When Good Meds Go Bad: Handling an Anti-Anxiety Side Effect
I Knew Something Was Wrong
I'd been feeling more anxious and wound up than usual—mostly as a result of challenges revolving around that lovely work-life balance, as well as financial concerns that seemed to come from out of nowhere to smack me upside the head. As a result, I chose to up my medication slightly; I've been taking daily extended-release medication to help control my anxiety symptoms for about six years, and it's helped greatly. Every so often, the dosage needs to go up or down; but more or less, it's been a constant in my life for some time.
I've been told by people who are really authorities with medication that my dosage is relatively low, and that there is a fair bit of wiggle room up or down as needed. I spoke with the person familiar with my situation and told her of my plans to slightly adjust my dosage upwards, and we got approval from my doctor to do so. I knew that it would take anywhere from four to six weeks for things to adjust to the point where I'd notice a difference in how I was feeling—so I prepared myself to be patient.
After a while, things were feeling better during the day. Nighttime, however, was a different story. I noticed that my sleep was becoming increasingly more disjointed, and I'd started to experience very vivid dreams. While vivid dreams can be sometimes fun, like when you're a superhero or something, these were really strange, intense dreams where generally I wouldn't remember what had happened, but I'd still wake up feeling panicked, drenched in sweat, and completely not rested.
I'm generally not one to remember my dreams, and that's okay. In some respects, I almost prefer it that way, as I might analyze them into some sort of story or something, and I've got enough projects on the go at the moment. However, waking up in a sweat and feeling as though something horrible had happened is a terrible way to start your day. Something was wrong, and I knew it.
A visit to the person who knows medication better than I do told me what I'd suspected; that the jump in dosage was what was messing with my head, quite literally. Abnormal dreams can happen quite frequently, and I hadn't recalled seeing that in the brochure. Actually, it could well be that because I hadn't experienced abnormal dreams until recently, I didn't expect that there had been something wrong. I never once expected or suspected that my medication could essentially turn against me, though it was likely still helping me to a large extent.
So it's back to the drawing board.
But what's the next picture going to look like?
They Look Innocent, Don't They?
Try, Try Again
Generally, I recommend working with a doctor to figure out exactly what you need as far as dosage goes when it comes to any medication, never mind mental health medication. They're the subject matter experts, after all.
I felt safe in trying to tweak my meds because I did consult with a pharmacist who was certain that I was not overshooting how much medication I should be taking. If she'd had any question that the adjustment I wanted to make was too high, she would have sent me to the doctor right away. She knew it was a slight adjustment, one that required one larger pill instead of two smaller ones of the same dose, so she contacted the doctor to explain the situation and all was well.
I know that everyone isn't as fortunate as I am to be able to draw on resources like this, and that troubles me greatly. People should feel more comfortable asking questions about their own mental health and what medications their doctor wants to put them on. There should be a greater sense of advocacy that people feel in trying to help improve their own mental and physical health, and there should be a sense of what questions are okay to ask.
There should also be a sense that it's okay to tell the doctor that something's not working right and that perhaps something needs to be adjusted. No one medication works 100 percent of the time. Adjustments might need to be made, and you need to be okay with asking questions, because this is something that you would definitely not always have a clear understanding of. You need to be okay with needing guidance, and ask the questions you need to ask in order to feel well again.
Sometimes, good medications do go bad, insofar as they may not work well at their prescribed dosing. It's important to discuss the matter with the powers that be rather than dropping the medication altogether, which can be dangerous, or going it alone.
Better safe than sorry.