I am often more of a lurker and occasional responder on this board. I read this board at least once a day or every other day. I found this board about 10 months ago when I was convinced that I was going to die from anxiety.
Last May, my anxiety which had been building and building and building finally pushed me over the edge and I slid into a 10 month process of going to hell and back. I was told by so many people that if I just stopped worrying I'd be fine, if I prayed more, or if I just learned to relax that I'd feel better. It seemed that my entire world was convinced that my situations were causing my anxiety to soar. I mangaged, I have no idea, to teach 7th and 8th grade English, interview for new jobs and to survive daily while walking around in a constant state of depersonalization and fear of dying and not sleeping and fear of illness and fear of abandonment, etc. Every sign of anxiety was manifesting in my body and soul. I had a therapist who said, well, this is just a bad time. You'll get through it. I was on no medication except for xanax and lunesta that I soon became dependant on.
In the middle of this, I was preparing for a 5 week safari/volunteer trip to South Africa. I had been planning this trip for almost a year and when the time came to leave, everone told me that when I got to Africa I would feel better and my anxiety would cease. It didn't and to make a long story short, I was only in Africa for 10 days and came back to an ER diagnosis of anxiety and was given ativan and told to get a dr and some therapy.
I was devastated. Everyone looked at me like I couldnt handle things and now I was back early and had 8 weeks until I started a new job. I got a new dr, who would later turn into the dr from the dark side, and he was convinced that this happened because of situations and pulled me off xanax in 2 weeks and over medicated me to the extreme with high doses of trazodone, depakote, zyprexa and effexor. I was a mess. I slurred my speech. My anxiety was not treated and I was so afraid and felt like I had no one to talk to. All of my friends were scared of me. My parents were gone and I had a therapist who said, well, this is a tough time and a good friend who is a priest who kept telling me to read the bible and pray and I would feel better. I was also grieving this trip and how it was cut short. I was not able to pray. I was not able to enjoy life, I was living moment to moment and felt like I was hanging on due to paper clips and safety pins. Panic attacks struck at will and I was so scared.
The one miracle, and this person is a miracle, was that I was referred to a psychologist who finally got to the root of a lot of issues and knew that I was experiencing a biological anxiety disorder and was withdrawing from a benzo which is is harder than opiate addiction. She was on my side and walked every step this summer and early fall with me. She was supportive and reassuring. She also watched out for my best interests and was convinced that I was not receiving the medical care I needed. She called me on my stuff.
Needless to say, things got worse despite the psychologist and I ended up in a psych hospital for 13 days. These 13 days were a space for a brand new doctor who apologized for the past doctor's behavior and helped me develop a new cocktail of meds, meds that finally worked and above all, he listened to me. Too often I think people suffering from anxiety do not get listened to and we get written off as being freaks and wierdos when in fact a majority of the planet does not understand the symptoms we are forced to walk around with. It takes guts to go through what we all go through.
To make a long story short, after the hospital, it was tough work and then one day the symptoms vanished due to a new med that had been added to my daily meds. I am now on cymbalta, seroquel, neurontin and wellbutrin. THere have been some drawbacks, weight gain, but the fact that the symptoms from the dark side have disappeared makes the weight gain worth it. Now that the symptoms are gone, I am further able to work on the issues that were covered by the massive anxiety. I am puzzled though that people try to be doctors and figure the med thing out for themselves. I am a teacher, not a doctor, and with every person reacting differently to drugs, it really does no good, in my opinion, to try to ask for drugs. All of these drugs that I am on now, I had never heard of. I trust my doctor and he listens. Perhaps this is a rare event-- that a doctor actually listens. But I trust him. Being assertive is important but asking for drugs is something I don't do because I am not a doctor. I am not judging anyone--I am just saying what I do.
So, now, I'm at a better place than last may when this all began. However, there is a big part of me that says that I will fall back into the awful experiences of last may. There is the part of me that refuses to acknowledge that my life is so different from last may and that the symptoms will return. I am on meds, have a new therapist and have greatly modified my life and my friends.
Things that have really helped me include-- journalling every day, drawing and writing, and being honest with people. I also take my meds as directed and have been feeling fantastic. The symptoms are gone and for that I am so grateful.
Why did I write today? I wanted to provide a light at the end of the tunnel. I know exactly what it takes to go through what everyone on this board goes through. I wanted to write to you and let you know that this is a disease that is not all in your head. YOu are not crazy. This is a disease that will not go away despite all your best efforts. Yes, some of it is situational but a lot is biological and a good doctor and therapist will help. Friends are another important factor as my family has not spoken to me for a long, long time.
I wish that I had heard this when I was being told it was all my fault and that I needed to do this and this and that and I'd feel better.
You can survive this. You can thrive. It takes time and courage, but I am convinced that you can do it.
Let me know if I can do anything!
Hang in there