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John Green Takes Anxiety Meds: Why Sometimes It’s OK To Admit That You Just Can’t Anymore

Among my friends and loved ones, it’s no secret that I suffer from OCD– you know, that anxiety disorder that people without it use to make excuses for being controlling and anal (Which drives me up the wall, by the way). The thing that not many people know of, is the struggle that I’ve had in coming to terms with the fact that I’m medicated.

Zoloft is a pretty neat little pill. You take it every day, and eventually there’s enough in your system so that dealing with the anxiety that sometimes makes it hard to go into public places is a whole lot easier. In the beginning, I was okay that I was medicated. By the end of the year, I was not.

Evil little bastard, you are. (Even though you do good things)

I didn’t like having to check certain cough meds to make sure that they were okay to take when I had a cold (most of them weren’t).

I didn’t like not being able to take Advil when I had a headache.

I’m not much of a drinker, but I hated having to explain to people why I had turned down their offers with an “I can’t” instead of  a”no thank you” (Which I realize I didn’t have to do, but people stop asking faster when you tell them that there’s a reason you can’t drink– welcome to the world of the university student).

I hated having to listen to people– sometimes close friends– talk to me about all of the different options and how sometimes people with medication were weak–butnotmeofcoursenotI’mthestrongestgirltheyknew they are always quick to add.

But most of all, I hated the fact that I had to rely on a little pill to make my brain and body function enough so that I could live a normal life. And they didn’t even work all that well.

By the end of the year, especially in moments of high stress, I discovered that on top of the anxiety every student gets around exam time, the one thing that was causing me the grief that the pills couldn’t counteract was my OCD itself.

The pills were treating the symptom, not the cause.

You see, then I felt silly. Of course they weren’t working all the time. I was taking a pill to calm the anxiety so that I could more easily ignore the issues that were causing it. After a few weeks of being out of school and feeling myself calm down enough to start rationalizing my way through things, I went to the doctor and explained my theory. He seemed to agree, and suggested, now that I was living in a different province, that I waited until I went back to school to go see a councilor who would help me work on attacking the root of my problem. Then, the moment I had been waiting for for months arrived: he agreed to lower my dosage so that I could begin the process of weaning off of the Zoloft.

I was proud. I was strong. I hadn’t quite beaten it, but I was getting better, and that was a total plus. Good for me.

Except it’s been about two weeks since then, and I’m back to pre-medication anxiety levels–in some cases, not all. I’ve found success in dealing with it by using exercise, and I have to be open with my family a whole lot more so they can reassure me of things that my OCD twists around and makes abnormal (which is perhaps the most frustrating part, because I feel silly and irrational and dumb). It’s exhausting, and sometimes I’m very discouraged, but I will work through this doing the best that I can.

After I excitedly informed my parents that I was coming off of the Zoloft, my mum smiled, and gently told me that if I couldn’t take it, then I could always be put back on a regular course. I laughed, because there was no way I’d do that again.

Now, I’m not so sure.

There are a variety of environmental factors I’m taking into account that could be causing the sudden surge in anxiety, and I’m going to ride out the storm for awhile longer, but some days I want to quit and call the doctor. It is on those days where I feel that I’m at my weakest. I’m embarrassed, yet again, that I may have to admit to myself that I may need medication to function. I get frustrated and beg God to take it away, to make me better so that I don’t have to deal with anything anymore. If there is one thing that’s kept me sane since my diagnosis, it’s Him. Except, he rarely ever gives me exactly what I want. That’s the thing about the Big Man Upstairs. He answers your prayers, always, but most of the time they’re in ways that you don’t expect.

 

 

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Or, you know, we can just stay the way we are. That’s fine. We’ve evolved enough. At least we walk on land now.

Today, I was reading through a feed on Reddit that John Green was using to talk to fans. One of them asked about his past with anxiety, and he began to talk about his use of medication–daily and for years– combined with the exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy that I will be seeking in the next few months.

John Green. Nerdfighter, Vlog Brother, Author of some of the coolest books for young adults on the market, and on top of being active and talking to experts, he has to use medication to deal with anxiety.

It’s not because he’s weak.

And evidently, it does nothing to hamper his creative genius.

And, he’s not embarassed to talk about it.

To be honest, I’m not ready to accept the fact that I may need a little yellow pill to keep me running. But maybe there’s something okay about having to admit that I wasn’t ready in the first place. Maybe it isn’t admitting defeat.

Part of getting better is learning to listen to what your body needs. I am sick, after all. It’s not a cold– though my allergies have me wheezing up a storm, over here–but it is a brain-sickness. And sometimes, in order to cure or lessen the symptoms of a disease, or a virus, or a disorder, you need medicine.

If John Green can take his medicine, then so can I.

(If I have to admit that I need it, of course).

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Down With the A Grades: I am Going to be the Right Kind of Selfish.

It’s been an interesting year. At this point, I’m not sure where to begin, and before anyone with good intentions tells me that “it’s best to start at the beginning, dear,” hear me out, because the beginning isn’t so easy to pick out. I suppose I could start with last April, but if I’ve got to jump all over a timeline, don’t start picking this apart like you would Slaughterhouse Five if you get confused, okay? Okay.
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About this time last year, I was convinced that I was stark, raving mad. Not because I’ve got a fantastic imagination– I believe everyone who writes is insane to an extent, but that’s a good kind of insane. This time, I was sure that there was something wrong with me. I’m not going to go into everything, because I haven’t quite come to terms with things yet, but to put it simply, I got sick. Not the kind of sick that you can sit in bed for a few hours on a Sunday and sleep through classes on a Monday and feel better, but the kind of sick that eats at you from the inside and since the outside is okay, then nobody knows anything is wrong until its too late.

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From the latter half of 2012, to the first four months of 2013, I suffered from something I didn’t even know I had. See, the beauty– and I mean beauty in the most sinister of ways– of mental illness is that it tricks you into thinking that the things going on in your head are your fault. You’re trapped, afraid to tell people that you need help for fear of judgement, hospitalization, the whole shebang, and so you’re stuck, until someone who’s got enough know how catches you with your guard down and convinces you that you’re OK, and that there are ways to fix what’s going on.

I got lucky. I’ve got a family that supports, loves, and knows me better than anyone on the planet, and eventually, I got the help that I needed. A year ago in May, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I began the journey towards being healthy. Let me tell you, kiddies, it ain’t as easy as it looks. There was a period after I began treatment where I did feel better. I started at a new school with a new outlook on life and a new plan to move forward with the things that I loved. Except, other stuff got in the way.

Ahh, the age old excuse. “Life got in the way.” It’s like you’re sixteen with stars in your eyes, ready to take on the world, and suddenly ten years pass and you’re working at an entry level office job with a degree you busted your butt for, hoping for a promotion and wondering why you didn’t pursue marine biology like you had hoped. And almost every person who asks this question to themselves comes up with an answer that directly translates to “life got in the way.”

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Old friend #1: “What ever happened to that detailing business you were going to set up?”

Old friend #2: “Ahh, man, I got offered this summer job at the firm, and they keep asking me back. It’s money, and a stable job, so why not? Besides, I have Dad’s old T-Bird in the garage; I’ll fiddle with it on my spare time. Next week, they’re thinking of moving me to head office.”

Dude, it would have saved you like, five breaths had you only said “life got in the way.”

As I was working on healing myself, without realizing it, I had fallen into the same old routine of working as hard as I could to get straight A’s, and nail all of the extra-curricular activities, working on massive projects because I had myself convinced that I was doing good things for people who deserved it. I’ve got OCD. I’m a perfectionist. If I don’t have all of the best grades, the best body, the best of myself, then I feel like a failure. It’s a messed up cycle of hope, trying to put too much on my plate to achieve my dreams, and then a full-on crash where I lose all energy and motivation and sit depressed for three weeks. Then the whole thing begins again. The sad thing about the cycle I’ve been in since I realized that good grades and involvement got you stickers and certificates, is that it draws me further and further away from the things that make me happy. I lose sight of me, tricked into thinking whatever I’m succeeding at is going to help me be happy and healthy and free.

I think I realized that something had to change after my adviser for Honours History told me my thesis topic was a one way ticket to Law School. Well wouldn’t you bet I took to the internet, had my mum buy me LSAT books (which I still do for fun, because, man, those brain puzzles are addicting), researched different programs and had my bearings set for a new adventure. Of course I had to tell everyone, and they were all so proud. Not to mention that this happened after I made the decision to stop writing for my school newspaper, something that gave me great joy, because I didn’t have enough time.

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That’s it. I’m done. I’m not even proud to say I pulled straight A’s this semester, yet again, and have a GPA of a 3.97. Why? For awhile it was because it wasn’t a 4.0. Is that not sick? Does that not make you want to slap me? If I were into violence, I’d totally give my ears a box. No, right now, I’m not proud of that because I finished out my year unhappy. I finished out my year lost, and unsure of where to go. So I turned to the only thing that I knew would make me happy and healthy. I turned to the bare-boned, base level of anything that has ever made my heart swell: my God, my writing, my books, my runs, and my want for adventure. The only thing that will make me happy is a day of sitting in my little sunny nook writing my stories and my poems and my scripts and my skits and scribbling out the tickles of my imagination until I’m empty for the day. Then, I would get up from my chair and making myself a meal of fruit, water and other cool, juicy, simple things that you can get at a store down the road. I’d go for a run to clear my head and drum up new ideas for the next day. I’d meet up with friends and laugh until my belly hurt, and then go home, read a book, pray and thank God for giving me another day, and then sleep so I could do it all again tomorrow. There will be curve balls, as there always are, but I’ll be able to take them on, because I’ll be on the right track, and when you’re on the right track, you’re motivated to take on things as they happen.

This summer, I can do these things. I’m still pushing myself to get up and start my day and do the things that I love. It’s hard, but I’m doing it. And then come September, I’m going to say no. To everything. To things that I don’t want to do. No more head of societies, no more tutoring sessions (though most likely I’ll keep doing those; I love watching people learn), no more staying up till three to finish a paper two weeks before it’s due. No more straight A’s. If I can pull off a year where I feel good about myself, where I sleep, where I have my disorder under control, where I write and read what I love and still manage to keep my grades, fantastic. If not, it’s not a big deal. I’d rather peace of mind and my imagination intact than letters of congratulations from the Dean.

I’m going to write for the newspaper. That’s it. I’m going to go for my runs, and take creative writing classes. I’m going to sing in the shower again. I’m going to like getting up at eight, just to see the sun. I’m going to fall in love with my degree, and eventually get a job that I love, without sacrificing my need to write. And I’m not going to law school. Then, I’m going to get published. I’m going to get published so much that I’m going to be able to quit that job and write for myself. I’ll write what makes me happy, and I’ll feed my family and I’ll love everyone and everything with the passion of a child, because even though this sounds way too pretty to be a plausible goal, it’s mine, and I’m going to get there because I owe it to my brain and my body to do something for them for once.

In a way, working myself sick for the wrong things is selfish. I think I was heading down a path I shouldn’t have been on because people told me I was good at it, and since I didn’t feel good about myself, I lived for praise like that. I told myself I was doing it for other people, but I think it was justification for something that made me feel less… gross. The high, however, is only temporary. It’s time to do the things I should have done all along.

Yesterday, on my Facebook page, I asked my friends what they would do with their lives if nothing stood in their way. The response was staggering. I know so many inspiring people; and I hope that someday, they will push life to the side of the road and start living. I hope that they get to do the things they told me they’d do, and I hope it makes them happy. Until then, I’m going to work on getting my happy back. And you know what? It’s going to be difficult, but it’s also going to be lovely.

I have my parents, my little sister, my loved ones and friends to thank for helping me get here.

So here’s to another April to April year mark. This one, I’d grade a C.

Let’s push for the only A that matters, shall we?

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Now that’s the kind of high I’m looking for.