I've debated a lot on writing this post. I've been pretty open with you guys about my struggles, be it physical or mental. But since March, I've been going through some of the hardest times of my life. And while I don't wanna put my life up for the whole world (or like the five people who actually read this) to see, I think sharing my story might help others. And by now I think you guys know that helping people is kind of my thing.
Really it all started back in October, when I got really sick and started getting tinnitus (which I still have, but it's less noticeable or its gotten better, it's hard to tell.) I was sick for most of October and November, and then December came and I got so sick. One of the sickest I have ever been. I got a bacterial sinus infection, had to take so much medication, and it took a few weeks to feel better from that. All the while dealing with anxiety, IBS, eczema, insomnia, and allergies.. you know, the usual.
Even though I was better, I still felt "off." Disconnected, dizzyish, off balance, discombobulated, all the while my anxiety becoming unbearable. I've always kept my anxiety and OCD under wraps, and kept it to myself. I've been doing it for years, but it became worse and worse. I asked for blood work in February, where I learned that my thyroid was low, not super low, but low. My doctor decided to wait 3 months to get it retested before proceeding with any type of treatment. I have many health issues and am well versed on a lot of them (Dr. Ashley Ronan, Google MD), but thyroid isn't one of them. I've never had any thyroid issues so I've never researched it. I can now add Hypothyroidism to my list of medical diagnoses I've mastered. All of this only added more stress to my life, and it built and it built. Day by day and hour by hour. Until, in late March, I had a mental breakdown.
I had been awake for 60 hours, my body physically refused to let me sleep. Like I would be almost asleep and I would get this intense feeling in my head that made me open my eyes and that's the only thing that gave me relief. I got restless leg syndrome for the first time in my life. I was sick and tired, completely dizzy, beyond anxious, and just a straight up mess. I seriously considered checking myself into a mental institution by the 3rd day. I called out of work, which I NEVER EVER do, and my husband took me to my doctors. My doctor prescribed me Lexapro and Ativan as needed.
I truly believe SSRIs can be very helpful, but only for 50% of patients that take them. I am not part of that 50%. I don't have depression, I have pure anxiety. But the SSRIs gave me depression, plus an array of other horrible side effects, and I woke up the first night I took it into the WORST panic attack of my life. I'm no stranger to panic attack friends, but this one, I was convinced that was it. I woke Kevin up and told him he needed to take me to the hospital, I was dying. There was no doubts about it. I got the prickly heats, tingles all over, nauseous, dry heaved a few times, diarrhea, tunnel vision, drenched in sweat, dizzy and on the verge of passing out. I could barely get myself to the bathroom. I couldn't even keep my head up. I literally laid my head directly on the toilet. Let me tell you something. When someone with OCD lays their head on a toilet, that says something about the mental state they're in. My doctor recommended I stop them, and not try another since they just don't work with my body chemistry.
This lovely panic attack causes my panic disorder and insomnia to be worse than ever. I would wake up every hour in a panic, expecting another panic attack. And the only thing that helped was the Ativan, but it made me groggy the next morning and I was very hesitant to take them. Anxiety medicine like benzodiazepines get a bad rap because they get abused, and can be addictive and habit forming. For a good couple weeks, I went through this cycle of: sleep, wake, panic, to Ativan or not to Ativan?, increased anxiety thinking about it, taking it or not taking it, suffering either way, tiredness, stress.
I had a great conversation with a close family member that shares the same disorders as me, and they confided in me that they've been taking a certain benzodiazepine (I won't mention which on) for 20+ years with no issues. It helps take the edge off of so they can function. I spoke with my doctor and shared this information. He said let's try it, if it works for them there's a good chance it'll work for me too. He prescribed it for me that day.
I wrestled internally for over a week and a half about taking it. All the horrible things I saw online, afraid I'd become a junkie even though I've never had addiction issues in my life. I don't even drink! But anyone with anxiety can tell you, your anxiety brain will fight you tooth and nail for dominance. The thing about anxiety is, it's like another person in your head. Anxiety is an overly competitive bully that doesn't like to lose. It wants you to suffer and wants you to fail and will tell you every single possible bad outcome, and leave out the possibly positive ones. Positivity is bad for anxiety.
After talking to my family member again, I decided to try it for a week. It's just a week. If it works great if not then I stop. I've been on it ever since, so about 2+ weeks now. It's been amazing for me. It doesn't help me sleep as well as the Ativan did, but it doesn't leave me groggy like the Ativan did either. I didn't get the rebound anxiety that the Ativan gave me either. When I wake up at night I don't panic, and in fact I can usually fall back asleep. I was able to go and get blood work all by myself (I'm terrified of blood work) without any unnecessary freaking out or potential crying. I'm taking this daily, at a dose that's low enough I feel comfortable with. That's what my doctor prescribed me, and that's how I'm doing it. Think of it as a vitamin. You take what you're supposed to take and that's it, and that's what I'm doing. I don't feel high, I don't feel unlike myself, I don't feel weird.. I just feel more calm and capable of handling my daily anxiety. There's no such thing as a miracle pill. It's not gone, nor is my OCD, but I'm a realistic person and I know that nothing cures those. Realistic expectations for treatment is literally the first and most important thing to remember.
I've always thought taking medicine for anxiety made you weak. Anxiety gets thrown about daily with people, but only those who suffer from true anxiety know what it's like. Some anxiety is good, and in fact needed. You need your fight or flight for survival, but when you're stuck in fight or flight, that's anxiety. Anxiety is remembering every awful thing that you ever said, have said, and might say. It's remembering that time 5 years ago at 2pm on a Thursday when you made that stupid comment and everyone looked at you weird. It's thinking that really people only tolerate you and not really like you. It's all the what ifs in life, all of which are negative. It's cringing at all these constant thoughts because they're out of your control and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. Lucky for me, I have OCD too, which is another equally awful can of worms that we won't open today. So, when I stopped and thought about it: does taking medicine make me weak? Or does suffering constantly for no real reason have any positive effect on my life? The answer is that it doesn't. Taking medicine for anxiety is like taking insulin if you're a diabetic. Both of which you have no control over. I am genuinely messed up in the head. My brain does not function like other people's brains do. None of that is my fault. It's not anyone's fault. It's genetic and unluckiness. I can't control my anxiety the same way someone with diabetes could control their blood sugar. And that's when it clicked, I had to try it. I'm hoping that my doctor will continue letting me take this, despite the risks, because I feel like they outweigh the benefits. Life is risky. I could leave my house and get hit by a bus tomorrow. Is it really worth suffering everything for risks that might never even happen? No it's not. Not for me. I wanna live, and enjoy life. Not be paralyzed by fear and afraid to leave my house to go to dinner because I feel like we might get into a car crash and die if we do (that's a true story by the way, one that's occurred more than once in my lifetime.) I'll be sure to keep you posted on my never ending anxiety journey, but for now, let's switch topics.
So remember earlier in this story book post I talked about my thyroid being low? Well, I went and got my blood work rechecked this month like I was supposed to, and got the results back Monday. My thyroid is now worse than it was before, and my doctor prescribed me Levothyroxine to take daily. Great, another pill. I'm gonna need a pill box. I have only taken it three days so far, and I know it can take some time to adjust to it and feel results, plus there's reoccurring blood work to check my levels and adjust my dose as necessary. I imagine I'll have to see an Endocrinologist too. Nothing's ever easy is it? The plus side is that so far I haven't noticed any side effects. I don't feel better or worse than I already did. Your thyroid literally affects everything in your body, so hopefully with this medication I can begin to feel like myself again. Because as of right now, I don't. Not at all.
The thing that frustrated me the most after hearing this was that, despite my breakdown, I've been doing so good with eating right, keeping active, drinking a lot of water, I cut out all caffeine, I got a FitBit, I'm still writing in my anxiety journal and seeing my therapist.. I mean like I've been on point. For the first time maybe in forever, I've actually been putting myself (mostly) first. That's a big deal, because I put myself on the back burner constantly. The back burner is my home away from home. Since I thought my thyroid issue was iodine related, I've been eating iodized salt (which I dislike) and even ate some horrible horrible seaweed. I did everything right, but my body still hates me. More and more each day. It's a very frustrating thing when you're doing the best that you can, and you're proud of yourself, and you feel like you're accomplishing things, and yet.. you get knocked down. And it sucks, and it hurts. And it adds fuel to an ever burning fire of disappointment and frustration when it comes to my health.
So the past couple days I've been having a pity party for myself. I know people aren't fans of those and they make you feel bad for feeling bad because somewhere out there someone has it worse than you. And that is 127% true. But guess what? YOU'RE ALLOWED TO FEEL BAD! Throw yourself a pity party. I give you my permission, which sometimes is all it takes. Cry. Scream. Yell. Internet Shop. Eat an entire bowl of mashed potatoes. I've done all of those things this week, and guess what? I'll probably do them again. But don't feel bad for it. Don't be excessive, and don't let it interfere with your job or other aspects of your life where it doesn't belong, but do it.
Thank you for those who took the time to read this story book. There's something cathartic in typing things and writing things. It's different than just saying them ya know? If you take anything away from this post, make it this: listen to your body. If something feels off, get it checked out. Take care of yourself and treat yourself the way your treat others.
I always say this at the end of my personal posts but again, if you need an ear, I'm here. Email me. Message me. I'm here for you.
Peace, love, and health to you all!