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Monday, June 28, 2021

What Helped Me Heal and Be Okay (part 3 medication)

I remember sitting at the doctor's office with one of my boys trying to figure out how we could help them heal and what needed to happen next when the doctor asked me how I was doing. I told him that I was doing okay. He told me I wasn't. He told me that maybe I needed some medication to help me with the depression that I was experiencing. He assured me that I didn't have to do it long-term but it could help. 

I felt that my faith, therapy and other things that I was doing for myself were enough and that I was supposed to feel overwhelmed, anxious, tired and depressed because I was grieving. I didn't have to feel that way. I can grieve and at the same time feel relaxed and rested. I could have energy and sleep well. I could feel in control of my body while deeply missing Steve and feeling hurt and scared and worried.

Starting to take a low dose antidepressant was one of the best things I did. I took it for about 5 months and then weaned myself off of it knowing that at any point I could go back on if I was back to feeling the way I had. I realized that I took medication for all kinds of other things that happened in my body such as allergies and arthritis I know many people that take an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety medication everyday and without it could not function.

I was lucky that the first medication I was prescribed worked for me. I know that that is not always the case.

One of the therapist I was talking to wrote this as an email and blog post: 
"It’s totally normal to hesitate when you’re thinking about putting psychotropic drugs in your bod. Believe me, I get it.

I also want to clarify (before we get too far) that this post in no way takes the place of meeting with a therapist and/or doctor or psychiatrist in your area. I can’t help you make the decision whether or you not you should take meds for your anxiety – only your personal treatment team can do that. Just sayin 

What I can do, however, is give you a few things to consider to help make those meetings a little more efficient. AKA, I can help you think things through a bit ahead of meeting with your therapist or doctor so that you feel you are making an informed decision that is 100% in your best interest.

TAKING MEDICATION FOR ANXIETY DOESN’T “MEAN” ANYTHING ABOUT YOU
I wanted to start with this one because it is SO near and dear to my heart. So many of my clients (especially parents of my teenage clients) are quick to ascribe meaning to beginning a medication for anxiety. By that I mean that they are wary of medication for themselves or their child because the story they are telling themselves around medication is:

“I’m a failure.”

“I should be able to handle this without taking drugs.”

“I’m a bad mom.”

“I’m dependent on drugs.”

“Our family doesn’t do that.”

“It will change my personality.”

Those thoughts and feelings mostly have to do with the stigma associated with anxiety, medication, and mental health issues in general. Although we have made major progress in this area, by and large, people still feel that taking medication means something about them, beyond that they are trying a new and healthy way to cope. In fact, I would argue that self-medicating for anxiety by over or under eating, alcohol, working too much, working out too much, gambling, or other habit-forming coping are waaay more harmful than taking a prescription for anxiety under a doctor’s care. Yet many people choose these methods over medication, which is simply continuing in their choice to suffer through their anxiety. Which leads me to point number two…

TAKING MEDICATION FOR ANXIETY CAN REDUCE YOUR SUFFERING AND HELP YOU ACCESS COPING SKILLS
When someone comes to me and they are so anxious that they are suffering, I usually advise them to see a doctor for a medication evaluation. What do I mean by suffering? I mean, if someone is telling me their struggles of late and I sense that they feel so overwhelmed they can’t possibly access the coping skills I would recommend to them, that’s a good time to see a doctor. My friends, it’s 2020 – if I’m trying to get someone to engage in cognitive behavioral therapy with me (the BEST non-medical intervention for anxiety), and they simply CANNOT, because their anxious thoughts are out of control, then for me to keep suggesting the same coping skills over and over would be foolish. And not helpful. Anxiety medication, when properly prescribed, is meant to be taken for a short time to help someone access therapeutic coping skills that once learned, will last a lifetime. This is also reason number 23929 I recommend that anyone taking any type of medication for anxiety also see a therapist regularly. Medicine isn’t a cure-all, easy button. I mean, it would be awesome if it was, but it’s not. I look at medicine as ONE coping skill of many that a client can put in their toolbox.

TAKING MEDICATION FOR ANXIETY ISN’T A LIFE SENTENCE
That said, most anxiety meds aren’t meant to be taken forever. This is why it’s imperative you take psychotropic medication under a doctor’s care, preferably a psychiatrist, as they are specifically trained in the nuance of each type of psychotropic medication…which is very, VERY helpful, since there are so many to choose from these days. For most people, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and other modalities of treatment work even BETTER than anxiety. That’s why I created my course, Fear Less – to teach the same anxiety reducing skills I use with clients in my office! These are the tried and true (and evidence based!) techniques that therapists rely on time and time again to help their clients reduce anxiety and increase their peace. So if you’re worried about trying medication, just remember – you likely won’t be taking it forever. You’ll work with your doctor (and therapist!) over time to decide when and if you should lower your dose or come off your medication altogether.

THERE IS NO “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” RIGHT MEDICATION FOR EVERYONE
This probably goes without saying, but I like to dot my i’s and cross my t’s. Just because your Aunt Bertha loves Lexapro doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Just because your husband has seen amazing results from Zoloft doesn’t mean you will, too. Try to let go of any preconceived notions you may have about certain medications and trust your treatment team to get it right for YOU.

THERE ARE WAYS TO DEAL WITH ANXIETY WITHOUT MEDICATION, SHOULD YOU DECIDE IT’S NOT RIGHT FOR YOU
I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth stating again. Medication for anxiety isn’t the right choice for everyone. I firmly believe MOST anxiety can be dealt with using CBT, DBT, and mindfulness techniques. Don’t feel pressured to take or shy away from medication – you are in control of your own mental health, and whatever you choose is ok."

Cathleen Bearse, is an amazing woman; licensed social worker; wife;  bio, adopted and foster mom; and blogger/podcaster. More about her can be found at fearlessfostering.com

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