Anxiety, Diazepam and Yoga: Memoirs of an Anxious Yogini.

I grew up as a vegetarian, in a household that used natural remedies and alternative therapies. Reflexology, Acupuncture, Reiki and Homeopathy were the chosen medications for any ailments that would surface. For the most part, I can thankfully say I have been rather healthy in my life. But in the rare moments that I have been very ill, where all the alternatives had been attempted, desperation pushed me to go to a medical doctor. I would be prescribed pharmaceuticals and with the majority of medicines, my body would reject them soon after by means of well, throwing them back up. Most of my life I have been a frustration to medical doctors, either because I have refused treatments offered to me or I have given them lectures on the proven benefits of homeopathy and other alternative therapies, which do work and have been around for far longer than the shit that they hand out as if they are magic skittles.

Then a few years ago, I started having blackouts, panic attacks and sporadic insomnia which was brought on by a variety of reasons relating to my past. Desperation and fear lead me once again, to a medical doctor and I was officially diagnosed for the first time with Depression, Anxiety and Panic Disorder. I was prescribed some sleeping pills and Diazepam (Valium) that were to be taken as needed. The diagnosis itself at the time was humiliating and equally terrifying. I was officially ill and officially struggling to come to terms with it. The diagnosis itself lead me on a path that had good days and bad, filled with a lot of soul searching and also a considerable amount of denial.

I found myself reading up on the medications I had been prescribed. I read forums, blog posts and case studies. Pretty much anything I could find and searched for more information so that I could increase my understanding of what they did and what was “wrong” with me.

As my knowledge grew, so did my awareness of the side effects and the likelihood of dependence. Since being prescribed the above, I have only needed to take them a handful of times and in truly desperate moments of panic or exhaustion. I refused and still refuse to take antidepressants. I strived to seek other methods of self-help which eventually lead me to the practice of yoga around six months ago.

Yoga was another desperate attempt. I had tried everything and I found myself in an exhausted haze at 6am on the 10th of June, not having slept in 3 days, I dragged myself onto my mat for the first time in years. That decision has been the best one I have made in regards to my mental and physical health, quite possibly, ever. Since that day, my panic attacks have subsided and my blackouts have also relaxed. I’ve had more good days than bad and the need for medications had ceased, until yesterday.

I have a history of experimental drug taking which in retrospect was used as a method of coping and escapism. I’m telling you this because I feel as though it gives me a bit of basis for comparison. In my late teens and very early twenties, I dabbled with a selection of recreational drugs and experienced a variety of outcomes, some, quite euphoric and others, well, vile. I can admit that I was pretty stupid in the earlier days, but as I grew up I researched and set limitations.

The reasons behind my choices in taking drugs were partly due to my life being thrown up in the air and being thrown into my own personal nightmare. Where I made decisions I was being driven by emotions where my first response was “fuck it, why not?” But later on, I mostly did them because I was curious. My experiences of drugs are most certainly not on the level of Charlie Sheen, but I have experienced enough to understand the appeal but not enough to a) get addicted and b) feel the need to continue. I barely even drink alcohol now, to the point where I would rather drink endless cups of coffee at a rave than partake in partying with Molly or the likes. Been there, done that. Can bars please serve espresso based drinks now please?

I have a family history of addictive personalities so I have always tried to be as careful as one can be when taking drugs. My addiction is coffee, which is probably my blood type and I am so beyond okay with that. And dependant on stress, smoking. But I’m working on the last one. Although this may seem hypocritical, but I wouldn’t recommend taking drugs. Especially as a method of coping with life. I realised this hypocrisy in hindsight. I don’t regret what I have done because I am who I am today through the choices I have made in the past and I am proud of who I have become.

Yesterday, however, I woke up in a silent, petrified and cold sweaty panic. My heart raced and my mind was doing its best impression of the perfect example of overdrive. Whilst my emotions felt as though they had been meticulously programmed into a soundboard and then placed in the hands of an over excited toddler with a mallet. I paced through the flat, trying to calm myself trying to regain control. My panic attacks come in a variety of forms, but this one was really horrendous. It felt almost as though I had been waiting for it to happen in anticipation. Which perhaps only made it feel worse than it was.

I became desperate to calm down. To be able to think straight. To stop my head from spilling thoughts that felt like knives scraping the inside of my skull, sending tremors down my spine and ripple effects to my heart which was beating so fast, my chest was viciously vibrating in fear. I desperately searched for the box of Diazepam and emotionally decided to ingest four 2mg little white pills. I stared out my window and thought of all the things I would rather be doing than feeling this way. A while went by and I slowly started to fade into the familiar feeling of what I can only describe as a stoned zombie jelly baby. Squidgy, floating and ethereal. I feeling I don’t particularly like, but a feeling I preferred at the time to the alternative.

I needed something to focus on that would make me feel more like myself. And after a while, I walked over to my yoga mat and began to move with intent, slowly and focussing on my every move. I felt extra weird and strangely  unbelievably focussed. My mind felt blissfully empty and the only thing I could do was flow. I can’t even tell you how long I practised for. I spent the majority of the time thinking only about finding balance. Attempting a variety of asanas that I knew would help me feel revitalised and stretched. I finished my practice with around what felt like an hour of meditation. Probably the easiest attempt at thinking of nothing because I am pretty sure the amount in my system had legitimately hit an off switch to all thoughts apart from basic bodily functions necessary for survival.

I felt particularly strange, not at all a feeling I have ever experienced. I have never done yoga whilst Diazepam has been in my system. My movement throughout my flow felt somewhat unnatural which is as expected. But it was the weirdest feeling I have ever experienced in my world of drug experiences. I felt as though I wasn’t in control. As though someone else was in control of my body and mind. That is a feeling I fear the most.

The comparison between a panic attack and yoga on Valium, the two are strangely similar. Not quite in control and slightly possessed. All in all, I’m not the biggest fan. Yesterday was a bizarre day that I hope I won’t have to repeat. It really was nothing I had ever felt before. I can barely remember what I did for the rest of the day too. I find that happens every time I have had to take Diazepam in the past, I struggle to recall information from those particular times.

What are your experiences with Anxiety and Yoga? Have you ever had something similar happen to you? Let me know in the comments below!




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