My story (apologies in advance for the length)
In retrospect I have been dealing with GAD for most of my life. My mother always said I had a bad stomach because I always had stomach aches when I was stressed and I stressed about everything. I needed to be the perfect child, the perfect student, the perfect Christian.
I had headaches, neck and back pain and sinus problems. I was always at the doctor and they always prescribed antibiotics or pain killers. I also realize now that I had experienced panic attacks several times in young adulthood but had no idea what was happening.
My real troubles started about 4 years ago when I had a full blown panic attack while at my desk at work. I had never experienced anything like it and everyone believed I was having a heart attack. After a huge scene I was taken to the hospital and told I was having a panic attack. I was humiliated and did not believe them. I could not have a panic attack, I am “SUPERMOM,” I am in control, I fix things, I don’t lose control, it just wasn’t possible. But the attacks continued and I covered them up but they only got worse.
By fall of that year I could barely function. I was constantly dizzy, always in pain, struggled to breath. It all came to a head when my well meaning sister-in-law decided that there was something really wrong with me, and had me go through every imaginable test there was. She could not believe that someone who was as together, and in control as I was could suffer from panic attacks. I had 3 MRIs, 2 CAT scans, and every other invasive test that could be imagined, with results showing nothing. In the mean time, my doctor put me on a dose of 8 mg of Ativan a day (just to help me relax while they figured out what was wrong) and beta blockers to keep my blood pressure down. I was convinced I was dying and even with the high doses of Ativan I still had panic attacks on a daily basis. I was petrified of being alone and friends and family had to stay with me all the time.
By Christmas, I decided I could not do this anymore as I was convinced that if something didn’t change, this was going to be my last Christmas with my kids so started fighting back. I made myself start functioning again and by the time I could function, I had lost 6 months of my life. One of my old college instructors called and asked if I could come in to help him with a program he was coordinating and I started to work a few hours a day. By the end of summer I was feeling reasonable and the doctor had put me on Zoloft so that I could start cutting back on the Ativan. I spent another 6 months withdrawing from the medications and that was very hard. That fall I started working fulltime again but my doctor insisted I see a psychologist as I needed to determine what was causing the GAD and panic attacks. Working through things I came to realize that I needed to end my marriage as it had been causing me stress and unhappiness for many years. This was very difficult for me as I was the perfect suburban supermom but I did it and made huge difference. For the first time in years I felt I had some say in my life and I could relax and be myself. I was convinced I was cured and everything was great.
Then, six months ago, the symptoms started creeping up again. I could not believe it, I should not be going through this again, ending my marriage was supposed to fix it. I had made a career change and in the middle of buying a house at the time and the fear that I could end up comatose and unable to pay my mortgage scared the heck out of me. Of course this made it worse and I started spiraling into the same old patterns; dizzy all the time, chest pains, shortness of breath, etc. This time, I decided I was going to educate myself and spent hours on the internet reading about GAD. I think I have read everything there is to read on GAD, panic attacks, and phobias. I then realized that knowledge is power and once I understood the causes for the symptoms they become less sever. I also made a lot of changes to eating habits, exercise and breathing which are making a huge difference. Every case is different but for me, I refuse to go on medications again as they were not the answer for me. I will have to come to accept that it is something that will always be in my life but I now believe I manage it and not allow it to take over again. I have to believe that.
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