Certified Lunatic

That's right, that's me – a certified lunatic.

At least that is the way the rest of the world makes me feel at times. Especially since just a few decades ago, one would be placed in a Sanitarium for the most common of illnesses, and Hollywood portrayed Prozac as a happy pill.

I compare my life as an anxiety freak to a "hamster on a
wheel." Heartbeat pumping, rushing off to nowhere, with an absolute inability to just
get off the damn thing and rest.

After 33 years of living like this, I had enough. I decided to try medication. A decision that turned out to be was one of the best
decisions I have ever, ever done for myself.

That decision literally
changed my life.

So much so, I have decided to share my story to encourage the many other anxiety suffers out there that there is hope;

At 33 years old, and a mother of two wonderful, amazing children, the wife of an incredible man, I was 
lost in the fog. The fog of anxiety that pulls you away from the here and now, and sucks you into an imaginary world of worries, like an incessant tap-tap-tap on the shoulder. Day, after day, after day, it pounds on you, wearing you down until you give.

Anxiety not only exhausts you, it kills you. It kills your enthusiasm, your passion for life, and your ability to be in the moment. Eventually, anxiety can turn into physical pain, chronic pain that forces you to face the reality and the magnitude of the problem. For me, the chronic pain settled in my neck and shoulders causing chronic and debilitating headaches that sent me to Mayo Clinic to seek a solution.

I tried every single possible natural solution to anxiety available. First, the usual stuff – meditation, yoga, and talk therapy. Nothing touched it. I moved on to the less known approaches, such as light therapy, behavioral therapy workbooks, cortisone shots, acupuncture, and oriental herbal teas. Still the pain and suffering continued.

So, when I was 9 months pregnant with my son, I told my therapist to get the drugs ready because the minute that kid was out, the pills are going in! (no I didn't nurse)

Side effects are difficult for some, but I was lucky because mine were minimal (especially compared to how I was feeling) so the hardest part was waiting the weeks for the medicine to take effect. When they did, I felt reborn. Sounds dramatic, and kind of cheesy, but I swear to you I was finally, finally – me….

  • Reading has become a huge part of my life.
  • The moment. I discovered what it is to be, to live in the moment, I don't recall being capable of my entire adult life.
  • Relationships improved because one with anxiety often make others feel anxious – which can be difficult for friends and family.

It's been 6 years now, and I've accepted the fact that I will likely be on medication for a lifetime. Regardless of possible unknown health impacts, I would rather live 10 more years with this peaceful mind, than 50 more years feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

To the 38% of you on medication according to our poll on the right, I hope you will share your story as

To the 28% who have tried meds, but no longer take them, tell us about experience. I think it is very important to hear both sides of this story.

To the 15% considering medication, I hope this post has been helpful to you. This step is a very personal decision, and it is one you need to make on your own if and when you are ready.





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26 Responses to Certified Lunatic

  1. kris says:

    It has been my experience that many many people who have had problems with disordered eating (esp anorexia) also suffer with anxiety issues. My daughter is one of them. Thank you for sharing! It was very courageous of you…

  2. anne says:

    Pre-existing ‘childhood’ anxiety is a core trait strongly associated with the development of an eating disorder, particularly anorexia. It certainly doesn’t mean that every anxious person will go on to have eating difficulties, but it does mean that it should raise awareness. Treating anxiety, one would assume, might help reduce the risk of developing an ED.

  3. I had anxiety my whole life. At age 40 I started taking meds, and they got rid of the anxiety. They also got rid of most of my feelings, made me into a zombie, made me sleep 12 hours a day, made me gain 35 pounds, and made me never want to have sex. I stuck this out for about 5 years, then I had enough. The weight gain affected my health – my blood pressure and cholesterol went up to borderline levels. I stopped the meds, it took 2 years to lose the weight, I have normal sleep habits and I can have sex willingly, my blood pressure and cholesterol are normal. I do continue to take xanax and klonopin as needed, and I take a mild beta blocker because of a fast heart beat, but which has an added bonus of stopping panic attacks from getting out of control. I’ll never take an SSRI again, even though I am grateful for the zoloft for taking away my anxiety. Now it’s a balancing act. I’m in therapy for anxiety, ocd and depression.

  4. Liz says:

    I was on the antidepressant Paxil for about a year when I was in high school.
    It didn’t do anything but make me sleepy and seemingly more depressed/lethargic so my mother demanded I was weened off of it.
    Haven’t been on anything since.

  5. shawna says:

    I am 30 yrs old and on meds. I was a super anxious kid and first got really depressed at puberty. I got on medication (benzos, anti-psychotics and anti-ds) when i was hospitalized for Anorexia at age 17. I didn’t really think much about the medicine, i was kind of freaked out by all of it since i didn’t believe my ED was a problem and I attributed all the other symptoms of my mental illness to the fact i was a just a horrible person – I hated myself bc I was miserable all the time because I hated myself. I did get better with a lot of therapy. At age 27 i decided to get off of the anti-ds. I wanted to be “normal” on my own and was very paranoid about the side effects bc it had been ten years. So I got off the meds and slowly spiraled downward. I read about vitamins and exercise and yoga. I tried every ‘natural’ thing I could including memorizing and reciting mantras and poetry to calm my brain. My weight plummeted, the obsessions took over and the depression developed into a psychotic depression. I almost ended up in the hospital again. Walking back into my old doctors office I felt like a failure. Later, I held the pills in my hand and stared at them for hours, trembling. I had really wanted to do it without the pills. I have been on an anti-d and an anti psychotic since then. It was the right decision. Even so, I have had to fight like hell and I continue with the therapy and with the exercise and vitamins and nutrition, but my god, I cried when I was actually able to feel again. ..to feel joy…to put a stop the suicidal thoughts that I could not control. I get so angry when people suggest that it just takes WILLPOWER to overcome depression… Or when people told me that i didn’t “look” CRAZY. Some days I still hate that I need this medicine, but I have decided that I want to a positive force in this world, and to do that I need nutrition and I need this medication, and i won’t be ashamed of it anymore. Thank you for posting this, and sorry my comment is so long.

  6. Molly says:

    I’ve also been anxious and obsessive as long as I can remember, but all of my energy went into making straight As and ballet, so no one saw it as a problem. I completely fell apart in college. I was suicidal and finally agreed to take medicine. I was unsure about taking pills that messed with my brain. First I was on Lexapro. It just turned me into a zombie. After a few months of that I switched to Zoloft. Like you mamaV, it literally changed my life. I’ve been on it almost a year, and if I have to take it for the rest of my life, that’s fine with me. I NEVER want to go back to feeling like that. I still get embarassed if I have to tell someone I’m on it, but I’m working on it. It makes me feel better to know that other people have the same issues.

  7. Olga says:

    I started Zoloft after I started therapy for anorexia nervosa. I believe that it had a major effect on my recovery, rivaling pet therapy which was the greatest and most rewarding therapy I’ve ever had. I think it really saved my life and I’m happy that I was prescribed it. I stopped taking it, which was very hard to wean off, after about a year and a half. The decision was hard to make, but I did not want to be medicated any longer nor did I need to be. The most beneficial aspect of the anti-depressant was that it allowed me to finally be able to think reasonable and clearly. I had to relearn how to think as well as how to eat and live.

  8. smudgeruk says:

    This is a moot topic for me right now, as I’m currently working my way through SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome and have started taking a mood stabiliser (Depakote). This should be the right medication for me, but it’s taken me a long time to get there.
    I’ve struggled with depression since I was a child – I don’t know when exactly it was that I realised that the whole world didn’t wake up in the morning disappointed that they hadn’t died in their sleep.
    At some point I became aware that I felt things, big and small, much more than others. I tried to commit suicide aged 17 and was put on SSRIs.
    It’s only recently that what’s really going on has been identified – I’m actually bipolar. That’s why I’m coming off the SSRI antidepressant and onto a more suitable medication.
    I can identify with MamaV’s description of anxiety – it goes hand-in-hand with a lot of my experience. It wears you down. It drains you.
    I would prefer not to have to take any sort of medication at all, but it’s just not an option if I’m to remain alive.
    One thing that did stand out when talking to my psychiatrist recently was that bipolar sufferers are often the high-flying achievers, because when we’re “up” we have a boundless energy and zest for life – we have the big ideas and the perseverance beyond all common sense to carry them out.
    However, he also said that a lot of people with bipolar ultimately struggle with disordered eating (especially binging and purging)and self injury behaviours.
    Thank goodness attitudes to mental health are slowly starting to change.
    MamaV, if not too long ago you would be described as a “certified lunatic”, well, I suppose that makes me Frances Farmer… ;o)

  9. Rachel says:

    I tried medication for depression about 8 years ago. I was initially put on prozac, which was, for me, absolutely horrible. I had already suffered from insomnia for years, and on Prozac, when I finally DID fall asleep, I had horrid, vivid nightmares detailing a gruesome death for myself. It was not fun. I got switched to Paxil, but I didn’t really notice that I felt differently at all. For me, what has made the world of difference is having someone in my life who understands me. For me, its my husband- and he gets me because we are very similar. We both have borderline personality disorder. You would think that would be bad- but it works well for us. Because we know how the other thinks.
    The other thing that helped me was to stop the disordered eating. Hasn’t solved the insomnia entirely (but the insomnia, for me, has been a life-long problem, not just and ED side effect). I think that meds can be good- but they should not be the only answer. And I think extreme caution should be used in giving them to someone who has been suicidal. I seriously contemplated several times NOT taking my meds to hoarde them, and then take them all at the same time. I think more important than medication is having someone, ANYONE, in your life who you can be open and honest with, who listens to how you feel.

  10. mamaV says:

    Hi Kris: I have no doubt that my anxiety gene made me susceptible to and ED. For me though, I will never know because I was forced into a situation that required restrictive eating.
    Interestingly, I went back and read my journals from the modeling days and I was unbelievably disciplined. My ability to eat close to nothing shocked me.
    I hope your daughter is able to find her personal road to recovery. She is lucky to have a mother that loves her so much and understands.
    Take care!

  11. mamaV says:

    Hi Harriett: Thank you for posting the downside. Many people struggle with bad side effects, so medication is not a solution for everyone.
    I feel lucky that my side effects have been minimal. But interestingly after about 5 years on the same drug, I’ve needed to add a different one. Which scares me – for long term, how many times will I need to change? What are long term effects anyway?
    But still, bottomline for me is I never, ever want to go back to that old brain of mine.

  12. gabi says:

    Im supposed to e on 60mg of lilyfluoxetine because its been proven to help curb th desire to need to binge and purge… it didnt happen… so i came of them. but they did help with my mood while i was on them.

  13. Sarah says:

    I stopped taking them because I felt like they were dividing me from Christ. I couldn’t feel the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying that this means people shouldn’t take them. There are people who aren’t Christians, I realize that. In addition, there are people who are Christians and have a more severe case of anxiet and depression than I did. I say did because, while it is still a constant battle, I do not feel that I have those problems. I am coming out of my shell more and more because of the relationship I have with God. Medication should never be completely nixed, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

  14. Melissa says:

    Great post MamaV! I’m in treatment for anxiety, but am not on medication. I am not opposed to it, but haven’t gone down that road yet. I am glad it worked so well for you — I know it’s done wonders for my mom.

  15. Melissa says:

    Thanks for this post, MamaV!

  16. Lea says:

    I stopped taking meds when it became apparent to me that I had become a willing prisoner of the pharmaeutical-industrial complex and that it was a choice I had made to accept that I was unhealthy (emotionally) rather than, well, grow up. That probably sounds harsh. I don’t think that’s why everyone else who takes meds does, just that was it for me.
    I planned my escape, though, I didn’t just go cold-turkey. I’d been on increasing doses of more varieties of meds trying to keep a lid on my state of constant just-this-side-of-panic for a few years. The first thing that had to go was pot, of course. Not physically addictive like opiates, sure, but there’s a helluva rebound effect, and the withdrawal’s at least as bad as benzos. I “needed” a second mood stabilizer after that.
    Epidemiological studies have shown that people who eat a lot of fish don’t get like this. I read a lot on DHA. I decided i would rather take that than the no-lie $600/month worth of meds I was on. (and this was in the 90’s, right?) The dosage that studies had shown were effective for bipolar disorder (there’s a type 2 that’s basically panic disorder with depression) is 3g per day. So I started taking that and tapered off the other meds one by one over the course of about 6 months.
    A couple years later I added SAMe, which I had initially been afraid of b/c there have been cases of SAMe induced mania and certainly SAMe induced serotonin shock seemed possible, so I was really careful and started with low doses every other day until I didn’t feel the “frying” feeling of the serotonin going up anymore.
    About 2 years ago I also started taking CoQ10, which isn’t about mood but helps my energy, and I have a heart murmur so it seemd like a good idea. I’ve always taken a multivitamin, too.
    So my vitamins and nutritional supplements now cost less than $100/month, and altough they aren’t covered by insurance, that’s still less than the co-pays were. And the main thing is that I feel a thousand-million-billion times better than when I always felt like the meds weren’t quite right and I needed something else or more because I really was just-this-side-of-panic every moment I was awake and I had a pre-school child and no husband and was just barely surviving and absolutely could not afford in any way, shape, or form to snap.
    My advice to anyone who wants to try this is don’t bother with the “fish oil” tabs. They’re ginormous and repeat on you (ick) and you have to take a ton to get 3g of DHA. NOW Foods has DHA 250 gelcaps that are reasonable-sized, and yes you have to take 12 of them to get 3g/day, but they’re not big and don’t repeat on you. I get them from iHerb.com. You can get the SAMe there, too.
    One caution about the DHA: when you finally start sleeping properly, you can experience REM-rebound and have very vivid dreams for a couple of weeks. People more prone to nightmares than I am might need extra suppor to get through that. I actually thought it was pretty cool.
    Since you asked, MamaV… and btw thanks for doing the blog. I appreciate the perspectives.

  17. smudgeruk says:

    “The dosage that studies had shown were effective for bipolar disorder (there’s a type 2 that’s basically panic disorder with depression…”
    Sorry, but that’s not actually true. BP-II is a lot more than that.

  18. Lea says:

    I have a copy of the DSM, too, and I know what it says. I was speaking from experience, smudge, mine and a friend’s. Maybe I should have said “a” panic disorder. It’s not the episodic panic like panic attacks, but experientially, it’s basically a panic disorder with depression. There were only a couple years when the “up” phase felt good, after that “up” was just everything-turned-up-too-loud-including-me. (When the headphones are on full blast, it’s hard not to shout, y’know?)
    So, um, how do you define “true” when you’re telling people what it is? And do you do that a lot?

  19. smudgeruk says:

    I’m also speaking from experience, Lea, mine.
    Whilst I agree with your comment about “everything-turned-up-too-loud”, which is certainly true of both BP and anxiety/panic disorders, there is an awful lot more to hypomania than that.
    An awful lot more.
    BP is such a bastard to treat – as I’m sure you know – because its symptoms are so wide-ranging, and saying it’s like a panic disorder with depression doesn’t even come close to it for me, based on *my* experience.
    So no, I believe your comment that it’s “basically a panic disorder with depression” to be untrue. Hence my comment.

  20. smudgeruk says:

    End of the day, I respect your post, I really do, but if I see someone claiming something that I strongly believe to be untrue, I will say so.
    You are still entitled to your opinion, of course, and I wish you well on your med-free regime. x

  21. smudgeruk says:

    “I can identify with MamaV’s description of anxiety – it goes hand-in-hand with a lot of my experience. It wears you down. It drains you.”
    That’s quoted from my earlier post.
    As I say, I *do* agree that *parts* of BP-II are like that. But there really is much more to it, I guess I’m really wary of oversimplifying things like BP because I’m having problems with people at the moment, trying to get them to understand that it is A BIG DEAL AND NO, I CAN’T JUST SNAP OUT OF IT.
    Bet you recognise that one, huh? :o)

  22. Lea says:

    It’s an old saw, but true: we can’t change the wind, but we can adjust our sails. In any situation, good or bad, that’s just exactly how much control we have: our skill with our own sails. (Dockside drivers are just making noise, like the gulls. A distraction a skilled sailor ignores, IMO.)
    Take care and know you are wished well. I bow to the light within you. (Namaste)

  23. Leasa says:

    Hi mamaV,
    I know you probably won’t read my comment… but anyway, I would like to recommend for you to read “The Elegance of Hedgehogs”. It’s really amazing. I think it’s the best anti-depressant available.
    I hope you feel better.

  24. Panic disorders have many causes and among the most common causes are stress and general fear.

  25. At least that is the way the rest of the world makes me feel at times.

  26. Elizabeth H. says:

    I think I’ve been on every psych medication known to man in the past 3 years or so…I was put on Prozac prior to going to college because my mom piped up to my neurologist (I have a VP shunt for hydrocephalus) that I was moody and irritable…After being on it for about a year and having the dose increased a lot, I go severely depressed and tried to OD on it…bad idea. Then after undergrad I was off medications for like 3 years and just working. I was “okay”…til grad school started! Since 2006 I have been on lexapro, effexor, trazadone, trileptal, respirdal, lamictal, topamax and then back on prozac!!! (I think I may have missed one or two, but whatever!) I’ve been in and out of inpatient and was finally diagnosed with MDD and Borderline Personality Disorder. I have been a self injurer since age 19 and in the past year diagnosed as bulimic, although I think I’m more EDNOS right now…Anyway. I’ve REALLY enjoyed watching all your videos and reading everything!!! Thanks so much for posting all this!!!

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