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inneedofhelp 10-13-2005 11:35 PM

Getting Married With Anxiety
well I found this board months ago when my dad was having problems with a manic depression episode. It also was extremely helpful this summer when my grandmother was passing away slowly with respiratory failure. Now I hope it will provide the same comfort, advice, etc. for me.

This may be long as I've always found telling my story to be somewhat therapuetic and since I haven't thought out exactly what I would be saying it may begin to ramble. Thank you for bearing with me.

Anyway I'll get right to the point, then into the details if anyone wants to read on. Basically, I am just wondering if anyone here who struggles with anxiety/depression ran into problems with getting married/making a commitment to a relationship (or know someone who did)? I think what I really want to know/hear is that I'm somewhat "normal" and the thoughts I'm having, though exaggerated by anxiety, are meaningless. Basically, I just want someone to tell me everything will be "okay."

I have found that through all my struggles with anxiety, that is all I ever want, is someone to tell me everything is fine. The funny thing is, I'm not sure how much good it really does, but I keep seeking it out. Its strange.

Anyway here's my story.

My parent were divorced before I entered the 1st grade. My 1st day in my new school, I began suffering major anxiety problems (of course I didn't know what it was back then). I threw up during lunch that day, and for the first 3 months of school I was constantly in the nurse's office and constatnly having my mom come pick me up. Finally the school counselor suggested my mom take me to a child pscyhiatrist.

She never did, I think mainly she didn't want to be seen as a "failure" as a parent considering she was only 3 months removed from living with my dad. I'm guessing now she considered it showing weakness. Of course, I didn't want to go see a psychiatrist either, I had no idea what that was and was terrified of doctors in general. As a result, I quit showing my anxiety outwardly in school. I can remember back to my 1st grade class sitting in my little desk having what I now recognize as a "panic attack," I would want to run to the door so bad, but I made myself stay planted in my seat.

Anyway fastforward a few years to junior high/high school. Growing up I was always a little bit of a hyperchondriac and can remember being frightened of the school cafeteria because I once overheard my teacher saying there were "aides" in the cafeteria. Of course she meant teachers aides, I took it to mean AIDS. Anyway, I kept most of this inside.

But beginning in junior high when we started our health classes, I could no longer keep it inside. The symptoms of all the horrible diseases we read about (shortness of breathe, tingling in fingers, racing heart, chest pains, etc.) seemed to be exactly what I was having (now I understand this was anxiety). At the time, I convinced myself that I was having both heart disease and strokes on a daily basis. I confided in my mom, she laughed. I confided in my dad and he tried to explain things to me rationally. I wasn't listening. I read everything I could about diseases, I convinced myself I had everything from colon cancer to throat cancer to congestive heart failure.

I begin obsessing on those thoughts, the negative thoughts taking over all rational thoughts to the contrary. I would constantly have to call my dad so he could tell me I was "okay." I would feel better for 2o minutes, the immediately the bad thoughts would come. Eventually during high school freshman year, it whipped me so bad that I became severely depressed to the point where I didn't even care anymore. The best way for me to deal with the thoughts was to just to hope I did have cancer and hope it would hurry and kill me to put me out of my misery. I can remember thinking how bad everyone would feel for not believing me. When I told my mom about these feelings, she became concerned and immediately made me an appointment to see a psychiatrist.

After talking to him for an hour, I had a whole new view on life. It was the first time I had ever heard of "panic attacks" or anxiety as a disease. I found out that millions of people had similar problems. He did put me on meds (xanax and prozac) but I'm not sure how much they helped. The most helpful thing was just learning I was not alone. I stayed on the meds for a year but had started feeling so much better I decided I could get off. I quit going to the doc and thought I had really turned the corner just by knowing what it was I had suffered from.

The rest of high school was incident free until my senior year. I began to get nervous about the upcoming change (something I now realize triggers my episodes - change) but nothing full blown like before. Then one day I went to see my doctor for a rash on my leg. My regular doc wasn't in, it was my first doctor visit alone (without mom), during a normal exam, the doctor listened to my heart and became very interested. All of a sudden all the panic came back. He told me I had a heart murmur that he was very concerned about and that I needed to go see a cardiologist that he recommended. I absolutely freaked out, back to the bad stuff again. The good news in the end is I went back to my regular doc a week later, he listened to my heart and said the 'murmur' I had was actually something very common and not serious at all(1 of 4 people have it, I forget what its called). I also went to another doctor for a second opinion, he said I didn't have a heart murmur. Years later the first doctor I went to (that said I had the murmur) was arrested for trading drugs for sex. But thats sort of beside the point I guess. Anyway, bottom line is, I was a wreck again, even though doctors was telling me I was fine, I convinced myself otherwise.

Again it took a trip to a psychiatrist and another round of meds to stabilize me again, but I eventually got back to normal again and settled in at college. College was great at first. I stayed on my meds, had a few minor anxious episodes but nothing major.

During my second year at college (the best year of my life so far) I met my now fiancee', Janet (ah, finally getting back to the original point of the thread, but I just feel like all the background helps tell my story). It was love at first sight for me. I was crazy about her. For the first time in my life, I felt really happy. I loved doing things with her, I had no fear, I bungee-jumped, I had no problems going over big bridges (something that used to cause panic attacks), I finally felt like a normal person. I can remember being so happy back then. I would do anything to make Janet smile and anytime I was with her I felt so complete. So happy, that I decided I didn't need my medicine anymore, plus I didn't want her to know I needed medicine, so I stopped again.

After we dated for about a year and a half something terrible happened. One of my friends from high school came over one night and told me he had a brain tumor. He told me he had been having headaches for 3 or 4 months and began getting very dizzy. He had just had a CAT scan or MRI or whatever it was and they found a tumor. He had to have it biopsied. This was the first time since I had met my fiancee' that my old struggles popped up. It took over slowly. I would imagine myself having dizzy spells. Soon, I would notice myself having headaches. Before long, I woke up every morning with a headache and it would not go away. In less than a month, I had convinced myself that I too had a brain tumor. This also corresponded with what was my last year in college and another big change coming up.

During this time Janet was amazing. She put up with me, a guy who 2 months earlier had been ready to party all night or pick up and head anywhere at the drop of a hat, now I delegated myself to bed, convinced that I had tumor growing inside my head. Of course, Janet couldn't understand, but she tried so hard. I finally confided in her my history of anxiety, etc. and she was completely understanding. She encouraged me to seek counselling which I did again. This time, the doc gave me Xanax and Zoloft.

During this time though I began to question my relationship with Janet. It was nothing that she had done, but I started wondering why she couldn't make me feel better anymore. I thought she had cured me of my anxiety problems, but now here I was worse than ever. I know its stupid logic, but that is how I was thinking at the time. This was the first time I began having what I call "doubts." Prior to the brain tumor episode, I was strongly considering asking her to marry me, now I was wreck and decided to put it off until I started feeling better. Then I started questioning why I "put it off," did this mean something? Was I reading too much into something as usual? At that time, I made a mistake, I confided in my mom (who by that time had been remarried and redivorced twice and who was all in all very bitter about marriage in general). I told her I had wanted to ask Janet to marry me, but now I was having second thoughts and did that mean anything. Her advice, I still remember to this day.

She said something to the effect of, "if your having second thoughts, you need to break up with her now. I wish I would have broken up with your father as soon as I had second thoughts. It would have changed everything. You don't have second thoughts about true love."

[continued on next post]

inneedofhelp 10-13-2005 11:36 PM

Re: Getting Married With Anxiety
That made me feel absolutely horrible, I couldn't imagine life without Janet, but at the same time I didn't want to end up like my mom. Was she right? Would proceeding lead to divorce and heart break? I began to analyze everything between me and Janet. If she said something that annoyed me, I made a mental note of. I put her under the microscope that I had put my physical symptons so many times before. Selectively thinking about the bad things and forgetting the good. Still I couldn't stand the tought of losing her. Before graduation, I told Janet how I had been feeling and I think it really broke her heart, she had no clue I had been feeling that way about her. She told me she knew I was the one for her and she was willing to stand by me through anything. We agreed to hold off on anything until I had been through some counselling.

Like everytime before, I got better. The headaches went away, my friend had surgery and the tumor was removed without incident, college graduation came and went and I went on to graduate school. I quit having the bad feelings towards Janet and felt so bad for putting her through it. She was understanding and happy to have the real me back. Graduate school for me was in a different town and Janet had to stay behind to finish up college for 1 year. We kept things together during that year. There was a girl in graduate school who I hung out with a lot and really started liking me. I liked her, too, but when presented the choice between her and Janet, it wasn't even close. Janet was my best friend. I am so comfortable around her, I can spend weeks with just her and never get tired of each other. She moved to the city where I was going to school and began to work. The second year of grad school was good, I was totally recommitted to her after the "doubts" spell and the minor blip with the other girl (we never actually did anything, it was just mutual "feelings," looking back now, I realize it was mainly loneliness on my part and I can't imagine what I was thinking). Things were going up again and of course, I got off my meds. I hate taking those things, especially when I am doing good!!

Anyway during my final (3rd) year at grad school, I decided I was ready to propose to Janet. I bought the ring and prepared the proposal. At the same time, I begin to get that old creeping feeling. It started slowly with me remembering back to my senior year, thinking why did I have those thoughts about Janet? am I just settling for her? Then before long it was full blown again. This time we decided maybe we should just break it off. (sorry getting short on details because this is getting way too long) It was difficult for both of us, but at the time we thought it was what had to be done. I lasted maybe 3 weeks. I was a total wreck, it was not at all what I wanted. I just couldn't stand being without her, not talking to her everyday. I begain to realize all that I had just taken for granted. Just hearing her say "I love you," having her call me in the middle of the day for no reason, etc. etc. I went back to her begging for another chance, she was skeptical, but I had been getting counseling again (and yes, back on meds). For our 2nd time, we "started over" and I was happy again. Six months later I proposed, and though I was nervous, it felt right.

We are set to be married in February. During the summer I stopped taking my meds because I started my new job and thought that stability from my job and being engaged would provide enough comfort that my anxiety problems were over (noticing a trend yet???). Well sure enough, last weekend it happened. My fiancee' and I were at a wedding store looking at invitations, and I started to get those little thoughts again. Now a week later, they've turned into big thoughts and keep me up at night and pretty much make my days hell. I want to take action now before it turns into full blown depression. I am thinking about finding a good psychiatrist in the area and I suppose getting back on medication.

I DO NOT want to call of the wedding or even postpone it. I've dated Janet for 6 years now. We've had so many great times together and been through so much, I know we can make it through this. I love being with her and I love imagining our lives together. When I'm well, everything is good. I know that it is my "sickness" causing these thoughts and I don't want to 'give in' to them. I'm just scared about it all, growing up, having children. Of course, I get those silly thoughts about why Janet can't make me well and those negative obsessive thoughts about her faults (however minor they are). I really just want to shake that and be done with it for good.

I just want to get my life back to how it was as a sophmore in college, when I was just happy being me. I've had flashes of it and want it back totally.

If you've read this far, you may have a biased view of how things are from the way I have told the story. Keep in mind, I'm in the negative down time right now and I just hit the points that I thought would be most relevant.

Please don't tell me I need to "call it off" or that "second thoughts = certain doom" because thats really not what I need right now. That would be like if in highschool when I was having the hypochondriac phase, I went to a health board and asked about dizzy spells and headaches,a nd people started telling me to go see a doctor immediately, etc.

Really I just want to hear from someone who has been through something similar that can tell me it will all be okay.

I've been through this so many times, its the same pattern, the same feelings, the same results. I really should have it figured out by now, but it should does help for me to hear other's with the same experiences.

Well, I think I'm done writing, this thing is two or three paragraphs short of being ready for a publisher. Sorry about that and if you are still reading, thank you so much for taking the time. I look forward to hearing comments and will try to clarify, answer any questions, or respond in any way I can.

SRMom 10-14-2005 02:15 PM

Re: Getting Married With Anxiety
Okay, I read the whole thing...I don't know where to start, so I'll just make a couple of points.

I absolutely don't think you need to break off your engagement. I can understand why your mother is soured on marriage, but there are many reasons to believe your marriage will be great. For one, you have a wonderful woman that has stood by you through your ups and downs. That is a very good indicator that she is a strong and good person. You obviously need someone like that in your life, because you will likely struggle on and off with anxiety whenever stress gets to be too much for you. I'm sure your mother would want someone who takes good care of you for her daughter-in-law.

The other thing that stood out in my mind is you quit your meds right when you started a new job and got engaged. That doesn't sound like a good idea to me. It is normal to have anxiety over getting married and having a new job, but sounds like you are confusing anxiety with thoughts that you shouldn't marry. It doesn't mean that getting married is a bad means that you are realizing the huge responsibility you are about to take, compounded with new job responsibilities. I'd wait awhile to worry about children. Take one thing at a time if you can.

If medication has been keeping you well, now is not the time to stop. You might want to consider some counseling, with or without Janet, to help put your thoughts in order and your mind at rest.

And for goodness sake...try to have fun! This is the best time of your life. Try to allow yourself to enjoy it!

Best wishes to both of you!


inneedofhelp 10-14-2005 02:23 PM

Re: Getting Married With Anxiety
wow, I didn't think anyone would read all that. Had no idea I was rambling on and on.

Thanks for your kind words of advice. I actually feel a lot better today (such is the ups and downs of this). I do seem to stop taking meds at the worst possible times. I think its because I whenever I am making a change in my life, I decide that I will just change it all. I think I can magically become a new person who doesn't need the meds anymore.

Of course, at the same time, I'm usually undergoing a huge change in life (going to college, grad school, engagement, starting a new job) so that just totally compounds the stress.

Again, thank you so much for reading through all of that SRMom! You are awesome. I really appreciate that someone actually read my desperate ramblings!

crabbyroad 10-14-2005 07:12 PM

Re: Getting Married With Anxiety

I agree with SRMom, she pointed out many good things. I would not call off the wedding either, your mom is definitely holding grudges over your parents marriage. I was a product of such a marriage also, at age 7, my parents divorced after 3 yrs of seperation and 4 children. I developed trichtillomania with consumption, but luckily due to this nature, my mother did take me to a psych, (that part I don't remember too much), although i do remember the surgery do to the blockage in my stomach from trich, which the pysch stated was a stress behavioral response in regards to the seperation and divorce of my parents. She was and still is to this day-loathing my father.(Even though she and my father both eventually remarried new spouses later) Im now 43. My mom in the beginning "tried" to talk me out of marrying, she would grill him over everything, thought in her mind he was "like" my father. Anyway, in May we will celebrate 22 yrs of marriage and have two wonderful children. I'm glad I listened to my heart about marrying my husband instead of listening to my mother, whom I really always went to for advice, she is a great mother, etc. But this one, she totally failed on. She realized her error in judgment of him, marriage, it took awhile, I think the turning point was when I had my first child, she saw that he was a loving father, who took care of his child. (Oops! Forgot to mention, when I was in the hospital at 7, that is when my Dad got remarried, he wasn't even there during my 2 wk stay).

Anyway, stay on the meds, when you feel good its working, I would not try to go off them until at least after the wedding if you are feeling absolutely Mar-va-louussss!!! THEN, you do a very slow wean under guidance of a doctor, very small tapering, that way, if you start feeling thoughts or doubts, you know, its not time to discontinue, or you will at least find your dosage that keeps the thoughts at bay.

t_411 10-16-2005 12:50 AM

Re: Getting Married With Anxiety
That was a great story! I know it's been a struggle for you but wow! How interesting! You know, you could honestly write a book about your successes and failures along the way while dealing with such a condition as anxiety.
I know I would buy a copy! I agree, it feels good to know you're not alone in the world when having to live with an illness. I used to have panic & anxiety attacks but the meds are helping me too so, I'm back to normal now and getting married soon too. I have always had those same thoughts, "am I just settling for this person, maybe I should hold out, I can probably do better" but this man I am getting married to soon is perfect! I've never met anyone that I love everything about and get along with so well so, why on earth would I ever think something like that!
Ok, now, I wanted to tell you...
My uncle... His wife, before & after they were married went through the exact things you are going through now. She would get better and stop the meds. Then get horrible and life would fall appart. She does this even to this day but no where near as often. it is a process that for her is never ending. My uncle though has been very understanding and caring for her through all of this so, your girl sounds like a perfect match for you! My aunt and uncle are so in love even after years of up's and downs with this. They have 2 great sons who are in college right now and just a great family... About once a year for a few years she wouldn't tell anyone and stop taking her meds... Within a week or so she starts to have bad thoughts about everything or obsess about something small and then it just gets worse and worse. My uncle though knows her well enough now that he realizes right away because of her actions that she has stopped taking her meds and she will lie to him saying she is taking them. At that point he will get her pill and give it to her each day for a week or so and then she's back to normal and always so happy that he stepped in to get her back on track. Because of him helping her keep up her medications when she feels she don't need it anymore she has been able to have a very normal, and happy life in all areas of her life.
You're for sure with the right woman for you so, stick with it! You're going to have a great life with your best friend and the love of your life! Not too many people can say that so, you're very lucky to have eachother.
My aunt after a while was the one who told my uncle that if he notices that she is going through one of her bad spells to step in and make sure she gets her meds for a while till she gets back to normal. She's been doing this for about 25 years now... Life gets good. She decided she's better and stops taking the meds, then life gets very bad and gets back on the meds.
Some people just have to stay on meds all of their life in order to be able feel good, happy, normal, etc... That's just the way it is and it's not a bad thing because if your lucky enough to have meds that do work for you then you'll be fine through out your life. I thought about stopping my zoloft once recently and she told me this:
She said, "I think of it like this... If I had a heart problem and had to take heart medications to live a normal healthy life then I would never just hop off the meds because I was feeling better. If I stopped taking it then my heart might stop too". So, it's true. If a person has any type of illness and there are medications that make you better as long as you stay on them then why on earth stop the medication because it will make your illness bad again.
I think for her, accepting that she has a mental illness was the hard part. As long as life was good then she stopped accepting that she was ill. As soon as she was ill again she would accept it again and start over. Don't be like her, 25+ years to realize that she's just one of the many people in the world that truly needs her meds to live a normal life and be happy.
You already realize your pattern and that's a great start. Your girl accepts you as you are and that's a gift from God to you. Just be open with her as you have been and maybe you can tell her that if she notices these changes in you then she can help out with your meds till you get back on track so, that you don't fall appart again. Everyone needs a kick in the pants every now and then to keep on track. I know I've had to have my fare share of them! ;)
Good luck and best wishes to you and your soon to be wife!

pohaku 10-16-2005 01:47 AM

Re: Getting Married With Anxiety
before you marry, your problem is yours, after you married, it will be a 2 person's problem, the best way to deal with it is to be honest with yourself and her, just like any marriage, there will be some other problem in the future, deal with it with the honest and frank manner with each other together, Janet can handle it, it is you, so do not blame yourself and anyone, take meds if needed, don't if not, the power of a great marriage will and can overcome everythings, provides you both do it together.

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