Everyone says “Hi” to my dog, Timothy… Way more than to me. Silence.
Is it the springy fluffy hair, I wonder? They walk up, even speed, out of an unseen shadow without inhibition and rub him down. He is pleased every time, to say the least. Do I regret all the painful laser hair removal treatments I got years ago? Hm. I am half Lebanese after all and few really know how much fur I really came with.
Steve came looking for help. I spied him in the hallway before clinic. That’s always a little awkward for some reason. Running into someone out of context. Like we both are caught out of costume and the curtain just pulled up. (Gotcha!)
His strings pulled in, an inner tension, apparent even then. He looked susceptible to emotional or physical attack when we caught each others eye. I could see him wondering if this was “her”, his psychiatrist. What was he expecting?
When patients come in for treatment, it’s comparable to anyone acting on a realization that they’re vulnerable, asking help from a stranger. It can take immense courage.
Part of this understanding is what contributes to the awkwardness of meeting in the hallway, out of context. We are both a little undefended there.
So what would bring a person to do this to themselves? It doesn’t sound pleasant when put this way – vulnerable, asking help from a stranger.
Steve had a wife, kids, a job, a house, and a pet. Inside this bubble, Steve didn’t think he had reasons to feel the way he felt. He looked for them and felt stupid because everyone told him how good he had it. Nor did Steve see reasons to behave the way he behaved. He described his story, a rolling out of his life, like that of a hand stitched carpet. In it, we saw together that he had anxiety then, and then, and then. He had coped well mostly, until he hadn’t. Then he would spend some time falling out of circulation and incurring losses. Then he’d recover and forget. He’d forget that worse patch and redefine the lines around the man. Then again the lines would smudge, he’d get anxious and irritable beyond “control”, grapple within the darkness of the white noise, which panic brings, grapple for reasons why the anxiety came again. His identity would be so threatened, the suffering, the feedback from everyone around him would pull on him, that the lines of his person frightened him into treatment.
There Steve was. Timothy at his feet with his puffy furry head in Steve’s lap. Steve asking for help. At the same time as asking for help, he would also refuse, stating caution.
“I don’t want to change myself.
I like being the person who gets things done so well.
I like accomplishing things.” (He thought it was his anxiety that allowed him to do this.)
It reminds me of the, “Stop! Don’t stop!” that I’d tease my brothers with when we were kids.
People think that taking medication changes who they are. Understand that in order for this to be true, that would mean medication changes DNA code.
“Doesn’t it change my brain chemistry?”
Let’s say that were true, that medication changes brain chemistry. Still that isn’t changing your DNA. The DNA is what gives a person “personality,” or, what many of us say, “Who I am.”
After getting laser hair removal, I didn’t change my DNA, but I don’t have as much hair. When my kids were born, I checked, and sure enough, DNA…. They’re gorgeous! Wink. (That’s done with one heavy cluster of eyelashes around my dark Lebanese eye.)
Question: What are your fears about taking medication?
If you have taken medication, how did you see it affected your identity? What happened to who you call, “Me?”
Please SPEAK! We need to hear you. Keep on!
Self-care tip: Self-care means taking care of yourself even at the biological level. It starts with “Me.”
I have been on and off then back on anxiety meds.
First, it was because I was in such a state it affected my marriage and my kids.
I weaned off the meds and was doing “well” up until abseriescog events in combination with my thyroid going wonky caused me to have repeated heart palpitations.
My doc suggested I go back on the anxiety meds as a diagnostic tool. If my heart palpitations settled, it was my anxiety. If not, we would further investigate my heart.
My heart is fine. The anxiety meds help me work through the core issues of my anxiety.
I hope to wean off again. However, if meds is what helps me be the grounded person that I am and want to be, I will stay on them for the rest of my life.
The idea of staying on medications is something most of anxiety patients want to discuss the first time they see me. It’s a tuff concept to integrate. I love your story. Keep on.
For the most part antidepressants haven’t helped me, but ECT did. I have Seroquil as a emergency medication for when my thoughts turn destructive towards myself or I need a break from feeling. Seroquil makes me really tired and let’s me have no thoughts or feelings. It is a nice break. I only take one every once in a while.
Hey Sheila! I’m so glad you spoke up! Yay for ECT! True that.
I’ve had the same concerns with ECT voiced to me many times from fearful patients, and should have included it in this post. Thank you for your shout out.
I’m really glad you found treatment too. Keep on!
I like that you addressed this. I also liked your analogy about hair removal not changing DNA. Since you posed the question, I thought I’d venture some bravery and reply…
I was raised to believe that taking medication for mental illness was running from life and reality by “taking a happy pill”. Thus, I was taught early that it indicated weakness and was the equivalent of something like donning a pair of rose colored glasses. I don’t believe that today after years of therapy and personal research regarding mental illness and medication.
I first took an antidepressant around the age of 20 during a very difficult time and after I’d been in therapy for awhile hoping that merely addressing things I hadn’t before would be sufficient. The medication made all the difference in the world and I was so grateful for it! I couldn’t believe the huge difference! It certainly was no “happy pill” as it didn’t erase or hide my struggles, but it gave me just enough of a push mentally(physically?) to just muster the energy to even take on my battles and fight the depression I had been immersed in, rather than let it swallow me whole. I did not feel it changed me as a person; I felt it helped me be more the real me and less the depression and anxiety, as though it shed that dark cloak my emotional brain was wearing and allowed me to emerge from beneath those shadows.
Heroic story. Thank you for sharing.
This is pure poetry –
“I felt it helped me be more the real me and less the depression and anxiety, as though it shed that dark cloak my emotional brain was wearing and allowed me to emerge from beneath those shadows.”
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This post is timely. I was just having a discussion with a young woman about taking medication. She was concerned that it would change her personality. I like the points you made.
What did you say to her?
I’ve developed essential tremors hands. Not too bad but sometimes enrages me when have to do a detail task. Right now I take enough pills. I’ll try to live with it. One doctor said it’s TMB (too many birthdays).
Hi Carl. I’m sorry about the tremors. Many of us resonate with the anger.
I’m glad you brought up the “too many birthdays comment.” Have you ever heard the term, “Agism?” Do you think this comment has any connection with that?
Keep on Mr. Courage!