Anglican, Zen Meditating, Trade Unionist, Liberal, Left Wing, Foodie

Black Dog.

on August 19, 2014

Winston Churchill often referred to his depression as the Black Dog. I never really understood that, mainly because I had a friend in my teens who had the most beautiful flat coat retriever. Dylan was a beautiful loyal gentle big black champion. And he was smart and magnificently trained. We all loved that dog.

We all know the other dogs though. The snarling, angry, snappy ones. The maulers and biters. The untamed, wild fighters who will savage at the slightest provocation.

These dogs are I think Churchill’s Black Dogs of the soul.

For me my black dog is not depression it is anxiety. And by this I don’t mean a propensity to worry too much. I mean gut wrenching, nerve jangling, vomit inducing anxiety.

I have been anxious as far back as I can remember, as a child I was a disproportionate worrier and I kept this to myself. It is ironic that someone so extroverted and such a talker did not talk about the worries, I internalised them so as not to bother anyone else.

Things got totally out of hand in my 20s when I became a teacher. My first year of teaching in New Zealand became my last as I found myself in a toxic unsupportive school that had hired me to do two teachers jobs and then isolated me from support because in their religious special character school I was an outsider.

Predictably I suffered a bad burn out, and after weeks of very little sleep due to my anxiety and a regular routine of vomiting up my breakfast from stress I went to the doctor, had to take 2 weeks of to recover and…most importantly I got some medication for the anxiety.

In hindsight I should probably have handed in my notice and not gone back to the school. But I was concerned for my students and had a huge sense of responsibility coupled with a powerful fear of failure. So I stuck it out till the end of the year and then left High School teaching forever.

The anxiety issue had been miraculously cured by a magic little white pill called Aropax. Also known as Paroxetine, Paxil, or Loxamine.

All was well! Or so I thought. What the doctor did not tell me those 14 years ago, perhaps because he did not know, was that this drug is fiendishly difficult to get off. Withdrawal is hideous, and there are side effects to the drug in the first place.

Firstly of course the anxiety returns, and it is much worse than before, much worse. It is accompanied by nausea, flu like symptoms, electric jolts to the head and other symptoms.

14 years later I am still taking it and I want to stop. There are indicators that it is damaging to an unborn foetus and my husband and I would like to have a baby. This drug causes significant weight gain and the subsequent other health issues that come with that. Having sat at a healthy BMI my whole life my weight shot up 30 kilos when I stared taking this drug and I have never got it back down.

There has got to be a better way of handling the anxiety than this.

I want my body and my mind back.

So the battle is to begin. Millimetre by millimetre I am coming of this drug. It takes years to slowly crawl off it.

I am hoping that by blogging my progress and writing about it I will find relief from the anxiety and understanding of myself. Journaling has always been a relief for me but this time I will do it on line. Maybe I will find support, maybe there are other people out there walking the same road who have tips that will help.

The plan is to tame this savage beast, to understand it, to listen to it, to allow my fears a voice. Because even if there is no one out there listening, and I don’t believe that for a minute, I am listening, and maybe that will be enough.


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