I used to joke around saying “Thank God for Xanax” extremely often. That Brandi Glanville GIF is forever in my “Frequently Used GIFs” on Twitter. And I may have been “joking around” when I was saying it, but I wasn’t kidding. I honestly didn’t realize how dependent I had become on that little blue pill, until I didn’t have it anymore.
I haven’t been shy about the fact that I take anti depressants/anxiety meds, or that I suffer from anxiety and depression. I don’t think that it’s anything to be ashamed of, and I hate that there is such a stigma around mental illness. I hid my “issues” for a long time, and deciding to not be quiet about them was liberating to me. And if sharing my story helped even one person with their own struggle, then it was worth it.
I’ve been on a “Cocktail” of meds for a while. Zoloft, Effexor & Xanax. I’ve been on Zoloft off and on in the past, and I seem to always hit a wall with it – I plateau, and I get to a point where I don’t feel like the Zoloft is working any longer. So last January, I decided I was going to make a switch. I felt like I was in a better space emotionally, and I decided that I would wean off the Zoloft (entirely), and take a lower dose of Prozac in its place. Weaning off the Zoloft surprisingly wasn’t that hard. Not as hard as I imagined it to be. (And nothing like that time when I stopped my Zoloft cold turkey and experienced the worst anxiety I ever had, along with brain zaps.) Once I did that, and was on the Prozac, the Effexor was the next to go. My ultimate plan was to get off everything – except the Prozac, for now. But I figured since the Prozac was going to be at such a small dose, compared to the Zoloft, it would be a breeze to wean off of.
Weaning off Effexor was much harder than I imagined. I cut down from 150 mg to 75 mg, which I’m currently at. I felt like shit for two weeks. I was so emotional. I relied heavily on Xanax in that period, and it truly got me through. I popped my little blue and thought, “Thank God for Xanax.”
At my last appointment with my psychiatrist, I planned on picking up where I left off weaning off of the Effexor at the end of September, but the end of September came and I didn’t feel ready. There’s so much going on during the Fall months – I didn’t want to wean yet. After talking about it with my fiancé, I decided I would start weaning this winter. I have an appointment with my doctor on Halloween, so I’ll fill him in then.
Also, at my last appointment, I gave my doctor the okay to lower my quantity of Xanax. I was basically only taking it in the morning, and I figured I would be fine. And I was fine, for the most part. This past week, however, I felt anxious – I just felt off. I blogged about it. Unbalanced, off centered, whatever you want to call it. Without honestly even thinking twice about it, I popped a Xanax at bedtime, not even thinking that I was going to run out early. And I did run out early.
Cut to yesterday morning – I take my last Xanax pill, still not even realizing I’m out early. I call the pharmacy and get the automated line, and I’m surprised when I hear it tell me after I put in my Rx number that it’s too early to fill my script. I have them connect me to the pharmacy, where he confirms it is in fact too early to fill my prescription. I think nothing of this. “That’s fine,” I tell him, so nonchalantly. “You don’t have to put it through insurance, I’ll just pay out of pocket for it.” I’m sure you can imagine my dismay when I’m given a hard no. “But, I’m completely out,” I protest. This dude doesn’t care. I’m told to call my doctors office. “It’s Saturday,” I remind him, impatiently. “Can’t you give me a few to hold me over until I can get in touch with him Monday?” I’m basically laughed at. “I can’t give you anything without a prescription,” the pharmacist tells me. I’m pissed at this point, because I don’t understand why this guy is being so unreasonable about a Xanax. “I do have a prescription, it’s just early.” Again, my words fall on deaf ears.
I hang up, kind of shocked I was treated like a drug addict for asking for Xanax. So what that I finished my script early? It’s just a Xanax. You would’ve thought I was looking for Fentanyl or something. I was so annoyed, and I didn’t understand what the pharmacist’s problem was. I called my doctors office, hoping whoever was on call could help me. Turns out, no one was on call. I just got a standard voicemail. Okay, don’t panic, I tell myself. You can call Monday, and you’ll be fine until then. I could feel myself panicking a little internally. The feeling of not having any Xanax, my security blanket, felt foreign to me.
It’s now 9:02 PM on Sunday night, and it’s crazy how your feelings on something can change in such a short time span. Instead of, “Thank God for Xanax”, I feel more like, “I fucking hate Xanax.” It’s been over 24 hours since I’ve had my last dose (almost 48) and I feel awful. I feel like I’m withdrawing. I had a headache, I felt spacey, I felt paranoid, anxious and emotional – and I felt disgusted that I was so blasé about my Xanax use. I didn’t realize that I was so dependent on this drug. I googled Xanax withdrawals – did you know that withdrawal symptoms can start 8-12 hours after your last dose? Oh, and according to verywellmind.com 10-25% of longtime benzo users experience what’s known as protracted withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal is a prolonged withdrawal experience marked by waves of mild psychological symptoms that come and go over the course of several months. Protracted Xanax withdrawal can last up to one year.
Wtf? How did I not know this? Why didn’t I do more research? Why have I even been prescribed something like this for so long when something like protracted withdrawals can occur? I’m just anxious to talk to my doctor tomorrow. I know I need to wean off this, and I plan to, because I never want to feel this way again.
I’m also not hating on Xanax, because taken sparingly, it works. It’s a lifesaver for panic attacks. I’m hating on the way I was taking it. It’s so addictive, it’s not something I should’ve been taking every single day. But I did, because I felt like I would get anxious without it, and then I’d take it, and I’m not going to lie, I love the way Xanax makes me feel. I just feel so chill and relaxed. But nothing is currently worth feeling how I’m feeling right now.
Hopefully my doctor will fill my script early for me, because I can’t imagine going until Friday without it. I think I finally get it now, though. The pharmacist who I thought was being so dramatic wasn’t being dramatic, he was just doing his job. And he was apparently more informed than I was about something I was putting into my body daily.
There’s really no moral to this story. Basically, living with anxiety sucks, but you’re stronger than you believe – at least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I lay here with my heart racing. I’ve overcome a lot dealing with my anxiety, and I’ll overcome withdrawing from Xanax, too.
I guess just be mindful. Be more informed. Be careful not to become too dependent. I still believe that there is nothing wrong with taking medication – if you’re taking it correctly.