When I started taking medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder last December, I was terrified about what it would do to me.
I was afraid of becoming numb. The only thing worse than being anxious all the time, I thought, was not feeling anything at all.
My doctor, who gave me the meds, my mom, who is on similar meds, and my friends, who aren’t on the meds but were supportive of me trying them, all warned me not to read the side effects too closely.
When I picked up my first prescription a few hours after my appointment, I immediately sat down in my car, ripped the package open, and pored over the possible side effects.
Drowsiness. Dizziness. Nausea. Decreased sex drive. Changes in appetite or weight. Suicidal thoughts.
Until I got to that last one, I thought I was in the clear.
It was my anxiety—the thing I was trying to tame with said medication—that made me panic right away. As a person who never once thought about taking her own life despite the overwhelming anxiety and bouts of worry, was it possible that I might actually make the situation worse by taking these pills? Yes, I suppose it was possible.
Parked in the lot outside of a CVS, I called my mom and told her that I read the side effects. I told her that they mentioned possible suicidal thoughts.
“No,” she said. “You’re going to be fine. I’m on the same thing and I’ve never had anything like that happen to me.”
So, I took them. I took one pill every night before bed, as my doctor told me to. I timed it with my two-week holiday break from work in the event that I couldn’t leave the house or got sick in the beginning. I went back for two follow-up check-ins to make sure my head was still in a safe space. And I continued to meet with my therapist once a month, so she could see how I felt.
It’s been about seven months now since I started medication and so many things are different.
Sleeping is weird. When I first started the pills, they were keeping me awake. Maybe it was all in my head, but I swear I didn’t get a good night’s sleep in the first few weeks. Now, I find that I go to bed pretty early and wake up earlier than before. Instantly, I’ve become a morning person and an early-riser who enjoys being up before everyone else. It’s so strange but good.
My stomach issues are virtually gone. I’ve always been one to get an upset stomach. Usually, it ruins the plans I make and keeps me from doing things I want to do. The biggest thing I’ve noticed since I started my medication is that I hardly get sick at all. Who knew that stomach issues were linked to anxiety? I sure didn’t.
I have less of a tolerance for bullshit. These days, my boyfriend says I’m “snarky.” Instead, I think of it as “fiery.” In situations that would once make me uncomfortable or upset, I’m now able to stand my ground and make my voice heard. I’ve always had strong opinions and a big mouth behind closed doors—now I’m just better at sharing how I feel. And I love this about myself. It feels good to be authentic and real and unafraid of what people might think.
I can go a whole day about thinking of the things that once triggered me. I can go to a concert or baseball game and not even consider that there’s a big crowd. Or look instantly for the emergency exits. I can eat whatever I want without fear that I might not feel good after. If I do end up not feeling well, I’m able to stay calm and manage my symptoms. And I’m able to rationalize the fears that are realistic. Instead of instantly panicking, I’m able to put things into perspective. This is the biggest change I’ve seen in myself. A year ago, I would not be able to quiet the obsessive thoughts once they started overcrowding my mind.
I’m happier and more in tune with the things that inspire me. To say that I’m happier is an understatement. I feel different, but I feel good. Sure, there are still things that get to me—that will never change. But now, I’m able to worry about me and put my needs first. I’m able to disconnect from the things that set me off. And I’m able to dive deep into the inspired side of my brain and create things. I’ve written more this year than I have in the last five years. It’s freeing.
For anyone who is struggling with the idea of taking medication, I’d say this: I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you first hand that these pills changed my life. They also changed the lives of the people who had a front-row seat to my mental illness. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, and I think that just trying—even if you fail—is worth the possibility of getting better.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Don’t give up. It gets better.