The first time I took an anti-anxiety medication was years ago when I had my first MRI to check for some neurological symptoms I was having. I had never experienced an MRI before and was extremely anxious about the thought of being in an enclosed space for such a long time. The doctor asked me if I needed to take something for anxiety and I was offered some choices of benzodiazepines.
I chose valium and while it made me feel spaced out, it didn’t take away my fear completely. It was a strange experience. My mind was still cognitively wired to feel anxiety but my body was relaxed. In memory, I felt the valium took some of the edge off but unless I was totally knocked out, it didn’t take away the fear. But it did take away some of the bodily symptoms of my anxiety.
I have always suffered from anxiety but I have never fully explored any particular remedy. I also suffer from depression and my mood disorder has always taken precedence over my anxiety. There are times, however, when anxiety seems a worse battle to fight. It is such a horrible feeling to have and it takes such a toll on your body.
Since my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis my anxiety symptoms seem to have gotten worse. I am not sure if it is because of the stress over dealing with a chronic life-long medical condition or whether I am more biologically and structurally wired to be sensitive to stress. I think it may be a little of both.
It seems that nowadays my triggers for anxiety or a full blown panic attack involve a greater sensitivity to certain sensory experiences. For example, repetitive sounds or visuals can jolt my fragile wiring into the flight or fright response. Flashing lights such as car blinkers or emergency vehicles can cause my body to react with seizure like shaking and jerking on the right side of my body. I once had a bad attack when I was in a store and a fluorescent light was flickering. I felt like I was in a trance as my body reacted violently. I was fortunate to be with my family who could help me. This greater sensitivity to certain environmental stimuli has also created great anxiety for me. I now live in some fear that I will have these attacks. It is a vicious cycle because the more I fear a physical reaction, the more panic I feel. And the more panic I feel, the more I am apt to experience bodily symptoms.
Then too, my usual triggers of anxiety still remain a part of my life including my various phobias. So during one visit to my neurologist I asked about medication for anxiety. It always seems to be a difficult topic to bring up. I explained how I was feeling more anxiety lately and that it seemed to be getting worse. In addition, I would be facing a month of plane travel (one of my phobias) and speaking at conferences (yet another phobia to contend with-the fear of public speaking.) After presenting my rationale I paused before quietly asking,
"So do you have a little something I could take?"
This is when Xanax was suggested. As I am cautious about medications in general I told my doctor that I heard that this particular drug could be habit forming. I have never had any problems with addiction but you hear things and wonder how such addictions to prescription drugs begin. What my doc did was to prescribe me ten pills at a low dose just to see how I reacted to Xanax. I thought it was a good plan.
The first time I tried Xanax, otherwise known as Alprazolam (Doesn’t that sound like the name of a wizard on the Harry Potter movies?), I took a half of a .5 mg pill. I was very nervous as I usually am in taking any new medication. I waited and I would say within 45 minutes I was feeling the effect. It made me feel mellow and a little spaced out. That evening I had a really good night’s sleep.
The next time I tried this medication was during an airplane flight. I had been saving the Xanax specifially for this fear producing situation. The thing was, I held out on taking it until my anxiety was extreme. I really wanted to try to only take it if I needed it. So mid-flight I took it and it was during the landing when I felt the full effect. In retrospect I should have taken it before take-off. I had also used it on days where my wiring seemed fragile, to ward off the possibility of a panic attack.
Do you ever take a drug that you feel your body intuitively understands? This is hard to explain but Xanax seems to go along with my chemical make-up to gently take the edge off. I don’t experience any harsh side effects and for me Xanax is a time limited "chill pill." I take Xanax on an as needed basis and at the low dose. I am glad it is there if I need it but I would fear taking it on any regular basis.
One thing I have noticed is that if I take it for several days in a row, the effectiveness seems to decrease. This may be a danger for some in that if you took it every day, your body might get used to it and require larger doses for the same effect.
The other thing I have noted is that Xanax is not a cure for my anxiety. All it does is to relieve some (not all) symptoms of anxiety and panic. Was I still fearful on my plane ride despite taking Xanax? Yes I was. But at least my body was more relaxed and this made the experience more tolerable.
Conclusions drawn from my personal experience taking Xanax (Please note that these conclusions only pertain to my experience. Everyone will react to medications differently.)
- It helps me in taking the edge off of the physical and bodily symptoms associated with anxiety. It helps me better tolerate fear inducing experiences.
- For me, it may sometimes ward off a panic attack by soothing my sensitive neural wiring.
- I get a better night’s sleep after I have taken this medication.
- This medication is no cure for my anxiety or panic. It can only help decrease some of my anxiety symptoms.
- I would never wish to depend on this drug to get through the day as the underlying reasons for my stress, anxiety, phobias, etc still exist. Xanax only provides me with short term symptom relief.
What about you? What have been your experiences taking Xanax? Did you experience any side effects? Was it effective for easing your anxiety or decreasing your panic attacks? Have any of you had problems with becoming addicted to Xanax? Let us know your experience. We are eager to hear from you.
I am a mother, a writer, and now an MS patient