What the words ‘recovery’ and ‘relapse’ mean in mental health.

No, I am not an addict. I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink alcohol to excess.

 

But I did have a relapse today.


I have been dealing with panic disorder for… well… the time really blends together for me. But the most severe symptoms started about a year and a half ago I suppose.

Since that time I’ve been on three anti-depressants and finally have found one that works so good for me after a lot of trial and error. I’ve worked very, very hard to face life without the crutch of my benzos because it makes dealing with everything so much easier. But its also not living either to be spaced out all the time.

I’ve worked very hard on breathing techniques, removing unneeded stressors from my life, removing toxic people from my life, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

My panic attacks have been nearly nonexistant unless there is an extremely obvious trigger. (This year I was told I had skin cancer… I was 20… turned out I don’t have cancer, but that doctor certainly induced a fair amount of panic attacks until I saw someone else who said I was fine). But like I said, the ones that seemed to happen for no apparent reason pretty much wholly stopped.

I even took myself off of benzos completely and just have a very small amount in case of emergency. That was one of the hardest things to do. I was never addicted in the sense of physically craving them, but by taking them it subdued my anxiety enough to where I never had to try anything else; I could avoid actually working on me.

Like I said, it was definitely my crutch, but one I was so proud to get rid of.


I had a relapse today.

The feelings I haven’t felt in forever.

I was thinking of so many things, thinking of all the work I have to do this weekend, the impending doom of finals, all of the projects and homeworks that still needed finishing. Thinking about recent bad news related to my health. Thinking about it all and thinking all too much.

That should have been my first warning sign. Its very rare my mind rapidly cycles through so much information.

Then the tears started to well up in my eyes and I had that out of body sensation, almost as if I could watch myself, tear streaked face, walk hurridly to the bathroom before anyone could see.

Then I started loosing my breath. Hyperventilating and trying to suck in as much oxygen as possible.

I let out an audible, “No, No, Please No…Not again” between sobs and gasps for air.

I got so hot and the walls of the bathroom stall seemed to get closer and closer.

And then my favorite… the sudden urge to vomit.


You see, that hasn’t happened to me in some time. But it is just as awful as I ever remember it being. Once the worst is over, I have a bit of residual panic left over. I just can’t stop the tears.

I’m crying because going through that is scary,

I’m crying because I’m disappointed in myself,

I’m crying because I couldn’t hold this one in,

I couldn’t deep breathe this one away.


But I’m really crying because I had to take my benzo.

After months of not needing it… I was too weak to handle myself, my emotions, my panic, without a drug.

Even after taking two times my normal dose I still cried the entire way home. Hummilitated even though I had no audience. None of my classmates or teachers had any clue what had just happened in the bathroom down the hall in the second stall.

They woulnd’t guess every time they talk about how much Xanax and other benzos are abused and overprescribed, I shrink in my seat a little. Ashamed because my emergency stash still sits in my purse only feet away. Ashamed that I don’t think I am recovered enough to get rid of it, and worried that I may never be.


When you shame people for using their resources, or for needing medication, that is exactly what happens. We already feel so weak in times of panic, so weak that we can’t get our minds to coexist with our souls. I don’t need the judgement of society to make me feel worthless.

 

I have that covered by myself.

 

Pharmaceuticals and Phonies

Hi everyone,

If you follow my small blog you may (or may not) have noticed I have been pretty absent for the past month following my last post which was more of a poll regarding phyciatric therapy.

I kind of want to talk about what I’ve been going through the past month and why I have been absent from the blog.

First off, I admittedly put off seing a conselor or therapist, or at least making efforts to contact one since the poll I took Dec 6th. However maybe others who have benefited from their help will be glad to know I have finally made some efforts to find someone to talk to. This however, brings up the first of many frustrations that have been going on the past several weeks. I am so sick of feeling sick that I am more determined than ever to finally get some legitimate help for whatever is going on with me. The last week of December I called thirteen different certified psychologists. Of the thirteen, only one even bothered to return my phone call, and only to tell me that she could not accept new patients for the time being.

Now, I will say I live in a town that has a military base and a medium sized University so I’m sure finding a therapist with openings here is a bit harder than elsewhere in the States, but have any of you all expierenced anything so riduculous? Even a full week later I still have only recieved the one call back. As someone who is pursing a job in medicine, I’m honestly offended that the other twelve psychologists couldn’t be bothered for a 60 second phone call, or to delegate their secretaries to do it. I guess I just feel that you shouldn’t go into medicine of any kind unless you have a passion for helping people. And at the point where I am with my mental illness, I’m getting desperate for professional help.

Which I guess brings me up to topic number 2.

Citalopram.

After my latest regular three month med check with my family doctor, (which also coincided with early December by the way), she decided that my symptoms were worsening after a year of taking escitalopram and that it might be time to switch meds. Okay, fine. Trying [usually] never hurts. So we tried citalopram [and I’ll get to why that was a stupid prescription in a second] for 30 days to see if I felt any different, and boy did I. My personal experience on it was horrible. I felt almost unmedicated. I had my first ever panic attack in public.

Usually, I can calm down or supress my anxieties until I’m home before the panic comes on. But with this medicine barely doing anything to help me, I ended up having a full fledged episode in a movie theater bathroom. Praise Jesus it was empty, especially for the size of the theater. In the moment I definitely wouldn’t have cared about the crying and the heavy breathing, but I ended up getting so worked up I vomited in a public toilet (yuck). So yeah, citalopram can kiss my ass.


This next little bit is me kinda rambling. [sorry].

Anyway, for the eagle-eyed reader, you may have noticed Escitalopram (what I previously was taking) and Citalopram (the trial med) are spelled suspiciously similar. You are right, my friend. The chemical structure of these two medicatons is extremely similar. (I extensively research anything I put into my body). Citalopram was FDA approved to treat depression in (I believe) the 1990s. Escitalopram was its more refined little brother that came in after 2000 once doctors knew which cemicals to target in the brain for better results, making it literally twice as effective. 10mg of Escitalopram in theory has the same theraputic results as 20mg of citalopram. Also, the FDA cleared it to treat more illnesses than just depression; ie- anxiety specifically. Citalopram never got that approval.

So anyways, why my doctor decided to move from my previous med to citalopram is beyond me. But for other readers out there, if your doctor encourages you to try this just make sure the dosage is reasonable with this knowlege. They usually know what they are talking about, this may just have been an oversight on my doctor’s behalf.


So after my most recent of doctors appointments, I let my physician know how much citalopram sucked so now we are trying the generic form of Zoloft which name I haven’t quite gotten the hang of just yet, but I am much more hopeful for this one.

I do just want to share though that for the first time since getting treatment for my illness, my doctor made me feel as though I was what they call a “frequent flyer” which in medical slang, is a nice way of saying someone that pursues different prescriptions.

Without getting too far into it, as I’ve noticed this post is getting pretty long, my own doctor forgot she has been prescribing me a benzo (clonazepam/Klonopin) for the past year. And when I brought up that I thought that it wasn’t working as well as it had used to either she said, “And who gave THAT to you?” <- Literally imagine as much sass as you could put into that one sentence, and you have an idea of exactly what my doctor was implying.

I’m sure she was under the impression that I was visiting various walk in clinics trying to get different prescriptions as some people do but when I said to her, “Uh.. YOU did” ( thinking, wow,*dumbass*) I’m sure she looked at my chart that was right in front of her face and realized, indeed, she prescribed that medicine to me over a year ago, has renewed it multiple times, and has ordered me to be take it twice a day.


Anyway, this brings me to the overall point of this post. If you are struggling with ANY form of mental illness and are bravely trying to seek help. DO NOT STOP TRYING. It isn’t easy. I personally have gone through a baker’s dozen of crappy doctors in two weeks and yes, I’m discouraged, but not enough to give up.

Even my doctor that has watched me grow into adulthood since highschool accused me of being a prescription drug addict, and I still walked out of her office with my head held high.

The stigma of mental illness follows me everywhere I go. And it is a really heavy weight to carry, especially when I feel like I’m carrying it all alone.

But I WILL find a good doctor. One that is patient, and truly wants to help. And I will be so excited to get to write about my experiences with him/her.

But for now,

Hugs and Positive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife

 

Untitled

I remember taking my first ever pill. It was just a tylenol or advil for a headache, and I was 12 years old so I only took one. I remeber it being a huge mental hurdle for me to tell myself to act like I was just drinking the water, even though I knew I had something solid in my mouth. I don’t know why, it just couldn’t get over this mental block. It was not really natural. You drink liquids, chew and swallow solids. But I did it finally; after gagging a bit. But anyways, I’ve always hated taking pills.

Now I am 20 years old and I can rival some of my patients at the nursing home on how many pills I can take at once. They have way more prescribed to them than I do, but I can take 6 (probably more really if I had to) without blinking an eye.


There’s the clonazepam for my anxiety attacks. My prescription says to take one pill, half a miligram, every 12 hours when needed. Usually I will take 2 pills every four hours, sometimes upwards to 3, because my brain has adjusted to it way too much and one does not have an affect on me anymore.

Then I have the escitalopram. Technically that’s a depression medication even though I’m not diagnosed with clinical depression. Thats 20 miligrams (I’m maxed out on the strength for what my doctor will prescribe) in one pill, every night.

For my stress headaches, I pop 4 advil. 800 miligrams to even touch the pain.  The looks I get from nosey passerbys is very funny to me when they see me do that.

Then I have the Zofran I forgot I had in my bedside table. Originally that was for my headaches too to get rid of the nausea, but when I’m stressed I tend to dry heave and gag (It’s very attractive) so I’ve started using that to help until I can get back in to see my doctor. (I’ve had to reschedule this appointment 3 times now).

Then I try to be a healthy individual, and I take a little krill oil and a little biotin, but that’s just a personal decision.


The point is I am so over medicated. A victim of myself, benzos, and a lazy physician who hands out pharmaceuticals like candy, but I have no idea what else to do.

I have tried alternative medicine whenever possible. Actually I’m a huge believer in it. The best I’ve ever felt while having my anxiety condition is when I made the habit of going to heated yoga classes 3 to 4 times a week. In October I got the ‘daith’ pericing to help my stress induced migranes and I don’t know if it is just the power of suggestion, but it has completely worked fo rme.

And most recently, I have been spending a lot of time, in honestly probably an unhealthy/obsessive fashion, researching the benefits of getting an emotional support animal or a psychiatric service animal.

But you know what? Everyone I express this desire to says I’m crazy.

I am crazy for wanting a companion animal.

I am crazy for wanting a living soul who won’t judge me.

I am crazy for wanting to learn to help myself through this animal instead of medicating myself.

I am crazy for thinking I have the time to dedicate to training a dog.


But you know what no one else in my life finds crazy?

A 20 year old college student who on a given day will take up to 9 pills just to barely make it through.

A 20 year old who had a panic attack tonight over going into town because the traffic is going to be too much for me, and consequently made me cancel the first date I’ve had the time to go on with my long term boyfriend in weeks.

A 20 year old who has to spend an entire day gearing herself up for social interactions that include more than two people.

A 20 year old who recently, has deleted all social media, (no really, its true), left all of my on-campus student organizations I once really enjoyed, and honesly, has pushed all of her friends away and spends every free night at home.

And this one hurts the most.

A 20 year old, who in the recent months, has started to wonder what life would be like if I wasn’t a part of it anymore.


I am struggling with something real. It may not be tangible to most people, but it is tangible to me. And I am totally losing myself in it.

Stigmatized – Part Two: Pursuit of Perfection

I have started this post about five times already. Each completely different, and each not enough to me. Each revision was completely deleted, and a new one started over the course of almost a week and a half. And I wasn’t happy with any of them. The topic that I want to forge a discussion about today is the idea of ‘perfection’ and the power that single word has over people with mental health disorders, but the problem I keep running into is that I have been borderline neurotic the past several days and I just can’t keep a single running thought in my head without jumping to something completely unrelated. This post may very well come out sounding scatterbrained, but I’ve also decided that’s okay. I’ve been in a very dark mental state since about a week ago, and allowing myself to write in this state will capture something I often can’t put into words. And even if I still can’t, perhaps the general feeling will somehow relay itself through my writing.

…anywho, I said I wanted to discuss perfection right? Yeah… okay let’s see…

So per my Barbie picture above, modern society has increased the pressure on both men and women to be a new brand of ‘perfect’. Perhaps most detrimentally to young adults whose self image is still developing.

We all need to be beautiful, to be smart, to go to college, to exercise, to eat right, to play a sport, to be wealthy, to always dress in new clothes, to have equally beautiful best friends, to have a perfect significant other, to have a perfect family life, to keep a busy social life, to be politically active, to be culturally literate, to be healthy…

There are so many ideas always being pushed at us of what a person absolutely should be that there isn’t a whole lot of room for our own opinions. The media, capitalism, and social media have taken our own thinking out of the equation and told us what we need to achieve.


What a dangerous thing, when we are taught what to think instead of how to think. 


In this mold that has been defined for us by society, where does any kind of mental illness fit in? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. 

So mentally ill people often go undiagnosed for years until finally reaching a breaking point, or worse, they never get the help they need.

Others often are in denial they have an illness, because who wants that kind of stigma attached to them? Who wants to be labeled as “mentally ill”.

So I’m going to do something I often don’t do, and I’m going to share a few more personal details about myself. Something I also said in a previous addition makes me feel very uncomfortable and exposed. But here goes.

I am a young, colleged-aged adult. Often struggling between the world telling me I need to grow up and be responsible but simultaneously not being trusted with such responsibilities because I’m “too young” – a very frustrating kind of limbo. I am pursuing a career in the medical field and am in my junior year of a very competitive program that ranks higher than Johns-Hopkins and Priceton’s same programs. (Although somehow outside of the profession my small school is not widely known). I work a part time job, am involved in a Greek organization on campus (it’s a love hate relationship, but it definitely gets me more involved), I actively participate in community service, bring dog and cat food to the local animal shelter when I have any extra cash, and am in a healthy long term relationship with my significant other; there’s a good possibility we might even have marriage in our future.

My life literally sounds perfect, doesn’t it? I sound like I have all of my ducks in a row.

Well, that might be what the world sees, but what they didn’t see is the panic attack I had last weekend because I was staying with family a mere 60 minute drive outside of my normal home and that being out of my normal environment made me so on edge my chest did that thing when I’m panicking where it tightens up and it feels like I’ve been strapped into a too-tight corset.

The world didn’t see the panic attack yesterday when I felt so misunderstod and isolated. Like I had no one to talk to that would accept the very ill side of me. The part of me that was hysterically crying, struggling to breathe, pulling at my hair as I drove to my SO’s house while my brain frantically searched through the people who just might answer the phone and calm me down if I called them right then. They don’t know that just getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed is its own huge feat and I constantly, actively have to put energy into pushing myself to do normal everyday activities.

I am not going to write the somewhat formal ‘conclusion’ to this piece as I typically do in my others. I just want to pose a few questions to anyone reading this to think on until I write again.

Where did this stigma of mental illness start?

How does it affect your daily life?

Why has the conversation of mental illness opened up so much, yet the stigma is as staunch as ever?

How did you feel during your last panic attack/ptsd episode?

Did you have anyone to talk to? If so what did they do to help you?

What is your biggest fear concerning your mental illness?

Will your coworkers look at you differently? Are you afriad to seek medical advice? Will your social circle outcast you?

Where does this stigma end?

 

Happy Anniversary from your GAD

I just had a not so gentle reminder that I am NOT cured from my condition.

“Happy Anniversary, from your GAD.”

It was October of 2015 when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The diagnosis was like “well duh” to me. I couldn’t even tell the nurse what was wrong with me because I was crying and panicking in the office when my boyfriend told me very last minute he couldn’t make it to my appointment with me. ‘Crap’ I thought, and then felt the blood drain down to my feet. How ironic, I thought. He was the only reason I made the appointment in the first place. He knew the panic attacks I had been having over the previous months weren’t normal. And now here I was, panicking at my doctors appointment to address my panicking. If that isn’t some kind of irony I don’t know what is. The nurse asked me what I was there for, and through tears and gasps for air I told her “my anxiety”. I remember her not even being able to take my blood pressure because her first reading was through the roof, so they retook it at the end of the appointment when I had calmed down some.

10mg Lexapro daily and 0.5mg Klonopin as needed is what I was prescribed.

After my first 3 month check in we both agreed 10mg wasn’t cutting it and I was upped to 20mg daily.

I hate the stigma of being “medicated” just to deal with daily living. I hated feeling dependent on it. But here I am, a full year later, so grateful I made that appointment when I did.

I have been extremely successful in managing my anxiety for the past several months without incidence despite more stressors in my school and personal life. I felt awesome, bad ass that I had gone months without panicking no, I felt even better. I felt normal again.

Until today.

Today I had a panic attack. In the Anniversary month of my diagnosis no less. There isn’t one particular thing that really caused it. I definitely feel that it was a combination of multiple factors that finally did me in. But was that a humbling smack in the face from my diagnosis saying, “I really hope you didn’t forget. I am always here. Wether you are thinking of me or not.”

How sweet.

Happy Anniversary, GAD.

Let’s see how we are doing next year.

with love,

Miss lessanxiouslife

Stigmatized – Part One

I try to keep as much of my personal life out of my blog as much as possible; keeping details vague in stories and even using a pen name to conceal as much of who ‘I’ am as I can. Why? Well, the reason being is that I probably would be a bit embarassed if everyone in my personal life new I kept up a blog about having an anxiety condition. I could make something else up, and say that maybe by keeping my stories free of personal details it helps you, the reader, imagine yourself in my shoes better, but that would be a lie. It really comes down to fear.

It is very hard to try to be an advocate for those mentally ill when you are afraid to take a public stance on the issue. I kind of sound like a hypocrite, don’t I? However, I will say that the true roots to my writing really started out as a sort of journal or diary for me. I am too scatterbrained of a person to keep up with anything hand written, so I thought, why not just share these thoughts with whomever wants to take the time to read them. Someone out there might just feel the same way. And so, here we are roughly a year later.

While my writing has been hugely theraputic for me, I still am not where I need to be to take the pen name off and to completely share my story freely. And that of course I link back to the awful stigma that follows those who are mentally ill. I have my small support group that knows what all is going on with me, and I advocate for everyone to have at least one person they can share everything with. However, mental illness runs in my family. Particularly problems with forms of depression or anxiety. Both of my parents are affected in some way, as are my brother and I; but all of us have different manifestations of mental illness. So one would think I have the most understanding support group ever, right? Couldn’t be farther from the truth actually. I live in a household where there is someone with clinical depression, PTSD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and me, with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (I know, we sure do sound like a fun time.) But the truth is, we all have had our diagnosed disorders for quite some time now, with mine being the newest. But we all have developed good coping mechanisms, some of us have gone to professional therapy, and on a normal day to day basis, you would never be able to tell there was anything different about us than a ‘normal’ family.

However, the real problem comes when our conditions get a little out of hand. Then all of the sudden the family member with depression is extremely frustrated with, say me, with GAD because they just don’t get what its like with my disorder. As understanding as I try to be, I can’t really wrap my head around why the person with PTSD can’t just stop thinking back to their traumatic experiences, especially when we are having a seemingly perfect day (Christmas, trip to the park, ect).

So I feel that I am in the perfect situation to talk about what I have lead up to thus far. If we are ever going to gain true understanding in society, we must first stop judging each other. 


The Stigma WE Cause

Before we can ever start working on how society views us, we have to stop judging others with mental illness as well. Maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone the same way it does to me, but lets look at current events and social media real fast.

Just as an example, let’s consider a very upsetting situation that makes the news all too often. A highschool boy or girl commits suicide because they were bullied. I see these stories on social media at least a few times each year, and it breaks my heart each and every time. But how many times, after you are done reading the story, you look into the comments and someone has said how ‘selfish’ that child must be to abandon their parents and their friends like that.

Seriously, let that sink in for a second.

Someone posted, on the story of a child’s death, that they were selfish, or not strong enough. 

We have all seen it before. Someone that was bullied so badly, feeling so alone in the world, that they thought the best solution, or maybe the only solution, was to end their own life. And then we have another person, who is judging what their final decision was.

Now let be extremely clear about something, I am not saying suicide is ‘okay’. But I am saying that once we have already lost a child in this world, likely dealing with mental illness, it is too late for us to help that specific child. Their family is already grieving, as are all of the people whose lives they touched.

What it is never too late for, is to take the most postive stance possible on the situation, and advocate for others who are mentally ill and who are in a very dark state.

How on earth can we take a positive stance on something so morbid?

Well, the first step is to stop judging. As I shared with you, I really struggle with understanding why my familly member with PTSD will have episodes during seemingly perfect days. But that comes from the perspective that usually my anxiety acts up more in response to stressful events. I will never understand what it is like to have anything but GAD, and even then I only understand my own manifestation.

So that is what we need to do. We need to STOP trying to understand each other’s mental illness. Doesn’t that seem counterproductive? Well, it actually isn’t. By trying to understand something that we never will, we take the focus off of the sick person, and put it on us. It is a sneaky way we can be unknowingly selfish. If we try to understand the illness that we don’t have, we instead focus on how it makes us feel trying to ‘deal’ with that person. We will complain about how frustrated we are, how we just don’t understand, how the person is “getting on our nerves”.  And that is how stigma breeds inside of the community itself.

Instead of trying to understand the illness, let’s just accept the symptoms.

Once I stop trying to understand why on earth someone is having a PTSD episode while we are at a park having a nice time, I can just accept the symptoms they are having, and that is when I can help them. I can say, “Okay, let’s go sit down on a bench by ourselves.” or “If you are comfortable with it, why don’t you tell me what is on your mind?” or even best of all, something I have not seen many people do, “What do you think will help right now?”

Like I said, most people do not live in a household like mine where everyone has some manifestation of mental illness, (although studies do show a hereditary link in mental illness), but for the average person it could be as simple as finding a story of an affected person online, and instead of calling them ‘selfish’ we say, “Wow, I have no idea what it must have felt like to go through what they did.”

Only once we start accepting each other, do we have the right to tell society that they need to stop stigmatizing us. It starts here.

Hugs and Positive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife 

Stigmatized (An Introduction)

As I am writing this piece I am thinking back to a radical conversation I had with my dad the other night. This conversation was not specifically on the topic of mental illnesses but actually a civil problem in the United States right now. Without delving into too much detail, it came down to us both agreeing on one very strong point: “I would never tell someone how they should feel when I am not the one in that situation.”  

Even though my dad and I were talking about something completely unrealated, that statement verified two things for me that I already knew. The first, I was raised by some awesome nonjudgemental people that I am extremely grateful for. But the second is that it made me realize how many people out there don’t share our view point. It is extremely easy for one to say they are non judgemental, but how many truly are when it comes down to it?

About 6 months ago, I had a job working in a home decor store that sold all sorts of things from livingroom furniture to lamps or place settings. One of the very last shifts I had worked at the end of my year long employment term, I was unloading a new shipment of items for the spring/summer season. One of the items I unpacked was a handpainted wine glass that had fish on it (for summer). And I will probably never forget what one of the managers said when they saw that glass.

“Wow, look at how dopey this fish looks. He looks like he’s on antidepressants or something.”

I stood there and just stared at her for a second because I actually couldn’t believe out of everything in the world she could have compared a really poorly painted fish to, she chose a person with depression. So I asked, “And what exactly does someone on antidepressants look like?” She replied “All spaced out and stuff.”

I said, “Oh, that’s interesting… I’ve been on antidepressants for about 6 months now.”

Needless to say, she immediately started trying to negate the initial statement she had made, and obviously I had made her feel really uncomfortable, but it was too late. In general, and I am completely guilty of this as well, people just speak without ever thinking of the ramifications of their words. But to blatantly make a statement about people, sick people, who take antidepressant medication in a room full of employees whose personal lives she didn’t know, absolutely blew my mind. It struck me as bold but maybe it should have just registered to me as ignorant.

 So that is where I am returning to in my mind. A little peice of wisdom from my dad. “I would never tell someone how they should feel when I am not the one in that situation.”

I myself am going to work on applying that to others this week; particularly with people that I see often because I feel as if it is the people that you think you know best that you tend to mistreat the most.

This post is going to serve as my introducation to a new series, called Stigmatized where I am going to be focusing on the general perception of people with mental illness and how that general idea causes reprocussions in our lives. Even if it as simple as someone making an ignorant statement around you such as I experienced in my previous job; spreading awareness is going to improve our overall quality of living. I hope you are looking forward to the next few installments as muh as I am.

Sending out Hugs and Postive Vibes,

Miss lessanxiouslife