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Anxiety medication for vaginismus? A patient’s story

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(From Women’s Therapy Center: our call for medication/s is determined per the particulars of each individual; some women will need to go that route, while others will not. We always work in concert with the patient’s attending physician for follow up and monitoring)

Put on your armor
Taking Prozac is not “giving up”

Before I decided to go on Prozac to fight vaginismus, questions circled in my head like vultures. What if I have debilitating side effects? What if I feel drugged all the time? Does this make me a less independent, less capable woman?

After successfully completing the two-week program at the Women’s Therapy Center in June 2013, I know the answer to those questions is absolutely ‘No.’ But a year ago, going on Prozac felt like giving up. I felt ashamed picking up my prescription, barely making eye contact with the pharmacist. I had been fighting vaginismus on my own for five years. I’d seen about a dozen gynecologists, undergone a vulvectomy and hymenectomy, and battled growing frustration, deep anguish, feelings of inadequacy and doubts about my future.

When Dr. Ditza and Dr. Ross asked me for my “vaginismus story” back in January, they said to include my history of panic, anxiety, OCD and depression. I fought every instinct to leave that section blank, because I knew disclosing the truth would flag me as a patient who would need meds to be treated successfully. And I wanted to do it on my own. But I was also desperate for a cure and unwilling to squander what I knew was my last and best chance. So I was completely candid, disclosing even shameful things like a face-picking addiction—a holdout from acne I’d left behind as a teenager and anxiety I’d never been able to shake.

Not surprisingly, the doctors told me I needed to be “stabilized” at 40 mg of Prozac to ensure successful treatment. I was terrified, even starting off at just 10 mgs. I remember obsessing over the laundry list of side effects, swallowing the first pill and waiting for my own personal apocalypse to descend. Was that a seizure coming on? Wait, Prozac can cause an increase in anxiety? In the end, the side effects were underwhelming. I got one vicious headache whenever I upped my dose by 10 mgs. I also felt more tense and on edge than usual while adjusting to the meds, especially when driving or sitting still. I was swimming in nervous energy the first month. But there were good changes, too—food tasted better, I was more positive and confident and felt stable for the first time in, well, ever. By April, the initial negative changes were fading, but the good changes were here to stay.

But Prozac wasn’t enough. Dr. Ditza and Dr. Ross also instructed me to bring 30 pills of Xanax to my two-week treatment session. Again, I felt ashamed asking my doctor to write me a prescription, feeling it necessary to assure her I wasn’t a drug addict. I rationalized it by telling myself it was only a back-up plan. But after initial discussions with the doctors, they immediately told me to take a Xanax before coming to my first physical session. I remember fighting the old feelings of inadequacy, of feeling incapable of fighting this alone. But after the first physical session, I was absolutely stunned to learn that my vagina was actually functional!
And it hit me, meds are not a sign of personal failure; they allow you to finally do what you know you must. I learned that there was plenty left for me to do on my own. It was still extremely hard work, mentally and physically, and I felt hugely satisfied and empowered afterward.

Think of it this way: You’re going to battle with vaginismus and Prozac is your armor. So is Xanax. Wearing armor is no detriment to your fighting abilities. You are still going to need all the willpower and determination you can muster. It just means you’re smart enough to recognize that when you all your best instincts and intentions waver in the face of anxiety, your armor has your back, allowing a better, more capable version of yourself to emerge.

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