It’s 2 AM as I write this. I can’t sleep now because I spent hours earlier today sleeping through the dizziness. I’m sweating and getting chills all throughout my body that raise the little hairs on the back of my neck. I feel like I’m getting shocked from the top of my head down through my spine, what’s been come to be known as “brain shivers.” My hands are shaking uncontrollably as I type.
And I’m terrified that I won’t be able to regain control of my body.
All of this is happening as I’m going through the agonizing process of withdrawing from venlafaxine, commonly known as Effexor, a drug used for depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or, such as in my case, social anxiety disorder.
I’ve only been on this drug for four months, and although this drug may be helpful for others, my body is not reacting well.
I went on this drug in the first place because I couldn’t stop questioning myself after every social situation, agonizing over every possible thing I could have done wrong, second-guessing all of my relationships, effectively becoming more and more afraid to leave the house.
But I’d take that tenfold over the reaction I had to the medication I’ve been on. In my personal experience, I’ve faced a constant need to sleep, a lack of motivation, a complete takeover of my drive, my perseverance, everything that made me ‘me.’
Everyone’s experience on medication is different, so why am I telling you all this?
I decided when I started to take medication for my anxiety back in June (back when I was on Wellbutrin, a whole other story itself) that I would speak freely about it. To do so would be an injustice to the cause I care about so deeply: mental health.
When I start to tell others about my medication, it’s often difficult for them to maintain eye contact with me. They get fidgety, uncomfortable. As if I’m telling them too much. As if I’m talking with them about something too “taboo” for their tastes.
And that just makes me want to talk about it more.
If I were to tell you I am getting the shakes right now because of blood-pressure medication, no one would bat an eye. But anyone who opens up about their mental health. . .that’s too much information. That’s admitting to vulnerability, weakness.
That’s admitting to having a flaw in your brain chemistry, and it’s shameful. . .or so society thinks.
Why should I feel ashamed about my struggle with anxiety? Why should I feel afraid to open up about my battle with a medication that is altering my brain? And why don’t I have more opportunities to share my experiences with others who may have some insight of their own? It seems to me that it’s an issue that someone would need more support about, without having to worry about being viewed as a fragile little porcelain doll.
If you’re on a medication for anxiety, depression, or any other mental condition, I implore you to talk about it. Talk about it even if people look away. Talk about it even if they squirm. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, talk about it. Because that discomfort—that’s the stigma surrounding mental health, rearing its ugly head.
Mental health is just as essential as physical health, but yet it’s considered a private issue that you should deal with on your own, a shameful issue, while everyone else freely discusses the pills they’re popping for their sore back.
Start talking about your mental health.
We should be lifting each other up through our struggles, mental and physical. And to be afraid to discuss your medication is just an effect of society’s stigma.
If you feel afraid—talk about it. If you struggle to get out of bed in the morning—talk about it. If you are dizzy, or getting brain shivers, or can’t sleep because of your medication—talk about it. Talk freely about your medication. Because you, as well as the rest of the world, should know: just because those pills aren’t for a physical condition, but for a mental condition, doesn’t make you any less strong, amazing, or wonderful.
Porcelain dolls? No. We’re soldiers in the battle to make the world a better place, both in our brains and the brains of others. We’re trying to make mental health an issue that’s talked about—and not in hushed voices, but with pride. Because every time we talk about our medication, we might be touching someone who has their own internal battle, but has always felt ashamed.
We are changing the lives of everyone with whom we speak. And if that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is.
(Image via Shutterstock)