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ariellab 20th Anniversary of Freedom

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It's not your fault. It's within your reach. The work will mostly be yours to do.


Those were the triad I had to learn to get the courage to attempt to be Paxil free, and to heal the awful anxiety disorder I had. (The following is Paxil and anxiety disorder centred.)


The path I took was part communal (listening and learning from those around me), part medical relationship transformation (while I failed to gain a professional partner, I still believe it was right to try to get my doctor on board and HELP me withdrawal gradually), and part spiritual/existential.




First, I worked on being less alone. I reached out to others (by launching paxilprogress.org -- if anyone from there is reading this, hi old friends!) who were going through what I was going through: anxiety disorder, questioning the usefulness of my prescription, and dismantling my industry-sponsored belief that I wasn't enough and HAD to medicate. Be there for others, like you. Embrace the intersectionality and stand with people. Giving people the gift of acknowledging themselves as valid, is the best thing to do.



"You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you'll win, no matter what the outcome."

-- Robin Williams, movie Patch Adams.


Medical Relationships


My dance with an anxiety disorder and seeking medical help taught me that professional healthcare has its greatest chance of being productive when it's a partnership. The doctor has to listen to you, you listen to them, they apply knowledge, and you apply your personal experience. Learn the science behind things the best you can and look for what supports quality of life, not just basic survival. Through shared feedback loops, the two parties can become better at communicating and health building. Not all doctors will be willing, and many times it might not be their fault because of how much of their literature about the latest drug therapies comes form industry produced materials and journals (written as marketing and spun favourably to the financial quarter), but I do believe it must be attempted again and again. We need to break through the commercial walls as much as the culture, where the treatment model too easily pathologizes personhood to support a norm of "patient". In my experience this creates an unnecessary hierarchy and one-sidedness that shuts down feedback loops. When feedback loops are shut down and the "...but the leaflet I got from the pharmco sales woman says..." commerce-washing goes too far, then placebo-borderline drugs from manipulated studies and ghost-written journal publications become overly deified and entrenched into society with blind-faith, and the patient-person suffers.



"...because most of our information about drugs and about therapy in general comes from commercially interested sources. So the research is produced because of its potential commercial value, and it’s communicated to us because of its commercial value, whether it’s through advertisements, through medical journal articles, or continuing education for doctors or guidelines. Most of what comes at us as medical knowledge is brought because of its commercial value and not its health value. We’re getting off track. What medical care and health are being, are becoming about, is becoming defined in ways that are advantageous to the commercial sponsors of that knowledge rather than in ways that will help us to live the healthiest and most fulfilling lives. And the problem is that those two goals are often in opposition."

-- Dr. John Abramson, from my March 29 2005 interview with him.


In my case, my doctor wouldn't engage. I was a patient, a list of symptoms, not a person, and therefore not credible. He believed SSRI medications were harmless, like a glass of wine to destress. Such ignorance. He wouldn't listen to my adverse experiences, blamed "underlying conditions", and I was left to use whatever prescription I had remaining plus a pill cutter I bought at a pharmacy to figure out my own next-steps.


If we're to hope and transform the depersonalization that happens in the doctor's office, we need to keep talking and learning. Learn the science and how industry works, and keep inviting your doctor to be a partner. Help them transform too.




By spiritual I mean "relationship of self to experience and the universe at large." I was raised Catholic, but I had little spirituality when my SSRI withdrawal began. That changed radically during withdrawal. My quest to find better solutions drove me to read a lot of books about not identifying with body and mind, and instead to imagine consciousness as its own separate and divine thing. It helped immensely on the worst nights of zaps, dizziness, pain, depersonalization, and sobbing when I could do nothing else but surrender. I'm not saying this is the only way, but it was the way I found: Allowing myself to believe I was more than my body helped immensely, especially when I worked on healing agoraphobia (if I am not a body, but more, then why do I believe I suffer from being a body here at home or outside in a large crowd?)


I began reframing my experiences and asking more direct questions, "what core conflict in myself am I seeking to solve with a prescription" (which reduced the matter of anxiety to that of a messenger for a problem, and not the actual problem) which led to "if a problem is within myself, what is the value of something outside myself being offered as a solution? Can outside resolve inside?" At some point I answered NO, and I had my main reason for withdrawing.


Next, I had to face time, and an impatient mind. I had to define for myself what would be a successful withdrawal vs not. Was it to be considered forever in-progress, or whatever was achieved after 1 year? 2? 3 weeks? How will I grade my progress? I couldn't answer that having not withdrawn and been free yet, so instead I took a page out of any addiction-management's handbook by dedicating my life to it, "no matter how long I observe the impact of having withdrawn, I achieve permanent freedom from Paxil the day I no longer take it, and vow to never take it again." This success-in-the-choice perspective was key to me. It made my commitment and resolve possible no matter how rough things got. On the worst of days, I could more easily rationalize, "You're already free of it. You're not taking any doses. What does it matter if it hurts today? You're free of it. That was the choice you made, the result has been produced, and you've already won.


The above might sound like a submission to suffering, but it wasn't. It was just a step towards something else: ownership and accountability for what happened next: exploring OTHER options, getting creative, and innovating to work on daily quality of life. Reframing my opportunities in this way was for the enablement of other possibilities as much as it was blacklisting the former, even if that hurt. Once I had broken my life's narrative from "victim of Paxil / moving away from Paxil", I was then free to be and do more. So I read tons of books on anxiety, mental health, meditation, spirituality, baking cakes, whatever felt enriching. I began meditating, a lot. I allowed myself guilt-free naps.



“The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek therefore, not to find out Who You Are, but seek to determine Who You Want to Be.”
― Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God


I allowed myself a practice of non-action: Got squirley thoughts and feelings? You feel torrentially motivated to "do something?" DO NOTHING! Sit. Watch a funny movie. Judge nothing. Turn into a pile of goo. The universe doesn't need you to help you. It's been around for billions of years already thank you very much, and life has flourished! Chillax. We got this puny homo sapien! Love all of Life as often as possible (in between the zaps, losing balance, dizziness, headaches, abdominal cramps, job loss, divorce etc. lol). Whatever happens, consider the question of "Paxil" non-existent. It once was, and it's gone.


What happened?


Anxiety left. Panic attacks left. Withdrawal symptoms left. Over the course of a year or two (depending on where one draws a line between faded-withdrawal with everyday life-lived) the good days outnumbered the bad. This is an important perspective to foster, because people will obsess over the hours of every day when they could be more gentle with themselves by looking over their shoulder for progress. You can often miss your reinvention and progress moment to moment. It's non-linear. Sometimes a regression leads to a perspective and thought process that enables the next milestone. It all serves the greater goal. Difficulties can be guideposts. The miracles can be small, so look at weeks and months instead. Find the choices you'd like to make the most often as a reflection of who you choose to be, make them, and let time craft the memory of experience and results for you. Your power is in the choosing. Life's power is in the showing that you've chosen, slowly, over more time than human emotional impatience is motivated to observe when in the thick of it all. Play the long game. Define your Life, not your week or month. Don't quit Paxil, quit external-solution-doesn't-serve-internal-problem perspectives. It will help you avoid other harmful external temptations hehe. (But allow chocolate into your life. Chocolate is good. Chocolate is divine.)


That's about it! But since the above words were written from the mind of 2020 me which is very far removed from the younger me that lived through it, here are my old withdrawal progress diary entries from the year 2000. (I was so hyper and emo then, please forgive. 😅)




September 02 2000 - Day 1 of 5mg down from 10mg

It's 11:16pm as I write this. Today is relatively uneventful except for a few things worth mentioning. Within 4 hours of the new dose I noticed how prone to frustration I was. I just generally felt a little irritated but nothing I couldn't smile my way through. I did feel ever so slightly happier today. :) I also felt a little more motivated to create things and/or accomplish tasks. I recall in the past that when a panic attack was coming on, I'd feel a real hot flash go up my spine and into my head. I felt a slight tinge of that today but it was so minor I could almost laugh! So yes, I did feel some anxiety today but for no more than 20mins. in total. By 3pm, when I would usually feel very lethargic and unmotivated to do anything but veg. In front of the tv., I was only lightly tired. I took a quick 20 minute nap and was fuelled up again. A little challenging to shake the clouds like usual, but much easier. Incredible considering that 10 mg usually makes me groggy for hours after a quick nap.

So in short, day one contained VERY MILD withdrawal symptoms. I look forward to tomorrow.

September 03 2000 - Day 2 of 5mg down from 10mg

It's 9pm, and I have nothing much to say except for I've had a wonderful day! Full of energy and virtually zero withdrawal symptoms. (A very mild focus difficulty, but hardly noticeable.) Either they have yet to hit me at the ferocity others have experienced, or I might just be one of the lucky ones. Keep your fingers crossed, this freedom can very well be given without a price! As a matter of fact, my junk food cravings have gone down and so have my cigarette cravings. This is completely the opposite of the experience I was expecting! This experience is totally different than last year's. Incredible.

Almost 10pm right now, and I realize I'm actually a little more dizzy then I thought. You see, I've spent the last 4-5 hours watching both DVD movies included in the latest Sound of Music release. Sitting still for that long didn't give me any clue that when I would stand up and walk around, the floor would feel a little mushy hehe. Still not troublesome, just caught me a little off guard Not bad enough to be uncomfortable.

I did have a little trouble falling asleep last night though. But, nothing too serious. A measly 20 min additional effort was needed.

September 04 2000 - Day 3 of 5mg down from 10mg

9:11 PM Dizziness began around 3pm today. Was a little hard to manage running around town, so decided to spend some time parked on my backside and it went away. Seems that sitting still and relaxing can totally eliminate the vertigo. I experienced some annoying feelings of frustration around 7pm tonight, but had some quiet moments doing some database work for a museum and that helped me relax wonderfully. And that's it for today! Basically smooth sailing with a few rough waves but not enough to get sea sick. I'm so pleased it's going so well! I've been so full of laughter and joy these last few days! I can certainly say that I've felt less anxiety in the last few days then I ever had while on 10 or 20mg of Paxil. Hooray! Sexual dysfunction is disappearing at a nice rate too.

September 05 2000 - Day 4 of 5mg down from 10mg

10:42pm. Ouch. Today was not an easy day. I woke up this morning at 7am with a sharp pain in the upper right side of my abdomen. Every breath would amplify the pain. The ER doctor is concerned about my gal bladder function so tomorrow I'm going in for an ultrasound. Wish me luck. Once that pain subsided, I wasn't out of the blue. Looks like dizziness hit me early today. From about 12 pm onward I was only comfortable sitting down if you know what I mean. My peripheral vision has been like soup and has invited some wonderful feelings of nausea. To top that off, I've been feeling more irritated than the last few days with some hot flashes of anxiety.

Today was hard bloody work! It required consistent usage of relaxation techniques, spiritual realignment (ie:remember the symptoms are an illusion, and who I really am is not a part of that) and good ol' consultation with God getting a helpful push every now and then. By 7 PM I had a hard time keeping my eyes open from the exhaustion. But it was such a nice cozy sleepiness that I rather welcomed it! Took a nap for about 20 mins and felt great again. For a while haha. I'm ok right now. Well within my realm of tolerance and comfort again. Looks like the 'day 4' pattern has rubbed me a little. :)

September 06 2000 - Day 5 of 5mg down from 10mg

9:39pm. Today should have been a relatively easy day, but for one thing: I had to miss my morning paxil dose because of the fasting requirements of the ultrasound, and boy was I dizzy today!!!!! If this is what people experience when they quit cold turkey...holy cow! Viscous or what! My eyes wanted to close constantly. I don't have to tell you how difficult (and dangerous) driving to my appointment was today. Phew! Fortunately, it was over with quickly and I could go home, have my 5mg of Paxil and within a couple hours, see straight again. Well, see as well as possible on the usual 10mg to 5mg withdrawal haze I've been experiencing anyway hehe. I was finally able to spend most of the day at work. It was quite difficult. Adding up hundreds of gravel hauling tickets (at work, office manager) gave me a hell of a headache. I had to concentrate so hard considering how jittery things are. I survived. Truth be told, if it wasn't for the withdrawal symptoms I'd feel absolutely wonderful! My personality and emotions are just so perky again! So lovingly spontaneous and animated. I'm defiantly myself when not being dozed off into indifference. I can't wait for the days to turn into weeks so that I can make the next switch to being PAXIL FREE!!!

September 07-08 2000 - Day 6, 7 of 5mg down from 10mg

6:54am, the 8th of September. Before I write about my night of hell, I'll recount yesterday. Yesterday was terrible. Abdominal cramps, nausea, dizziness, emotional discomfort you name it, I had it yesterday. I was almost useless all day. But all that pales in comparison to the hell of a ride I had last night.

LAST NIGHT: I was reading quietly. Not doing anything else except laughing a little at how the author had written things on relationships. All of a sudden, I felt really anxious. The old signs of a panic attack were coming on. I put the book down, quietly deepened my breathing, said a little prayer of help to subside the excitation, and thought of calm beaches and other relaxing thoughts that I usually rely on to calm me down. Well, it worked. Too well I think. I felt this weird firing of impulses in the back of my head and everything inside my head, inner dialogue, emotions etc. went dead silent. "Whoah...." I thought. What's going on? Did I relax so well I shut myself off? And then WHAM! Emotional misfires! Happy, sad, laughing, anguish all at the same damn time like I was being electrocuted. I sat up immediately in absolute incredulous awe. "What the hell was that?!?!?!?!" I immediately began trying to figure out how I really did feel...trying to decide what was real and what was just my brain trying to adjust to something. I'd like to say I was frightened by the experience, but I couldn't feel that. I really wanted to cry in anguish at the terribly uncomfortable feeling of going crazy, but I couldn't. All attempts to bring forth a sympathetic emotional response brought on the brain 'shivers'. I really genuinely WANTED to feel afraid but I couldn't! I had squelched the anxiety so well I couldn't bring forth any fear at all. I just decided to give up and go to bed!

So I'm lying in bed, clinging to my partner waiting for the ride to change because I loathed it, whispering, "....help me....". The silence in my head was not normal! It felt so alien to not hear inner dialogue, to just lie there existing but not participating. And just when I concluded way deep inside that it might be comfortable, a rush of something so foreign, like a noise that makes no sound would sprint through me like a jolt from a cattle prod and make whatever sense I had of being a human being shimmer like rippling waves in a puddle. GEEZ!!!! "What the hell was THAT?!?!?!" I tried to yell to myself. Trying to snap out of it. But back to silence. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream but nothing but silence as reply. Nothing but inner silence. Like a refusal to participate in reality. Pardon me, but, "it was ******* terrible!" I eventually fell asleep and woke up early today, unable to feel like I've slept at all. My head's behaving again, albeit not as much as I'd like it too. Well, considering the haze Paxil put me through these last few years, do I really have any clue of what it feels to be normal?

I can't wait for my therapy session today...how interesting it will be. Oh, and know that I have not given up! I am even more determined to get off Paxil, endure whatever mental storm I need too and conquer this! I WILL BEAT THIS!!!!!!

September 09-10 2000 - Day 8, 9 of 5mg down from 10mg

The last few days have been very kind to me. With a wonderful taste of rekindled romantic passion if you know what I mean. *wink* Paxil is definitely a relationship inhibitor. Not only does it quelch any physical desire, it also renders your heart so quiet and deaf, that anything having to do with 'love' becomes nothing more than physical marathons to avoid frustration.

Besides the usual barrage of nausea and dizziness, the only new thing to report is an everyday battle with abdominal bloating and gas. It seems that Paxil withdrawal has left my innards prone to wonderful bacteria who enjoy exhaling. The result? Painful cramping! And music-writing not likely to win a Grammy.

However, my emotional state is very nice. Happy, joyful, enthusiastic, hopeful, energetic, motivated, creative etc. The fog is lifting!!!!! Even with a tinge of short patience and irritability, I am feeling more alive then I have in almost 5 years. Here's to you life! I raise my chalice to you my old friend.


September 11 2000 - Day 10 of 5mg down from 10mg

10:46pm. I've had such wonderful dreams the last 6 years, that last night's were shocking. (An aggressive reminder that dreams do affect daily life.) Around 3 am I woke up confused as to what was real and what was a dream. In my dream, I was stumbling around in darkness, feeling too drunk like and disoriented to make sense of the world around me and those around me couldn't make sense of the gibberish my mouth was spewing. It was horrible! It was like an amplification to an extreme of what paxil withdrawal dizziness is like. I eventually gave up on trying to figure out if I was awake or still dreaming, and just turned over, in a wonderful fetal position, and asked God to take me home. I woke up today having completely forgotten last night's events.


SIDEBAR: I have never asked God for help, nor really acknowledged any kind of spirituality until a few years ago. Panic disorder and paxil rocked me awake.


Around 10 am, I finally remembered the dream. "Oh ****, that's right!", I almost said out loud haha. The cringe of that memory subsided and a very productive day continued. I was finally back at work, very busy playing catch-up and reminded myself that this was my first day back at work after a week of absence due to intolerable withdrawal. "So how are ya?", I asked myself. Pretty good! Sleepy and focus challenged, but very motivated, better memory etc.

Work can actually be enjoyable when it's not so herculean and things can happen a little more automatically. Astonishingly, I was also there 20 mins early! I've been almost 15 mins (ok, 5 min average hehe) late every single day all year! Incredible. I know my colleagues were pleased.


September 12 2000 - Day 11 of 5mg down from 10mg

11:07pm. Today was a good day. Any day that contains so many hours of comfort is always good hehe. The withdrawal symptoms are fading still and I love it. What is on the rise though, are highly emotional dreams. Dreams that hang on me all day. I attribute this level of activity to the effect of lifting the fog from my emotional nature. It's tough and kind of raw to be so sensitive to everything so quickly, but it's the zest of life that I've learned to never take for granted again.

Feel it all...it's the soul's purpose and language.

I've also noticed how damn busy I've become! Consultations, setting up wireless networks, trouble shooting this and that, setting up appointments for tutoring sessions and making plans for developing community web sites while orchestrating equipment to build our County Museum's inventory database, sending my love to dozens of people everyday personally via e-mail, ICQ, the web site, the message boards and collecting submissions and formatting them! PHEW! I can't wait for the weekend! I'm enjoying every minute of it though.


September 13-17 2000 - Day 12 - 16 of 5mg down from 10mg

It's now been half a month. :) And I'm happy to say that things have settled. It seems the withdrawal symptoms have almost completely gone. I'm so very proud to have made it here. But the effort continues and will accelerate by next week when I go off of Paxil completely. Victory is so very near.... *cheer!*

The last few days have been pretty uneventful except for alot of exhaustion and some nausea Thursday and Friday. I don't attribute feeling that way to the Paxil though. My motivation rises exponentially as Paxil leaves my system and I find myself taking on so many new projects. I'm working harder then I have in years and I'm enjoying it. It's so nice to be functional; such a joy to eat in restaurants again; and so very liberating to feel what I should have been feeling all these paxilated (my word) years. I can finally run the gamut of emotions and be upset when necessary and frustrated when adversity shows up. And with special emphasis: Passionate and Loving to new heights, new comforts and confidence with trust. No more do I sit on the couch treating life as a non-event. I fully participate now.

From a spiritual point of view, Paxil was hindering my sense of self. It was leaving me with hazy boundaries that left it unclear where I began and where I ended. All good ways of saying, "I know what I like and don't like very clearly now." So careful when you try to walk over me, I've got a bite again. :)


September 18-19 2000 - Day 17 - 18 of 5mg down from 10mg

I've got about a week left of 5mg doses before I'm free. I'm so excited! I plan on having a party hehe. Last few days have had some terrible abdominal cramps and liquid movements accompanied by some nausea, but I'm beginning to be suspicious that it might not be the Paxil. I have a bad habit of not eating enough, so I don't think I'm getting enough volume.

Yesterday was a very intense busy day. I hardly sat still. And usually, during at least my 10mg days, I would feel incredibly overwhelmed and incapable of keeping up. But the more I free myself from Paxil, the more I can do and function towards burning that oil. I'm finally reaching the point of activity I had dreamed of since beginning Paxil. What's fantastic is that I know so much well when to relax and when to push a little harder without adverse effects. It's great to be able to read one's body and pay attention to what it's saying without the nonchalance Paxil brings.

What I forgot to mention before, is that caffeine is a killer for me now. Half a cup of coffee and I feel anxious and terrified almost for at least 2 hours. So I can honestly say that I'm eliminating all sources of caffeine from my diet. It's a false motivator anyway. Looks like other kinds of freedom are finding their way into my life. I love it!


September 20-21 2000 - Day 19 - 20 of 5mg (6 days left 'till FREEDOM!)

When you've been put virtually asleep with Paxil for many years, as it loses its grip on your senses, life gets that much more noticeable. Colors, temperature changes and my favorite: facial expressions (observing and your own) all amplify to levels you had forgotten existed.

The last few days have been overwhelming. My sense of life, living and the environment around me is so sensitive that everything is making ALOT of noise. Just when you think color is absolutely silent...surprise. So lately I've been very tired but incredibly happy. Unable to focus on repetitious tasks though! And since that's what I do at work everyday, I've been doing a terrible job when I'm present at all. You wake up in the morning, and everything is so alive that you feel like you're in the center of the universe watching it all go by so quickly. And it's beautiful to watch. It feels great. But, like I said before, very exhausting. And I've still been repeatedly sick. My neck has also been so very tense that I'm getting nasty headaches.

Through the whirlwind of life, I find an exhausted immune system that is catching everything! I've had the flu lately. Bone aching, liquid bowel, sleepiness etc. Classic symptoms. I'm losing a lot of income with my work absences but it's a necessary process as I renew. Today I was so overwhelmed by my senses that I couldn't concentrate on work. I'd start processing an invoice, and I'd want to go for a walk. I recommitted to the effort, and began singing a song out loud. All conscious choices but difficult to ignore. It's like my soul is yelling in my ear with a megaphone, "go! get up! quit doing that! live damnit! live!" I deserve this exciting time. After 3 years of crippling anxiety disorder, where I lived in the confines of our apartment hardly seeing anybody or anything, battling starvation with the odd eating disorder, and then 2 years of living in the fog of Paxil; able to function, but not truly experiencing anything first hand; I earned this joy damnit! Even if it means a flu and/or cold here and there.

I've begun recognizing the differences between physical and mental illness. Physical ailments feel bad, but I appreciate it! It's so gentle and does nothing more than slow me down to an unproductive yet happy crawl. Kind of a gift in today's fast paced rat race of a society eh? Whereas anxiety and Paxil induced ailments are poignant, grab your personality by the shirt and throw you against a wall.

I caught myself dancing today...something that never happened while on 10-20mg Paxil. Can't wait to see what happens when I'm off of it completely. I love this feeling of being alive. Even if I have to sleep a lot of it while my mind/body/spirit trinity relearns what it was made to forget.


September 22-26 2000 - Day 21 - 25 of 5mg

Today was my last 5mg day!!!! Tomorrow I begin my life anew, free of the daily Paxil crutch. This is a time to celebrate. Tomorrow will be the beginning of my last withdrawal experience. How long the last one will last I can't say, but considering I'm not fully over the last 5mg drop withdrawal, it could take a few months. But I'm ready.

The last 4 days were difficult yet very important and beneficial. The more Paxil looses its grip the more I care about the world around me and my own happiness. The last 4 days have been filled with frustration and sadness. Sadness that so much time was spent recovering with Paxil, and frustration at what I've been settling for: mediocre experiences. What's good about that, is that I'm finally in possession of my emotional faculties to make such observations. Damn this is nice!!!

The clouds are clearing big time, and I can plainly see that I've been letting things happen to me without really being an active participant. An experience Paxil users frequently report: nonchalance that you don't complain about because you're so nonchalant. *laugh*

I find myself sitting in silence today. Thinking about all I went through to bring me to where I am today. Without seeming masochistic, all the adversity and pain was worth it. I have learned many truths because of the anxiety disorder, and the mind altering effects of Paxil. I've also met many MANY wonderful people that feel like family. Of course, there were always less painful and more effective means to this kind of personal growth, but I didn't know any better. Just goes to show you, the process is different for everybody. Love and truth.

So wish me success for tomorrow. It's the result of 4 years of hard work. Two of which were spent in medicated denial.


September 27 2000 - Day 1 of Paxil Freedom (ie:0 mg folks!)

Today was incredible. I woke up and felt some abdominal cramps from hell, so decided to take the day off from work. Those cramps were not Paxil related, I had a bug. But what's incredible is that it's 9:46pm as I write this, and I've had a total of 2 hours of dizziness the whole day and that's it for withdrawal! Tomorrow will be worse however as the half-life of Paxil continues its disappearance, but even if it's twice as bad, it won't be intolerable! Why not? I'll tell ya:

My emotions are normal! Responsive, controllable and HAPPY! I haven't felt this good, positive, charged ready to take on the world since December 1996. Today is a great day of celebration friends. If today is any inclination to what Paxil freedom feels like, I'm going to be partying A LOT for the next while. Continuously celebrating what I worked so hard to achieve.

Independence. A budding master in anxiety, depression and the like, equipped with powerful tools to keep me free (and others when you lend an ear) from debilitating mental conditions forever more, I am my own hero.

The fog is lifting. I find myself wanting to sing and dance. How I've missed feeling joy! The tears of joy touch my face and kiss one to send it to all of you who are also fighting the difficult fight against addictive medications like Paxil.

Know this now: there is hope, there is light, no pain lasts forever when given your full attention, anxiety comes from an absence of love, and you were not born into this world to be dependent on some future chemical by a money seeking company. Today I feel free.


September 28-29 2000 - Day 2 & 3 of Paxil Freedom

Oomph! (5:30pm) Withdrawal has quite the kick now let me tell you. Dizzy all day long, tendency to nap spontaneously and fitful dream like reality to boot. This is very difficult, prone to waves of anxiety and disorientation at the wee hours in the morning when time is spent figuring out the difference between dreams and reality. In a nut shell...this is bloody exhausting.

What's even more fun, is at night I'm catching myself having apnea. Yes, I stop breathing, I wake up from it, gasp for a few minutes and fall back asleep not really sure if I was awake or not. But it's all worth it. Doesn't matter how rough it gets, I can feel a warm loving light igniting inside me, like a quiet knowing that I'm moving towards a little piece of destiny. Sounds esoteric I know, but a healthy spiritual relationship is key to telling the difference between who you really are, and the tricks the mind plays while it adjusts to a new experience. The brain is a tool for interacting with reality, but not the dictionary defining you.

My techniques for conquering anxiety have been criticized a little lately. I'm sorry that what I've learned from best-selling publications doesn't seem to hold true for you. But they work for me, and have worked for millions of others. They're worth a second glance. :) I mean...what if?

I'm also wonderfully emotional! Oh how I've missed this kind of passion for everything around me. The way I used to be. :) I do have to go easy on the Oprah watching though...definately making me too teary eyed hehe.


September 30 2000 - Day 4 of Paxil Freedom

Phew! Today was the worst for dizziness. It was an all day thing from the moment I woke up this morning to when I gave up and went to bed last night. Also, as emotionality increases I find myself prone to tears and a general sense of frustration. My tolerance for mediocrity and nonchalance is definitely going away haha.

When the head ape died in Disney's Tarzan, I bawled. Goes to show ya!

Panic attacks are losing their bite REAL fast! I'm so very glad to report that. It's still too early to tell if their weaning is a sign that they'll eventually disappear, but it looks good to me. Besides, as I experience them again, I find myself better equipped to deal with them, let them have their say, and then brush them aside. And it's with these kinds of techniques and healing awareness that you treat anxiety while being drug free anyway.

So in short, today can be described like this: it's tough, I'm fighting tooth and nail, but I'm winning.


October 4 2000 - Day 5-8 of Paxil Freedom

Y'know, my progress header says, "Paxil Freedom" but considering how withdrawal tends to make us absent from work while we recover, and employers are very sensitive to absences; am I really free?

The last few days began with a loss of compassion from my employer. They knew from what I told them in advance, that I'd be having it REALLY rough for a while. A misunderstanding occurred however. It became the current belief that I was to quit Paxil cold turkey early in September and by today, I wouldn't need alot of time off anymore. It seems that the conversation on August 28 containing my plans for WEANING for a month, and THEN quitting, requiring at most 25 days of unreliable presence for each effort was forgotten. These things happen and can usually be renegotiated but I found it very difficult to do just that while being commanded to go to work right now, regardless of my current condition.

Details:Monday of this week, I made the error of asking permission for me to be sick which then left the matter open for debate, critique and invalidation. My condition during the request involved a tendency to be in the fetal position sobbing excessively, and that's what I brought to work. Oh, I also brought along the anger, frustration and disappointment of being commanded to heal at a pace set by other people.

Unfortunately, addictions don't listen to people's opinions, they take as long as is necessary in light of what and how much the body is craving for.

So the last few days have been bloody exhausting. Angry and frustrated all the time. My body and mind are screaming for a break and I can't make that happen while I'm plowing through 100 invoices and working in physical proximity with cold people. All I ask is for some time away from a stressful environment, to undo the abuse of the last few days and get back on track to continuing a challenging yet rewarding recovery. I don't think I'll get it though. I might have to resign just to save myself.

A fellow employee cheered me on today, "this place is getting so bad...don't let the poison get to you. Who you are and your health is always a top priority. It's just money, you can get that elsewhere. Very strange for them to treat you that way though, unheard of in my experience here." Very good advice.


October 9 2000 - Day 9-13 of Paxil Freedom

Let's see...what does it cost to fight an addiction? Hmmm, how about 36 thousand dollars? What about recognition, respect and compassion? Oh! Let's not forget stability, responsibility, titles, benefits and retirement plans. Yup...it's easy to get one's employment terminated while dizziness, nausea, vertigo, tremors, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and exhaustion are causing half a dozen absences in a month's time. Exactly what happened to me this past Friday. I was fired.

The above is in everyone's best interest however. My employer gets rid of some bloat by no longer having to experience any interruptions in service, having to care, having to be flexible and so on; while I get the time off I need to heal and return to the work force stronger and more productive than ever before. Too bad they couldn't wait 2 weeks...their loss.

I am very fortunate however, and incredibly thankful. I wasn't necessarily eligible for the termination pay I am being awarded (according to the Employment Standards Act and Labour Legislation in Ontario). Therefore, compassion was given in the end and I appreciate that wholeheartedly. I will definitely go in peace and use the time I now have to completely recover.

And all of this happening while being free of Paxil. I must admit that as emotionally precarious as I've been for the last 13 days, these kinds of life altering experiences are especially difficult! Anger and disappointment are very hard to handle and take days of continuous venting to resolve themselves. I don't have to tell you how tempting it was to pop a yellow pill (ie:10mg Paxil) and wash the tribulation away. But, I held steady and continued to fight for my health and who I am. A hero. (Well, somebody in the hero profile of the Meyer-Briggs personality test anyway.)

Sorry but venting is a health promoting practice that allows us to live without Paxil. Besides, remembering, feeling and analysing are all things we're ALLOWED to do! Remember: ignoring and internalizing life is Paxil's job, and what a moronic deadly job that is.


October 13 2000 - Day 14-17 of Paxil Freedom

Intense emotion. That sums up the last few days. It really is an incredible realization to make that when you haven't felt anything for so long, and you finally do, it requires A LOT of control and responsibility. In other words, when I'm angry, I'm REALLY angry; when I'm suspicious I'm the hardest working investigator ever; and when I'm happy...well, the whole world knows it. I become a hug sponge.

It's also good to note the coincidence of highly intense emotional events (like losing your job) with my new freedom of Paxil. I guess life couldn't wait for me to be 'ready'. I consider them events that will make me a quick study of feeling the world around me. In all of its colors.

Things are now calming down however and not swaying as much. It seems that the normal years of experience that numb us (or tone us down) to highly emotional events no longer count when you're on Paxil for a long time. As soon as you're off of it, you have to go through the toning down process all over again. But it's definitely worth it. Having a full range of emotional responses again is heavenly and helps me feel real and human again.

So the mid-month mark is all about emotion folks. No Paxil related physical effects are obvious enough to mention and any discomfort or lack of sleep I'm getting is because I'm FEELING like I never have before. Virtually to the point of being psychic! When someone walks in the room, how they're feeling washes over me. I hope I don't 'numb' as I've mentioned at all hehe.


October 16 2000 - Day 18-21 of Paxil Freedom

Hey folks! I'm alive! I'm free of Paxil and I've been doing more and having more fun than I have since 1996.

Now, this means that I no longer have any relevant 'Paxil Progress' related experiences to report. I'm not having any more withdrawal, and I'm left with just the basics of everyday living. So what will I do next?



Only it wasn't over, and it was rougher than I described. In the years that followed I went into greater detail across posts in the paxilprogress.org message forum. I was scared and running for my life from withdrawal, job loss, and more. Withdrawal and gradual dose reduction was so new, with next to no medical support, and having to pioneer without a safety net was rough. I was doing 5mg reductions and scraping by, while others were destroyed by such large jumps. They were smarter than me and went more slowly. So in the end I'm not surprised I focused on the positive, to ride the gains as much as I could. It was a smart self-motivating thing to do.


In general the ups and downs became less so, my meditation practice continued, and my back and forth wall bouncing between bad days and good days eventually settled after a year. In Paxil withdrawal you have days where you can't stand, and others where you carry yourself and others. People will align with you along the way, and others will abandon. This is actually GOOD, no matter how much it might hurt, because it's a process of re-alignment. People who can value you will find you, and those who can't will distance themselves. Embrace this. It's not a good/bad events system, but one of recognition and strengthening, and you will become grateful for it once the stings fade.


It's been 20 years since I became Paxil free, and I cringe and laugh at who I once was, and what thought processes medicine and I used to hold as dear and true when we accepted the harmful drama of Paxil. Today I deal with anxiety by listening, by allowing, and by transforming. In the late 1990s when an anxiety disorder was raging, I resisted, feared and fought. Today I don't medicate crisis. Instead I hold it in my hand and to my chest no matter how much it burns and freaks me out. I sit with it. I let things stew. The young 20-something me lacked the know-how. Through it all my understanding of anxiety changed from that of trauma to messenger, and external solutions became internal practices (except chocolate.)


If I could whisper to my old self having frightening nights of withdrawal, I would say this:



You're going to have the epiphanies you need to have, but only when you're in a position to listen, so listen to your experience the best you can and treat it as valid by default. You can't heal what you won't hold. You don't need nor should you want normalcy or the "old you", because innovation and inspiration won't happen until you are consciously choosing to become someone for your tomorrows. No matter who the next you is, know that you are already enough. You're not obligated, but enabled.


When you feel lost, and can't think of a single positive thing to think or do: do nothing, surrender and breathe. Then should you desire it, simply take a step, any step, and it will be good enough for now. Let time show you the more visible value in their sums.



Wisdom: In a minute. I'm busy doing nothing.


I hope this helps! You got this, people! Big thanks to [Altostrata] who encouraged me to share.

Edited by Altostrata
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  • Altostrata changed the title to ariellab 20th Anniversary of Freedom
  • Administrator

Thanks, Ariella! Good to see you here.


How long did it take for you to recover from your drug withdrawal-related symptoms, would you say? How did they change?

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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Bravo ariellab. 

Brilliantly written.

And thank you for coming around and sharing your Success Story.


Love, peace, healing, and growth,



2022 May- continuing with limited activity on site, just something I need to do right now

Started with psycho meds/psychiatric care circa 1988.  In retrospect, and on contemplation, situational overwhelm.

Rounding up to 30 years of medications(30 medication trials, poly-pharmacy maximum was 3 at one time).

5/28/2015-off Adderal salts 2.5mg. (I had been on that since hospital 10/2014)

12/2015---just holding, holding, holding, with trileptal/oxcarb at 75 mg. 1/2 tab at hs.  My last psycho med ever!  Tapered @ 10% every 4 weeks, sometimes 2 weeks to

2016 Dec 16 medication free!!

Longer signature post here, with current supplements.

Herb and alcohol free since 5/15/2016.  And.....I quit smoking 11/2021. Lapsed.  Redo of quit smoking 9/28/2022.  Can you say Hallelujah?(took me long enough)💜

None of my posts are intended as medical advice.  Please discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical provider.  My success story:  Blue skies ahead, clear sailing


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4 hours ago, Altostrata said:

Thanks, Ariella! Good to see you here.


How long did it take for you to recover from your drug withdrawal-related symptoms, would you say? How did they change?


It was at least a year before the main symptoms that appeared in the dose reduction dose reduction months faded to a point of infrequency, and no longer felt like a burden. I think it was at around the 18 month mark that the withdrawal experience sat with me as a memory, instead of as a current event.

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4 hours ago, manymoretodays said:

Bravo ariellab. 

Brilliantly written.

And thank you for coming around and sharing your Success Story.


Hi! Glad you liked it and thanks for saying so! Reading through the summary in your signature, you've been through many cycles. That must have been difficult. If you've written down lessons learned, I'd love to read them.

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Thank you @ariellab - question...would you say you struggled with cognitive issues related to foggy mind, no brain activity, and bad memory? Curious if those symptoms lifted for you if you did struggle with them

Off all meds since mid June 2020

November 2020 - feeling really sick, cognitive delays, memory issues, difficulty focusing, low mood, apathy, anxiety

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  • Mentor

AMAZING!!! Thanks for sharing your story :) All the best to you in the future! 

I follow The Plant Paradox lifestyle by Dr.Gundry. This lifestyle has given me my life back and I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. It has enabled me to finally get off of this medication and truly live my life. Nutrition is the key to health!!!!! 

2008 to 2019  - 20 mg Paroxetine

Attempted 2 CT's around the 5-6 year mark. Were absolutely terrible and reinstated. Was never explained by the doctor the seriousness of the short half life of this drug. 

2017 - Attempted a tapered discontinuation of this drug and reinstated after being unsuccessful.

2019 - Feb. 12 - After a three month taper I am off of paroxetine. The 3 months were terrible, awful withdrawal feelings. I followed the doctors guidelines for the reduction of this drug and now know it was way too fast. 
2019 - Oct. 12 - 8 months off paroxetine. 75% improvement since coming off the drug. Definitely have had tons of challenges along the way. Let’s go!!!! 

2021 - Feb. 12 - 24 months off paroxetine. I have minor challenges now. Tinnitus/Headaches are still around but are reduced by a massive amount. 


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1 hour ago, gizmo said:

Thank you @ariellab - question...would you say you struggled with cognitive issues related to foggy mind, no brain activity, and bad memory? Curious if those symptoms lifted for you if you did struggle with them

Everything resolved within a year and some. I didn't end up with permanent damage as far as I can tell.



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Thank you for posting your success story and engaging in conversation with us. I especially appreciated the "Spiritual/Existential" section, as this sounds like a transformation journey for you. Nicely done! 

Drug free May 22, 2015 after 30 years of neuroleptics, benzos, z-drugs, so-called "anti"-depressants, and amphetamines 


My Success Story:  Shep's Success: "Leaving Plato's Cave"


And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good — need we ask anyone to tell us these things? ~ Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice, but simply information based on my own experience, as well as other members who have survived these drugs.


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This is so inspiring @ariellab and filled with so much wisdom and humor. And I particularly love this bit of wisdom:


15 hours ago, ariellab said:

But allow chocolate into your life. Chocolate is good. Chocolate is divine.


Thank you for bringing a smile to my heart today. 

2008-2016 - Lexapro 10 mg, tapered to 2.5 mg over one year then CT without issues
Feb 2 - July 24, 2019 - restarted Lexapro 5 mg for insomnia

July 25 - Nov 19, 2019 - Lexapro 10 mg, resulted in increased anxiety and depression
Nov 20 - Dec 11, 2019 - 3-week FT from Lexapro 10 mg to 7.5 mg to 5 mg to 0
Dec 12, 2019 - Feb 4, 2020 - drug-free and feeling good until horrible WD hit
Feb 5 - Feb 16, 2020 - Paxil 10 mg, adverse reaction
Feb 18, 2020 - reinstated Lexapro 5 mg

Nov 22 - Dec 12, 2020 - transition from pill to homemade liquid

Dec 13, 2020 - 4.7 mg; Jan 3, 2021 - 4.5 mg; Jan 24 - 4.3 mg; Feb 14 - 4.2 mg; March 7 - 4.1 mg


daily meditation 10-40 minutes, yoga 30 minutes; CBT & ACT therapy

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4 hours ago, Shep said:

Thank you for posting your success story and engaging in conversation with us. I especially appreciated the "Spiritual/Existential" section, as this sounds like a transformation journey for you. Nicely done! 

Thank you for reading it and for valuing the sharing. We've all been through so much, and it's definitely been transformative!

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3 hours ago, Cigale said:

This is so inspiring @ariellab and filled with so much wisdom and humor. And I particularly love this bit of wisdom:



Thank you for bringing a smile to my heart today. 

Je vous en prie. The chocolate brings the smile. 🍫


I noticed in your signature that you have a daily meditation practice? Have you discussed it elsewhere in the forum? I'd love to learn more about your approach and how it's helped.

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Hello! One thing I have been using regularly that seems to help a bit are the meditations that come with "The Mindful Way Workbook" by John D. Teasedale, J. Mark G. Williams, and Zindel V. Segal. I don't know if you will be able to access them, but here's the link to the meditations. These meditations ground and calm me, and I feel like it my brain is healing too. At least that is part of my visualization.

2008-2016 - Lexapro 10 mg, tapered to 2.5 mg over one year then CT without issues
Feb 2 - July 24, 2019 - restarted Lexapro 5 mg for insomnia

July 25 - Nov 19, 2019 - Lexapro 10 mg, resulted in increased anxiety and depression
Nov 20 - Dec 11, 2019 - 3-week FT from Lexapro 10 mg to 7.5 mg to 5 mg to 0
Dec 12, 2019 - Feb 4, 2020 - drug-free and feeling good until horrible WD hit
Feb 5 - Feb 16, 2020 - Paxil 10 mg, adverse reaction
Feb 18, 2020 - reinstated Lexapro 5 mg

Nov 22 - Dec 12, 2020 - transition from pill to homemade liquid

Dec 13, 2020 - 4.7 mg; Jan 3, 2021 - 4.5 mg; Jan 24 - 4.3 mg; Feb 14 - 4.2 mg; March 7 - 4.1 mg


daily meditation 10-40 minutes, yoga 30 minutes; CBT & ACT therapy

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29 minutes ago, Cigale said:

Hello! One thing I have been using regularly that seems to help a bit are the meditations that come with "The Mindful Way Workbook" by John D. Teasedale, J. Mark G. Williams, and Zindel V. Segal. I don't know if you will be able to access them, but here's the link to the meditations. These meditations ground and calm me, and I feel like it my brain is healing too. At least that is part of my visualization.

Looks like I would need to register, unless it's register+pay? I have enough books that I don't need to buy more right now hehe.


Does the workbook encourage the healing visualization or you've introduced it yourself? I would trust that you are improving things significantly! Anything that gives you a pause to consider the noises from the upstairs Brain neighbour is a helpful thing.


Anything in the workbook about seeing yourself as an independent observer of mind and body?

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thank you ariellab


I would like to thank you for sharing your experience Also, I want to ask some questions, if you please


1-Have all of the Paxil withdrawal symptoms completely disappeared?

2- How do you feel after the withdrawal symptoms disappeared, have you returned to your normal nature?


3- Has the feeling of inferiority disappeared and that you are less than people (it is common to feel this feeling during withdrawal)


Thank you

starting date: Seroxat 20 mg :1/1/2019 

Discontinuation date: 1/4/2019  

(Cold turkey)

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Hi Noh1995!


1-Yes. Within a year and some change, experiences that began and endured while on or withdrawing from Paxil moved out of my day to day and into memory. It was a gradual process. The number of days they were present became less frequent until they slipped into "I don't remember the last time when..."


2-Oh I never chased after normal, nor a "returning". If I was to return to my old self, I would be the self that had a horrendous anxiety disorder and about to get her life bludgeoned with Paxil. =D So I couldn't go backwards, only forward. But I know what you mean. The language for how we phrase personal development matters though. It's essential that we don't undervalue nor mislabel "progress". Progress is always forward. Every step we take, if we can see its value or not, is progress. Not seeking normal, is progress.


I became someone who was different than my former self. I was more aware of my own life, more connected, had a larger world-view, and so very hungry to live. I began travelling, remarried, lived in another country, rode my bicycle 750km across the state of Iowa, etc. I was at my most vibrant phase for many years, and I felt very good. But I didn't know I could become that person. All I knew to do while new to Paxil and while withdrawing, was to write lists.


When I first began taking Paxil and was getting wrecked by side effects, and while being made even more anxious, I wrote myself a "who I would like to become" list. Everything I put on there sounded outlandish, silly, a pipe dream. I was panicking constantly, severely agoraphobic, and writing things like, "go the movies and feel comfortable throughout the whole show, good enough to even catch a second one right after". That was insanity! Impossible! Never gonna happen! I also wrote even sillier things like publish a book, work full time, have at least a 50k salary, travel for 12 hours in a car etc. None of the items had the word "normal" in them. In fact, they were all abnormal for who I was being, and they were abnormal for who I've ever been.


I would go on to do many of those things, and many others I hadn't even thought of. We cannot know our future selves, but we can imagine who we'd like (or respond to the need) to become. And while we have those ideas, we can take our best guess at what steps to take that might grow us in that direction. All steps are valid: The steps that don't work are abandoned and thanked for revealing themselves as dead ends and built upon. The ones that do are thanked as well and built upon.


3-That's a really good question, and we can definitely feel othered, separated or left behind while disabled by withdrawal. Society's ableism and post-colonial capitalism that promotes grind culture -- that we exist to be used -- can throw the "member of society" identity into turmoil. Throw in some harmful personal relationships that don't support intense healing periods like withdrawal, and we can feel like we're getting a pot of boiling tar poured onto their head!


I chose not to accept that and reached for a new model of:


  1. I am valuable (without need of outward demonstration or external feedback).
  2. My value can be made more visible, and better aligned towards a person/place/thing (if shared, and by leveraging external feedback).
  3. I will not believe myself less-valuable if I don't/can't align.


Over the years I've worked to become much less concerned about how others define my value when I look inward, because they can't see it by default. But I can always connect with a person to learn how they perceive value, and try to speak their language for it, as long as it doesn't cause any self-erasure when their language is too limited. Sometimes I have to teach them my language. This is needed on both sides if two people are to perceive each other as valuable really. Either way, if a person is going to form a value definition and framework for their self-referencing, it's ok to be inspired by others, but the work must be owned by the self, and defined by the self. It's the only way to become fully seen and achieve authenticity.


As nice as all that sounds, and it has made my life much happier, I'm still a sensitive human. I can still get super insecure at times, feel excluded, cry about it, and have to work harder to not submit to conformity when it would betray who I am. It's just not as often. With conscious practice (active watching for flare-ups of insecurity) I've learned how to return to my centre more quickly, after those moments of intensity. But not perfectly, hells no. I'm still a fallible goofball lol. I have had some intense insecurity moments during my attempts at finding full time employment this year for example! It's all done by camera during the pandemic, and I have little experience with that. I've had to figure out where to aim my eyes (camera or screen to see my audience), how calm to make my face (I blink way too often), what makeup tones to use, how much lighting, what angle to aim the camera to give me a more media consumption friendly look (while exploring why I think I need to), what my microphone sounds like to the interviewers etc. But I've learned and now I'm just uncomfortable with cameras instead of insecure about it. It helped that I found a way to afford a higher quality camera, ring light, and had some rehearsals with friends.


Insecurity is human. It's not inherently bad. It can be an opportunity for self discovery and growth. Work with it and recontextualize it as you become a different person over time. Use the experience of the insecurity to ask why is that coming up as a feeling? What's happened before? What do you imagine will happen again? What if it's just a message calling your attention to something else?

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