I've had terrible anxiety for about 7-8 months or so now, sometimes centering around my health (i.e. hypochondria), but not specifically all the time. I have panic attacks every few days, and sometimes these last for a long time (like a day, two days) until I intervene in some way. I went to my doctors for help, and we tried a lot of different things. With my first doctor (I didn't "doctor shop" as they say, I left him because after unsuccessful medications he literally called me a "basket case") we tried Celexa, which I could only bear to take for 5-6 days because it was making me abnormally restless (and I'll note I tried really hard with all of these to go as far as I can), and then we tried BuSpar + Wellbutrin, the Wellbutrin was fine but the BuSpar but me straight to sleep every single dose (I even missed work one I wanted it to work so badly). With my next doctor he gave me Xanax as needed and we tried Clonazepam twice a day for a while. That was the first thing that really helped, but we had to stop after two months or so because my doctor didn't want to have to increase my dose and after the two months I was starting to get some side effects (memory loss, scared the daylights out of me but thankfully went away after I quit).
Anyway, there's some background. Now, as I'm typing this I'm realizing just how much medication I've tried in the past and it seems to make my question a little silly, but nonetheless I'm still terrified by it. I'm a musician, and I am very fortunate to make a good living doing what I do. For me music is what I am going to dedicate my life to, without a doubt, and in it I am not ashamed to say I bear my soul. Sometimes it's the only real form of communication I have, my saving grace if you will (though I can't say I'm partial to the word "grace"), and so far people enjoy what I have to offer them. It is undoubtedly a creative process, one which for me transcends everything else; I'm very fortunate to have this and would gladly give everything to hold on to it. My anxiety is interfering with my life, and now after 8 months with my music, which is my life. I am becoming more and more disabled, and something has got to give.
I have an incredibly intense fear of going on a long tern medication again; my doctor is recommending Effexor XR as it's one of the drug classes I haven't tried yet. On the one hand I am aware of the possible success that these drugs can offer, though I've had little success with them myself as of yet, but on the other hand I can not get it out of my mind that I am, at least while taking this medication, fundamentally altering my mind, that which is most sacred to me. For all my own anxieties and self-doubts and depression, I like who I am and I DON'T want that to change. I don't want to lose that spark that drives us, that flame that burns fires and moves people to act. My fear is that by going on a medication for a long period, which on the one hand I'm more motivated to do than ever and on the other hand I avoid like the plague, I will "level out". I'll lose myself, I'll no longer be who I am "supposed" to be, however you want it it frightens me. I'm sure others out there must have wondered the same thing, perhaps in a more general way or perhaps in a way more specific to their own lives. Do you think this is a rational fear? If you have experience taking a drug like this long term can you tell me how it affects you? I realize that might be a kind of personal thing to ask, but I would be ever so deeply appreciative if you might do so. I feel like my life is on the line, and I'm only 22 years old!
Oh also P.S.: I forgot to mention, I did CBT for a while too. I was with a psychologist but only for a few months, as he left my state at that time. I did find that helpful, we mostly did exposure therapy, along with some mindfulness exercises. I still carry the lessons he taught me to this day, and practice them regularly. I recognize that more important than anything, well at least in my opinion, is correctly faulty and negative thought processes. But at the same time, here I am. For the longest time I will admit that I was denying having anything wrong with me, hell I think that's where the hypochondria came from frankly, because I refused to accept panic disorder as my diagnosis and "knew" that "something" else just had to be wrong. I thought that even if this is just anxiety that whatever it is I can just get over it and move on, but I am now accepting that perhaps I, like my doctors have told me, do have an actual 'disorder'. I, for some reason, dislike this idea, and some part of me still insists that if I do have a disease of the mind I shouldn't need medication; it's kind of a "if [insert xyz artist with a sever mental disorder] didn't need Effexor, why should I?!?" thing, but I also realize the irrationality of that thinking, and, more saliently, my quality of life right now is just abysmal, especially if I am alone (which, in my line of work, is nearly constantly), and I just can't keep going on like this.