To Medicate or Not to Medicate…that is the Question

Is it a crutch, a stepping stone, or does it depend on the situation? This question has come up often at the workshop and on the follow up calls for decades.

Many people report that they don’t like the idea of using a medication as it feels like a “crutch” and they want to feel like they can do it on their own. Many also feel worried they will become dependent on needing the medication and not be able to do it without it if they become reliant on it.

Written by Janet Esposito, 2010

I have gone through a range of feelings about this issue in my own personal experience. Many years back, before discovering some tools to help myself and others with this fear, I felt a desperate need for medication to be able to speak in front of groups. At that time, I felt a tremendous loss of control and didn’t feel that I could speak in groups unless I had something to calm down my fight or flight reaction. The medication allowed me to stop avoiding as much as I did once I stopped feeling totally panicked while speaking.

Then, after using a range of tools to help myself, I decided to slowly wean myself off of the medication and, instead, to use some natural support with some different herbal and homeopathic remedies and amino acids that are calming to the body.

I recall one specific day that was a turning point for me where I was feeling very anxious and uptight as I was getting ready to start an important radio interview and I thought to myself, “I really want to enjoy this experience rather than having to spend so much effort on calming myself down. Why can’t I allow myself to use a beta blocker as many others do rather than having to make this harder on myself than it has to be?”

At that point, I decided to give myself permission to take a small dosage of the beta blocker I used to take (Propranolol) whenever I felt I wanted to, based on my feelings and circumstances. I had a realization about this that was very helpful to me in accepting my decision: I take thyroid medication to treat an underactive thyroid. I fully accept that my thyroid is not working properly (and hasn’t been for about 30 years) and that I need medication for this condition.

I don’t perceive the medication as a “crutch” despite my need for it. I realized I can also acknowledge and admit that my body is not working properly when it comes to my body’s sensitization related to public speaking. I can allow myself to take medication, as needed, to correct my body chemistry related to this as well, without having to feel bad about doing this.

Interestingly, when I have taken a very small dose of the medication, I feel like it normalizes something in my body and I feel completely myself again. It allows me to be more in the flow and enjoy my experience with speaking rather than be focused on managing my body symptoms. When I don’t use the medication, I know I can handle my body symptoms using the tools I teach and it is light years better than it used to be when I did not have the tools to help myself.

I believe that if I had very regular speaking opportunities each week, if not daily, that my body would eventually desensitize to a large degree. I don’t have these opportunities currently in my professional life and, truth be told, I don’t feel motivated to seek them out now to prove anything to myself.

As I was reflecting on the issue of medication, it did occur to me that it is our ego that is most conflicted about the idea of taking medication for this as it makes us feel less strong and in control of ourselves. While I grappled with this feeling early on, I have come to accept that I do have a vulnerability in this area and that the medication, in addition to all of the other tools I use, help me to feel much better when I speak in public, and to actually enjoy it for the most part.

Your Take Away and Action Step:

Consider your feelings about whether to use medication or not (or natural alternatives) to help yourself with your public speaking or performing fear.

Think of what advice you would give a loved one and see if this same advice makes sense for you to follow.

If you chose to use medication, be sure to keep practicing the many other tools that help you to better deal with anticipatory anxiety and create a much more positive mindset about speaking or performing.

Honor whatever decision you make and know that you can reassess at different points on this journey if your needs or circumstances change.

Written by Janet Esposito, 2010