Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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You know we've got to find a way to bring some lovin' here today

How come all the women in mascara commercials wear fake eyelashes? This bothers me. What do fake eyelashes have to do with mascara? Seems like that's what I'd resort to if I didn't want the mascara. Like, the mascara commercials are pretty much an advertisement for the awesomeness of fake eyelashes. Every time I see them I think, Damn, fuck mascara, I should try me some of them fake eyelashes!

I started taking Paxil last week for the depression. It'll take a while to get into my system but I already feel better because I finally took action. The good doc also gave me something for anxiety, which works like magic. It's not something that gets you high, like Valium it just makes me feel okay if I'm going through a bad bout of anxiety. It's called Klonopin, I believe. It helps with the social anxiety disorder. The only way to describe social anxiety is an intense fear of being negatively evaluated by others or being embarrassed by something I say in a public setting. After each social encounter I replay conversations in my head and berate myself for things I said.

I also have generalized anxiety disorder which I figure a lot of folks suffer from and don't realize that's what that feeling is. It's charactized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any particular object or situation. You feel anxiety about something but can't really articulate what it is. Your brain constantly whirls and you have a hard time controlling worries. Anyway, I think that's what's at the crux of my drinking. Hopefully, once the Paxil kicks in it'll dial down the anxiety.

I'm curious about your experiences with depression, anxiety and how you dealt with the problem as well as possible side effects from medications you may have been prescribed. I'm concerned about drinking while on medication too. Of course they say not to but I know I'll still have that glass of wine or beer every now and again. And sex drive... always an issue with anti-depressants. What are your experiences? I'm gonna open comments for this one, so if anyone's still out there... have at it.

Reader Comments (55)

Hi Monica, glad you're addressing everything that's going on in your grey matter. Me? Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, yes-- I did not leave my apartment at one, terrible point. I'm the first one to say: 'fraaaaeeeeeeek', but that's what happened and it's kind of funny that I really don't feel any shame about the weirdness that was my life back then.

My psychiatrist noted that Paxil seems to work for anxiety the best out of all SSRIs, so it seems you're on the right road. You'll notice that you'll have to take less and less of the Klonopin as soon as your brain has enough Paxil workin' on it.

Paxil was a god(dess) send for me. Not only did it help with the panic, but I can honestly say that when my brain finally started working properly, I could almost feel a -click- and I could FINALLY think clearly. What a fucking relief.

The Paxil also helps with depression which a lot of times comes along with the anxiety. Lawd, I don't really talk about this stuff, except with very close friends, but I thought you'd like to hear someone else's experience which is kind of similar to yours.

PS Still love your blog.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Hey Monica...good wishes to you throughout all of this. I'm a recent reader of your blog and I love it. You're an excellent writer.

I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder in the 6th times. I was on Anafranil back in the day (early 1990s), then off, then on Paxil in high school and early college (late 1990s), and now on Celexa since 2000. Paxil was great for me at the time but I do remember it was tough physically going on and off it. Do not be discouraged. These meds take awhile to work their way into your system and your body needs time to adjust.

I personally love Celexa. It's a small does to manage my daily anxiety and keep any full-blown panic attacks at bay.

You're not alone...there are millions of us out there. It may take awhile to find the right dose/medicine...but it WILL happen. Good luck to you and best wishes.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I take klonopin at night when anxiety and racing brain are keeping me up. I love it. It immediately slows down my brain and allows me to ease in to sleep. I'm generally an anxious person- and find that exercise helps me immensely. I've had waves of depression over the past 22 months or so after my Father died- and although it is tempting to give in to the sadness and wallow in it- I talk it out with trusted people and make sure I take care of myself while moving through it- that will change depending on who you are and who you have around you. The klonopin was a godsend during that time because it allowed me to sleep.
My mom has utilized antidepressants often throughout my life as she suffers from an anxiety disorder and they have always done wonders for her, they help her get through the bad cycles and after some experience she can now judge when its time for her to come off of them. She currently has a wonderful therapist which has also helped. I believe from experience that therapy and medication are the best bet for anyone with anxiety or depression. The combination of the two can be a wonderful and powerful tool.
Keep talking about it- it is so stigmatized in our society- and I find it sad that people fear going on medication or talking to therapist- it can do wonders.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

I love your blog, and I'm sorry you're going through all this. Two friends on Paxil have had really good results. My mom's on Prozac, and she says, generally speaking, there are no side effects. Wellbutrin is the one antidepressant that's supposed to have positive sexual side effects - had a friend on that, and he swore by it in terms of the sexual side effects (easier arousal, better orgasms), but it didn't work for him to end his depression until he combined it with paxil, which counteracted those particular benefits.

Drinking when you're depressed is a little like drinking to go to sleep. When you start doing it, you start needing it, your insomnia gets worse and worse, and then you need to go through some really bad, sleepless nights in order to be able to sleep again without it again. Only substitute "depression" for "insomnia" and "be happy" for "sleep" in the preceding sentence. At least try to go without drinking long enough to give your body a chance to adjust to the medication, so if it doesn't work for you, you can know its the particular pill you're taking and not the alcohol interfering with its effects. Good luck with everything!

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEnna

Monica, I just wanted to tell you I KNOW you will make it through this. I also wanted to say hi and that I am excited to see you Monday at work. Talk to you then!!

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNika

Hi, Monica. Although it's depressing (haha) in and of itself to see that someone else has the same problems with depression and anxiety, I've found it heartening in a way to read your blog and realize that there's someone out there who suffers from the same things as I do. I went undiagnosed for years and years and years... because though my mom's been in therapy for years and years and years I never made the connection that what I could be feeling could have some relation to what she suffered from. We don't talk about THOSE kinds of things in my family, good Lord! In fact, I had a hard time convincing anyone I was depressed because I am such a highly functioning normal-appearing individual on the outside. Still do. ("YOU'RE depressed? But you look so NORMAL!" Um, gee, thanks??) Anyway, I've been on Prozac, and that just made me apathetic... I wasn't quite depressed but I didn't really care much about anything. I was on Effexor XR for awhile, but the dose I was on wasn't high enough to really help much, and I in fact had one of my worst depressive episodes ever while on Effexor, so for awhile I refused to take anything, believing that the meds didn't made things worse. I eventually got so desperate I found an intelligent doctor (not a shrink, not actually an MD, even, a PA) who actually listened to me and right now we're experimenting with Cymbalta and I really like it. I haven't gone on any anti-anxiety meds yet because the Cymbalta's working pretty well in conjunction with Topamax, a medication I take for migraines (yep, I'm a right regular pharmacopoeia) to turn the volume down on the free-form anxiety a bit. Plus the anxiolytics can be a bit on the addictive side... Klonopin included, just in case your doctor didn't happen to go over that happy side effect with you. As far as drinking, well, I don't totally abstain, but I do drink occasionally and so far my liver seems to be in good shape. I have noticed that I don't have the tolerance that I used to, but that may be more the Topamax than anything, because you really aren't supposed to drink when you're on it, but I really hardly ever do so I figure one night once in awhile may even be therapeutic. Who knows? I think you've mentioned that the alcohol is self-medicating for you, and hopefully when the Paxil kicks in you won't need it like you do now and I don't see any reason to become a teetotaler. I'm sorry I don't have any experience with Paxil, but everyone's experience is different anyway, so just hang in there and wait for it to work. It took my Cymbalta about eight weeks before I was like, "holy shit! There's no buzzing! Where did the buzzing in my brain go? Is this what it's like to be a normal brain?" Seriously, it's better now. I hope this is helpful. I'm sure you have plenty of people to talk to, but feel free to email me if you'd like to talk further.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTD

Hey Monica! I think its something with our generation or maybe the school we went to (it's Andrea Ercanbrack)LOL!!! Anyways I just started Cymbalta today and so I cant say much but I am praying to god it works!!! Good luck on your journey hun!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I really hope this helps you out. After years of horrible anx/dep and trying to tough it out, my dr. prescribed lexapro. it is the best thing i ever did and i regret not doing it sooner. it does double duty and controls both the anx and the dep. it took 3 weeks to turn things around but wow!! i'm so thankful. it really just broke the horrible cycle i was stuck in and enabled me to get back to feeling normal. it didn't flatten my moods...but it did make my moods less volatile feeling. i took it for 6 months and stopped because we were trying to conceive--that was about a year ago. no baby but the horrible anxiety never came back either but believe if/when it does i will be at the drs office the next morning. there is NO reason to suffer like this anymore.

and keep in mind if you don't like paxil, try another...everyone gets different reactions from different drugs. it is so worth feeling good again it is worth finding what works for you.

good luck girl.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersusan

Hi Monica,
I have been on Paxil for over 10 years for panic-disorder. I take 20 mg and it is a godsend. I used to freak out whenever I was in a line, elevator and/or in front of people. It takes 6-8 weeks to kick in but hang in there!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

I'm in the process of deciding whether or not to take anti-depressants. I've been seeing a shrink for a few months now which has helped some and have been diagnosed with dysthymia (low-grade depression), which is probably why I haven't taken the leap to taking the drugs since it has never been seemingly severe enough. I also appreciate your openess with it and for starting dialogue about mental wellness, maybe this will be the push that I need.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShawna

I cannot say enough good things about klonopin. I have the same exact social anxiety as you. Even if I haven't said anything wrong or acted like hell on wheels, I still FEEL like I have. That is what people don't understand. I announce that I am socially awkward and neurotic because of all of this and people chime in with "But you are FINE" etc. I probably am just fine and haven't done anything out of the ordinary but ai always, always feel as though I have. It's a hard road.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.

I have social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I deal with it by seeing a therapist once a week, eating a very healthy diet, drinking very little alcohol (maybe one glass of wine per month), supplementing with omega 3s, meditation and exercise. I exercise at the level of an athlete -- I'm a competitive boxer. This keeps me sane. On the other hand, it's a constant battle to maintain balance -- sometimes I exercise too much because I love the adrenaline and endorphin rush, and that triggers my obsessive tendencies. The good thing is that I've learned to identify my triggers, and they are alcohol and junk food -- too much of that and I go into a huge downward spiral. Also, I have a stressful job and too much stress at work can trigger a meltdown unless I find time to meditate.
I've often wondered about drugs, but never taken them. I have a feeling they wouldn't work for me, and that's why I cope as I cope. My best to you and I commend you for taking action. I hope that what you are doing helps you cope. These disorders can be crippling and it's such a battle -- and such a huge victory when we find a way to cope. Big hugs.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Oh, and can I recommend some reading material that makes me feel peaceful and helps with my anxiety? If you haven't read it, check out "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. A lot of the stuff that's in there helps me come back off the ledge when I get too much negative chatter in my head. There's another book called "If the Buddha Got Stuck" by Charlotte Kasl that I found very helpful for dealing with negativity and anxiety.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I was diagnosed as having chronic severe depression in 2001 and I was put on Celexa. I loved that drug! When I moved from Montana to Louisiana, my new doctor put me on Lexapro. It was great until I have a manic episode. Apparently, Lexapro can trigger rapid manic cycling in undiagnosed bipolars. That combined with the outrageous self-medicating I was doing with alcohol led me to be hospitalized in 2004 and diagnosed bipolar.

I was originally put on Depakote and Wellbutrin, but I was allergic to one/or both so they put me on Risperdol. I hated that drug (it causes weight gain and I am a recovering anorexic). Then I was put on Effexor and Lithium. Eventually I stopped taking the Effexor and am solely on Lithium. Love it!

When I go manic and can't sleep, I take Trazadone. Ambien doesn't make me sleep, it just makes me feel drunk. They tried Klonopin to make me sleep, but it didn't do anything at all for me except mellow me out, but I didn't sleep. So I went with dirt-cheap, non-habit forming Trazadone.

As with any mood disorder/mental illness, behavior modification is key. Along with taking my meds religiously, I gave up drinking and pot, severely limit fried and fatty foods, started exercising every day, and I set a schedule for sleep that I stick to. And I limit my stress as much as possible since stress is a major trigger of manic episodes.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

My depression was caused by drinking. I wasn't honest with my therapist about my alcohol use, so he went ahead and put me on Effexor and Klonopin. My side effcts were weight loss, zero appetite and suicidal thoughts. When taken with alcohol, I became totally irrational and insane. After 2 years of hell, I went off the Meds, went to an outpatient rehab and started going to AA. It's been 3 years, and I have been totally free of depression.

Please be careful, if you're going to drink while on Meds.

Best wishes.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I took Paxil for several years and loved it. For me it started working after about a week. I didn't notice any weird side effects, and when I decided (with my Dr. of course) that I was ready to stop taking it, it was very easy to come off of.

Good luck with everything!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWendi

I was having all kinds of crazy problems, and was diagnosed with bipolar and got on depakote and paxil. However, the problem was really my drinking, and those drugs just made me absolutely crazy and psychotic. I finally got to AA and got off all those meds, and I'm fine now.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commentershay

Holy Shit! That is what I thought when I found I was depressed. All the drugs they wanted to prescribe - what a bunch of crap. Try EFT Get your bodies energies flowing in the right direction (same premise with a lot of other eastern thought - i.e. buddhism). I went the non-drug route becasue I have never read, seen, heard a drug that will cure ANYTHING!!. It will only treat a symptom, and then you become a great customer to the pharmaceutical. Don't get me wrong, I believe depression is very very real. Try some energy medicine before forming a dependency on the the pharma.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEx-Depressed

I've got nothing for you on the drugs, but I am so with you on the mascara commercials. Fing Beyonce, with her fake eyelashes! And then we wonder why ours don't look like that? But those fake ones look tricky and scary. Unless you have a makeup artist on call.

Oh, wait! My friend did drink in moderation on her anti-depressants. I know nothing about the chemical reactions with that, but she did find one that didn't take away her sex drive, and one she could drink a glass of wine on, once in a while. I don't think they were the same ones. That's not very helpful, is it? I'll ask her for you. xoxo

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEDW

Hi Monica. I've had depression ranging from mild to moderate for as long as I can remember of my teenage and adult life (I'm 26). I take 10 mg of Prozac daily. It really helps 'take the edge off,' both of the depression and the anxiety. I have a pretty bad temper, and the Prozac helps me feel calm and focused and not be so quick to lash out in anger. The only side effect I've noticed is not my sex drive itself---that's still strong---just a difficulty physically reaching orgasm during sex. I eventually get there, it just takes a little longer than before the Prozac.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

I am all about the meds! I don't care what anyone says ;) They rock.

That said, I also get acupuncture, do yoga, take herbs, exercise, and see a therapist. I tried all of those things WITHOUT the meds but in the end, I needed the meds too. And I am not ashamed one freaking little bit that I take them!

(I have generalized anxiety disorder like you.)

I am also a really social I drink. I drink often. And the one bad thing is that the meds (for clarification I currently take Celexa and sometimes Klonopin) totally throw a wrench into my night if I drink too much. I black out much easier, I think, so I have to be careful.

(I do not have a drinking problem, I just go out a lot.)

So you be careful too ;)

And oh, the evil Paxil! It was the first anti-depressant I ever took. I hated it. It was awful for my libido, my energy level was low, and I got extremely ill trying to get off of it, even with the recommended tapering. I think it's considered a pretty old-school drug these days, as there are newer ones on the market that have less side effects.

However, each drug works differently for each person, so that's just me! Know that you have other good options if Paxil treats ya bad.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrosalicious

General stuff about the Paxie:

I had a difficult time getting on it, and experienced a lot of side effects- increased anxiety (!), sweating, insomnia but they faded away after a while- although I continued to have sexual disfunction (delayed orgasm, which is a drag) Unfortunately, there is no way to know how your body is going to react, and you just have to go the trial-and-error route. Talk to your doc if you do have some sexual side effects, there are other methods to try. It's amazing how people react so very differently.

I would say that you should be very, very aware of your drinking. Some people get drunk quicker, some not at all, some people just get tired. My rule is: only two. Again, you just have to wait and see (feel like a guinea pig, yet?).

I hope you can talk to Serge every day, and that you have your loved-ones close! Lean on a therapist and don't be afraid that if you start crying that you'll never stop... I cried Every.Single.Day for at least 6 months and then -whew- I started to feel better.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

hmmm. i should have mentioned that drinking while on lexapro GREATLY enhances the effect of the booze. i wound up totally shit faced on several occasions without intending to... be very careful.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersusan

Meds are fantastic! I think it depends what you are on whether to worry about the drinking. I know several people on paxil that have a glass of wine often and are fine. I on the other hand started cymbalta,about 6 months ago. I think I suffered from postpartum depression which I denied for well over a year to those closest to me, until I almost drove them away, absolutely everything was too much to handle and I couldn't make any decisions, even simple conversations and tasks at work overwhelmed me.

I finally gave in and told my doctor my husband was going to divorce me if I didn't do something about my moods without telling my husband I knew I had a problem. After getting the meds, telling him was a relief hopefully I would be fixed and thankfully I quickly became my old self. Not knowing much about the dosages for paxil, I know in my case they started me on a low dose and after about 3 months I relapsed to my old anxiety and they increased my dose. Ever since things have been wonderful and I'm scared to go off it now..... The things you don't even know about your closest friends - Love ya sister!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNM

social anxiety disorder<>having a blog
social anxiety disorder=not writing about your theatrical personal life making sure that 15% of the world population that has an internet connection won't be able to reply to you with lame emotional emails about how they identify with you or completely pity your dramatic persona making you feel even more desperate either way
thegirlwho=the cry for attention that has never been given by mommy/hubby
social anxiety disorder<>not being able to shut your trap about how messed up your emotional state of mind supposedly is
alcoholism<>drinking 3 bud lights a night
alcoholism=rum and coke drink=85% rum/16% coke

Go emo.


I mean it sincerely...Having a husband that is away more often than not, would depress anyone. Don't assume you have all of these phychological "conditions". Assume you are a normal, intelligent, beautiful girl who just may be neglected & lonely.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSpringstine

People who have mood disorders ARE normal, they simply have a brain chemistry imbalance... do not speak of what you do not know and have not experienced.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfyi

I do know. I have experienced. I have observed.

"People who have mood disorders ARE normal."

Sure, they are. However, meds can also be overprescribed. Conditions such as schizophrenia and BiPolar disorder absolutely require an RX intervention. Mood disorders can also be quite vaque and generic.

Perhaps not dealing directly with the problems in our lives (leaning on drugs, alcohol or antidepressants) may actually prevent us from learning important coping skills and life lessons. Not unlike Gastric Bypass instead of diet and exercize.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSpringstine

If you've ever had a debilitating mood disorder, you would not describe the treatment as 'leaning on drugs'. Shall we suggest to those who have diabetes or rely on a dialysis machine to learn some coping skills?

There may be people who want to 'escape' their problems, but there are many whose brain chemistry does
properly. Contributing to the stigma regarding these people unfortunately sometimes keeps them from seeking treatment.

Now, I'm going to go excercize 'cause I hear it's great for anxiety and avoiding gastic bypass surgery.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfyi

Brittania - what kind of asshole takes the time to call out someone for admitting they worry about being an alcoholic and that they saw a doctor because they have anxiety? Maybe Monica's blog is an outlet for the things she doesn't feel she can say to people, hence the SOCIAL anxiety. What kind of bully dumbass makes fun of someone who might really have issues with either their parents or husband? Are you perfect? Probably not. Your definition of alcoholism is bullshit - it's different for everyone and I don't think Monica called herself an alcoholic - she said she worries about it. Go crawl back in your sad little high school mentality.

Monica, I still read every day and love the blog whether you allow comments or not. More power to you.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

Well said Gemma! No wonder our world is so messed up, people walking around with that kind of bullshit attitude. Kinda scary. I love the blog Monica. I've been reading for a while now and just love it. This is Oaklees little sis, by the way. She loves it too. Keep it up you have an amazing talent.

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDez

my comment is mostly to say i hope you and serge are both well. hang in and take care.


March 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkasey

Hey, I frequent your blog, but haven't ever commented before.

My doctor started me on Lexapro (an SSRI like Paxil & Prozac) for depression & generalized anxiety (after trying to "tough it out" on my own for seven years), and I did not like the side effects at all. SSRIs have a reputation for a drop in libido, and sometimes an inability to orgasm, and sure enough, that happened to me. It sucked. I was just never in the mood and when I did have sex I felt kind of numb. What good is an antidepressant when your relationship gets blue balls and it makes you and your partner irritated and stressed?

It totally helped the anxiety, but more to the point of "I just don't give a shit about anything." And it made me tired (sleeping about 12 hours a day) and unmotivated. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch shitty tv when I got home.

He switched me to Wellbutrin and it has been a world of difference. I don't know why doctors always seem to prescribe SSRIs first, maybe they get a bigger kickback from the drug companies or something. Wellbutrin is the only antidepressant that isn't an SSRI, I think. It's some kind of... bupriopin? I know I mangled the spelling, but it works differently than the others. I would highly recommend it if you get some unwanted side effects from your SSRI and want to switch. Wellbutrin is actually proven to RAISE your libido in many cases! It gives you energy throughout the day, and it doesn't have half the side effects of SSRIs. You usually lose some weight on it too. Girls will never complain about that.

About the doctor told me to avoid it for a while until the drug got in my system, since alcohol is a depressant and it can mess up the chemistry when it interacts with your antidepressant, so I haven't been drinking. I have some friends who are on SSRIs though and they say they drink, and they get drunk off one or two drinks, and it's a sleepy kind of buzz. Alternately, I've heard some people say they got nauseous and threw up from just two drinks.

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Jane

I'm glad you opened this one up for comments--it is obvious that you have much support through your readers and there is a whole lotta love here. Hang in there through the transition to taking meds. In my experience, it has helped as well. And overall, just think--you are making realizations about your life... you are growing and learning, just like the rest of us!

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

When I was a young adult, I was shuttled from doctor to doctor in search of something that would "fix" me. I was consecutively diagnosed with: add, adhd, depression, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, borderline personality disorder. I was put on (to my memory, it's a blurry time): cylert, adderall, prozac, zoloft, celexa, risperdol, trazadone, klonopin, klonopin patches, cylexa, lithium, depakote, seroquel...

After my parents kicked me out, I went on a seven month retreat, living by myself in a tiny apartment. I taught myself Buddhism and Dialectic Behavioral Therapy. After the first three weeks, I was med free. A decade later, I still am.

My real problems: abusive father, codependent mother, cripplingly low self esteem, and no coping skills. My life had trained me to respond to the world in a certan way, and that way was killing me.

When I returned to the world, I discovered that my younger sister had been on antidepressants that "triggered a manic attack"--just as they had for me. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A few years later, she did DBT, and became med free.

If there were something permanently wrong with our "brain chemistry", as the PDOC's would have us believe, neither of us would have been able to accomplish this. But in truth, antidepressants CAN stimulate a "manic" attack in anyone. Bipolar is one of the most over-diagnosed disorders in the country, and doctors refuse to acknowledge that the stimulant drugs they give their patients might have something to do with it. (get high, crash, get high, crash, get high...sounds familiar?)

Anyway, I'm glad you're seeking treatment and cutting back on the beer-- but please be careful with yourself, especially when it comes to medication. The mental health industry is dangerously flawed, just as it's always been (electroshock therapy or lobotomies, anyone? After all, they were considered lifesaving breakthroughs in their time.). Since living through a mental health nightmare, then working in the industry, I can say without hesitation that there are more problems and ethical quandaries you can possibly imagine.

DBT uses a lot of zen buddhism in it's philosophy, so if that appeals to you, you might want to give it a shot. It's just a new way of doing things, a new way of approaching life...and doesn't require chemical intervention.

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbeth

LEXAPRO. LEXAPRO. LEXAPRO. THE BEST for anxiety and depression. Ask your doctor directly about drinking on meds. S/he should tell you exactly what you should or should not do. Take care of yourself.

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBeen there

I don't have much to say about medication, I just wanted you to know that I read your blog religiously and even go back and read old entries over again when you stopped posting so regularly. You really put yourself out there and your honesty is so refreshing. It makes me feel better about my own messed up stuff.

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAimee

Hi Monica,

I totally agree with Susan. I've been on antidepressants for more than five years and the only thing I regret is not going on them sooner. It really felt like I wasted so much time being needlessly depressed. Now I feel like the self I always knew I could be. Good luck to you. I hope this drug works, but if it doesn't, don't give up, just try another prescription!

March 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGypsy

Feel the fear and take the anti-depressants anyway

There is this girl I like. I've never met her. I stumbled upon her one drunken evening when I was digging around (actually her husband's led me to her - I like his band - having been to 2 of their gigs, including on when I was 7 months pregnant). Since then, I've popped my head round her blog door quite often - she writes the way I think. She's a kindred spirit even if she doesn't know me. The other day she mentioned that she had started taking medication for depression/anxiety. It's a brave move to announce on a blog, no matter how open one is. So I thought I'd show Monica - for that's her name, some moral support and admit that I too have been along a similar path.

Last November I ran home to Ireland. Escaping myself and my grey London existence. My lack of work, the drudgery of motherhood's household tasks and long dark days when the husband would go to work and come home at 3am had conspired to rob me of any optimism, any joy. Everything my Mother did made me want to tear out my hair. The poor woman couldn't even make me a cup of tea without me raging at her. She had just split up with her husband and instead of comforting her - all I could think was - another man you have brought into my life as a afther figure to snatch out again. Anyway, one morning I dashed out - storming away from my toddler son, determined to relaim ME - and walked to the sea across from my Mother's house. It was the coldest greyest day even by Northern Ireland standards - with huge storm clouds brewing over restless water. I sat on a rock and wept. I had no idea how to dig myself out of the hole I was in. Every which way I turned it seemed impossible to break into Tv drama for work. The presenting work had dried up and I was washed up. Husband worked such crazy hours that I ate most meals alone; TV and books my only companions. Friends were well meaning, but busy. People have their own lives to lead. Some days the only people I spoke to were the women at the gym creche or a supermarket checkout girl in Sainsburies. Loneliness is cruel. It creeps up on you. What had once been a choc full diary of a single girl hot-footing it around London, lay empty. Other mothers terrified me - they were confident, over powering and seemed to love the happy clappy groups that I loathed. I felt like I didn't fit it anywhere. Husband tried to be sympathetic, but he wasn't around long enough daily to really be there for me. I hated him and his ability to walk out the door and have a life, while I was left holding the (beautiful) baby. Adjusting to motherhood had taken its toll. I loved my son with all my heart, but I mourned my life and what it had been - the freedom I had had.

When I realised I wanted to curl into a ball and not wake up (the irony being I was a Samaritan this whole time, every other week helping suicidal and unhappy people and yet I was unable to help myself) I knew I had to do something. Going home seemed to be the only answer. My poor Mother - plagued with worry, watched me stumble through days and collapse into bed, tired and weepy - dragged me to the Dr and made me get help. The Dr calmly offered me tablets - I could hardly see her I was weeping so much. I cried to my friend Nikki on the phone - worried that this was just further evidence of my failings. She told me she was surprised I hadn't crumbled earlier. Other friends echoed these sentiments. I succumbed and took the tablets - Citalopram. But by god, they worked. I've still had the odd weep. I've still worried about work - and how the hell I will pay the mortgage when we move in 6 weeks or so. But by the third day of taking them I didn't feel rage pulsate through every nerve threatening to engulf me. I didn't feel so low I dreamt of climbing out of skin and becoming someone else - anyone, just to not be me. I stopped hating the one man who loves me above all. I stopped despairing and started believing in myself again. It's still a rocky road. I'm not there yet. Maybe I will never be 'there.' But I know I did the right thing. I know my Mum was right to try and help me - because my glass was so damn empty it was dry. Citalopram made me breathe again. The blackness faded and life became bearable and brighter. I coped with Motherhood rather than feeling trapped and caged. It didn't solve my problems but it made me able to deal with them, to be rational, to cope.

So good luck Monica - you took the right step. Whatever works for you can never be wrong. I no longer feel like I failed. I defy anyone to go through the year I had and not turn to something to get them through. I'm glad I had - or my Mother had - the serenity to know the things she couldn't change, the courage to change the things she could for me and the wisdom to know the difference.

Crummy Mummy

March 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCrummy Mummy

A longtime lurker that has never posted. You have such a great, conversational, humorous writing style. I feel like I know you and we've hung out even though that probably sounds creepy. I enjoy how you always find the humor even in posts that are sad. I wish you the all best on this journey to find the right meds. My theory; if you were a diabetic you'd need insulin and if you're depressed you need something just the same. It's no different.

March 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLuke

I went on Pamelor recently. It makes me really tired and the drinking is not so good. But I get monthly migraines as well and this is supposed to help. On top of that I am taking Xanax which has really been helping with my panic attacks. I've only been on the pills a short time but drinking was intensified which isn't always a great thing! I wish you the best on your journey, let us know how it goes!

March 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterUnderemployed girl

I have not been diagnosed with anything, but I have serious problems when it comes to social anxiety. I always replay conversation after conversation and worry that I sounded dumb, or that people thought I was dumb etc..My (sort of rational) side tells myself that people don't think about me as much as I think they do ...but I constantly worry about's hard to describe.

Because of the anxiety you describe, i'm suprised ( in a good way) that you have this blog. i would edit, and re-edit, and delete, and there would not be any point for me to have it because it would be a constant source of worry.

In addition to my anxiety, I also drink too much, but I'm not sure if that is because of my anxiety or because I have other problems. I think when one starts wondering if they have a drinking problem...then there probably is a problem..maybe I should see someone about that!

March 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterteres

Paxil 30MG since 2003.
Not the-end-all-be-all, IMO.
The real secret is spiritual.
Your Buddhist studies are drawing you closer but not quite there.
It will take a while and a while after that.
Hope it helps!
If you need the short-hand version, try THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE UNIVERSE by Gary Renard (sic).

March 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjoe

Hope you did research on Paxil before beginning to take it. My daughter had a very tough time when she stopped taking it and ended up in a Meth. clinic. Don't mean to be an alarmist, but I have heard this drug is very dangerous in the long run treatment. Unless you plan to stay on it the rest of your life, then worry about your liver (sorry....I have lived through this with my daughter)

March 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermary

I hope you do well. I really enjoy your candor here and you may not believe it, but you are much stronger than you know.

I went the med route about the same age you are now. I finally said to myself - you now you lived 30 years without out and dealt, you can do it again - but I know that doesnt work for everyone, so no judgment that you have chosen that route.

With that said, if the word Effexor is ever mentioned - run like hell. That is awful stuff. Been off four years now and still STILL get the brain buzz once in a while. Had taken Paxil before that, and did OK - expect a little weight gain (5-10). Doctor also told me it was OK to stay on while pregnant but I worked in a doc's office and talked to the rep of the drug who shook his head and said 'no - you need to get off of it'. I did & it wasnt too hard. From there I tried Prozac, which was OK, but it seemed like every afternoon around 3 pm, I'd have a little burst of emotion, like all the things I had let roll exploded. So from there is where I went to the Effexor, which initially was good, but again, coming off is PURE HELL.

Give me a freakin Percocet the size of my head though, and all the pain goes away. ;)

March 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJust Me

To clarify - I went off the Paxil & meds completely while pregnant. Went back on the Prozac a couple of months after the birth.

March 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJust Me

First, I just want to say that I applaud you for putting it out there for so many people who are/have also suffered from anxiety and/or depression. I have generalized anxiety disorder. I have tried several of the SSRI's. I have to say that Paxil was not good for me b/c it decreased my libido, and I gained about 20 lbs on it w/o changing my diet AT ALL. After going through the SSRI's and experiencing similar side effects (Effexor was the hardest to wean off of - had flu-like symptoms), my dr tried putting my on Wellbutrin, which doesn't have the typical side effects of SSRI's. Unfortunately, 3 wks into it, when I was feeling well, I broke out in terrible hives all over my body, so I had to stop taking it. I am now taking Xanax XR, which is a time-released Xanax, so it just keeps me on an even keel all day. I take one pill in the am and one at bed time. I also take Lorazepam. Most people would say that these meds are addictive, but aren't all meds when you take them on a daily basis? I am on low doses of both meds, and I haven't had an anxiety attack in AGES, whereas, I used to have them several times a week; they were crippling. The meds have changed my life. I don't have the SSRI side effects, and I am able to do what I used to be terrified of doing - just living my life w/o fear of having an anxiety attack. Worth everything to me!! Good luck to you. I really wish you well. Remember, the meds take a few wks to kick in, so be patient, and I would try to hold off on drinking so that you will know if it's the med working, or if it's the alcohol just numbing you. Give it a chance! Again, all the best to you!

March 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Monica, well done for having the guts to do something positive and pro-active about how you were feeling, and even more well done for having the courage and generosity to share this experience with your audience. You and Mr Monica are some of THE very best people in my life, and I'm sure in the lives of everyone who has the honour to know you.
I was very impressed with how clearly you seem to understand the way your thinking and feeling processes work (or sometimes don't work) for you, and of course I'd like to send you out every last little bit of support, good thoughts and praise that I can for you as a human being and as a writer.
Most of the very best people I know tend to take the views of others very seriously, perhaps because they feel (mistakenly in my view) that they themselves are 'typical' and that the opinions of other people are, like their own, based on reasoned consideration and produced by fully-functioning human brains.
However, it has been my experience that this is just not the case. Many, many people (poor things) are driven to form and then broadcast opinions predominantly on the basis of a deep well of spite and envy, jealousy and rage - and not on any kind of reasoned consideration at all.
And the higher you fly, and the happier you seem, the harder that menagerie of sad, misguided, under-loved, pencil-dicked little fuckwits will try to shoot you down.
I am perfectly OK with people defining their resultant (and VERY real) unhappiness in medical terms as depression. My feeling is that everyone should do what works for him or herself. But it seems to me that much of our upbringing is dedicated, overtly and otherwise, to making us as children and teenagers and young adults 'well adjusted'. 'Well adjusted', that is, to a world which is not 'well adjusted' at all.
Like many of my very favourite writers, my feeling is that you write because you need to write; not to impress others, or to show off, or to make money, or any of those other 'external' reasons we are given for doing things.
My favourite musicians - and we all know who THEY are - do the same thing. In the same way. For the same reasons.
And it is NOT the writers, or the musicians, who are fucked up. It is the world that they write about. And the world that they write, and live, in. It was fucked before we got here. It will be fucked long after we are gone.
The use and abuse of drugs, alcohol, medication... they are ALL, along with religion and rock and roll, entirely sane and reasonable, and understandable, ways in which basically sane and reasonable people try to cope - try to stay afloat - in an entirely insane and unreasonable world, a world in which the shit just keeps on rising.

March 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Murff

Just Me--coming off Effexor was truly horrible. No one tells you about that, the buzzing and weird capsizy vertigo that lasts for weeks no matter how slowly you go. I've been on them all. Zoloft was my First and will always be special to me. But lexapro has held steady the longest...good luck to all.

March 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterO

Hear, hear Paul Murff!

March 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNiedlchen

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