Uncovering Old Emotions

One of the benefits of coming off my SSRI medication is being able to reconnect with the full range of my emotions again. I’ve come to find that this is also a very challenging experience at times. While it’s much easier for me to feel joy, love, and laughter, I’m also more quick to anger and prone to tears. Although this may be unpleasant and uncomfortable at times, I still consider it a positive overall. Because this is the human experience that I had been missing out on for so many years. I may have wanted to numb my anxiety, but I hadn’t realized that in order to do that, Paxil was going to numb everything else as well. Even so, at first that was a trade I was willing to make, but after a while I began to wonder what I had given up and whether or not it was truly worth it.

The first thing I noticed was that I never cried anymore. Obviously in the beginning, I thought that was a great side-effect. Who wants to feel sad? I certainly didn’t. And without those heavy feelings weighing me down, I felt almost invincible. After a few years, though, I genuinely missed being able to cry and experience that release. It began to feel like the pressure of all the sadness I was not allowing to come up to the surface was becoming a dense ball of discomfort deep within my heart. There were many times that I desperately wished that I could cry and let it out.

What I hadn’t noticed was how I also laughed less while on Paxil. It started to seem like I hadn’t laughed genuinely for years. I still found things funny and made tons of jokes, but I never really laughed. I was beginning to forget what that even felt like. Laughter was more of a social obligation than a natural unconscious reaction. It never even occurred to me that this was related to my medication until a few days ago. I’ve realized that that involuntary laughter bubbling up inside of me had returned. I had forgotten how amazing it felt.

So the first things I picked up on were laughter and crying. Both of which I now cherish and am immensely grateful for. However, I’m also being confronted with my ol’ buddy anger. You see as a teenager, I was an extremely angry person. I can still remember the white hot rage I would experience on nearly a daily basis. Rage that seemed uncontrollable and terrifying to those around me and even to myself after the fact. I foolishly believed that had simply faded with age and was also being nullified with my yoga and meditation practice. Although I still felt anger more than other emotions, it was no where near the level of intensity that it used to be.

Over the last few days, I’ve caught myself being overwhelmed with anger more than I have been in years. I thought I had learned to let it go, but in reality that viscous current of adrenaline was just not as strong as it once was. I am feeling it again at full force, and really struggling to cope. I am fearful that I may become the aggressive, angry person that I used to be when I was younger. I forgot how compelling the feeling of anger can be. It is all consuming at times. The phrase “blinded by rage” is quite accurate. That emotion tends to hit me like a freight train. It comes on suddenly and is irresistible. I feel helpless to control my actions when I’m in such a state. Of course, I have never physically harmed anyone, but I am quite good at spitting venom. My tongue becomes the deadliest blade and once I’ve calmed down, I am always mortified and ashamed of my behavior.

If anger is the price I have to pay to keep the rest of my emotions, I will. Especially because it seems to be the only negative change I’ve noticed so far from lowering my dosage to practically zero. I had definitely expected worse. I’m surprised that this anger has merely been lying dormant inside of me all along though. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed. I really thought I had overcome that ugly side of my personality.

Now the real work begins. I’ve been given all these years to practice and grow spiritually, and I’m being given the chance to use what I have learned. I’m trying to remain curious about those angry feelings when they arise, instead of turning that anger back on myself like I often do. It is quite fascinating, honestly. One thing I’ve noticed is the way I cling onto those violent feelings. My rational mind is useless against such a powerful rage. There is a self-righteousness mixed in that likes to feel vindicated and does all it can to justify my anger. It almost makes me more angry to imagine letting it go. As if that is letting the offending person or situation “off the hook.” It feels like my duty to make sure they don’t get away with it.

Given that I’ve already shown myself time and time again that trying to reason with myself in this state is pointless, I’m trying to employ a different strategy. Rationalizations allow me to still focus on whatever it is that has angered me. My goal from now on is going to be shifting my focus. I want to try to turn that focus inward. Usually when I’m angry, my mind is going a mile a minute listing ways that I am correct to be angry, riling myself up even more, stoking the flames. Rather than letting my mind do that, I’m going to try to focus on the feeling itself, to get out of my head entirely and move into my physical body.

What does anger feel like? For me it feels hot and stiff. My chest tightens, my breath becomes quick and short, my heart beats fast and hard against my ribcage. While these aren’t pleasant sensations to focus on, this is a way for me to work through my anger in a mindful way. Even though I’m finding this experience frustrating and challenging, at the same time I am grateful. I am grateful for the chance to get to know these long hidden parts of myself again. I am grateful for all of these newly rediscovered emotions, even the difficult ones.

Should You Accept or Regulate Your Emotions?

Paxil (5mg)

I cannot believe I have only been taking 5mg of Paxil instead of 30mg for nearly two weeks now. Back when I was around 22 or 23 I began taking this SSRI every day and only recently found the nerve to try to wean myself off of it at 27. There were many times throughout the years when I wanted to do this, but when you read the horror stories about Paxil withdrawal it’s quite intimidating. A big part of my hesitation to give up the medication was also psychological. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to manage without it.

Before I began taking Paxil, I was petrified of most (if not all) social interactions. It was a monumental task to even call my doctor to set up an appointment or to order food in a drive-thru. Meeting new people was always a nightmare, and I had a very difficult time making friends. After a month on an SSRI though, I was a completely different person. I didn’t think twice about making a phone call or talking to a stranger on the street. I felt like the shackles I had been wearing all my life were finally removed. That ever-present fog of fear had finally lifted.

But what if even after years of living in this newfound freedom, Paxil was still the only reason I was able to do these things? What if that old fear came back to overtake me as soon as I stopped? Not only that, I was afraid there would be no turning back for me once I began this journey away from Paxil. There are many accounts online of people attempting to cut back only to realize they desperately need this drug. However, upon increasing their dosage again, they found the medication didn’t work like it did the first time. I was afraid if I was making the wrong decision, I would be stuck with it.

Despite all these fears, with the support of my loved ones and primary doctor, I managed to start weaning myself off my Paxil. I tried not to think too much about it or look for any negative symptoms rearing their ugly heads. Much to my surprise, everything has remained pretty much the same, even now on practically no meds at all. I have only noticed positive changes such as rediscovering my formerly blunted range of emotions. And I could not be happier or more proud of myself.

The other day as I was driving home from an impromptu meeting with my boyfriend and his family, something incredible dawned on me. I can’t believe I just did that, I thought. I just spent the whole day with my boyfriend and his family. I just met his developmentally disabled aunt and elderly grandfather without having any idea I would be doing so beforehand. Wow. This might not sound like anything out of the ordinary to most people, but imagining how I would have handled that situation before Paxil vs. now is like night and day.

At 21 if my boyfriend had sprung meeting these people on me at the last minute I would have been petrified, angry, desperate to get out of the situation somehow. But that day, it never even occurred to me that it was of any significance. I simply shrugged and agreed when he said we’d be going to see them. I had no problem at all talking with them. I feel like I even managed to make a great impression. It actually brings tears to my eyes to say that. (Tears I now feel forming much more often and easily on my lowered dosage.) I am just so proud of myself.

Even though I’ve been through many similar experiences in the years since starting Paxil, this was the first time I can remember doing something like this pretty much on my own, with no significant chemical assistance. I genuinely never thought I would be capable of maneuvering social situations on my own. This incident has allowed me to more fully appreciate the things I’ve continued to do every day with no problem since lowering my dosage. I’ve still been meeting new clients every day at work, making follow-up phone calls, shooting the breeze with my coworkers, etc. All things I have become accustomed to, but had always given all the credit for to Paxil.

So to anyone out there who has been leaning on an SSRI for support, wanting to venture out on your own again, but are too fearful to try, don’t be afraid. You can do it. (With the help and support of a medical professional, of course.) I had hoped that the new pathways I have been building for years inside my brain would be strong enough to stand on their own after so many years of Paxil assistance, but I couldn’t be sure. Now I am. I know I can do this.

In summation, first I was throwing total support behind psych meds, then I was wavering more towards being against them all together. Now I have a better understanding of how to use these tools without becoming dependent on them. SSRI’s are not a miracle cure. They are also not something to avoid entirely. I finally see that they are like training wheels. Paxil gave me the courage and the confidence to gather new experiences, to learn that social situations don’t have to be scary. It gave me the time to practice better coping skills. My brain used to associate small talk, phone calls, meeting people, etc. with terror. Now I have years and years of conditioning under my belt to remind me that I can do these things and be perfectly okay. There is nothing to fear. Paxil has taught me that, and I am so grateful. Now with my new neural pathways in place and the old self-destructive ones faded and withered, I am ready to forge ahead on my own.

Chemical conversations: The story and science of how medication helped with  my depression | The Anchor

Chemical Dependency

I make no secret of the fact that I take Paxil for my anxiety. For the first few years that I was taking it, I was quite outspoken about it. I never really understood why some people felt embarrassed by the fact that they were taking an SSRI or other mental health medication. Far from being embarrassed, I was advocating for the medication. I was encouraging other people struggling with anxiety to take it as well. I was telling anyone who would listen about how wonderful it was, how completely changed my life was now thanks to Paxil. And it was irrevocably changed, in a good way, at first…

Now I’m kind of glad that none of the people I pressured to get a prescription actually did. I would have felt awful if I ended up seeing them struggle in the same way I am now. Don’t get me wrong, I am still grateful for Paxil. If I could go back in time, I honestly don’t know if I would decide not to start taking it knowing what I know now. I suppose the point is, SSRIs aren’t meant to be lifelong medications. They are supposed to be temporary ways to cope with particularly difficult mental health situations while you work on targeting the issue behaviorally through therapy. If I could change anything, it would probably have been to go to a therapist and a psychiatrist before getting a psychiatric medication from my primary doctor. While they are able to prescribe these medicines, they really don’t have the depth of knowledge about them that a psychiatrist would. Perhaps a psychiatrist would have at least warned me of the side effects and potential consequences.

For a few years now, I’ve been contemplating the idea of lowering my dosage. I’ve just been too afraid to take the steps to do that though until now. I’m afraid. I’ve read that Paxil is a particularly hard drug to wean yourself off of. You have to do it extremely slowly otherwise the withdrawal effects can be overwhelming. I’m actually afraid that my doctor won’t understand that well enough to lower my dosage as slowly as it needs to be lowered. I’m also afraid that even taking small steps may result in big emotional issues.

I remember thinking how insane it was that just taking a pill could make me feel and think completely differently. I didn’t understand how it was able to target something as specific as social anxiety. Not surprisingly, I found out later that it doesn’t. No, Paxil has effected many different aspects of my life. I don’t feel as anxious around people anymore, but I do feel more generally anxious about nothing in particular. I also don’t really feel very much at all. I haven’t cried in years. Haven’t felt really happy or excited about anything in years either. We all want to avoid our lows, while keeping our highs, but unfortunately there is nothing that can make that reality happen for us, not even medication.

For years I genuinely thought I didn’t have any side effects from Paxil. It was only recently that I realized a lot of the things I was just attributing to my personality, were because of Paxil. I’ve mentioned before that it has completely obliterated my libido. I actually thought I was just asexual for awhile there. Even more disturbing than that is realizing that it might have something to do with my struggles with relationships in general. Just yesterday, I decided to google the effects of taking an SSRI on love. I wish I had made this connection years ago. There was page after page of results about taking Paxil and having a difficult time falling or even staying in love. No wonder no other love has felt the same as the love I shared with my high school boyfriend. Who I was with, coincidentally, before I began taking Paxil.

This whole time I have been torturing myself, thinking that maybe soul mates do exist, that maybe he really is the one and only person out there I’m capable of loving. I’ve been agonizing over the fact that the love I share with my new boyfriend feels different. I’ve been worried that this discrepancy of emotion was a “sign” or some other such nonsense that I don’t even really believe in. I could never understand why even when I would meet people that seemed perfect, they couldn’t hold my attention and affection for long before I would lose interest, despite desperately wanting things to work. I’ve spent years alone, thinking there was something wrong with me. It was bad enough that this medication damaged my sexual relationships, but my romantic relationships too? How could anything be worth that?

What finally pushed me over the edge and helped me make the decision to call my doctor today and start lowering my dosage was what happened yesterday. As I was refilling my weekly pill capsules, I realized that somehow I had nearly run out of Paxil. I only have enough to last me until this Friday. Immediately I was panic stricken. The withdrawal symptoms of Paxil become debilitating within a few days of not taking it. Never before had it really hit me just how dependent on this medication I actually was. I felt like a junkie who didn’t know when or how they’d be able to get their next fix. It felt so awful knowing how much I needed this little white pill. I don’t ever want to feel that I need anything in that way ever again. It’s time for a change. It’s time to uncover and rediscover who I really am and how much of me has been Paxil this whole time.

Changing Antidepressant Medication: Coping with Side-Effects | HealthyPlace

Lukewarm Heart

Over the past few years of being single and living alone, I have developed a lot of strange, unhealthy habits. Last night as I was falling asleep, I tried to imagine what it would be like to allow someone to be close to me or to live with me again. It was bizarre to think about, honestly. For the majority of my life, finding a loving partner to spend my life with was my only desire. I really didn’t put much emphasis on anything else in life. Spending my life alone was my greatest fear and there were so many nights as a teenager that I cried myself to sleep at just the thought of it.

I never imagined I could feel so different. Not only do I not particularly care whether or not I fall in love again, I’m honestly skittish about the whole idea. It’s almost like I don’t even remember what it feels like to be in love. Well, apart from the lingering, dull ache it leaves behind years later. That doesn’t seem to fully explain this change in me either though. After all when I first became obsessed with the idea of finding love, I had never even experienced it before. Yet I was still so certain it was the one thing that would make me happy, that would make life worth living. I would have risked anything for it. There is always risk involved when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone you love. Now I’m not sure if I even believe it’s worth that risk.

You’d think this lack of interest would be a comfort to me, considering how much I use to agonize over my loneliness. Yet, even though this new state doesn’t necessarily cause me pain, it’s still a cause for concern. How can it be that in the span of just a few years I can feel so completely different about something that was once so vitally important to me? If I could be certain these were an accurate reflection of inner growth and independence, I might not mind. However, there is part of me that wonders if this isn’t somehow a result of so many years on anti-depressants. Paxil has helped me in a lot of ways, and I am grateful for that. But now I’m beginning to question if I’m even still the same person I was before. Which version of myself would I ultimately prefer? Can I even trust the way I think and feel now?

I used to put the concerns about my abnormal behaviors on the back burner. Telling myself that I would easily be able to stop them once I have someone new in my life. Now I’m starting to question that logic. Perhaps I’ll just end up choosing my behaviors over love in the end. And whether or not that is still important to me is irrelevant. Whatever my decision ends up being, I want to know that it was my decision, not something that I chose out of fear and mental illness. I don’t want to be alone just because I am too afraid to change or to get hurt again.

I guess I will try to just look at this new, unfamiliar perspective as somewhat of a super power. I don’t have to feel nervous or pressured on first dates, I can just relax and have fun. The value of my life no longer hinges on the love and approval of someone else. Rejection or abandonment don’t seem that scary when you know that you are perfectly capable and fine with being on your own. My only fear now is about whether or not I still even have the drive and motivation it takes to make a relationship work. Can love even blossom in such a lukewarm heart?

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Paxil: Pros & Cons

I have been taking an SSRI called Paxil for at least seven years now. Typically I don’t think you are supposed to take these types of medications for such a long time, but a lot of people do. I’ve written before about how grateful I am for what Paxil has done for me. I used to suffer from severe social anxiety. I was petrified of small everyday things such as ordering food at a restaurant or making a phone call to schedule an appointment. Even as a child I can remember rehearsing my age, the school I went to, etc. as I was in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. I knew she would ask me about these things and I would get so nervous that my mind would go completely blank. Even though I have always been an excellent student, I was never willing to answer questions in class because I was too afraid to raise my hand and speak in front of everyone.

After I began taking Paxil, magically all of these problems disappeared. I had no problem at all chatting with the clerk at my local store, going out to eat, meeting new people, or introducing myself in a class in school. I couldn’t explain it, but I had absolutely no more fear when it came to these situations. I have no idea where I would be today if it wasn’t for Paxil. It has made my life so much easier.

With all that being said, I have finally started to be troubled by side-effects that I didn’t pay much attention to at first. I didn’t even notice that these things were related to the medication for a long time. One of the issues I’ve come to recognize is my extremely low libido. This is a common side effect of any SSRI. I was so young when I began the medication that I thought it was just normal for me for the longest time. But it seems like it’s becoming more significant as time goes on. I don’t necessarily mind this side-effect. I am usually single and it’s nice not to miss sexual encounters when I’m on my own. However, it’s gotten to the point that I really have no interest in sex at all. It seems like a chore even when I have a partner. Which, as you can imagine, has an effect on my ability to form and maintain romantic relationships.

Another more concerning side-effect that I only noticed when I spoke with my sister who is also on Paxil, is a dampening on all emotions. I don’t feel anything as deeply as I used to. At first, this seemed almost like another benefit of Paxil. However, I’m starting to think it’s a big problem. Everything has faded into shades of gray. I don’t cry anymore. But I don’t laugh as much either. My passion has been all but extinguished. It’s nearly impossible for me to even motivate myself to try to form or maintain meaningful relationships with others. I feel like there is so much that I’ve missed. So much that I am missing.

I’m not sure if I would have still decided to start taking Paxil if I had known all of this beforehand. It is extremely hard to stop taking, which I also didn’t know when I started it. I’m also afraid to stop taking it. I can’t imagine going back to being afraid of every single social encounter. But I miss other aspects about the way I used to be. I don’t regret my decision to take Paxil, but I hope that for anyone reading this, you now have a better understanding of the effects of this drug.

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Unsettling Side Effects

For the last few years I have been taking an SSRI called Paxil to help me deal with my social anxiety. While it has improved my life tremendously in some ways, it also has had many negative effects. For one thing, even though it has completely obliterated nearly every shred of social anxiety I experience, somehow it has seemed to dramatically increase my general anxiety. Now rather than being anxious about talking to people, I am just vaguely anxious about nothing in particular all day, every day. I find this completely bizarre. I have no idea how that is even possible. Then again I never have been fully able to comprehend how any medication can effect my mind in such a dramatic way.

That isn’t the most troubling side effect I experience though. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about how Paxil has effected my emotions. I used to cry a lot as a teenager, multiple times a week at least. But as I grew older, I noticed it took more and more to make me even tear up. I assumed at first this was just a normal part of growing up. Then my sister, who also takes Paxil for social anxiety, mentioned how it makes her not feel anything. Until that point I had no idea it could be a side effect of this medication.

I laughed it off at first. Even thinking of it as a positive side effect at times. It was much easier to remain unaffected by the difficult events in life we all experience. It was almost like a protective barrier. However as time marches on, I have started to worry about it. I miss feeling things deeply. You can’t eliminate negative emotions without also dulling positive ones. I may not cry as much, but I also don’t laugh or love as fiercely as I once did. I feel somewhat like a hollow shadow of a person.

I even miss being able to cry at this point. After all, it is healthy to cry. It can even feel good. Instead of letting out that pain and sadness, it now slowly collects as a heavy inky blackness in my heart, weighing on me more each day. I fear it also makes me appear cold and uncaring to those around me. I am missing out on so many shared human experiences. While I am no longer afraid of people, it has made me feel more on the fringes of society than ever.

I fear when my loved ones pass away, I will stand at their funerals dry eyed and empty, unable to properly grieve such immense loss. I fear I’ll never truly love again either. Maybe that is why I cling so desperately to the ghost of past love, only being able to feel it through memory.

I don’t know what the answer is to these issues. It is extremely difficult to stop taking this particular medication. It has terrible withdrawal effects and must be done slowly with medical supervision. Not only am I afraid to face such a daunting challenge, possibly returning to my original state of social anxieties, but I also find it distasteful how much money I would have to spend on medical appointments within the course of this task. I do have insurance, but it only pays for one visit a year. And I would need many more than that to monitor such a transition.

For now I will just soldier onward. Hoping that someday something will stir my heart again.

Anti-Anxiety Medication Review: Paxil

i-cant-keep-calm-i-have-social-anxiety

 

Today I decided it was finally time to give Paxil the accurate and honest review it deserves. I, along with many others, suffer from social anxiety and have for my entire life. It is a constant and ever-present burden. Even the most simple activities become daunting tasks that you would do absolutely anything to avoid. I felt handicapped in everyday situations. When you are young, it seems merely frustrating. However, as I matured and began transitioning into the world of adulthood which included, important phone calls, job interviews, and other significant interactions, I found myself unable to lead a normal life.

That is when I decided to seek professional help. I went to my doctor and she prescribed me an SSRI for anxiety and depression called Paxil. At first I was very nervous and skeptical. Online Paxil did not seem to be receiving very positive reviews. The possible side-effects included such horrific things as: Abnormal bleeding or bruising, blurred vision, hallucinations, peeling or blistering of skin, enlarged skin (whatever the hell that could mean), sudden muscle twitching or jerking that you cannot control, and seizures. Needless to say I was hesitant, but regardless of my fears, I decided to give it a try. I couldn’t continue to live in paralyzing fear of the most common situations. 

After about a few months of taking Paxil regularly and having my dosage raised a few times, I began to notice miraculous changes. Neither I, nor anyone else that I met taking Paxil had experienced any of the unsettling side-effects of the drug. We did, however, experience life changing benefits. I no longer feel any type of anxiety in social situations. I am free to be myself in every aspect of my life. I am never sickeningly nervous before or after leaving work. I receive and make phone calls without a second thought. I no longer feel the need to mentally rehearse responses to questions in restaurants or doctors’ offices. I am free to make and cancel appointments without stress. I am even able to ask questions to sales persons or even strangers to gain needed information! I feel more positive and relaxed in every area of my life. I feel confident!

I felt that I owed it to all of the others out there suffering from social anxiety to post a positive review of this medication. It has changed my life and I am thankful everyday. Sometimes it is hard to even remember what it was like to feel so nervous all the time. My life has opened up in so many ways. I never even knew just how much of a burden my anxiety was until it was gone. I highly recommend Paxil to anyone who is suffering from any type of anxiety or depression. I hope that it will help you as much as it has helped me. ^_^