Sylvia PlathAfter racking my brain to come up with an X word for this third-to-last post in the A – Z challenge, I came up with Xanax. To some, it may be an ugly word, to others it may be better than Open Sesame. Xanax (Alprazolam), in case you didn’t know, is a drug used to treat depression and anxiety. It belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines and it can be habit-forming.

Xanax, like most medications, carries with it a host of side effects including: drowsiness, light-headedness, headache, tiredness, dizziness, irritability, talkativeness, difficulty concentrating, changes in sex drive or ability, nausea, constipation, seizures and weight changes among other things.

But why am I writing about Xanax on a blog for writers? Maybe because of their lifestyle, writers are prone to anxiety and depression. You may have heard of Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, who committed suicide. Eleven years after Sylvia’s death, her close friend Anne Sexton, poet, also committed suicide. Other famous authors have also suffered from the “Sylvia Plath effect” including, Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (1927), Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man And The Sea (1952), David Foster Wallace, The Pale King. This is just a short list. Wikipedia has over 200 names of writers who killed themselves.

These writers all left behind a legacy of their genius for the world to enjoy, but that genius came with a price. Some researchers believe that creativity and mental illness go together. That may be true, but as a creative individual you don’t have to succumb to depression, anxiety or any of the mental illnesses. Notice, I said succumb. That doesn’t mean you don’t have it; all it means is, you learn to control it, in the same way you learn to control your weight, blood pressure or diabetes.

From the research I have done, and from what I have seen as an occupational therapist in a behavioral health unit, Xanax may help some people in the short term, but long-term use can lead to addiction and other side effects. If you must take Xanax, do so under your doctor’s supervision. Don’t take your cousin’s Xanax because it worked for her. In addition, if you take Xanax, you should be careful to follow the instructions to the letter. Do not take more or less than the prescribed dosage, and do not stop the medication without consulting your doctor. Also, before taking Xanax, be sure and tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications, or if you are allergic to any.

The writer’s life can be an unhealthy one. Long hours staring at the computer can take a toll on your eyesight, weight, posture, circulation and mental health. Trying to get your plot and characters to work the way you want them to can lead to anxiety and depression. The same goes for struggling to market yourself, find assignments and meet deadlines, if you are a freelancer. Counteract the stress with regular breaks and exercise (preferably outdoors). See my post on Fitness for Writers( Resist the urge to snack on cola drinks, potato chips and -dare I say it- chocolate. Spend quality time with family and friends, and if you can, cultivate another interest besides writing. It will do wonders for your mind.

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