Ok, so let me start off by saying that I have been to years of cognitive therapy to resolve my condition without medication. That worked so well that my wife came to me after one of my freak-outs at a friend’s house and told me that I needed meds, or she didn’t think she could take it anymore.
Eight years ago, in 2008, I had gone to a doctor who put me on Lexapro. That one actually gave me panic attacks. I had two nights of fitful sleep where I would awaken several times in full-on panic mode. I could feel the panic climbing the back of my neck, and standing my hair on end, just a wave of white heat. Heart racing, unable to catch my breath, I would deep-breathe and mantra-chant my way back to sleep. I swore off meds at that point, and paid more money for a “medication-free” system on the internet that did little more than give me some relaxing music to listen to at night, tell me to eat a banana a day, and “not think about my anxiety ever again”. Easy for you to say…
I continued to do what I had always done. Chew up the day one miserable, anxious bite at a time, and wait impatiently until quitting time when I could hit the vodka or beer and just make it stop.Weekends were the best, because I could drink earlier. But it got to the point where waking up miserably hungover was making me even more anxious and the cycle just spun further and further out of control. Drink more to feel better, get even more hungover and anxious, drink even more. Eventually, I couldn’t drink enough to not feel anxious, and went to a meeting in 2010. I have been sober since. Good deal. Wish I could 12-step my panic attacks away.
So here I was, in 2012, caught between my love for my wife, and my crippling fear of taking more meds. The thoughts raced through my mind: How would they make me feel? Would they give me panic attacks? Will I become addicted? Will I go nuts on them?
I sucked it up and went to see the doc. She gave me Buspirone, or “Buspar” as it is commonly known, for my anxiety, and prescribed Klonopin for the panic. I managed to take the smallest dose of Buspirone that I could, talked myself out of inducing vomiting for a couple of hours, and felt nothing. Ok, so far so good. I gradually increased my dosage from 2.5 mg morning and evening to 7.5 mg twice a day. Other than a little dizziness about an hour after taking them, and the obsessive need to find something to eat before I take them, there are no side effects- it just removed most of my generalized anxiety. You know, the “wake up anxious for no reason whatsoever” anxiety . Over the period of a few weeks, my general feeling of anxiousness and unease went away. However, I still had panic when placed in uncomfortable situations.
The Klonopin was a different story. I just could not get up the balls to take one. It was just too scary for some reason. I had heard Jay Mohr, the comedian, on the radio one day, and he said that Klonopin had saved his life. That should have been enough to get me to try it, but I weaseled out, and went back to the doctor, begging for Xanax. I had taken it before, and even though the risk of getting strung out is much higher on Xanax, it was the devil that I knew. I rarely take them anyway, I just carry them around as a security blanket. They are the great “dentist-neutralizer” or “job-interview-calmer”. I take one every month or two, when I know I will be doing something that is sure to panic me.
Lately, though, I have decided that I want a better life. The Buspar has brought my insanity down to a manageable level, and my wife stayed, much to my amazement and sheer delight. But like I have said, I still tell her no a lot. “Do you think you could go for a hike by the river on Sunday?” “Nope”… I want to. More than anything, I want to be normal, and do normal shit. Stuff that people do without even thinking about it. Get on a plane. An elevator. Hell, hit a Burger King on the way home without circling the building to see how long the drive-thru line is. I want to not feel like a complete pussy when my wife wants to go for a walk to the park on a warm evening. But I cannot stop the panic that begins when we leave the driveway, and swells until the moment we turn around and head for home, either because she is done and I have white-knuckled it through, or because I gave in to the madness and begged her to turn around.
That has led me to where I am today. Two days ago, I went to the doctor and asked for the Klonopin again. She gave it to me, but much to my chagrin, she upped my dosage of Buspar as well. I managed to take the extra 2.5 mg of Buspar last night, and laid around and imagined I was dying, but did not do the Klonopin yet. I feel like it is a bit much to pile it all on in a single night or two. So I am going to increase the Buspar for the next couple of days, get used to it, and then my plan is to take the Klonopin this weekend. My thought is that, much like Jay Mohr, I will take the Klonopin daily, and see if I can’t prevent the panicky thoughts before they become panic attacks that I currently manage with Xanax.
**PanicMan’s note: I actually wrote this a couple of days ago, but didn’t post it, because I figured comments about how Klonopin “ruined my life” would surely follow and talk me out of it. Too late! I already took it, and I feel fine. Next post will tell you all about it…