I Hid My Anxiety Medication From Myself, And This Is What Happened

by Gigi Engle

I carry my anxiety medication in my purse. It's in a standard orange prescription bottle, faded from its constant brushes with the other miscellaneous objects in the black hole of my purse.

The bottle is the home of 60 little blue pills, the very small and potent bridges between my bad days and good days.

I don't need to take the medication every day. In fact, with a heavily increased workout regime and the simultaneous elimination of alcohol from my life, I've cut down my use to once or twice a week. I only take it in times of great crisis, during moments of incredibly visceral heart palpitations and anxiety attacks.

I carry the pills with me as a sort of security blanket. It's not about taking them. I don't need to take them. It's just about knowing that if I DID need one, it would be there.

It's like taking out a little extra insurance for my sanity. Everything will be all right because I know that my medication is right where I can reach it.

But what if something were to happen to it? Sure, I don't pop the pills regularly. But I still knew I couldn’t be without them and was dependent on having them near me. But what would happen if I didn't carry the pills in my purse?

I recently got a new purse. It’s rather small and compact -- a deviation from my usual all-inclusive carrier (and part of my conscious decision to stop being such a bag lady). Upon filling my new purse with all of my essentials -- wallet, glasses case, notebook, ChapStick, keys, etc. -- I realized my prescription bottle wouldn't fit into my purse.

I thought about transferring a few into a miniature Altoids box. But then I thought, What if I just leave the meds at home? Would it really be so bad? Was I capable of getting through my day knowing the only thing I had was my own self-control?

I was ready to take another step toward owning my anxiety and my life. I decided I was tired of needing to have that comforting lifeline so close to me.

So I cut it off. I told my brother to take my pills, hide them in my apartment and not give them to me no matter what. I was going to go an entire weekend sans anxiety medication.

It was time for a scary, thrilling and bizarre experiment: the weekend without my Xanax. And this is what went down.

On Friday night, my boyfriend said something weird to me. He likes calling me by a nickname that his grandfather used for his grandmother. I thought this was too sweet to handle, so I brought it up that night. I was startled by his response, which was that he didn't want to call me that anymore. He said it was weird.

Though it may be illogical for your boyfriend to associate you with his grandparents, I took what he said as an insult. I felt like I wasn't important enough to be called that name anymore.

I decided to let it go, to ignore the slight pang in my chest. We went to sleep. But that one, seemingly harmless comment had planted a seed inside my mind.

Saturday began as normally as it could. We went for a run, I did some laundry, and we had brunch with my roommates. I was acting completely normal. Everything was all right.

Except that it wasn't. I could not shake this looming feeling of dread. I believe the proper term is "unwanted negative thoughts." Something -- a phrase, picture, image or sentence -- will burrow in your mind and cause you to have relentless, terrible, overwhelming bad thoughts. It is uncontrollable, and it only ever happens when I'm extremely anxious.

As we merrily ate our eggs, I was convincing myself that my boyfriend was looking at me differently, that he was different. Something was off. I was spiraling, and fast.

He left to finish up a proposal with his business partner. We planned on meeting up again after my afternoon yoga class. The two of them decided to nap, leaving me alone with my brain.

I tried to read, but I couldn't focus on the words. I tried to listen to music, but everything seemed to make me dizzy. I got ready for yoga, feeling nauseous and disoriented but convinced that the class would help to level me out.

I took the L train to Union Square, growing more and more agitated with each jerky stop along the way. Yoga was just what I needed. I focused on my instructor and breathing. I bent myself into every pose with extreme concentration. I let my mind wander as much as possible.

At the end of the class, while I was lying in the "corpse pose," all of the bad thoughts started to creep in like a damp, icy fog from the base of my skull until they encompassed my mind once more.

As soon as we were dismissed, I rushed to get my things, shaking and on the verge of tears. I'm getting dumped tonight, I thought.

I know a lot of my insecurities about my relationship stem from my first adventure into love and vulnerability. Logically, I know this, but at this moment I was convinced I was going to have my heart smashed into a million pieces.

I picked up some groceries on the way back to BAE's apartment. I walked from Union Square to Alphabet City to clear my head.

When he came through the door, I was chopping tomatoes. He knew something was wrong. I was determined to keep my composure, but as soon as he pressed me, I completely broke down.

He held me while I cried, and I told him everything I had been feeling.

"I hate when you're sad. It makes me sad," he said. "But you are being completely crazy! You have nothing to worry about."

He reassured and comforted me. For the first time in what felt like forever, I could see that love in his eyes that I thought for sure had faded.

I felt much better, but I was still a bit on edge. I couldn't help wondering, I know I'm being crazy, but WHAT IF I'm not?

That's the thing about negative thoughts -- they slither in even when you're aware of their being false.

Needless to say, my weekend without my anxiety medication did not go so great. I certainly was a panicked mess, and I had to face the fact that I couldn't control my mental stability as well as I'd thought.

I haven't taken my pills since, but I plan to carry them with me from now on.

There is so much unwarranted stigma about needing medication, but there isn't anything to be embarrassed about. I'm sick of feeling like I have to prove to myself and to the world that I don't need help. What is wrong with needing help?

You were given this medication because you need it. And that's okay. Sometimes you just need a little assistance, and you should not be ashamed of that. I am not going to wallow in the shadows of self-doubt because I carry around a faded bottle of small blue pills. I know who I am, and that person just happens to need anxiety medication.

What I've gleaned from this experience is there's nothing wrong with needing a little security, especially if it saves your sanity.