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13/08/2018 07:49 BST | Updated 13/08/2018 07:49 BST

The Lessons I Learned After Getting Prescribed Medication For My Anxiety

When I realised I had become dependant on it I was terrified and wanted to stop immediately

Justin Case via Getty Images

I remember walking in to see a therapist that I had self-referred after months of waiting. She smiled and I felt like I’d finally found help. As I stretched my cardigan around my hands as I tried to sit on them to avoid fidgeting, my assessment began. It was here two things happened: one was that they felt I was too unwell for this self-referral therapy and needed more intensive care (hence the two-year waiting list I am now on), but secondly I was introduced to diazepam, a medication prescribed to be used infrequently for anxiety.

Within 20 minutes of getting home with my prescription and having a tablet, I couldn’t believe the change. I felt calmer and so much more relaxed. It was another week before I had a tablet again and it had the exact same impact.

Gradually through various situations in my life, my anxiety increased and unknown to me, when I had finished the tablets after six weeks, I rang to book an appointment but was told it was on repeat prescription. It soon became something I would take more than once a week, a day out or friends coming round, having to visit school. Although I was only taking a couple each week, I still ordered it weekly and the packets began to pile up.

In January I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder alongside my anxiety disorder and it hit me hard, taking a month off work where I barely left the house. It was during this time that I began to seek out answers for myself and soon enough I’d found that a daily diazepam was helping. Sadly, the effects soon wore off and when I needed to leave my house for a medical appointment one tablet just wouldn’t cut it, so I’d take two or three, and before long I started taking more. No-one knew, but as I became more aware I could see my supply was running short. I tried to cut down but ended up unable to sleep one day and took everything I had left to try and nod off. When it didn’t work, I rang 111 and ended up being taken to hospital as an accidental overdose. I had become so confused, I was no longer aware of what I had or hadn’t taken.

I was discharged with a personality disorder after the overdose and left hospital. I was very lucky they believed that it wasn’t intentional and I wasn’t sectioned. It was decided that my husband would have to control my drugs. Over the next four months I was weened off, by dropping one tablet a day each week. Sometimes I’d struggle and stay on a dose for two weeks.

Finally having gotten to two tablets a day I knew the next step was to drop back to as and when needed. I am now safely back in this position and thankfully haven’t needed to take any for three weeks. It’s there as a back up when anxiety takes over, but is no longer on repeat prescription, allowing me to just self medicate and choose a dangerous path to follow.

When I realised I had become dependant on it I was terrified and wanted to stop immediately. It was then I was told I couldn’t due to withdrawal symptoms and the risk of seizures and further complications. Medication is there to help and it did, but I just slipped through and made myself seriously unwell. On top of that, the medication no longer had any effect. Now when I take one single tablet I’m back to feeling free of that itchy skin, trying to crawl inside myself for just a few hours. I can make a cup of tea and jot down some useful rational thoughts and most importantly, let someone who is close to me know I have taken one to remain safe and accountable.

At all times follow your GP’s instructions. Do not take more than the recommended dosage. If you feel you are becoming reliant on a benzodiazepine or any other substance, please speak to your prescriber or healthcare professional as they can support you safely.

For more information and advice on taking medication for generalised anxiety disorder, visit the NHS website. Please seek professional medical support from your GP. 

To hear more from Sarah Cardwell, read her blog or follow her on Twitter.