Before I was diagnosed with OCD—long before—I had been living under the notion that I was only suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. And I am. As I worked with a psychiatrist to get that under control, we moved through a rather large slew of medications to try to control the anxiety. This anxiety—at the time—was at a level of an 8-9 out of 10, and the needle stayed there pretty near 24/7. I did not have anxiety peaks and valleys, no it was a constant peak. A constant fog that somehow managed at times to feel like it went beyond a 10.
My doctor and I were reluctant to prescribe me benzodiazepines, as I had a difficult time in my past with withdrawals from them. There was a time when I was on the most popular of this type of drug, and after years I realized—on my own—that I was only chasing the withdrawals every morning, and my daily pill just cured that. It did nothing for my actual anxiety.
Now, I need to stop here and give the usual “I am not a doctor” line. There, that’s out of the way. This is important because I feel—for myself—that I do need to take some control over the medication I am taking, especially when I feel I am being given a mere floppy band-aid. And that is what I did, and stupidly: I stopped this benzodiazepine cold turkey. NOT A GOOD IDEA. But I suffered through that and was free with no harm to myself.
I vowed never to take this class of medication again.
Until about four years ago when I was at the aforementioned peak of anxiety like I’d never experienced before. After working with so many medications either did very little or had terrible side effects (oh, paradoxical reactions are interesting!) my doctor suggested I try a milder longer-acting benzodiazepine. At this point, I was willing to go against my better judgment and try anything. And I did.
Benzodiazepines are fast-acting. You know if they’re working within hours or less. How long certain dosages stay active is different in many ways, across the board, but the important thing is you know it’s doing something.
Unless it doesn’t. And it didn’t. I took a pill, waited many hours, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing good, nothing bad. There are a variety of ways one’s mind should probably go with this. My OCD caused me to absolutely freak out. I instantly did not trust my body or brain at all. I felt I was given sugar pills. I felt out of control because this stuff should act the same as something akin to alcohol: everyone feels the effects of alcohol at some point.
I was frantically on the phone to my doctor, because with my OCD I am an absolute rule follower. I would not let myself take more than I was prescribed—especially not a controlled substance. I wanted to, but that was not the right way to do this. I actually started thinking to myself that I never actually took the pills. That I forgot, even though it was glaringly obvious by the way I have my medications organized. I couldn’t accept the simple fact that I may just need a higher dosage, I mistrusted everything about myself—even actions I took not minutes before.
This episode added to the anxiety I was already feeling, and by my next appointment, I was a mess. Luckily my doctor was willing to work with me and doubled the dosage.
Guess what? Again—nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. I was not at a record-breaking dosage but at this point, I should at least feel…. tired? Something simple? No.
So my anxiety over this medication grew—especially since something this strong is somewhat of a last resort for my anxiety (and I was told so.) So now I’m faced with not trusting anything, as well the idea that I will never get better.
I went to another appointment, triple the dosage, the same thing. Another appointment, and somewhat against my doctor’s wishes, we tried what he considered the maximum dosage he would ever give to anyone.
I gave up hope for the anxiety to ever cease. From there I could get into a much longer story, but it ends well: during all of this, I was prescribed a medication specifically for OCD. It worked! Oh, it worked wonders! Still does. No, I am not cured, but it just wiped away a ton of the fog.
Now I was still stuck with the maximum dosage of benzodiazepines. And both my doctor and I decided we needed to taper me down off of them. Or at least get them down to a level that was realistic.
As this adventure took place, moving down a half-pill for a month, my brain instantly started the mistrusting game inside my head. Even though I knew I felt nothing from these medications, I started thinking I was having withdrawal symptoms. Thing is, I absolutely knew this was psychological. This was in my head, for absolute certain.
However with my OCD, I have two brains, and one of them remained convinced that I was having withdrawals from something that wasn’t even working! And I acted out on this. I presented all the actions one would from coming off a strongly controlled substance.
This continued through all of the taperings, until recently. Just days ago I went down another half-pill. I still find myself thinking I am experiencing latent anxiety because of this, but I’m learning that I have to trust my smart brain and muscle through my OCD’s irrational thinking.
This drug is hellish. And it turns out, even when it doesn’t work, and it does nothing… it is still hellish.