What was it like going on anti-anxiety medication?
March 10, 2014 5:20 PM   Subscribe

What was it like going on anti-anxiety medication? Questions about people's experiences

This past month I went through a medical event where it seemed like something was really wrong and it got me reflecting on my life (things turned okay). The two things that came to the forefront was a sense of gratitude and joy for how many nice things have happened to me in my life and on the other hand a sense of sadness for the ways that my life has been stunted and made small by the ways I am afraid of so many things and feel that I don't measure up. When I was going through everything, a lot of that sort of fell away and I just felt okay to be myself in my awkward and imperfect way and tell people I loved them when I wanted to and say what was on my mind without getting so caught up in how it would play out. It was so nice. It was like I was living without all of the weight of the chatter in my mind and the impulses to try to do everything better and be just right.

I am really dogged by this sense that I'm doing it wrong, whatever it is at the moment. There was a time that my brother came to substitute teach for the class I teach, and I remember one of my co-workers said to him, "You really don't look too much alike." Then he came in her room later that afternoon because there was a behavior issue with one of my students and she said, "You know, when I see that worried expression, you do look like her in a certain way." It hit home because it's like my "worried expression" defines me, and how I go over and over things. The way I pursue hobbies, for example, I never really do things in a casual way, to have fun, I always approach everything like I am one of those horribly pressured child gymnasts from a Lifetime T.V. movie. I like to play piano, and I'd end up going on these weird jags of practicing two or three hours a day when I was tired and exhausted after work. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was like I wanted to punish myself. I am so afraid to speak my mind, and so worried that I'll step on others' toes. When I was looking back, I just got the sense that I've lived this small life.

Anyway, whatever happened this month, I am sort of savoring the feeling of peacefulness or clear vision or the feeling that all of the stuff I worried about just doesn't matter all that much. I think it's probably going to come back. It's pretty ground in to the way I operate and the way my mind works and the way I live... I do mindfulness meditation because I want to be able to live easier and it works to an extent - Sometimes I get really high on the feeling of being connected to everything and in the moment, and it helps me catch myself in the thought patterns I get hung up on. But the truth is, it hasn't made much of a dent in the big things that are making me unhappy I think.

I thought I might want to take anti-anxiety medication and wanted to ask people about their experiences on it. Did it make you feel like you could live more freely and easily? Did it make you feel like you could be more of your true self under all of the layers of worry? Were there other effects that you didn't anticipate?
posted by mermily to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, to clarify, I am sure that I have plenty that could be unpackaged in therapy, I am specifically asking about people's experiences with pharmacological sorts of solutions.
posted by mermily at 5:21 PM on March 10, 2014

I take a pill every evening and it helps me do several things: sleep, not worry all the time, and face situations that I found crippling before. I will say that I tried therapy prior to prescriptions and had some success. For me, anxiety prevented me from sleeping, the worry was all the time. I have less than ever before. If you have specific questions, you can email me at my username @ gmail.com.

Know that worry is something that can be normal, but when it isn't the medicine really does help.
posted by Draccy at 5:27 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have talked a bit on AskMe before (1, 2, 3) about having anti-anxiety medication at least available and how that was a big deal for me. I don't take it much but it's like a reset button for my racing negative anxious thoughts that can sort of take over my world. I mostly take them at night because I have sleeping problems but I've taken them during the day and yeah there's a sense where it's quieting the squirrels in your head a bit and that lets your regular thoughts come through. I didn't wind up wanting to take it more than when I needed it, I didn't wind up having any other real downsides to it other than being a little sleepy when I wasn't being hypervigilant all the time. It helped me learn how to sort of biofeedback myself into being more calm even without the medicine, sometimes. I realize this isn't everyone's experience, I probably don't have a real bad case of anxiety generally, but that was my experience.
posted by jessamyn at 5:35 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

For me, it felt like the noise stopped. I'm not sure I realized there was even noise before - always assumed everyone was the same way. I was on meds for a few years, but now can manage OK without.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 5:35 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

You'll get a wide range of answers on this, as it seems like anti-anxiety meds have very different effects on people. I guess I've been pretty lucky because I've managed to avoid a lot of the negative aspects.

For me, being on the meds doesn't make me feel medicated in any way (which I've heard is a common concern) - it doesn't dull the pain or make me walk around in a haze or fail to recognize anxiety-inducing situations or anything like that. I still encounter stress in my day to day life and I still care about stupid shit that I shouldn't care about, but the way it impacts my thought process is different now. Pre-meds I was likely to jump right to worst-case scenarios and totally dismiss any sort of logic when I encountered something stressful. On meds I am much less likely to do that. Sure, I will still be able to identify bad potential outcomes, but I will also be able to talk myself down from immediately worrying about them and instead focus on whatever is the most important or likely outcome. Which also means I can actually go to sleep and carry on with my day without being bogged down with all of these worst-case "what if" scenarios.

I still have panic attacks. I still cry. I still feel things (lots of things). But I no longer want my life to end because of those feelings, and that's good.

That said, it took a few months to really notice a difference and my doctor had to adjust my dose a few times. It's not instant. You may feel worse before you feel better. That's normal too.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:41 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I take Celexa and it's changed my life. I no longer have panic attacks, I don't fret over small things and my base fears (heights, driving on fly-overs, underpasses, tunnels, bridges and pretty much anything except a straight flat road) are kept to a low simmer.

My fears are well founded, I lived in San Francisco during the earthquake in 1989, my freeway fell down. Bridges DO collapse. But, you have to live.

Before my anti-anxiety Rx, I was a mess on the road. Once, I was driving in a horrible rain storm, across that scary assed-bridge in St. Petersburg, FL, and if it wasn't for Husbunny, reading to me out of the Abstract of Baseball (I shit you not) I would have turned into a puddle.

I sleep great most nights, and stuff that would have me laying awake at night mind-fucking it, just doesn't.

I feel BETTER on most days. I will admit that I'm not as sharp. But I had sharp to spare, so I'm good with the exchange.

I say, give it a try, everyone is different. I started with Prozac and that was FANTASTIC, but then I got hives and had to change.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:59 PM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Back when I was in the worst of my anxiety -- couldn't leave the house, answer the phone, or open the mail -- I was finally prescribed 1 mg/night of clonazepam (Klonopin). Within 3 days of starting taking it I began feeling significantly better and within a week I was back to normal. Stuff that had been impossibly difficult for me to face became trivially easy.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been trying to be thoughtful, but I can't quite manage it. So I'll be blunt. Medication that manages my mental illness, of which anxiety is a large component, has made my life bearable and often worth living. It wasn't before, and I didn't know how bad it was until I started feeling better. I have good days and bad days, and I can survive them all and even look forward to new things. It is nice to be able to stand other people sometimes.
posted by monopas at 6:06 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've taken them before, although I'm not on them now. I'm not listing the drug names because different meds work differently for everyone; what your doc feels is best for you based on your symptoms is a lot more important than what a stranger on the internet took 5-8 years ago. :)

Drug 1: worked great! It was like that constant knot in my stomach finally just loosened up and relaxed, and I was able to both sleep at night and function during the day. Unfortunately, drug 1 wasn't covered by my drug benefit.

Drug 2: Turned me into a couch slug. I would literally sit on the couch for hours and stare at the wall. But, again, the stomach knots were gone .... but I needed to function.

Drug 3: Worked well, but I didn't sleep. I went into this sort of hibernation mode, where my brain was awake but my body was resting, and I could watch half of my brain sleep at a time. It was ... interesting the first night, and then just odd the rest of the time. Again, the knot in my stomach wasn't there, and I was rested, but I wasn't dreaming at night, and that's not healthy. At that point, the CBT therapy I was doing caught up to where my body was physiologically, so my doc and I decided that we'd see how I did without the meds, and I did ok.

Good luck!
posted by RogueTech at 6:11 PM on March 10, 2014

You won't know how you feel until you try, everyone's experiences are different and different classes of drugs are also hugely different. At some point you just have to take the leap and try. Anyway,

I felt the same way on Klonopin as I do taking a stiff drink or two after a hard day. Whatever was bothering me no longer mattered -- I was relaxed, I slept great, and I was totally useless for anything except the most simple of tasks. I stopped taking it because I a) can't function like that and b) can get pretty much exactly the same effect when needed by just actually taking a stiff drink or two after a hard day.
posted by phoenixy at 6:27 PM on March 10, 2014

I've been on about ten different psychiatric medicines for anxiety over the past six years. Some of them have been so awful I've had to stop after a day; some have kind of worked but not as well as I would have liked. My psychiatrist seems to have hit on something that actually works just in the past month--now I can go pretty much the entire day without crippling anxiety, although I might have spikes that I have to use other skills (DBT, etc.) to help myself out of.

Medication can definitely work! There are also many kinds and it can be a real challenge (and anxiety provoking) to try the right one, but I definitely recommend starting the search if you're up for it. Memail if you have questions.
posted by munyeca at 6:41 PM on March 10, 2014

There is a difference -- anxiety and panic. And they are often treated differently, different medications, etc.

You're going to want a competent shrink, and if this is your first rodeo, then that's a thing to learn, is this a good shrink or a butcher; could be you'll get lucky, get a great one right out of the box, could be you'll get un-lucky, if that's a word, and even if it isn't a word it's certainly an experience, and one that I've had.

You'll want this competent shrink because there's a huge palette of medications available nowadays, all kinds of medications that would or could fit your exact circumstance better. And it's an art, in some ways, an art as much as a science, because you can't just throw Medication A at each and every person who presents with similar symptoms, because Medication A might work just dandy for Melvin yet not at all for Myrtle, could in fact have Myrtle feeling like fingernails on the chalkboard, and Melvin just happy as can be.

And if it's an anti-depressant that you are going to use to address it, there is a time lag before knowing if it's good for you or not, if it's going to work for you or not, and how well, there's this time lag as it builds up in your body, you won't know right off , or might not know anyways; rule of thumb has always been about six weeks before you really know where you stand.

That's pretty different from anti-panic medications, like the benzodiazepines (valium xanax klonopin blah blah blah, there's about 20 of them); you put them in your body and you get a pretty fast read on it all. Benzos are addictive, physiologically, often psychologically also.

Myself, I was born with a benzodiazepine deficiency. But I have this addictive personality thing going on, so downs are A Clear And Present Danger, and I have had to be extraordinarily careful around them. But then, just for fun, I also have this manic depressive illness thing going on over here, and one of the ways the dang mania expresses for me is panic. Not anxiety, but panic. Different animals. Klonopin is helpful for some of us manic depressives, and I'm one of them. So I take it, a low dose, and somehow haven't gotten all addicty around it, which, given me, is some kind of miracle or something.

Learn as much as you can about all of this, read up on any medications recommended to you. You are in partnership with that shrink, you're both responsible to whatever degree for how this comes out; it's not like dropping your car off for an oil change, where somebody else does it all and hands you back the keys. This one, you've at least got one hand on the wheel, or near the wheel anyways, and can reach one foot over toward the brakes. Docs often don't like you knowing this, or acting like you know this -- they are taught in medical school that they are god. But if you're suffering, that doctor is still sitting in front of his fireplace that nice, glass of wine in his hand, enjoying life, etc and etc, while you're over here poised to leap off the roof. (dramatization, based upon real life events, etc)

Finding the right stuff to put into your mouth can be a great thing.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:09 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

For me I seemed to notice one afternoon, "Hey, I can breathe. That knot in the region of my stomach and chest has loosened."
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:00 PM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do a full physical workup (unless this was already done during your life changing event--if so, get a hold of all the bloodwork and test results). The "medication" for me that made the clouds part and the birds sing (and, less metaphorically, the muscles in my body relax and feel better than they've felt in 20+ years) was mega doses of B12. It was suggested by my doctor because I was just over the limit for American limit for low serum B12 (but way lower than the Japanese standards--even the lab company used had a note next to the results that said something to the effect that "neuropsychiatric symptoms" have been reported in patients below 400). Three weeks later, it was like someone had flicked on a switch. Like people are reporting here about pharmaceuticals and controlled substances, things went away that I just assumed were part and parcel of the human condition (or at least my human condition).

All I'm saying is, maybe you don't have a "benzodiazepene deficiency." Maybe you do. But maybe you are--or are also--deficient in some other total game changer, like a nutrient, or thyroid hormones, or deep stage sleep. Leave no stone unturned. Patients are so often accused of medicalizing anxiety that in many cases actual underlying medical conditions are overlooked. To make it clear: this is not at all an argument against the use of psychotropic medications! But there may be some other course of attack you need to be pursuing concurrently.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:39 PM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I went from a person who was afraid to speak, sometimes even to friends and family, to someone who chats with friendly-looking strangers in line at the grocery store.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:03 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have been on Lexapro for under a month... Around 3 weeks now I think. It is an antidepressant also used for GAD. I was previously having a hard time sleeping (both falling asleep because I couldn't shut my brain off and staying asleep), heart palpitations, tightness in my chest, an occasional panic attack, and overall felt like I had reason to be worried or stressed at times, but was not handling it in a logical manner and/or was overreacting. (Also, I am a 23yo female, fwiw)

My first week or so on meds (I started at a half dose for 6 days, then started taking full pills) I was very sleepy and somewhat nauseated. I felt sort of like I had a cold and a hangover at the same time... Not fun, but bearable. Even now, a very short while after, I am so thankful for this medication. I sleep easier, I have an easier time coping with day-to-day things, my physical stabby chest feelibgs are gone, and I feel more sociable (Underpants Monster's comment rings true) etc., but I still have emotions.. Which was not my experience on the last antidepressant I took (Pristiq) where I just felt like a robot. I do have a few side effects - a little sleepy, kind of gassy - but the benefits definitely outweigh these to me.

I was only prescribed one month's worth of pills before having to go back to the doc to discuss, and I plan to continue the medication. Nthing the "everyone is different" and "talk to your doctor" sentiments, but antianxiety meds have definitely helped me immensely. You don't have to stay on them forever either.
posted by jorlyfish at 9:35 PM on March 10, 2014

I'm on Celexa, and it's changed my life. I can breathe and self-soothe when I get myself worked up into a tizzy. Those emotional lows still come, but they're much less severe than they used to be. It's much easier to see the signal for the noise.

I didn't realize how much energy I'd spent on worrying and being anxious. Without that constant pressure, I have a lot more energy to devote to other things that are important in my life.

The only bad thing is that I've definitely put on weight, even on my low dose: 5mg. But even so, it's worth it.
posted by so much modern time at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to add my perspective not to be a downer, but to give you a different point of view. Anti-anxiety medications were an utter disaster for me, and I tried about five or six different ones in different categories and combinations (each on a long-term basis, each for at least a year or so at varying dosages), before I finally stopped using them entirely.

It is great to see that they seem to have worked for a lot of people in this thread. That's awesome! I also think that had I been persistent, I might have eventually been able to find a combination that worked for me. But after a certain point, it just wasn't worth it anymore to me, and I was getting more out of my therapy instead anyway.

I really don't mean to scare you off with my answer! This is not an anti-medication rant, because medications can be such a huge help to so many people. I just want to make sure you see how the other half lives, as it were... to remind you that taking these medications is a matter of experimentation to figure out what works. Your experiment could be a success, or it could blow up in your face. Or it could be somewhere in between. But no matter what, it's a matter of experimentation.

So, here are my answers to your last two questions.

Did it make you feel like you could be more of your true self under all of the layers of worry?

Unfortunately, no. What they did was make me feel high... as in unnatural... unnaturally mellow, unnaturally unconcerned about things, unnaturally relaxed to the point of just not caring about anything. In the end, the number one reason I stopped taking medication entirely is because medications made me feel like someone else, and not in a good sense. I have always been an anxious perfectionist, and it was too jarring to have such a personality shift.

Were there other effects that you didn't anticipate?

I knew I would probably gain weight, but not 75 pounds over the course of three years working with medication. While the medications really helped me be less anxious in some helpful ways, they also made me a hell of a lot less mindful. I spent money I didn't have, I made a lot of mistakes in my personal life, my job performance went down the toilet because I was less careful about the caliber of my work, etc. I also dealt with some fairly nasty side effects like suicidal ideations... the worst of which involved having compulsions to steer my car off the road and wreck it any time I drove (I got off that medication as quickly as I could once those kicked in).

Now that I have been off medications for several years, I am more tightly wound again. But, my job is great these days. My coworkers make fun of what a quiet, serious, tortured perfectionist I am, but they also really appreciate the caliber of my work. I actually save a lot of money and managed to erase all of my credit card debt and student loan debt. I'm less social than I was when I was on medication, but I chalk that up as an unfortunate but acceptable loss. I lost all of the weight I put on, and these days, I exercise by running and training for half marathons. It's hard for me to stay on top of my anxiety and it is a daily battle, but I would rather have it this way... I like being me, even if "me" is a little neurotic, a little quiet, a little too much of a perfectionist, and a little too anxious about the world. "Me" doesn't get things perfect and messes up a lot, but "me" works hard, has standards, and tries to hit them.

Old Man McKay on medication didn't give a shit about standards, no matter what dosage or cocktail of medications my helpful psychiatrist and therapist tried with me.

Again, my point here is not to scare you off of trying medication. It's just to warn you that there can be downsides, and one of the biggest is that these medications can work too well... to the point where they take anxiety away too much to a degree that is unhealthy. And sometimes, lower dosages won't change that... medications like these are complicated and it's not always easy to get a good fit.

Best of luck figuring it out. And remember that it's a matter of experimentation. If you try them, I really hope they work well for you!
posted by Old Man McKay at 10:58 PM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm on a low-ish dose of Lexapro and also have some Ativan at hand if I need it.

The Lexapro doesn't affect my positive feelings and I still have plenty of negative feelings, but it's like the negatives are capped at how low they can make me go. To give you an example, pre-Lexapro if I got wet walking to work in the rain it would pretty much ruin my day. I would be obsessing over the unpleasant cold wet texture of my pants and trying to get them dry in different ways, etc...basically I would be preoccupied with how miserable I was from getting wet for the rest of the day. One day about a month after I started on Lexapro, I walked to work in the rain fully aware that it was miserable, arrived late to a workshop, thought grumpily to myself that the rain sucked and I needed a coffee, and then got interested in the workshop and didn't give another thought to the rain for the rest of the day. Maybe what I'm trying to say is I still have my full set of feelings but the bad ones are more proportionate to their causes now.

As for the Ativan, I got that when I was having anxiety attacks. I was simultaneously working in therapy on how to recognize the signs of an attack -- how it feels in my body, what's going on in my mind, how long I have before I fall apart, etc. The first couple times I took a pill it was after the anxiety attack started. It would make me stop crying within minutes and then usually I just fell asleep. Then I managed another couple instances where I recognized the signs of an impending attack and took an Ativan to undercut it, and I ended up just weeping quietly on the couch a bit instead of melting down completely. I counted those times as successes. Now I find that I can actually recover from a near-attack just by knowing that I have the Ativan at hand, without having to take it.

Yeah, I have gained a bunch of weight though.
posted by ootandaboot at 11:12 PM on March 10, 2014

My past experiences are very similar to Old Man McKay's.

I do miss how I was much more social on the drugs...I really came out of my shell. But I'd rather be a little more lonely and growly than put up with the side effects: significant weight gain; weird dangerous lapses of coordination while driving (confusing the clutch pedal for the gas pedal, e.g.); a strange free-floating sense of time that caused me to blow work deadlines. (This was on Lexapro.)
posted by nacho fries at 12:05 AM on March 11, 2014

Best answer: I too have had a short period of great peace, confidence and clarity in the midst of a long period of depression/anxiety.

It was triggered by an extremely revealing conversation with a family member and I was briefly transformed.

After this wonderful month or so, the tide came back in and I went back to feeling anxious/depressed. This persisted (and grew worse) until a few years later I commenced counselling.

I was doing okish until winter 2012 set in. I started to feel worse and worse, until I was ticking off 'had suicidal thoughts' in my mood diary every fricking day. I knew I could get better (I remembered how good I could feel, and that I'd made progress already) and the frustration motivated me to get meds.

Did it make you feel like you could live more freely and easily? Did it make you feel like you could be more of your true self under all of the layers of worry?
The intended effects of the drug were that I became myself again. The terrible fog of pointlessness and stress lifted slowly and I started to feel like I had for that short period of clarity.

The key changes I noticed were that I became interested in all my old hobbies again (cooking, etc) which I had slowly given up on.

I became more spontaneous and able to get dressed, go out, and live without feeling like every action was a struggle.

My counselling sessions were productive as I was able to put her suggestions into action without feeling glum and demotivated from the start.

I felt like the anxiety was gradually being turned down. Previously it had been drowning out everything and controlling my behaviour. On meds it was quieter and I could examine my anxious thoughts and reconsider how I acted.

Were there other effects that you didn't anticipate?
I had a relatively easy time on citalopram. I had a little nausea and sleepiness, and occasional feeling that colours and lights were OMG SO SPARKLY AND SHINY! Once or twice I had a positive feeling that the carpet I was walking along was was shifting in a satisfying way as I put my feet down.

Many people have mentioned that the drugs have unpredictable effects. My husband was horribly nauseated on citalopram, which eventually has settled down. I found coming off citalopram made me irritable and I had unpleasant ringing in my ears. However, it was completely worth it to get myself back.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 5:03 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Anti-anxiety medication worked OK for me in the short-term (for the first few weeks). After that, it gradually lost its effectiveness. Eventually, when I tried to stop taking it, I had a really, really hard time quitting. I made the mistake of stopping cold-turkey at first, and I started having severe rebound anxiety -- much worse than the anxiety that I had experienced before I started taking it. My doctor switched me to a different type of medicine -- and then we gradually tapered the dose down to zero.

Frankly, the whole thing was a bad experience. I would recommend non-drug approaches to managing anxiety.
posted by alex1965 at 5:07 AM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have taken two different types over the last 18 months, for anxiety and sometimes depression. The first time, the best thing for me was the removal of a feeling of panic and that everything was going to fall apart, which is hard to live with every day. I noticed after about a year that the effects weren't quite as strong as they used to be, and switched to a different medication. This was coupled with a period of depression, so the effects from this one have been far more noticeable. I feel more motivated than I have in years, and just generally more optimistic.

For me however, medication works best when combined with something like CBT, so there is a two-pronged attack for the anxiety.

I was really worried before taking the first medication that I would feel less like myself, but for me the reverse happened and I feel like I can see myself again, rather than it being clouded by anxiety or depression.
posted by ellieBOA at 5:23 AM on March 11, 2014

Best answer: For me, it's been like taking painkillers for the first time after having a permanent low-grade headache for my entire life.

It's just this.. absence of inappropriate worry and stress. More equilibrium. And I still feel appropriate and healthy levels of stress and worry at the right times.

I understand what you are saying, but pharmacological solutions work best in concert with therapy; taking only meds is like getting surgery but not getting physio after to recuperate. Starting therapy will help you eliminate the anxiety, not just suppress it with medication.

You know what's best for you, but please look into therapy as well.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:58 AM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel like myself again.

I still worry about things, I still have stress, but it's manageable, instead of worrying about worrying and then worrying that my worrying is out of control and I will ever stop worrying and oh god am I going to throw up? I think I'm going to throw up....

For the first couple of weeks I felt a little headache-y, sleepy and sweaty. It went away.

Did you ever take an inhaler or breathing treatment? Once I had a really bad case of bronchitis, but I just didn't realize I was getting sick for a long time I guess. When I finally went to the doctor, but she immediately had me take a breathing treatment. All of a sudden there was this huge relief--oh hey oxygen! The pressure on my chest was gone and I could take a deep breath again, which I didn't even realize how much I had been missing. It was kind of like that.
posted by inertia at 7:51 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

A low dose of an anti-anxiety drug, over the course of about six months, has had a permanent re-set effect on my ability to drive a car without panicking. Following a traumatic car accident, I spent the next four years unable to get on the highway without deep breaths, white knuckles, and lots of Xanax. The anti-anxiety removed those worries and the effects have lasted for years after I stopped taking it. Other things that caused anxiety before (travel in general, weather, social interactions) became enjoyable, and not in a manic "not me" way but in a pleasant, peaceful way. A lot of that has lasted after I stopped taking it (around September 2011). That long-lasting effect has been the best part.

Because the side effects...weren't really a big deal, actually, but I was taking hormonal birth control at the same time and couldn't have an orgasm to save my life. Libido was still there, kind of, but no orgasms were happening at all. That was hard, and an important life quality consideration.
posted by magdalemon at 8:15 AM on March 11, 2014

Having a bottle of Lorazipam for when I was freaking out to just take the edge off - used once a month at most? Awesome. Even knowing it was there was enough to chill me/get me through when I really, really needed it.

Being on a daily dose of something, however, is an exercise in managing side effects. And for me, it just made me angry at other people rather than self hating. And the experience of forgetting a dose was worse than any anxiety I've ever had before.

Yes, yes, trial and error, adjusting the dose, etc. - but that meant putting myself through a lot of awful that was worse than what I was treating.
posted by Gucky at 11:10 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

The good stuff: Wow, it has really helped. Like I can't believe I have wasted so many years of my life without it. I tried therapy (CBT) for about a month before getting in with a doctor who could give me a prescription, and it was helping but I spent half of every session in full-fledged panic/crying mode and it was hard to get anything accomplished. Once I started the medication, I started making really great progress with the CBT. The worst physical symptoms of the anxiety (panic attacks, chest pains, crying jags, etc.) stopped within a few weeks of starting the medication. I'm interested in things again, I am able to concentrate, I don't put off tasks for weeks/months because of fear/anxiety. I am able to feel lots of different emotions, not just anxiety and guilt (which are still there in I think normal levels, but not crippling). I was worried that it would make me feel flattened out, but I haven't had that experience at all.

Bad stuff: I have been sleeping a ton (although this is perhaps just my normal need, now that I'm not having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep due to anxiety). My stomach is upset a lot of the time, perhaps exacerbated by already having a sensitive stomach.

Missing doses is bad. I went on a trip about a month into taking the medication and forgot my pills, so I went about 3 or 4 days without them while I was struggling to find some way to get them while away. It was really bad, I crashed hard and my anxiety and depression was like ten times worse than ever, and I was having suicidal and self-harm thoughts all the time. Really scary. I took from that experience that it is really, really important to stay on the medication and I would never go off it cold turkey.

The sexual side effects have been weirdly mixed. On the one hand, after starting the medication my libido has come back, which has been awesome (I was so depressed and anxious before that it was like at zero) but as someone else mentioned, orgasm is practically impossible. I'm hoping it will get better.

Bottom line, I am so grateful for the medication, for the the side effects are manageable.
posted by ReBoMa at 11:39 AM on March 11, 2014

Liberating. Before I took it, my physical symptoms (mainly nausea) meant I couldn't think about anything without getting into an anxiety spiral. I couldn't focus on work and thought I would never enjoy life again, because I would 'always feel like this'. I don't. I'm on 20mg of Celexa.
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 12:42 PM on March 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I take Abilify every day and Xanax as needed. I had problems with panic attacks and the panic attacks have now stopped completely; though sometimes I can feel one coming and that's when I take the Xanax. I've noticed I worry less and my self-confidence is increasing, but neither problem has gone away completely. The biggest change for me is that now I feel I can function like a healthy, normal adult. I'm still a bit neurotic, but it doesn't get in the way of living my life or doing the things I want to do. I'm lucky enough not to suffer from any side effects from these particular drugs but I did have to try a few different combinations and dosages before I found the right fit.
posted by zeusianfog at 6:35 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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