I don’t remember the first one I took or the sense of relief it brought. This does not surprise me as there was a period of several months where I was taking two before lunch and another at some point in the afternoon. I have never been a napper and during this time I would find myself extremely fatigued (and I actually believed inexplicably) and would lay down to rest and wake up 4 hours later. I would pop a Clonazepam at the first hint of anxiety because the whole mess was still new and terrifying to me and it was the only thing ( I stress that, the ONLY thing) that offered me any reprieve. I was about 25 at the time and had just started experiencing severe anxiety attacks and there was not a person alive that could convince me I was not going to die at any minute. I visited my Dr. at least weekly, begging for him to just consider the fact that there may be something bigger wrong (my heart, an illness) but leaving each visit no further ahead. I look back on that man with great fondness and appreciation. He put up with a lot, and he never snapped, not once. He had tired eyes and a kind heart and I think I was exhausting him. It wasn’t just anxiety symptoms, I became increasingly paranoid that I had contracted an illness. I had HIV tests done almost monthly, insisting that I had at least 3/4 of the symptoms listed on various websites. I would get myself into a state where I was physically shaking, crying, laying awake, knowing that a positive test result was coming. Each test came back negative but rather than feeling relief, I would cry. Uncontrollably. If it isn’t that, then what is it? Take a Clonazepam and wait it out.
When my anxiety first began I was smoking marijuana daily and drinking heavily on weekends. I wasn’t so stupid that I didn’t notice that both were inducing attacks, but I was certainly stupid enough to keep doing both and to use the Clonazepam as a means of enabling me to do this. Smoke a joint, have anxiety, take the pill. Worst part being once the pill kicked in it enabled me to smoke more and drink more without the onset of anxiety at all. Until the next day when of course, all hell would break loose. Take another pill, wait it out. I woke up every day with a pill hangover and by 11am I was treating it with a fresh dose. It felt better than the anxiety and fear of death did. I was spiraling a tad.
My Dr. had tried me on a daily anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication, Celexa. I took it for about a week and became so disoriented that I left the house one day and quite literally forgot where I was going, only realizing it after I had walked several blocks in the wrong direction. This did not help things. After that I insisted that the dailies weren’t for me and I refused to try another brand. This cycle of attacks, major depression, self-diagnosis of major illnesses (based on web diagnosis) and self-medication on Clonazepam in total lasted close to a year. A year of falling apart and being a complete mess in the eyes of those around me. Should someone have stepped in at that time? Probably. Was someone obligated to? No. At 25 I think a common approach to such things is to believe that “he is still young” and “he will outgrow it”. I believed I was dying and no one had an answer that my head would allow me to accept. And those who did not understand that anxiety is a physical disorder and not just a mental one, could not sympathize or offer much support when I was screaming into a phone “help me”!
It wasn’t until I went to the third of several therapists in that time that I got what I needed. A kick in the ass. She was tough, she didn’t want to hear much after learning of the substance abuse and basically told me that until I stopped smoking pot and drinking as much as I had that there would be no end to the attacks that had been crippling me. She had no other advice to give. I had heard it before when friends would comment on the amount I was ingesting, though in a sort of “geez, look at you go” kind of way. It was the first time it hit me that I may not be to blame for anxiety having found its way out of wherever it had laid dormant for 25 years, but I was absolutely 100% to blame for allowing it to become as life altering as it had. I quit smoking pot immediately, I cut way back on my alcohol intake and I even quit smoking cigarettes (forgot to mention that I was a pretty heavy smoker too, the effects of which were an accelerated heart rate, then more attacks, then more pills). I tapered off the sedatives which, I won’t lie, was not something I handled well, until I was off them entirely. I didn’t do it with grace, but I did it.
I remember that year, mostly the winter, only enough to remember the worst. I remember treating my family, my close friends, my best friend in the world as a punching bag and saying unforgivable things in fits of anger and hopelessness and fear. My best friend is a strong personality and babying was not and is not his thing. He could set me off as easily as he could comfort me. But he never left my side when the shit hit the fan. No matter how ugly I got, how much I used him to keep me afloat, how many medical appointments he drove me to just to hear “you’re fine”, he never faltered. Save for a few times when he snapped and frankly, he should have put me out with the trash. He is still my best friend today. I am lucky, I do not deserve that. His lack of sensitivity still makes me want to throw him out a window at times but he’d be the first the pull me back in if I tried to make the jump myself.
Cut to today. I keep a bottle of Clonazepam pretty close by at all times. Knowing it is there helps. It is taken only when necessary (a couple of times a month on average I would say) and thankfully I do not have major attacks daily and have learned to pull myself through the minor ones without medicating. I often wish that my Dr. had never prescribed it all those years ago, it is a very dangerous drug. I stress this also: Before you take a sedative, promise yourself that you will remember the times you felt good without it. Before you even take the first one, remember living a life without them. Life is hard, who doesn’t want to take a pill and tune out every now and again? But then life stays hard and you end up tuning out more than you are tuning in. Going on the Cipralex three years ago was the result of the threat that the anxiety was returning with the force that it had first appeared 10 years ago. Now that I am off of it and not dependant on sedatives, I have spent a lot of time (and money, my god the money) on finding alternatives. Recently I purchased bottle of chamomile supplements. It ran me about $16.99 at a local supplement joint and that gets you 100 capsules. The instructions say to take two capsules, three times daily. Don’t do that. This is not a tea. The first day I took two and an hour later found myself shaky, nauseous and very uneasy. I will say I felt a bit more calm and less anxious, but the other effects sort of outweighed it. I tried on two other days taking one capsule and had a period of uneasiness again, followed by a slight numbing feeling which was pleasant and seemd to take the edge off, but then I got damn tired. Again though, I was in fact a bit less anxious (a bit). I am not sure what the trick is with these. Would I rely on one if a severe attack came on? Absolutely not. However, I think that maybe it is a tolerance/adjustment issue and that if taken in moderation