I last wrote about my anxiety well over a month ago, and figured it was time to pass along an update. That night I was worrying about an upcoming Calculus II test*, and was concerned that my anxiety meds -20 mg of buspirone twice daily- weren’t helping enough. I could tell that my anxiety was lower than before I started taking the buspirone, but it was still higher than I was happy with.
What I purposefully omitted in that last post was that I was having increasingly frequent and unnerving bouts of what is probably best described as existential depression, although I am reluctant to use the term ‘depression.’ I was having persistent thoughts along the lines of, “What’s the purpose of my life?” I’m never going to accomplish anything important.” “Maybe I’m just going to be sad forever.” “I’m not fulfilled by what I’m currently doing (work, school, social activity, etc), and what if I never find meaning and fulfillment?” “If I’m doomed to live a sad and meaningless life until I die, maybe it would be better to just be dead.”
Allow me to expound a little more about that last one. Just as I’m reluctant to use the word “depression”- mostly out of embarrassment and denial that I probably was somewhat depressed- I’m also reluctant to use the word “suicidal” because I don’t think the word truly fits my feelings. I had passing thoughts that my life is going to be miserable and I’ll only find relief and comfort once I pass away, but I never actively wanted to die and never found myself planning ways to make it happen. I’m actually rather scared of death and am in no hurry to get there! That incongruity between my thoughts (might as well be dead) and what I know my feelings really are (scared of death) was also a rather unnerving experience.
One day while at work, my existentialism turned in on itself and I found myself nearly panicked by the thought, “What’s the point of even wondering what the point is?” As I type it out now it seems like a funny thing to worry about, but at the time I was seriously worked up over the idea that everything was pointless and I shouldn’t even bother trying to make myself happy because that was pointless too.
Thankfully, I managed to hold on to a few of my logical faculties and realized that I needed help. It was no fun being sad and confused and mentally uncomfortable as often as I was getting to be, and I wanted those thoughts and feelings to go away. I talked to Ben about what was going on, and he suggested I make a doctor’s appointment to discuss my meds and see what can be done.
So I did, and I had an appointment the next week. The nurse practitioner I really wanted to see only had available appointments at times that just wouldn’t work for me, so I had to settle for the same guy who tried to write me an antibiotic for allergies it the past, an action for which I still judge him to be incompetent. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly comfortable unpacking my issues with him, so instead I did some research with the help of Ben and Google, and went to my appointment ready to request the SSRI antidepressant citalopram which goes by the brand name Celexa. It obviously has anti-depression effects, is commonly used to treat social anxiety, and is less frequently used for GAD like I have. Sounded worth a shot.
That was about 3 weeks ago. I’ve stopped taking the buspirone and started taking 20 mg of citalopram once a day. I’m definitely feeling happier now. I’m having fewer thoughts about the meaninglessness of life, and I’m able to not dwell on the ones that do pop up. However, I’m not sure it’s helping much with my generalized anxiety. I find myself still getting very worked up about my classes, homework, work responsibilities, etc. About a week after I switched meds, I found myself biting off all my fingernails in the middle of Calculus class- a habit I thought I broke over a year ago. I also find that the med often makes me very tired. Within 30 minutes to an hour of taking it, I’m out like a light bulb, so I have to take it at night before bed. Then the next morning I’m able to get up and get going, but then have a hard time staying up and going. I’ve been fighting the “head nods” in my classes and drinking a lot more caffeinated beverages at work (which I realize is a bit stupid, since caffeine is known to aggravate anxiety) to try to stay awake and focused.
Guess this new solution isn’t perfect yet either. I think ideally I need to start seeing a counselor again in addition to taking meds. However, in this smallish town, it’s hard to find a counselor I’m comfortable with. The last one I went to was with a group called “Christian Counseling Services” and while she was very nice and never mentioned her religion, I wasn’t comfortable fully opening up with her. Also, I’m so busy with school and class right now that I don’t really have time to visit any kind of doctor, especially on a regular basis. I’m booked from 8 am to to at least 6 pm every weekday, and have to work even later or use my vacation time if I need to go to an appointment. I’m sure the stress of school and work is adding to my existentialism and anxiety, but for now it is what it is. Maybe over summer break I’ll have more time to seek outside help.
For now, I leave it to you, dear readers. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions?
*I’m happy to report that I made an A on that test!