I came off my Fluoxetine in January, as I felt my CBT and mindfulness practice were helping me enough to stave off any episodes of anxiety and panic. It was the right decision at the time as I really was feeling like myself again; I was less anxious and could identify when an episode was coming and do my best not to let it take over.

Over the next 6 months I became complacent with my self care. I was almost under the assumption that I was “cured” and didn’t really have to try anymore to look after myself or my mental health. I deteriorated quite badly, but so slowly that you would hardly notice. It wasn’t until I began to negatively affect those around me that I started to sit up and listen to what my body was telling me.

I became irrationally angry and irritable at a lot of very small and seemingly unimportant things. The washing up not being done instantly caused me to have the feelings of pre-panic attack as the mess in the kitchen reflected the mess that was in my mind. Any clutter in the house was a big no-no and I was never relaxed; always tidying things away and getting angry that my wife wasn’t doing the same. I took a lot of things personally that were not aimed that way. A small comment from someone, or a look in my direction, was felt as a personal attack and I would either get incredibly upset, or incredibly angry.

The anger worried me more than anything else. The anxiety I felt towards a lot of situations manifested itself in an irrational rage that would cause me to lash out at those who I love the most. I wasn’t enjoying the little things anymore. I was just getting annoyed with them. Nothing seemed to be right, nothing seemed to give me any satisfaction, and no one seemed to make me happy. I was, quite frankly, horrendous to be around. And I applaud my wife for putting up with it!

When I was in a good frame of mind, I often reflected on how I was behaving and vowed to identify the anger and sit with it, rather than let it run out of control and destroy the day. But it never worked. It was always too late and I couldn’t control it. I had let so much slip that I was finding it near impossible to get back on track.

I believe I have suffered with depression over the last 6 months. Although not officially diagnosed, I have certainly felt feelings other than anxiety. I’ve had evenings completely void of feeling, days where I have just felt no joy, days where I couldn’t be bothered to do anything and had no strength to force myself either. I’ve also had days where I couldn’t stop, couldn’t sit down and had to be constantly busy. It’s exhausting.

My wife and I sat down 4 weeks ago and had an open conversation about how I had been. We were honest with each other, and she was, as she always is, incredibly supportive. I decided that since coming off my medication, things had taken a downward turn. I wasn’t well again, and I was heading to the same place I had been in the winter of 2015. The next morning I made an appointment with the doctor, and I went to see her on 30th June after work. I told my doctor what had been happening and how I had been feeling. I told her that I wanted to go back on the medication, and she was in agreement that it sounded like a good idea. She, as ever, let me make that decision for myself. I was not forced into a decision either way. She said I would need to stay on them for a couple of years this time, just to make sure that if and when I come off them again I’ll be ready. I am happy with this. To be honest, I would be comfortable with staying on them now for the rest of my life. They help me, and I am OK with that.

I’m 3 weeks in, and the difference in my mental health is notable. I am calmer. I can now put things into perspective a lot more. I’m not worrying about the little things; in fact I’m also worrying less about the big things if there are any. My anger has all but disappeared. My irritability is almost non-existent. I’m not snapping, I’m not being a bitch.

The physical side effects of the drug in the first 4 weeks have not been fun. I have struggled with:

  • Fatigue; I slept like a log for a full 8 hours last night, but this morning I felt like utter crap.
  • Sleep disruption; I have had to take my tablet as soon as I wake up to try and combat the waking-up-at-2am-and-worrying-for-2-hours thing.
  • Tremors
  • Spasms in my arms
  • Bladder control! I pee so much now…
  • Jaw pain from tensing in the night
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety (butterflies, heart palpitations, shakes)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, especially at 6pm for some reason

I knew this would happen. The first time I was on Fluoxetine was horrendous, and I was expecting worse if I’m honest. But I know once I see myself through this first month, these side effects will ease, and I will start to feel a lot better. The doctors say you may feel worse before you feel better, and that is definitely the case with me. It is another reason why I won’t come off these meds again unless I am 100% sure I can manage my anxiety without them.

I am proud of myself for going back on my meds. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s not an easy thing to admit to yourself that you are relapsing. But I hope if you need to do the same, you will. It really is worth it if medication works for you.

Bring on the Night

Bring on the Night

sleeping and thinking

Does this look familiar? Even now with mindfulness practice and CBT, I still struggle occasionally with getting a good night’s sleep. For me, falling asleep is generally quite easy, but I know for many this is a problem. I tend to wake up at 3am and allow my thoughts to run away with me which really causes problems.

So how can we stay mindful in the dead of night, when there is very little to focus our attention on?

Throughout therapy, I’ve been working on some techniques to help alleviate this problem. The first I identified was that lying in bed and worrying had become a habit. If I woke up in the night, it was normal for me to start worrying about something. In fact, one night I noted that I’d said to myself “I’m not worrying about anything – there must be something I can worry about…” Habits are hard to break, so the easiest thing for me to do to start with was to remove myself from the bed and bedroom completely, as soon as the unhelpful thinking habits started.

Luckily we have a huge comfy sofa, so when this happens I can take myself into the living room and cozy up on there. Even the walk through to the other room takes my mind out of that negative space. Sometimes I make a cup of (caffeine-free) tea, or I read a book, or I watch TV. I always put the lamp on, which creates a sense of being back in the land of the living instead of in a dark and lonely nighttime. I always fall back to sleep on the sofa. It doesn’t happen straight away, but I don’t clock watch or worry about not getting enough sleep. I distract my attention with something on TV and suddenly the alarm is going off and it’s morning.

Another technique which I’ve tried, and which works, is mindful breathing.

The primary focus in Mindfulness Meditation is the breathing. However, the primary goal is a calm, nonjudgmental awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance.

Source: http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/mindfulness.htm

This technique allows the mind to calm and stop its focus on thoughts and feelings which distract you from sleep. A particular favourite of mine is to count your breath backwards from 1,000. The in breath counts as 1, the out breath as 1.  It is important here to only focus on the breath, how it feels as it goes in and out of your body, and what changes it brings to your body as it does so. Along with counting, I will never reach beyond 900 before I am asleep again.

Why not try The Worry Warrior’s technique too:

I’d love to hear which techniques you have used to get a better night sleep while struggling with anxiety! Please leave them in the comments.