Anxiety creeps in…

Almost two weeks ago I made the decision to reduce the dose of antidepressant (effexor-xr) I’m taking. I’ve been doing exceptionally well of late and I’ve been stable for a couple of months now and I feel ready to give it a go. Because the tablets are slow release I can’t divide them up, so my only choice was to halve the dose.

I’ve felt pretty good since then. I’ve noticed an increase in restlessness at night, but I think that’s more about the changing season. My colleagues have been complaining of ill sleep lately too, so I haven’t been worried about it other than taking some herbal supplements to help a bit.

This morning is the first time I’ve noticed the return of my anxiety. Firstly, I slept pretty badly last night and my dreams left me uneasy. I slept through my alarm so I was behind the ball and rushed my way out of the house.

My car was booked for a service and I had to drop it there on my way to work, and that’s when anxiety struck.

I used to suffer pretty badly from social phobia and anxiety in general and although these days it’s almost completely absent this morning I felt the familiar butterflies in my stomach, dry mouth and light-headedness as I got closer to the mechanics.

I panicked a little as I realised I might be regressing as I withdraw from the medication slightly. My head was flooded with memories of long sleepless nights locked in angst, desperately holding myself and wishing for my thoughts to silence. Films about all the times I’ve publicly humiliated myself played out behind my eyes and I felt the embarrassment as solidly as if I were still there in those moments.

And then I reminded myself that what I was feeling was anxiety and it’s ok for me to feel it. I exhaled and imagined my stomach expanding to give the butterflies room to frolick and the sensation slowly eased. My muscles unlocked and I smiled as I turned my vehicle into the yard and parked it. I was ok. I had beaten it!

Buoyed by my success in employing the skills I’ve recently learned and practised in therapy, I breezed into the office and dropped off my key to the friendly (good looking!) mechanic.

As I sit here now in the sun waiting for a bus I know I can deal with anxiety if she rears her head again. I can use ACT-based* techniques to make space for it and let the sensations peak and fade without resistance, observing them with mild curiosity and a smile because I’ve made peace with them and they don’t own me anymore.

*ACT = acceptance and commitment therapy

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