seeing the best course of action. You can’t always visualize the path to victory from the sidelines, but once you’re in the game, it becomes clearer and clearer with every twist and turn. And, second, remember that the most worthwhile achievements in life never come easy. With every setback, you gain strength, resolve, a tougher skin, and new insights.”

Five stars to Kirsten Gillibrand for her excellent service to the American people and this inspiring book!