Hello Anxiety – A Mental Health Awareness Month Collaboration

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness month I have collaborated with a couple of  blogging moms who to bring you our stories about Anxiety and Depression.

1 in 5 American women suffer from Anxiety & Depression, a number that climbs higher as women give birth and suffer from  Postpartum depression and anxiety. There is a stigma that has surrounded mental disorders for many decades and we are going to help break that stigma in this series by showing how daily life can be when you suffer from anxiety.

I have been lucky enough to find and surround myself with hard working mothers in the blogging community who are open and supportive of this journey. Whether it be parenthood, daily life, blogging, or mental health, these women have built a strong community of support.

I have collaborated with Val from www.modernhippieval.com  and Erika at www.mypatchworkhomestead.com who will be sharing their stories this week as well.

We hope that in this collaboration we can bring you some comfort and understanding if you suffer from anxiety and help reduce the stigma that surround mental disorders.

 

I want to tell you about my experience in finding a doctor so that you know not to give up, even if you come across the worst of health “professionals” in the process.

I have, apparently, suffered from Anxiety and Depression the majority of my life, however I never bothered to seek treatment (or even mention the fact) until after I had my first son seven years ago.

I was in college, a single parent, working and perfectly happy. I was busy but not to an overwhelming point. It had been a few years since I had suffered a panic attack and I had forgotten that I even did those things. I was sitting on a bench outside my classroom on my college campus experiencing what I like to call “sitting death” – a panic attack – shallow breaths, blurred vision, amplified sound. Externally I was just sitting, motionless, eyes wide and filled with tears. I didn’t move for 3 hours. When I finally could breathe I went home and probably went to bed, because shit like that is both terrifying and exhausting.

I went to doctor in town and thus began the most horrific experience of finding a decent fucking doctor who actually gives a shit about your mental health.

Having anxiety causes you to do irrational shit and truth-be-told I had anxiety about going to see a doctor about my anxiety. I thought it was an irrational fear, but I would discover quite the opposite.

The first thing he said to me as he walked into the room and sat down was, “So, you’re crazy – what is making you this way?” I shit you not – this is what he said to me. I responded with “I’m not crazy.” But then I burst into tears and he literally wrote on his clip board in bold capital letters CRIES A LOT. Thanks, dick.

He asked me if I was depressed, if I were unhappy with myself, why I was so busy and why I left my child while I worked. He grilled me about some visible acne scars on my chest, insinuating that I was into self-harm. He didn’t believe when I told him I had bad skin and proceeded to examine my acne scars as if they were pertinent to my visit.

He ordered blood work for my thyroid because he said, “That might be what is making you crazy.” He also prescribed me Lorazapam “in case you panic” and Adderall for good measure on account of what he called my “inability to focus on the right things” and sent me home, but not before telling me that I didn’t need to “dress up” for my next visit. I was wearing a sundress because it was fucking summer. I hated him.

I returned to him a month later to update him on the progress with my medication (there wasn’t any) and to get the results of my thyroid test. “That’s not what is making you crazy,” he said. “I am going to give you some valium – maybe later we can send you to a psychiatrist – would you like that?”

Uh, fuck no, thank-you-doctor-dick.  Here was a doctor literally calling me crazy every time I stepped into his office and then telling me I needed a psychiatrist. I was terrified that I would get locked up or lobotomized. My irrational fear of the Psychiatrist manifested in a scary movie asylum.  I took  my tranquilizers and stimulants home and left them on my shelf, untouched. Occasionally I would take a Valium for a panic attack.

I decided within a pretty short amount of time that he was a fucking idiot and I should probably find another doctor. I started jogging every day and doing yoga. I felt a little better. I managed to keep myself occupied and irrational anxiety inducing thoughts out of my head by reading – devouring – books and information. Looking back I have always been hyper focused on certain things, and that focus has allowed me to push irrational fears out of my head, subdue panic attacks and function pretty well.

I went to a new doctor who had a better bedside manner, but still thought that my original doctor was on the right track with my prescriptions.

When I got pregnant with my daughter I was only taking Diazepam on occasion if I had a particularly bad panic attack. I breastfed her until I got pregnant with my son, so there was a solid 2 years that I was entirely un-medicated. After I had my last baby a little over a year ago I was having panic attacks that were preventing me from leaving the house.

I found a new doctor who put me on Zoloft. Yet another thing that I hated taking. This new doctor, however, gives a shit about my health and when I said I didn’t like he said “stop taking it, we can find something else.” This doctor is the one who has actually gotten me to talk about my anxiety. He has brought me to a point where I am comfortable explaining to my kids how I deal (or don’t, in some cases) with things that cause me anxiety. This is important because sometimes it is my kids that cause me to have a panic attack. He has helped me discover knew techniques to ease the daily anxiety and to figure out a way to work through the inability to leave the house that sometimes comes with this disorder.

I have become a master of working through panic attacks. Over the many years of having them I have succeeded in fully carrying out a task while in the throes of fully debilitating panic attack. I have continued to wait tables, give speeches, care for kids and other daily tasks while under the heavy blanket of an attack. It will appear that everything is mostly normal – but my heart rate is through the roof, my head is pounding, I can’t breathe, sometimes my vision and hearing is distorted and yet I am able to focus on one thing and carry on functioning at the minimum until it passes. I know that I can step away from a situation and put myself in a dark and quiet spot until it passes also. I take “quiet breaks” with my kids sometimes, and although they don’t really do the quiet part very well.  It’s still exhausting. It is a rare occurrence, however. I have managed to keep the attacks at bay with some strategic self-evaluation.

People with anxiety are sometimes over-achievers. If I can take all my nervous energy and focus it towards a particular task I am unstoppable. Also having to deal with daily feeling of inadequacy drives me to do things that are above and beyond.

What I am most comfortable about now is my doctor. I am lucky that I didn’t just give up after my experience with that first asshole. I have still not discovered a medication that works well for me but now that I am no longer pregnant or breastfeeding my options are more open.

 

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5 comments

  1. I relate a lot to dealing with crushing anxiety and panic attacks while having to also function as a mom. My issues are more complicated due to PTSD and I had severe PPD, PPA, PP-OCD and experienced a few instances of “mild” psychosis with my PPD (hearing things, nothing dangerous, but terrifying and exhausting) after the birth of my second son, who was born only 15 months after my first son. My youngest is 2 and I am still dealing with depression, anxiety, OCD, etc but these were all things I’ve had all my life, too. Being postpartum amped everything up to the Nth degree.
    One question: why the fear about going to a psychiatrist? I have seen several in my life, and all they are, are doctors who specialize in psychotropic medications and mental health disorders. I would choose a psychiatrist any day over going to a general family doctor for psychological issues, especially since psychiatrists SPECIALIZE in psych meds and know much more about them than other types of doctors. Is the fear from an inaccurate depiction of psychiatry in the movies, etc? Is there a confusion between seeing a psychiatrist and being admitted to a psychiatric ward in a hospital? I’m genuinely curious, I don’t mean to be condescending- I have a BA in Psychology and I don’t understand the part in the blog about being told to go to a psychiatrist as this horrible thing, unless it was just to highlight the anxiety and the horrible attitude of the doctor who said that? (What a horrible doctor btw!!! OMG!) In addition to seeing someone specifically for medication management I also see a therapist. Anyway, I just wanted to ask about that, for clarification also for readers who might take away the idea that psychiatry is the wrong path to take. It is where people should go! Nothing to fear (although yes, sometimes it can take awhile to find the right one, just like any other doctor.)
    Thanks for the post! Lots of hugs

  2. I think for me personally thwart my fear of the psychiatrist actually comes from the stigma associated with mental disorders. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve felt comfortable enough to even discuss my anxiety openly with anyone. I have, over the course of my life had my entire family “joke” about my being “crazy” which has hindered my seeking help until 7 years ago.
    You’re right, however – and my fear of going is irrational and basd on the scary movie concept of psyciatry. I need to get over that fear. Thank you for your encouragement! I

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I suffered from anxiety attacks that would sometimes leave me sitting on the floor of an elevator because I could not stand anymore. It took over a year and several tries at different medications to get my depression, anxiety, and PTSD into some kind of control. I still have them but I can catch them coming now and pro-actively try to work my way through them. PTSD moments take longer and can trigger my depression too. I have older kids now but it is still hard to sit down and do homework with my youngest when an attack is happening. You are brave. A side note: I see a psychiatrist as well instead of using my family doctor. I did use him at first but even he admitted that he would prefer not to handle handing out psych meds because it wasn’t his speciality. Both Psychiatrists I have dealt with were kind, patient and listened to my symptoms before jumping to conclusions. I encourage you to use the kind of courage you had in telling your story to maybe try.
    http://www.beachbutterflymusings.blogspot.com

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