Friday, October 8, 2010

Anxiety and Me.

If anyone is vaguely familiar with this blog, they know that I've had anxiety in various degrees for the past several years-and, trust me, it's starting to get old.

I've always been a high strung person-like the time in college I was convinced I had HIV after making out with a stranger. Yeah, not cute high-strung, but crazy high-strung. I saw a psychiatrist at that time who suggested I take 5-htp and realize I may just be one of those people who is "wound too tight."

My "panic" attacks started in earnest the summer I finished my first year of law school. I had just sold my dad's house, bought a new house, planned a wedding in four months, and got married. My dad had only been dead for 2 years and (we didn't know it at the time) but my sister was sinking deeper into alcoholism (which she would eventually seek treatment for). I was drinking too much. One night I jumped out of a deep sleep, running around the room screaming at my husband that my heart had stopped. It was funny. Until these feelings persisted.

I became obsessed with my heart, my head, my health. During the past few years I've used alcohol to calm myself down and my anxiety has peaked and waned. Which was fine, until it wasn't.

When I turned 27, something happened to my hormones and I wanted a baby. Like big time baby time. Now, I'm crazy-my husband is crazy-and we're all crazy. But I had graduated from law school, passed the bar, and finally had a job that paid the bills and had amazing benefits. My husband was back in school full-time-and doing well-and I started to think we could actually do this baby thing.

But he had some conditions-1. Get a second dog, so our first dog doesn't get lonely (which totally doesn't make sense to me, but he's obsessed with dogs so I could deal), and 2. No more panic attacks.

ugggg...fair enough. But I realized my stupid anxiety had become part of me. I had quit smoking, and cut down on drinking-especially since I spent a week at Hazelden in the family program crying about my sister and hearing all of the horrible things alcohol did to people's lives from addicts who had done things like chop their own hand off in cocaine induced psychotic episodes (yeah, they don't fuck around at Hazelden) But my anxiety, I was like, "I can't quit you." I used my anxiety to get out of everything-seeing friends, family events, work. "oh, i'm sorry I can't go. I have anxiety. I'm special. " It was driving a huge panic shaped wedge between my husband and I, which would make me more anxious. I blamed him, he blamed me, and it all ended with me in a ball on the bathroom floor taking my pulse. I was totally living the American dream.

So, when I learned I had to fly to Baltimore for work I decided to see my (western) Dr. and get on some good old pharmaceuticals. Basically, all I had to say was "I feel anxious to fly" and she shoved a free sample bottle of Celexa in my hands, told me to take it for a month, and see her again. "Great", I thought, "a solution in a bottle."

I got home and proudly displayed my little bottle of chemical happiness to my husband, "Look, I'm trying." I started the Celexa and everything seemed fine-expect for these little electric shocks that seems to rumble through my brain every now and then. But at least I was starting to walk my dog without breaking into a cold sweat.

About a week into taking Celexa, I feel asleep on the couch while my husband was bent over his astronomy books in the kitchen. I'm not sure how this happened, but I woke up on the kitchen floor shaking and whimpering in the midst of a FULL BLOWN PANIC ATTACK. Now, I thought I'd been having panic attacks all along. Oh no. My shit was getting schooled in real life panic. Every single ounce of adrenaline in my body was released at the same time-I had broken out into a crazy sweat, my hands were shaking, my skin was buzzing, I felt so unreal and was convinced beyond all else that I was about to die. I grabbed ice from the freezer and ran outside. I could not calm down. I begged my husband to take me to the emergency room, "You don't understand", I hissed "I am going to die." He was pissed. Super pissed. Even though it was 2:00 in the morning he called my mom, "She's wants me to take her to the emergency room. I can't take this. I have a test tomorrow." My mom got on the phone, "Are you stupid? What's going on." "I'm going to the emergency room" I couldn't breath. My husband said, "Fine! Drive yourself." So, in this state I jumped into our car and started to drive. We live a mile from the hospital and 2 miles from my mom. My mom called, "What are you doing?" Me: "Going to the emergency room." Her: "No. What do you expect there? You're coming to my house."

Somehow logic got the better of me and I went to my mother's home, at 27, soaking wet with sweat and convinced my husband was going to divorce me, but more convinced that I was about to keel over.

My step-dad is 8 years older than my mom, so they have things like blood pressure cuffs at their house. I was still buzzing, shaking, totally felt like I was losing it. My mom slapped the cuff on my arm and gave me some water. My blood pressure was 200 over 140 and my pulse was 120. "Oh my God, I'm dying. See this is proof, I'm dying." My mom snapped at me, "Shut up. You're not dying. Lay on the floor, and start breathing." For several minutes I tried to take deep breaths into a paper bag, while alternating between telling my mom that she would feel bad after I was dead. This whole thing would make us laugh later-but would also convince me that I really couldn't live like this anymore. My blood pressure finally started to go down, my pulse slowed, and the tide of adrenaline receded. I felt like an idiot.

The next days the waves of panic continued, but at least I knew they wouldn't kill me. I called my doctor and told her what happened.

Me: I woke up last night in the middle of a real panic attack. It was terrifying.
Her: Oh, that's normal with drugs like Celexa. Things get worse before they get better.
Me: Really ? I wish you would have told me because this is awful.
Her: I'll write you out a script for Xanax. Just pop one if you start to have panic.
Me: You're giving me another drug to counteract another drug?
Her: It should just be short term.
Me: (What the fuck?) O.k.

That's when I realized I was a dumb ass for ever seeing a Western doctor for this. I mean, these type of drugs have a place for those who are suicidal, or suffering from severe mental illness, but they aren't for a person like me who has become habituated-addicted even-to anxiety.

this is when I went back to Mayfield-my functional medicine guru.

Here's what he has me doing:

1. Emotional Freedom Technique-this weird tapping on different parts of your body while telling yourself you're anxious. It looks totally odd, but seems to work. Look it up on YouTube. It's bizarre.

2. Amino Acid therapy-He explained this to me as being "basic chemistry." I'm essentially (no pun intended) helping my body make the "stuff" that makes me feel good. It's working, in the sense that I'm starting to feel strangely back to normal. Cynical and jaded, instead of constantly white knuckling it.

2. GABA-GABA makes me sleepy and feel tingly, but it's another amino acid which brings me down -in a calm way, not a depressed way.

3. Lemon Balm and Theanine-I'd never heard of using lemon balm for panic, but I've been using this from when I start to feel like I'm in the verge of panic. It really works.

4. Centiol-A powder mixture of magnesium and Inositol-which calms the nervous system and completely knocks me out for the night-no more midnight panic attacks.

He also told me that panic can be an addiction. Your brain builds up pathways, making panic familiar and easy to slip into.

So far, I feel better. Not perfect, but things are getting easier. I find that I'm better able to rationalize with my panicked mind rather than letting it take over. And yes, even though this most recent, and honest attempt, started with a desire to convince my husband I was well enough to get pregnant-I realized that I want to get this under control because I deserve to be here and I deserve to enjoy things while I am.

2 comments:

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  2. Love you girl! I had a feeling to check your blog and you updated it. Glad to see Dr. Mayfield is helping you so much!
    -Julie

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