After being blessed with lifelong depression, I’ve had the extra icing on the cake by adding panic disorder to my cocktail of problems. The first panic attack happened back in November of 2007 and they continued until I finally got some level of rest with Klonopin (clonazepam), 1mg taken 3x per day (so, 3mg per day). I also have Xanax (the regular kind) for emergencies.
Anyway, I’ve been on the klonopin for about a year now, and for the first seven months it worked quite well. The difference was noticeable–from a couple of attacks per week down to maybe one every couple of months. I still had anxiety that started to develop into attacks, but thanks to therapy I was able to stop 7 out of 10 incidents of anxiety from blossoming into full-blown awfulness (via breathing exercises, talking to myself, distracting myself, plunging my hands in cold water, all the tricks of the trade). For the remaining 3 incidents that weren’t helped by the above, I would take my emergency Xanax (1mg). That would help 2 out of the 3.
For the remaining incident, when nothing would stop it and my heart felt like it was going to explode and nothing was working, I go to the ER, because I’m certain it’s a heart attack. Of course there’s a part of me that knows the likelihood is that it’s just another panic attack, but I just can’t help being afraid that… what if I’m wrong? Every medical website I read says one shouldn’t second-guess and if you think something is wrong with your heart, call 911. Still, I hate doing that. I hate it. I feel like I’m wasting their time and it’s embarrassing to be going for just a mental situation.
Anyway. For the past four months or so, the anxiety has suddenly stepped up its game. I’ve been to the ER twice–once in October, and once just three weeks ago. Oh, I should mention that every time they run all the tests (echo, EKG, chest x-ray, multiple blood tests spaced a few hours apart, etc.) and other than tachycardia and temporary high blood pressure, I’m fine. They give me an Ativan or Valium and I’m free to go. Actually this last time the department head didn’t even run any tests other than the EKG, which he said “looked beautiful.” He was really certain nothing was wrong with my heart so he just rehydrated me (I was very dehydrated), gave me a Xanax and told me to follow up with my psychiatrist.
All right, that’s my boring history. The point of this is to say that I am fairly sure I’ve developed a tolerance to the clonazepam, because there’s nothing in my life that’s changed to explain why my anxiety has suddenly worsened. However, I’m not thrilled as it is to be on a benzo as addictive as this, and I know that the only real answer is to either step up my dosage–which I really really don’t want to do, because then where do I go once I reach my tolerance level again?–or to switch to something else.
Clonazepam is considered one of the worst drugs to step down on, and I know about the method that everyone talks about where you keep substituting levels of valium at a very slow rate until a billion months later you’re finally only on valium, which supposedly is much less of a problem.
That’s all well and good. However, my psychiatrist has decided that what he wants to do is switch me from the Clonazepam to Xanax XR. Apparently no step-down or anything–just swapping the drugs.
This has me very scared. (Imagine that, a hypochondriacal person with panic disorder is scared!) Firstly, isn’t Xanax even more addictive than Clonazepam? And is it possible to just go cold turkey from 3mg of Clonazepam to none, albeit with Xanax XR instead?
I’m going to contact my regular doctor to ask her about this. But I’m wondering if anyone has experience with swapping meds, especially Clonazepam (or Klonopin, whatever you call it), or if you have experience with Xanax XR and if it’s really a decent long-acting daily medication.
And for God’s sake, I know there are a couple of folks who are VIRULENTLY anti-benzos. Please don’t lecture me about this. I know they’re notoriously awful. But I very clearly need something. Therapy alone is not working for me. Some people recommend Paxil, but I can’t take SSRIs because they only make me more anxious. (This doesn’t help my depression, needless to say.)
I’m at my wit’s end. Every time I have a panic attack I have a rebound depressive incident that just devastates me, because… well, I really thought for those seven months I was getting better. Having more panic attacks just re-emphasizes that I’m not.
I feel like an abused spouse who’s tried to hide from her husband and thought I was safe for several months, and suddenly my husband knocks on my door: he’s found me again.
To quote Billie Holliday’s famous song:
*Good morning, heartache, here we go again
Good morning, heartache, you’re the one who knew me when
Might as well get used to you hangin’ around
Good morning, heartache, sit down *
Anyone have any advice on switching meds?