- Anxiety and phobias
Olanzapine: what I wish I had known.
It’s a difficult one. Is there anything I wish I could tell myself? Is there anything I wish someone had told me?
If I’m honest, I had very little choice when I first took it. I was depressed, severely underweight, anxious and unable to sleep: and I was an inpatient.
There gets to a point sometimes of just wanting, no needing, to hand over control. To stop the noise in your head, pause the constant racing thoughts in your mind. To be able to just be still: to just rest: to not have to fight yourself anymore. Olanzapine in a way gave me that opportunity; it gave me peace for the first time in months. It didn’t stop the pain or the anxiety, but it gave me the ability to rest, to sleep, and to relax.
It’s a drug that is feared particularly for the notorious weight gain side effect, which, if I’m honest it is one of the reasons I refused it several times prior to actually taking it. The term ‘anti-psychotic’ and ‘sedative’ didn’t encourage me into wanting it either.
At the time I was eating disordered, and the thought of firstly gaining weight and secondly not having the ability to exercise due to sedative effect was quite terrifying. I didn’t want to be a zombie, I didn’t have voices, and the idea of a med induced weight gain was horrendous. The thing is though, and the reality for me, was that none of those feared side effects happened. My weight remained stable and my appetite didn’t soar, I didn’t become zombified – I could sleep at night but was awake and able to function again in the morning - and for the first time in a very long time I gained an ability to be able to sit and be me. My thoughts didn’t rush and the anxious chatter in my head ceased.
Naturally the fact I was inpatient at the time could partially explain my improvement, but in my mind it was also the medication. I have used olanzapine several times since, successfully starting it and stopping it without any real issue.
It is scary, starting a drug, especially one that holds various negative associations, but if I could go back and tell myself one thing or if I could do one thing…it would be to wipe any assumptions about the drug away. It would be to wish that I could have believed in my desire to get better over the fear of a name and a couple of side effects.
I know I couldn’t have started taking olanzapine any earlier than I did, that mentally the fear of the medication was too strong for me to fight on top of the illness I was battling, but looking back, stable in recovery, I am glad that the option was pretty much removed. No, it didn’t make me ‘better’, I did that, but it gave me the rest and space I needed so desperately at that time.