I was working on a post about young entrepreneurs and how they make me feel like crawling under a rock and dying, but instead I’m going to write about anxiety.
My mother just called me to tell me that my grandmother is in the ER with high blood pressure. 235 over 98, I believe.
Obviously this got me worried, but the doctors said her blood work, oxygen levels and EKG results are all good. However, they’re going to keep her overnight.
My mother and I immediately assumed that stress is causing my grandmother’s high blood pressure, but the doctor said it wouldn’t make it rise that high. Regardless, I know that her stress and the ways she doesn’t deal with it is at least playing a minor factor in her high blood pressure. A few days ago she did not feel well and she told me it was because of stress.
Grandma has a lot to be stressed about, but don’t we all these days? In my grandmother’s situation she has a partner who has Alzheimer’s. It is something my grandmother has not come to terms with, though she said she has. She gets very angry and frustrated. She’s also worried about what she will do when he is put in assisted living- a sad fact that will become a reality very soon. Will she be lonely? Will she be able to afford all her bills? Will Lionel be OK at the new home? The truth is, she can’t take care of him anymore, but she does anyways and it’s difficult on her 85 year-old body.
Speaking of 85, my grandmother commonly says that she is frustrated with herself. She is “disgusted” that her body is getting old and she is helpless to do anything about it. This also stresses her out.
Besides these normal and legit stresses, if one knew my grandmother well, they’d know she also stresses about every freakin’ thing imaginable- whether it’s justified or not. My grandmother will not sleep all night worrying about my mom going on vacation for a week. She’ll have diarrhea just thinking about the forecasted 2 inches of snow the next day. She will throw up worrying about Lucy (my mom’s Jack Russell Terrier) having a cough. If she’s throwing a dinner party at her house, she will not eat and instead stand nervously over guests hoping that they’re enjoying their meal. When you tell her to sit down, she won’t. When you tell her to relax, she can’t. Instead, my grandmother lives in this thick bubble of anxiety that makes me wonder what it’s doing to her insides.
My mother has pleaded with her to take anxiety medicine (something my mother takes), but she refuses. It’s a sign of weakness, or more importantly, my grandmother is afraid it will make her lose control over her tight grasp on her life. She does not like taking medicine at all and when she does, she will work very hard to make sure it’s not being effective. My grandmother’s doctors have even suggested that she take anti-anxiety pills, but she won’t.
My mother and I are both supporters of anti-anxiety pills and it is difficult for us to understand why grandma doesn’t want to take them.
When I was 23 I took Zoloft. I had been working in LA as a personal assistant and was very stressed out and very unhappy. I cried a lot and I drank alone sometimes. I had no idea how to handle my emotions. Being miserable, angry, confused and negative was something new to me. My mother had just started taking Zoloft due to family stress and it was working well for her. We got me on it and it did indeed help me- maybe a little too much. For the entire year I was on it, I didn’t cry once. Not once. The typical emotional films, commercials, books and life events just didn’t trigger a single tear. For a girl who liked to get up early and not waste the day, I enjoyed sitting in my bed for long periods of time staring at the wall. I had extremely vivid dreams. I began getting confused about what was reality and what was a dream. Suddenly I wasn’t miserable, but I was indeed in a thick, cozy cloud.
A year later I went off of Zoloft cold turkey, which is something you’re not supposed to do. For a week or two I had terrible mood swings that I kept to myself, but it quickly dissipated. My boss at the time, who was an advocate of self-help, could tell as soon as I stopped taking the pills. He said that I looked like I had woken up, no longer walking around like a zombie. I was confused by his observation, but in hindsight maybe my apathetic demeanor was more apparent than I thought. After going off Zoloft I made the decision to leave my career and move to Austin. I’ve never taken anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills since and I rarely even think about it.
Do I believe that Zoloft helped me get through a rough time in my life? Absolutely. Do I also believe that it made me removed from my life? Yep. Was that year of mellowing out and doing a lot of self-reflection worth it? Completely.
Ultimately I’m a supporter of anti-anxiety medicine. It has helped both my mother and myself and I do believe it would help my grandmother. I firmly believe that if a pill will help you cope with a difficult time in your life OR for some people, prevent you from harming yourself or others, why should you not take it? I don’t understand the culture of feeling like you failed if you take anti-depressants/anti-anxiety pills or see a therapist. Those are two things I’m not ashamed of, but rather proud of myself for realizing at a young age that I needed help. My family did an excellent job raising me and raised me to believe in myself, but there are often events or emotions that occur in one’s life that go beyond that. I was traversing a rocky period in my life and I knew I needed to take action to get through it. I definitely feel like I came out of the other side better for it.
I do not think taking anti-anxiety pills or anti-depressants is something one should be embarrassed about, but it is important to know if it is the right fit for you. I hope the stigma of self-help will die one day. It’s not an admission of failure, but rather a recognition of wanting change.