3/28/2007

Snarky with a big ol' side of crazy

I've had this blog since the waning days of December 2004. In that time I think I've only blogged about my anxiety and/or depression (take your pick!) once, when I convinced myself The Dude was dead after he was late picking me up from work. As it happened we got our signals crossed - I thought he was to pick me up, he thought I was going out after work with friends. I spent my 35 minute walk home in tears, convinced the police would be parked in front of my building to tell me he was killed. I even closed my eyes when I turned down my street. I am such a drama queen.

The crazy goes way back. As a child I was very anxious, convincing myself at the age of 10 that I was dying of cancer and my parents just didn't want to tell me the bad news. As it happens it was just a swollen lymph node, but I still remember walking down the isles of a supermarket, with its sterile fluorescent lighting illuminating my thoughts of certain death. My Mom was pushing the cart in front of me and all I could think of was how this would probably be the last time I'd be able to go grocery shopping with my Mom. Ah yes, I was a cheery child.

When I was young, my Mom would often have to come into my room at bedtime and practice relaxation techniques with me. I was supposed to close my eyes and think of a place I'd like to be, and Mom would prompt me by narrating what the chosen place would be like. I always chose the beach, so the visualisations largely centred around curtains blowing in the salty air, the sound of crashing waves, and seagulls squawking in the distance. It always worked for that night, but by the next day I was back to worrying about my parents dying in a car accident, my brother having a fatal seizure, or my own mortality.

I blame it all on my brother and my Dad. The choice of death by seizure isn't arbitrary - my brother suffered from numerous seizures for the first two years of his life. I was the one who found him in his crib after his first. I was 6, and like the supermarket death walk, the image is fresh in my mind. I still see my Mom pacing up and down our family room, clutching my unconcious brother as he made horrible high-pitched wailing noises. After a particularly nasty Grand mal about six months after his first seizure, he was hospitalised. The day he went into the hospital I was home alone with my Dad, whose throat decided it was the perfect time to seize a piece of ring bologna. I laugh now as it seems so very random to choke on ring bologna and burst all of the blood vessels in one's eyes, but at the time I was helpless and of course, anxious. I watched my Dad struggle to breathe, knowing I could do nothing but scream and perhaps call 911. After what seemed like an age, he coughed up the offending piece of bologna, and we went on with our day like nothing happened.

Since then, my life has been peppered with moments of such abject panic that I wonder how I made it out on the other side without bald patches and stark white hair. I was treated for depression in my late teens and early 20s, sampled an assortment of anti-depressants, and went to some therapists whose main purpose seemed to be getting me to admit I was neglected as a child.

I disposed of the anti-depressants once the one I had been on for awhile stopped working, the second gave me a nasty case of sandy vag, and the third made me cry all the time, thus defeating the purpose of an anti-depressant. I was fine for awhile, until I started to get depressed about where my life wasn't going. I hadn't moved away from home yet since I went to a local university, and at 22 I was in the same exact place, doing the same exact thing as I was at 16.

I started to get anxious about The Dude. I wanted to know where he was all the time, and I was convinced every day that he would die in a car accident or be diagnosed with a fatal disease. I often made myself physically sick numerous times, and dosed myself up with Nyquil many nights in an effort to get some sleep.

I suspected the anxiety would ease once I left the life I considered a dead end, and it worked for a little while. Once I moved to the UK I was happy and fairly anxiety-free for a few months. Unfortunately for me I came down with something my GP classified as the ever-so-helpful "virus", a virus which affected my vestibular system for a fabulous seven months. That plunged me back into worry and I felt as if I would never get rid of the evil virus. I pictured myself unable to read a book again (a charming side effect of this virus), or ride in a car without being sick. It was a grim future I didn't like to think about. I lived off Nyquil for those months, because otherwise I would have gotten no sleep. I'm sure doctors would lecture against self-medicating, but as they had been no help in diagnosing or dealing with this ailment, I dealt with it myself.

Once I felt better, I went back to focusing my anxiety on The Dude. Beyond the usual car accident/brain aneurysm scenarios, The Dude kindly developed migraines which paralysed him for a couple of days each time. While The Dude was in our darkened bedroom vomiting into a buckt and other general miserableness, I sat in our front room unable to anything but have panic attacks. His last one occurred a few days before my egg retrieval, and it was all too much pressure for me. I called up my Mom mid-panic attack, unable to breath or speak, so that was helpful. She kept saying, "What? I can't understand you. Take deep breaths!", whilst I made gasping noises and odd wails.

Now I have a baby, so yet another person to worry about. At first I worried about her incessantly. Now I've moved on from her own physical well-being to her emotional well-being. How is that, you say? I'm a fucking freak ladies, so of course I am now worried about me getting sick and dying, or being otherwise incapacitated. I'm not so concerned about me, but how that would affect her. These days it's hard for me to look at her without envisioning her growing up without me. When I write in her baby book I ensure it reflects my personality so that if she reads it and I'm not around, she would know what sort of person I was.

I have recently diagnosed myself with about two or three debilitating neurological diseases thanks to various television programmes and newspaper articles. I don't think I'm a hypochondriac, despite the fact that I can only watch House selectively and I've decided to stay away from ER altogether. When I think something is wrong with me, I'm just not capable of believing it to be anything harmless. I'm all about the black and white - I'm either perfectly healthy, or near desintegration.

I've not blogged about my anxiety in detail before because I usually can't face it. When I'm in a very bad place, the last thing I want to do is address those feelings full on by discussing it. I suppose it would probably be helpful in an aversion therapy type of way, but I don't want to go where all that negativity will take me. I only have so much Nyquil.

I'm bringing this up now because I have finally gotten off my ass and decided to do something about the anxiety. Last week I didn't eat for two days, and I could barely function with all the miserable thoughts I was having. I owe it to myself to be able to wake up in the morning and feel calm, not starting the day terrified that something bad is about to happen. I have an appointment with my GP tomorrow, and I'm desperately hoping I'll be given a prescription for something, anything. I'm not keen on going on medication again, but I can't keep living like this. I want to be able to not see death and illness around every corner. I hope that place exists, even if I can only see it with a little help.

27 comments:

Meg said...

Ms Prufrock - As an anxiety sufferer (three members of the six members of my immediate family are on anti-depressants for it, strangely enough I'm not one of them - stubborn hoe I am) I can empathise with you. xxx

I hope you can find a way to manage it. xxxx

Georgia said...

We have more than our high chairs in common, dear Pru.
http://georgia.typepad.com/a_rocky_place/2007/02/drugs.html
And my anxiety is pretty much about the same topics--S's health/well being, Linc's, and now mine (b/c I don't want to leave Lincoln without a mama).
Zoloft worked wonders.
Though turns out I have a thyroid problem which is why my anxiety got so acute. But it's always been an issue.
And I'm a big self medicater. I would love to have lots of Xanax at my disposal, when I'm not breastfeeding/pregnant/TTC but that's never been possible, so my combo of choice is Benadryl + wine, in moderation of course. Headache the next day, even from a single glass of wine, but when the anxiety's bad, it helps. Sigh.
If I had one wish, it'd be to have been born with a nonanxious brain.
I had angsty existential crises when I was 4-5 yo, of the "where does the universe end?" "what if gravity stops working and we fall into space?"...and later, fears of getting sucked out of the fuselage of the plane, and S having aneurysm/stroke/heart attack, and...
You know. It's awful.
Let us know what you and the doc decide upon.
xxoo

Jenn said...

I'm no stranger to depression and anxiety. I have OCD and started having panic attacks around the time of my last miscarriage. I hate, hate, HATE going on medication, but one I don't mind so much is Klonopin. It's like a milder xanax. Won't do anything for depression but does help with anxiety.

For my panic attacks, I found that a really good therapist actually helped. He specializes in anxiety disorders. I hate therapists more than I hate medication, but he was good and actually helped. Most are crazier than I am though.

Good luck.

Flicka said...

Klonopin is a good one but can tank your fertility. HAHAHAHA. Ohhh... It was a fun time discovering that after Sarge had been on it for how many months. Don't know if it will have the same effect you or not, I'm just putting out there. It *is* mighty effective, though. I hope the GP has something helpful for you...this can't go on. You've suffered enough.

Alexa said...

Oh Innard Twin. I didn't realize. You know I empathize with the anxiety issues, though I wish I didn't. Ativan has been a godsend for me, for the very bad bits. If you need anything, or want to chat, you know where to find me. I hope your doctor is able to be helpful.

Mollywogger said...

YES and YES. Way to take charge of your feelings. Once they start to interfere with your ability to live your life, it's a medical issue that needs to be solved by seeking medical treatment -- just like infertility. I'm proud of you.

DeadBug said...

Dude. DUDE. I had the exact. same. thing happen when I was ten. I had a swollen lymph node in the back of my neck and, for some inexplicable reason, I was sure it was leukemia. I just knew it. And I thought my parents knew it, too, and finally I broke down and accused them of hiding it from me. Whereupon they took me to the pediatrician who told me he was pretty sure I didn't have leukeumia but that he'd run some blood tests just to make sure. (Just to humor me, maybe, or punish me for taking up his time, more like.)

Sounds like you have a whole slew of dopplegangers out here in cyberspace.

--Bugs

statia said...

There's nothing worse than being that age and all of a sudden thinking about your own mortality. It must be something in the PA water because that was around the same time it happened to me too. I couldn't get out of bed or eat anything for weeks.

I love anxiety.

Panda said...

Yep. Am nodding vigourously here. I have the same random thoughts about others dying. Monkey Boy, Spudly, various friends, me. Who knows why, but I HATE it. Big Thumbs Up for Prozac here, it worked wonders initially for my anxiety, but after two years less so. Self medicating now with wine from a box, which is all well and good unless you are still breastfeeding. Ahem.

I hope you get some help, and a prescription, from the medico. And thanks for posting this, because it has given me a nudge to do the same thing.

rockmama-in-waiting said...

Holy cow, I hear you. I started with the panic attacks after my first miscarriage and ever since then, have only been able to imagine the worst in any given situation. I worry that Mr. DD is dead if he's late. I worry that I've got something horrible and wasting everytime I get a cold. I know all about the crazy. And now, with the Prawn? Forget about it. Every sneeze, every gurgly cough means certain death.

I've been trying to treat myself with cognitive therapy- I'm not so crazy that I don't KNOW that I'm crazy (is that better than being blissfully unaware?) so when thoughts like that enter my head, I try to summon up my inner sane person to talk me down off the ledge. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Let me know what ends up working for you- I'll give anything a go!

Shanna said...

I just wanted to say that I am glad you have made the decision to get help. I have had anxiety attacks off and on for years, I was a single mother for 10 years and the nights of not falling asleep because I didn't want to die in my sleep and with Alex only being 2, at the time and not able to reach the deadbolt to get out of the house. And what would being stuck in a house for days with his dead mother do to him. I brought on the worry of him being alone for days with my being such a slacker on getting him to daycare on a strict schedule.
Good luck to you and I hope that you find the cure that works for you.

mm said...

Wow. Everything you wrote sounds shockingly familiar... you just have the guts to face your anxiety and do something about it. For that you are my hero. Please keep us posted.

julia said...

Yeah, I get like that, too. The meds do help, although it can take a frustratingly long time to figure out which one does work.

I'm glad you're getting some help. If the GP doesn't or won't work with you, try a psychiatrist. You don't have to go to have therapy, just go for medication adjustments. That's what I do.

Lut C. said...

I'd call myself prone to panic. A few years back, I did have some real panic attacks about losing my husband in a car accident, but thankfully it's been a while.

When I remember my dreams, 90% of the times it's a nightmare.

Vix said...

Prozac is helping me, I no longer feel like my whole skin is on fire, and I don't have to hide when someone knocks at the door! My sister finally went to get a prescription for something for her anxiety and it has put her in a totally different place. It may seem trivial but she was able to get a couple of cats - before the medication, having one more thing to worry about would have unhinged her!

Isabel said...

I hope you get some decent help that works for you. Anxiety sucks.

I spend hours awake each night staring at my baby, worried he'll stop breathing. I fall asleep finally and wake up feeling horrible, that he might have died and I would have been sleeping. It sucks. And as far as I know, I don't have an anxiety problem. I blame IF for sucking away joy.

I hope there's a better less anxious you really soon.

electriclady said...

I totally get the whole thing about not wanting to feed the negativity by discussing it. When I had my really bad depressive episode in college, it seemed like talking to my therapist--or worse, my wanting-to-be-helpful roommates who would look at me with these big puppy-dog poor-you eyes--only made things worse. I preferred to sit around drinking beer and watching football with my guy friends to numb the pain.

I'm so proud of you for getting help, and I hope your GP has a clue and is actually helpful (and provides non-sandy-vag meds).

gingajoy said...

I'm glad you wrote about this, and I know it must have been hard to do Mrs P. I do hope you can push the therapy angle, because it seems like you need to find yourself someone good. And if meds are recommended also, don't feel like a failure. It takes strength to admit you need help.

PJ said...

Hey there Pru, I originally clicked away from here because I didn't have anything insightful to add. Much like you, I sometimes think too much about what I want to say and then just wind up clicking away. But, I wanted to let you know that I'm thinking about you and hope that your GP has something for you. It took a lot of courage to share and you should be proud that you're not only sharing but you're doing something about it.

Jennifer said...

Hi Pru - My best friend has had amazingly similar symptoms to what you describe all of her life. When we were little, I never could understand why she was always convinced that she was sick or her mother was dying. She finally took the step you are taking now and she is so much better. No advice, just wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

LIW (Lady In Waiting) said...

Good for you for seeking medical help! I too suffer from depression that carries a nasty little anxiety component (in fact, everything about it is pretty nasty). Anyway, the medication I take helps me tremendously - and I have realized how anxious I really was. I still struggle with disastrous thoughts, especially when something is awry or out of order, but most of the time now I can recognize them as part of the depression. Being able to do that difuses them even further, so that I can regain a certain level of peace.

Good luck and please keep us updated!!

LIW (Lady In Waiting) said...

oops...and I should have added that my fantastic therapist, who helps by challenging my panicky thoughts in a loving and supportive way, has literally been a life-saver. You can't beat the effective drug, fantastic therapist combination!

Hallie said...

I have been reading your blog all day (does that make me a scary stalker type?) Before I say anything else, P. is absolutely gorgeous, and congratulations. I realise that I am a bit late on the boat, but all parents like hearing how lovely their kids are right? :p

About your anxiety... I suffer from PAD (Panic and Anxiety Disorder) which can be hugely debilitating. I occasionally go for periods where I refuse to leave the house. I carry what I call 'anti-panic pills' (trifluoroperazine) around with me to ensure that I can function should I feel panic creeping up on me, and I take 40 mg of citalopram daily. I once managed to wean myself down to 8 mg, and promptly had a major relapse.

I *hate* being on drugs, and it took me a long time to reconcile myself to them (I have been on the citalopram for five years now). However, I came to the conclusion that it was better to take drugs and lead a normal life than to spend my life hiding in my bedroom because I was too scared to leave my home.

First thing's first: get your doctor to prescribe you a non-addictive anxietic. You will still have to be weaned off of it, but why take Prozac when you can take something more benign.

I highly recommend having some kind of fast relief anxietic too. I've only had the trifluoroperazine for a year - I was prescribed it during my finals - and I now rarely take it, but just knowing that it's there is a huge support for me. My dosage is only 1mg, so it's hardly anything, but psychologically, it does make a difference.

As to your sleep problems...I empathise there, too. I sleep all the time when I am not in panic mode, and on my drugs, but when I miss the drugs or am anxious, sleep is impossible. I actually have sleeping tablets for those moments.

I know that this is probably not helpful, given that I am a newbie to the blogosphere, but if you want to talk to someone in the UK who has similar issues, please feel free to email me. If nothing else, I can sympathise. I hope that things go well with your GP...

Good luck!

Millie said...

I hope your appointment with your GP went great. I hope your doc listened, took you seriously and came up with a plan to help.

I know a bit about the racing thoughts and anxiety. Why else would I be typing this at 3 am?

T said...

I hear that. I'm not as nutbags as you (ha ha!),but I'm my own flavor of cuckoo bird. At the very least, I hope you get some Ativan to help you sleep. Hope the gp is able to help - keep us posted crazy lady!

amyesq said...

The thing with visualizing the beach is that there can be tidal waves. Big ones. I have nightmares about them all the time. Anxiety disorder and panic attacks run in my family and unfortunately, I am not immune. Paxil has done wonders for me and hopefully the Dr. will prescribe something similar for you. The drugs sometimes take a bit to feel an effect but it is worth it. Good luck and let us know how it is.

fisher queen said...

Wow- I'm so sad to see just how many of us have the panic/depression/anxiety thing working for us. Joy. I got through grad school on zoloft and cognitive behavioral therapy. It really, really helped. Anxiety is the absolute worst. I'd take darkest depression over it any day.