I started taking medication to treat my social anxiety eight years ago, and during that time, my dosage has barely changed. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to lower my dosage, but I’ve never felt ready. Even though my anxiety is mostly under control, my life has not been stable enough for me to feel comfortable playing with the chemicals in my brain. I have to admit, my life is relatively stable. I have a supportive family, friends I like, a place to live and a great part-time job. Yet I feel like I am far from stability because I go through a major life change every six months, and it has been that way for a long time.
My psychiatrist and I have been trying to find the right time to wean me off of my anxiety medication. The discussion started five years ago, during my junior year of high school. I was doing a lot better at the time. I was having less panic attacks, and I had a therapist who could really help me through any problem. Since things seemed to be going so well, my doctor asked if I would be comfortable with gradually lowering my dose until I was completely off the medication by the time I graduated high school. I said no.
During my junior year, I wasn’t having many issues with social anxiety, but my stress levels were way too high. For the first time in three years, I was relying on my medication to get me through the day. Between PSATs, SATs, state testing, looking at colleges and AP classes, I was losing my mind. And my hair. I was so stressed, my hair was falling out. I also had horrible acne and my weight was constantly fluctuating depending on whether I was stress-eating or too stressed to eat. It was a rough year, and it was certainly not the time to take away my medicine, especially since that was possibly the one thing holding me together. My psychiatrist and I decided to revisit the topic once I started my senior year.
First, she lowered my dosage by 25 mg, and a few months later, she was going to lower it again. The problem with her plan was that a few months later, I was leaving for a 10-day class trip to Spain. Given my fear of flying, we had to hold off on meddling with my medicine until I got home.
Of course, my life didn’t stabilize when I got home. I had to spend the next four months preparing to leave the town I grew up in to start college. I was in the midst of a major life transition, and I was incredibly nervous. Once again, my doctor decided not to mess with my dosage.
This continued to happen throughout college. Every time my life started to seem stable, I would do something to change it. I added a part-time job on top of school. I studied abroad in England. In 2013 alone, I lived in four different places. With my current lease, this is the first time since high school that I’m living in the same place for an entire year. Life isn’t slowing down, so my medicine stayed the same.
By this time next week, I will be going through my biggest life transition yet. I’ll be a college graduate, also known as a real adult. I don’t know what I’ll do for a living. I don’t know if I’ll stay in Boston once my lease is up or if I’ll move somewhere new. I don’t know anything. I’m going into this next transition blind, and I’ll just have to trust that stability is somewhere in my future.
When dealing with major life transitions, this is my advice:
- Deal with it. Don’t try to avoid change. Let it happen, and embrace it!
- Talk to someone. In high school, I had a therapist to talk to about any major changes happening in my life. Now, I just write about them. As long as I can somehow get the words to describe how a transition makes me feel, I will feel prepared to handle anything.
- Don’t make it worse. If you’re in the middle of one major change, don’t purposely add another change on top of it. That’s why I kept taking my medicine. I wasn’t about to experience two major transitions at the same time. Although, sometimes multiple things happen at once. You can’t always avoid it. That’s life.
The thing we all have to accept is that life is constantly changing. Stability is not an easy thing to come by, and that’s okay. If our lives were always stable, things would be very boring. And maybe this is just me being young and naive, but there has to be a six month period in my future where I feel secure in my life’s path. Right? Someday I have to get to a place where the most stable thing about me isn’t my anxiety medication, but until then, I’m going to embrace these changes. Sure, I have no idea what I’ll be doing six months from now, but maybe it will be something incredible. Or maybe it will finally be something that will provide me with some semblance of stability.
If you ever have any questions about anxiety or want me to cover something in particular, let me know! If it’s something I’m able to talk about, I will.
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