At this point, I have been on anxiety medication for over a year.

When I first started taking medication, I noticed some changes within the first few months. I was more able to redirect my thoughts to something productive when I wanted to fixate on something. I could actually do things instead of feeling too overwhelmed to start.

Even little things improved. I was able to chop vegetables for dinner in a reasonable amount of time because they didn’t all have to be exactly the same size. I still wanted them to be the same size… but they didn’t have to be. It sounds silly, but it made me so happy!

Anxiety Affected my Favorite Activity

I started taking anxiety medication about the time I was getting less involved in horseback riding to prepare for the move to Grenada. I didn’t think much of it until I was back in the States for a while and had the opportunity to ride again quite a bit.

It hadn’t occurred to me that it was my first time really riding after I started taking anxiety medication until, one day, I found myself on the back of a horse that was being a bit cheeky.

My anxiety looooves to taunt me with the worst-case scenario. In this instance, my mind obligingly flashed images of said cheeky horse running full tilt back to the barn, looking like a cross between Seabiscuit and a rodeo bronc. If I managed to stay on for that, my anxiety assured me that the saddle would slip dramatically off to one side, and I would fall off and probably get hurt. While we were at it, why not add the horse stepping in a hole and getting injured as well.

In the past, I would always ride through any anxiety I had and do my best at ignoring it. Despite that challenge, I achieved a reasonable level of competence in riding, training, and competing. I like to think that it never got the better of me or made me quit in those moments, but I found that fearing for your life tends to make things a lot less fun.

The Moment Medication Made a Difference

Flashback to reality for a moment. The horse was really just doing a little jig as he walked back to the barn. My rational-self knew there was absolutely no reason to panic.

I told myself that the horse would likely jig for a minute and then calm down, just like thousands of horses have done thousands of times before. I also told myself that I have been riding for 16 years and could probably sit whatever buck he could muster if he even decided to buck in the first place.

You know what happened then? My rational self won and I actually started to relax. A short time later, the horse settled down and we continued on our merry way.

That was huge! It was the first time in my riding career that my anxiety started to act up and I was able to actively manage it, instead of just trying to ignore it.

It made the rest of the ride actually enjoyable. The horse was notably happier, too, considering that I was no longer clinging onto him like a cat being put into a bathtub.

It wasn’t only that ride, though. After that, all my rides were more worry-free. Not entirely worry-free, but notably better than before.

I realized that medication changed the stick that I was using to beat back anxiety into a sword.

Why I’ll Never Go Back

There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health and taking medication for mental illnesses, but nothing should keep someone from using the tools available to them to live a better, happier life.

Medication is not the right answer for everyone, and that’s fine too. Side effects can outweigh the benefits, it can take a long time to figure out which medications and dosages work best, and all that may change over time.

For me, though, anxiety medication has improved my day to day life. It has also taken riding, which I have always loved, to a new level of enjoyment.

It’s not a fix, but for me, it was a start. I feel like I’m able to experience the world more fully now, without anxiety always holding me back.

I know that there will be times that anxiety will rear its ugly head again and make life more difficult, but right now I am so excited about exploring this new life and all the possibilities in it.

All thanks to two little pills.

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash