Xanax.

I haven’t posted in a while because I wanted this post to be about the effects of my anxiety medicine. In my last post I mentioned that I was given a prescription for anxiety medicine by my fabulous doctor. I had my reservations about taking medicine for anxiety because I had heard so much about its ill effects (and I had seen a ton of memes).

 

kxx
The internet is not kind.

I was pretty sure that taking Xanax (or any sort of medication for  anxiety/depression) meant that there was no coming off it and that I would forever have to rely on it. That’s no sort of life I want. The doctor convinced me, saying that even she needed to take it from time to time. She did impress upon me, however, the need to follow the instructions on her prescription because Xanax IS addictive and the withdrawal symptoms could be something cruel. Although I was apprehensive, it didn’t take too much to convince me as I was desperate to regain a sense of normalcy and be able to go through law school and actually enjoy this very great opportunity.

What people don’t realize (and thanks to pop culture) is that when used properly, and if you actually do suffer from high levels of anxiety, Xanax (if it works as it should) allows you to have a window of clarity in which you can pick up your life, cultivate great habits/routines, and to see a silver lining where before you  only ever saw the sad or scary side of things. In my window of clarity, I’ve realized that practicing gratitude is very important and I try to do it at least before I go to sleep every night until it becomes a habit.

On the bright side of things, I have so much to be thankful for. I have parents willing to make sacrifices so that I can get a great education, I have an apartment (large this time, with windows!), I get to make my own meal plan and plan my own day. I even got up this morning at 5:30 am and ran and exercised with a fellow student and good friend. I wake up early every day, I eat breakfast every day, I don’t skip class, I do my homework and I try to be as positive as I possibly can.

epic-yoga-fails-funny-video-382x382
Repeat after me, ‘Good habits.’

 

I couldn’t see all these good things last year. All I saw was that I was completely alone, and miserable, and inept, and probably unintelligent. I wondered how I got this far in law school and I consumed sleeping pills like they were candy, so I missed classes at every turn. I simply didn’t care about what was going on around me, I wanted to be somewhere else, I was lonely and yet I had no desire to see people. When I think about it now, I don’t know how I even passed all of my exams and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. In fact, one of my friends (also a law student) confessed that she is currently feeling the same way and I am in the process of convincing her to see a doctor. She too, is apprehensive but I hope that by recounting my own experience, she will see that there is nothing to be lost by seeking help, and everything to be gained.

I understand that sometimes Xanax doesn’t work the way it should and I’m glad that it seems to be working with me. I started taking it every day for two months now and at this stage I skip every other night and I will try to space it out more and more while I continue the routine and good habits that I have managed to cultivate. The only problem is, that I am so terrified of going back to how I was last year and so even a little anxiety scares me and makes me more anxious. I mean regular anxiety that you experience as a normal human. I monitor my own feelings so keenly that whenever I am even a teeny bit out of sorts ( as normal humans are sometimes) I immediately start worrying that it might spiral into something worse. The irony is that being anxious about anxiety is precisely what makes it worse, so I have to keep reminding myself that its normal to experience a bit of anxiety sometimes and to keep negative trigger thought out of my mind so far as I possibly can.

I’d say, so far…

xx
…Its been like this.

Pay attention to you.

I cannot stress more on the importance of self care. This is continuing from my last post (a long rant about windows). I’m happy to see that there is a steady rise in awareness about the importance of a healthy mental state. My country has the highest suicide rate in the world and its a sad state of affairs that it took shocking statistics to propel awareness and education about mental health. Unfortunately it is still very much pushed into the corner and brushed under the rug, because that is the culture here. No one thinks that taking care of your mind is as important as taking care of a broken hand, or a stomach infection. A trip to the psychologist/psychiatrist/student counsellor is often viewed as something to do only when you’ve gone completely off the deep end. The stigma surrounding it is something quite horrible to experience.

Although I made light in my first post about going on a trip to loopy town, in reality it was actually quite a nasty experience where I had multiple panic attacks and felt just awful generally and, to my horror, I found out that even the people closest to you can misunderstand and make it worse. The fact is, even the most intelligent, successful, wealthy people experience issues with mental health. In fact, they may even be more prone to suffering from depression ( see this article HERE).

I too, am guilty of attempting to sweep my anxiety and constant negative feelings under the rug instead of addressing them. It is as normal to feel constantly unmotivated, sad, lonely or depressed as it is normal to try to keep walking along with four broken toes. You simply must get those toes fixed or deal with long term issues. However, I understand why people around you might misunderstand. Before I dealt with my own brush with anxiety and depression, I simply could not understand it. “Who gets nervous about exams? Who feels sad all the time? You’re alive! Lighten up!” These are all things I would have said prior to personal experience. Depressed people cannot simply ‘lighten up’ and anxious people cannot stop feeling anxious on command. Yes, a lot of it has to do with perspective, but more likely, its due to chemical imbalances in the brain that influence those perspectives.

karen-meangirls
“When you have a broken foot, I’ll tell you to ‘lighten up’ and ‘just feel better'”

Another important consideration is whether the doctor you are seeing is qualified and actually cares. Before I got a doctor who actually cared, I saw two before her, one who diagnosed me with A.D.D. and the other one informed me that I “hate myself and should consider quitting law school and perhaps doing other things like ballet or even becoming a cashier.” Yea, I BOUNCED SO FAST OUTTA THERE.

landscape-1444401542-still-drunk
What the hell is wrong with you, lady?! 

 

I finally went to a psychologist who, instead of piling more things on top of my fears, actually removed several of my fears. She had a long talk with me, made a diagnosis of very high anxiety, struck out A.D.D., and yes, I was advised to take medication. Again, even I was prancing along with the idea that only ‘mad-people’ take medicine for anxiety and depression, but she disabused me of that particular notion and informed me that almost everyone has to take medicine for anxiety at certain points in their lives, even her. Its like taking antibiotics for an infection, simple as that.

Its been about a month since I’ve visited her, I’m taking the medicine as prescribed and I feel a MILLION TIMES better than I did. I’m actually looking forward to my second year in law school, and anyone who had five minutes of a conversation with me in the past year would probably be shocked to hear me say that. I had considered quitting or taking a year off. THAT’S how different my life would have been if I had swept my issues under the rug. I probably would have quit and would never go on to become a lawyer or I’d take a year and take even longer to get through law school. Doing either of those might have increased my anxiety too.

Instead here I am, excited to return to school, planning all sorts of activities and getting excited about the curriculum and my stationery.

Don’t take your mental health for granted. Furthermore, pay attention to circumstances and PEOPLE who make you feel bad, stay away from both and make no excuses. Care for your mind as well as you would care for your body. In fact, exercising does both, and eating well plays a major part (no more Crix Crackers when I’m too tired to make dinner). Finally, get some rest! Lack of sleep affects you in more ways than you probably know.

Make sure your apartment has windows!

Well my first year in law school has been a trip. There is irony in that sentence because  I almost lost it! I almost tripped (Get it now?). There are so many things about my first year that I would happily ‘time turner’ myself back into the past to change. The FIRST thing would be my choice of apartment.

The apartment I had rented was my first step (a huge step) on my way to loopy-town. In the future, and to anyone reading, make sure you know where you’re going to live. I could make the excuse that I was not sure when or whether we would have been accepted into that law school but the bottom line is, MAKE SURE THAT YOUR APARTMENT HAS WINDOWS.

Sunroom-windows

I’m so traumatized that I’ll make sure that any house I own has windows everywhere.

You heard me. My apartment, apart from being as small as a studio and having all characteristics that a corridor has,  (I felt as though I was living in a straight line and not in the good way) had no windows  that opened up to the outside world . Well, it did have a small window at the back, but that window opened into the laundry room and so I had to keep it closed (lest someone became privy to the fact that I don’t always wear pants at home). There were two more windows in the front of the apartment but when I tried to open those, I was bombarded by flies and mosquitoes that never seemed to want to leave. In fact, I once tried spraying them with a can of bug spray, after which, both me and the mosquitoes lay panting on the floor for air (no windows for fresh air to come in). In fact, the apartment had no windows in the bathroom. Can you believe that!

shock1

No windows in a toilet?!

 

At least I had a place to stay, and in truth, students have had to stay in worse circumstances. For a long time I thought about that and I felt really guilty for complaining, especially since my apartment was air-conditioned, tiled, had a kitchen, and there was a washer-dryer set up around the back (where my one room window looked out to – lovely scenery, really). But, a year later I know not to measure ANYTHING about my life with anything in other people’s lives. I still do it every day, but at least I KNOW better now and anytime I catch myself doing it I immediately try to stop it. This applies to everything: accomplishments and suffering. In fact, I think someone said this before..something about a cup, let me check…

…Ah yes, here it is. “The cup of suffering is not the same size for everyone” Paulo Coelho said this in “The Warrior of Light” and he is thoroughly correct. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should never dismiss things that bother you just because other people might think it to be a petty problem. It is still a real problem for you and you should absolutely address it. Further, don’t skimp on your own comfort unless you absolutely have to. I  know that sounds selfish, but in the end the only person that can look after you properly, is you. Finally, and again, MAKE SURE THAT YOUR APARTMENT HAS WINDOWS.

When I should be studying.

I bought the Churchill Biography from the mall and had a good read yesterday. I can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of sitting and reading an entire book in one go (that was entirely unrelated to Law).

The book made me feel a whole lot better about my average self. I always thought that the great people I admired were all exceptional intellectuals (at least in academics). Margaret Thatcher had a degree in Chemistry from Oxford, for example. Winston Churchill on the other hand was quite the opposite: he attended boarding school and was quite hopeless at math (like myself) and because his father considered him too stupid to attend either University or Law school, he was sent to Sandhurst for military training. It turned out to be the best decision since Churchill took to it quite well, and in his years as Prime Minister, used the knowledge gained. Some people just learn better outside the box of academia, I suppose.

churchill

2 kool 4 skool

Regardless of the type of education these great people have, one thing is consistent, and I believe that this element is imperative for success. That element is a strict routine which they follow  unwaveringly, save when circumstances do not allow it. Everyone I admire has/had one, from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, to Winston Churchill, right up to my boyfriend. I quite admire the ability to have a routine since, for myself, having one is no easy task (particularly since I’ve been quite a lounger for a while, and sleep gets the better of me).

I am missing this most essential component, the only routine in existence in my life being the one that Law school dictates and I slavishly follow, but this has to be changed.

There are two quotes from Churchill that I recall, both make more sense now that I’ve read the book, and about the many stumbling blocks he encountered before he became one of the greatest Prime Ministers of England. They are :

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts.”

and,

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

-Winston Spencer Churchill.

(I really should be studying crim law right now)