Entry 3: Keep Calm – It’s only the side effects!

Keep Calm – It’s only the side effects!

So, I am one week into the anti-depressants and it has been an ‘interesting’ time.  Firstly, let me assure you that I have not been terrorised by drug induced ‘weird dreams’. Freddy Krueger has stayed away and for this I am most grateful.   Having said that, there are a few other symptoms which I put down to my new medication.

Firstly, my appetite has gone!  I don’t feel unwell or nauseous but I certainly don’t feel hungry.  OK, so I managed to eat a whole pile of Ferrero Rocher one day but that’s about it!  My trousers feel a little loose but who cares?!  I’m a ‘woman of a certain age’ and the opportunity to shed a few pounds will always be welcome!  I have also had some skull splitting headaches and a tendency to clench my teeth even whilst awake.

Oh yes and there was a rather nasty incident on Tuesday afternoon.  Now I had to think carefully about mentioning this, but I did say I would be honest so here it is.  At approximately 3.30pm, whilst sitting quietly on my sofa, I was hit by sudden and uncontrollable diarrhoea.  There was no warning; just an exchange of horrified looks between me and Hubby (he was also on a day off work) followed by a mad dash to the loo where I wept and wailed with mortification.

Other than that time I ate a dodgy prawn in China, I have NEVER suffered from such an incident and I can only assume that this was a side effect of the medication.  There has been no repeat of this sorry event so I am hopeful that it was a ‘one off’.  Hubby though the whole thing was quite funny and assured me that it was ‘nothing to worry about’.  I had to disagree though – shitting oneself on the sofa, on a Tuesday afternoon, is ALWAYS something to worry about.

Anyway, let’s not dwell on this unpleasant topic.  Let’s talk about whether the medication is doing any good! For the last week I have been pointedly asking myself how I feel but the answer is ‘I AM STILL ANXIOUS’.

I’ve only been taking the anti-depressants for a few days so I must not be impatient.  I must not be disheartened by the nail-biting I have endured over East – West relations or my panic at the dementia which continues to steal my precious Dad.  This is normal.  It is OK to worry about such things.

It would, however, be nice if I could stop staring bleakly at Hubby every time he has an itch because I am worried he might have terminal cancer; or if I could stop myself drifting into visions in which I am old, lonely and abused by care home staff. It would be great if I did not feel the need to call my Sister just to check that my nephews have not been skittled off the pavement by a drunk driver on the way to the school.

Yes – it would be very nice to rid myself of such thoughts, but therein lies my latest worry.  What if this medication doesn’t work?  What if these black thoughts simply go on and on until my dying day.  It is an unbearable prospect and so, my decision to try anti-depressants, has also brought a determination to try other techniques too – a bit like a back-up plan in case the medication does not work.

First up is my new ‘sugar free’ lifestyle!  There is plenty of good reason to give up the sweet stuff but I am struck, in particular, by the suggestion that cutting out sugar can stabilise one’s mood, increase energy levels and improve sleep.  Of course I don’t believe everything I read but I am fortunate in being able to draw from my own experience of cutting out sugar.  I followed a similar programme about 15 years ago and I genuinely felt great at both a physical and emotional level.  I have no idea if this can be replicated now I am older – but I am willing to give it a try!

You can live without me – honest you can!

I have told Hubby that he needs to join me on this health kick and he has grudgingly agreed.  He is a happy soul but, like me, he is a sugar addict and I fear that our eating habits have put us both on a one way path to heart failure and Type 2 Diabetes.  We are feeling smug about the potential health benefits but there is an even greater reason for us to go ‘sugar free’ as a couple.   Frankly, our relationship would never survive if he can have Tiramisu but I can’t.

So, in a final act of denial, I ransack the cupboards and devour as much sugary stuff as I can.  When I am sated I throw the rest in the bin and take a deep breath.   The purge starts now.

Next Week – “You Are What You Eat!”




Entry 2: “Doctor, Doctor – I can’t stop worrying!”

Entry 2:  “Doctor, Doctor – I can’t stop worrying!”

 The Anti-Anxiety strategy is under way!  I have been to the Doctor and, for the first time, I have been honest about how I really feel; that I start every day feeling terrified!  I’m not sure that I explained myself properly but I had to start somewhere!  Dr B listened politely when I gave her a whistle-stop tour of my angst-ridden life but she seemed undisturbed, perhaps because I’m still alive, functioning and reasonably normal looking.

She reassured me that at my age (mid-forties) it is very common to suffer from depression and anxiety. I am staring menopause in the face it seems, and lots of women suffer the same emotional upheaval!

Who said anything about Menopause? I am NOT ready for this!!

Did Dr B notice that my heart sank at this casual but crushing statement?  Who said anything about the menopause?  How does that explain my four-decade battle with anxiety – and one so bravely borne alone!!  My word – if I’m already riddled with anxiety then what will happen when the menopause really does strike? I went to the doctor looking for help but now I have something else to worry about!

We discussed my ‘options’ and, in a flash, I decided that I was going for the hard stuff.  I opted to try anti-depressants.  I have considered taking them during the more fragile times in life but I have never quite managed to swallow them.  Looking back, my stubbornness now seems like madness itself.   I was happy to use animal puppets to express my fears during a memorable but useless appointment with an ‘art therapist’, but I have steadfastly refused to take anti-depressants.   I have always been too scared to take them and, I admit, too ashamed to think that I might need them.

But not any more!  Now I am desperate because I have nothing to lose and nothing left to try.

A Prescription for anti -Depressants! Oh Happy Days!!

I leave the surgery clutching my prescription like it is the last Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!  It’s a nice low dose for four weeks and then I am supposed to return for a review.

Well of course the first thing I do on arriving home with my prescription is to scan the leaflet for side effects.  As with most medication it makes for a blood curdling read.

There is the irony (ie my anxiety medication may cause anxiety); there is the vague (I may feel ‘unwell’ while taking it); and there is the frightening (it may cause psychotic disorders).  In all, there are over 50 potential side effects so I don’t take the first tablet at all; I need to mentally process the horrors which might await me the minute a tablet passes my lips.

Does your Anxiety medication make you anxious?!

After 24 hours I kept coming back to the same conclusion; unlike many other medicines the side effects do not warn of any direct fatal consequences and, with that in mind, I decide to live with the risks.  I push the first tiny pill out from its foil lid and wash it down my throat.

I have been told that I might need to wait ‘several weeks’ to feel some positive difference but I don’t really understand this.  If the side effects can kick in immediately then why not the benefits?  Why is it that I might get a ‘dry mouth’ within 24 hours but be unable to chase the anxiety demons for over a fortnight.  I won’t be disheartened though.  A friend of a friend has recently started on the same medication and apparently she felt some euphoric rumblings within 24 hours.  Was it just the placebo effect?  And did it matter if it was?

Unsurprisingly, I don’t feel any different in the hours after taking the first tablet but I am a little apprehensive about going to bed.  The leaflet of side effects mentions ‘nightmares’; the potential for ‘vivid dreams’ was also mentioned by both my Doctor and the friend of a friend who has been feeling good on this wonder pill.

Sweet Lord – and my Anti-depressants may cause ‘nightmares’?. How long can I stay awake?

I read a funny book and try to fill my head with humour.  I get increasingly anxious about my potential nightmares and I try to stay awake as long as possible.  Eventually, I am too tired to resist.  I press myself up against Hubby and clutch his arm fully expecting that Freddy Krueger will be waiting for me the minute I drop off.

 Next Week – “Keep Calm – it’s only the side effects!”


Entry 1: Diary of an Anxious Mind

Entry 1: Diary of an Anxious Mind

Is it just me or are we all worried sick?  Is anxiety threading its way through society and manifesting itself in various forms?  Travel anxiety, separation anxiety; health anxiety; social anxiety; phobias; panic attacks?  Is there anyone out there who doesn’t harbor one of these afflictions?

Is it real? Just put your feet on the floor and find out……..

For me, anxiety has always felt normal because it’s all I’ve ever known.  I’ve been panicking and fretting since I was two years old.  It’s only now that I realise that it doesn’t matter whether anxiety is ‘normal’; it’s a question of what is healthy!  And my anxiety certainly isn’t healthy.

To use a popular new expression, anxiety can be ‘life limiting’; not necessarily in a near death or physically disabling fashion, but it may shrink your view and experience of the world; it may leave you in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’; it can give a nasty edge to the day.  And yes – it can exhaust you.

My earliest memories are of feeling anxious.  As a small child, I didn’t worry about the kind of things I should have been worried about, like whether the ice cream van would turn up. I worried about proper worrying things; Would my new baby sister be OK?  Would the house burn down tonight? Would my dad make it safely home from work? 

Where did this groundless anxiety come from?  All before the age of five?  My childhood environment was stable and happy; there were no experiences which could have reasonably left me in this anxious state. Hence, I can only conclude that I was simply born this way.

Perhaps if I’d told someone how worried I was they would have reassured me – but I didn’t tell anyone; not my parents, not my teacher or my dolls or my hamster.  I can’t remember why but I kept all of my fears to myself.  I just swallowed the bile and let the anxiety brew.

And brew it did.  Now I’m in my forties – and far from growing out of my angst – I’ve grown into it.  I worry about Armageddon; I worry about living, about dying, about starving children, lonely pensioners, abused donkeys and the mole on my shoulder.

Tsk! I TOLD you all to ‘be nice’ – now look what you’ve done!

I worry about being with people and not being with people.  I worry about the funny look that someone gave me and I fret about the worm which is making its way over the hot pavement on a Summers day.  Will make it to the grassy patch before the sun dries out its thin skin?   Should I pick it up and take it to the grassy patch myself? And then beat myself up about whether it definitely wanted to go there?

I rarely mention my head state but I don’t need to because I have found that it is possible to be happy AND have anxiety. It is possible to lead a normal life, do normal things and have normal relationships.   Unless you feel like telling someone, nobody needs to know if you foresee catastrophe wherever you turn; or that you are not processing life events in a productive fashion; or that you are overthinking EVERYTHING to the point of paralysis.

It’s not that I haven’t attempted to deal with my anxiety. In fact, I’ve tried everything to combat my fears; counselling, self-help books, Kalms; meditation tapes, yoga, emotional freedom techniques….. the list goes on, but I’ve been somewhat half-hearted about it.  I like instant results and, if I don’t get them, I lose interest.  My anxieties have ebbed and flowed over the years so I haven’t always felt bad enough to be chasing a solution.

Not any more.   Anxiety is now a daily battle.  I wake every morning, heart pounding and feeling like I have been injected with black ink.  My first waking thoughts are always horrendous; will a loved one die today? Will there be news of a dreadful atrocity when I switch on the news; and what exactly will my body look like in thirty years time?

Fortunately, I tend to feel better once I get into the day but it is exhausting to spend the first few hours like this and to know that an underlying fragility might persist all day; that I won’t be able to cope if I read about global tensions; that I will break down if I accidentally step on a spider.

 Worrying about things doesn’t stop them happening; but depleting one’s mental energy by fighting and hiding so much pointless daily fretting means that there is no emotional resilience to deal with real life events.  Quite simply, I need to get a grip of this.

I have decided to launch my anti-anxiety strategy.  I am going to be more conscious of what causes anxiety and I am going to take it by the throat; I’m going to revisit all of the therapy and coping techniques again.  And if laughter is the best therapy then I’m going to have plenty of that too.

Oh yes – and I’m going to blog about it – I’m going to take one of my long held ambitions to ‘do some writing’ and I’m going to give an honest account about it all.

So here it is – “Diary of an Anxious Mind”.  The laughs, hopes and fears of a professional panic merchant.

Next Week – “Doctor, Doctor – I can’t stop worrying!”