Getting better

The doctors all told me that I need to be medicated in order to stop suffering.  My diagnosis - anxiety disorder and depression. 

It all started a long time ago.  I was told growing up that yeah, I'm depressed, but that most teens are, and that I'll likely grow out of it, or can explore treatment later on if things started to interfere with my life as an adult.  It's normal, and not something to worry too much about, as long as I wasn't contemplating suicide.  Well I entered the adult world, starting work right out of highschool.  Despite being depressed still I always blamed it on money or relationship problems, and that the solution was to work hard, make more money, and ditch the ex.   Keeping my mind on the end goal made me optimistic. But I found that I was always waiting until things got better, always looking forward to times that were always in the future. 

About a year ago I started a new job.  Again I was looking forward to the benefits it would bring.  Hell - it was a promotion. What's not to be happy and hopeful about right?  I don't want to admit I took on more than I could chew, as I know that anyone would experience the same issues I went through if they were in the same position as me. I believe I was successful and was a valuable asset that brought positive change to the company.  I can't disclose the specific details about my job, as that would expose trade secrets, but I will say that my job was created so the company would have someone in place to take care of the on-going issues that were negatively impacting the bottom line.  I was a bandaid, and a crutch turned permanent solution.   Besides the lose-lose workload I had, there were also issues with harassment and discrimination that I also can't talk about too much.   Basically, it was a stressful job and a shitty work environment.  I believe that it triggered the mental illnesses I had, and it was getting harder and harder to drag myself out of bed. 

I met a pivitol point one morning as I was getting ready for work, back in February of this year. Panic attacks had become a regular thing I dealt with at that point, but I didn't see the harm in them if I could work through it.   While showering I was overwhelmed with the all too fimilar feeling of impending doom.  You know that feeling you get when you realise you forgot something important, or just narrowly missed getting into a car accident.  Your stomach drops, your heart races, and all you can think is "oh fuck!" over and over again.  I started to cry, and hyperventilate.  I remember the nausea begin to take hold when suddenly I hear "Bernie! You gotta stand up now ok?" from my husband trying to pull me out of the bathtub.  I passed out.  I don't know for how long. 

I called in sick, and made an appointment to see my doctor.  Fainting in the shower scared me - what if I hit my head and my husband wasn't home?  I no longer felt I had a handle on my situation, and needed to get control back.  Until that point I rejected the idea of medication.  2 weeks later I was finally able to see my family physician.  I told him about the one incident that scared me, and we spoke briefly, mostly about the company I work at, and the other companies in the area.... not really health related.  He ordered blood work and gave me a prescription for Paxil.  I left the office believing I was sick, and that there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed chemically.  The blood work didn't show any other possible causes for passing out in the shower.   I took the paxil until mid March, until things took a turn for the worst.  This shit turned me into a monster.  I was extremely irritable and the attacks came more frequently and were followed by sometimes days of severe depression.  I went back to my doctor, and expressed that we was being too dismissive, and that the drug wasn't working.  He gave me a new drug to try - Effexor, and reluctantly honoured my request to be referred to a specialist.  (He wanted me to just try the new drug to see if that worked, but I wasn't willing to aimlessly take mind-altering substances given the experience I had just had).   Took some time but I finally got an appointment with a psychiatrist, scheduled for the beginning of May.


On March 27th, my husband attempted suicide.  He left a note where he explained his intentions and left on foot.  Not knowing where my husband was, and whether or not he was alive was by far the most traumatic thing I have ever had to endure. After walking along train tracks for 7 hours hoping to be hit by a train, he finally grew too exhausted to walk any longer.  He got to the closest store and had them call him an ambulance that took him to the hospital for mental evaluation.    The police called to tell me that he was in hospital, and told me which hospital he was in.  I have never felt such relief in my entire life.  I was elated to learn that he was alive. There was hope!  Maybe I was too excited to hold that man in my arms again to think anything else, but my family told me that I was a lot stronger than they would have thought I would be, and was surprised to hear me talk about the good things that would come from this.  Looking back you would think I would have been a mess - I was when I thought he might have been dead, but didn't shed a single tear after I knew he was getting treated in hospital.  I helped reassure our families, and helped them be optimistic about his recovery.  You would think I would have been the one who needed that help, given my diagnosis.  But I was strong, and promised not only to help him get better, but to get better myself so I can care for him properly. 


A lot of good came out of that awful situation.  We began addressing our problems head on, and definitely learned who and what was really important in life. I learned so much I didn't know about that man.  I knew he was depressed, but I didn't know it was that bad.  He didn't even know what was going on, and thought that his thoughts had nothing to do with any medical issues.  The hospital seemed very interested in his care after he left the hospital. They gave him a pamphlet that listed all of these treatments and groups he could participate in, and there were a few that he really wanted to do.  He was given an appointment to see the same psychiatrist I was scheduled to see, and because of the situation his appointment took priority and he got in to see him before I did.   He was put on mirtazapine and things were getting better. Even our marriage was improving because we were communicating a lot more and being very supportive of each other. And then I went in to see this doctor. 


I was excited because I assumed the drugs were helping my husband and was confident the doctor would be able to help me as well.  I go in and he has me sit so we can talk about what's going on.  "So you have anxiety I see", 

"I think so, that's what my last doctor told me".  And before I could talk about the symptoms he began explaining what happens to your brain and body with people who have anxiety and told me that the treatment involved trying different meds and doses until something worked.  Something about overactive receptors in the brain, and how we are naturally programed to "fight or flea" when we are scared, and that in people with a disorder, that natural response goes off when you're not actually in any danger.  He said that cafine and marijuana make that worse, they don't know why it does, but they know it does because of "tests".  It all seemed to make sense to me.  I walked out with a prescription, and a new lease on life.  Until I found out what drug it was - mirtazapine, the same drug my husband was taking.  When I started telling my husband what the doctor told me, I got scared.


"That's what he said to me too.... I didn't want to worry you, but when I was in there it seemed like he had everything scripted, and it caught me off guard when he told me that your past has nothing to do with mental disorders".    He was right... that did worry me.  Everything he told me, he told my husband too.  Seeing as my husband and I have very different diagnoses and symptoms, you would think the treatment would be different.  We began to feel conflicted.  We both knew we needed help, but we didn't know where to go to get it. Who are we to question the expert opinion of those with fancy educations? This wasn't just some headache we were complaining about.  In the case of my husband, we saw this treatment as the difference between life and death.  It really did seem as though this doctor didn't believe in trauma that causes lasting effects on a person. It was as though no matter what happens to you, or what kind of life you have, you should be able to be happy and nothing should bother you unless there's something wrong with your brain chemistry.   Please keep in mind that I did not talk to any doctors about symptoms that were frequent or how long I had been experiencing them.  All I told them was that I had A panic attack and passed out in the shower.  I personally believe the only reason I passed out was because I was breathing so fast and all I was taking in was hot humid air from the shower.   That was never addressed.  Maybe I'm just paranoid but it seemed like all they were looking for was one reason to make me a pharmaseutical customer.  There was never any talk about one day being off the meds, or anything else along those lines.  I know that we're talking about a psychiatrist and not a psychologist, but I still feel as though we're not being treated individually.  My husband and I started looking into other options.  I stopped taking the drugs, and now the doctor "does not wish to see me again" when I last called to try and make an appointment. It's weird how he started me on a drug but won't see me again, not even to issue me a refill.   So I guess I'm cured after 2 visits? 


While the doctor says that everyone is different, and that there isn't enough known about these disorders to be able to pin-point a treatment that works for everyone, neither my husband or I can figure out how his doctor is gauging his response to the meds.  He changes the doses and type of medications regardless of how my husband says he is reacting, and now there seems to be more focus on the psychical side effects (drowsiness, low libido, etc) and treating those than there are conversations about how my husband feels mentally.   My husband has expressed to me that he still feels depressed, and still deals with anxiety problems everyday.  So my husband has decided to give counselling a try.  When he was released from the hospital they called to check up on him a few times, and gave him that pamphlet listing all of the courses and workshops they offer patients.  He called, left a voicemail, they never called back.  Finally he got through and they enlisted him in a group counselling program and a "find work" program that is geared towards people with mental illness.  The group was cancelled due to lack of interest, but we can try again in 4 months when the program is supposed to start taking applicants again.  And he didn't need help finding work because he found some on his own.  He still takes his meds, but is trying to discuss weening off of them because he doesn't want to be dependant on something that he believes is only helping him sleep. 


To put it briefly, we feel like we fell through the cracks, and that medication was the only option presented to us.   My husband and I had a long talk about this because frankly we were feeling discouraged.   For the first time we decided to put our thinking caps on and decided to try and tackle what we thought was causing our issues, despite doctors telling us that it had nothing to do with our environment.  We pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone, started drinking coffee and smoking weed again, and took matters into our own hands.  We have become each other's support.  And that brings us to present day.    

Now you know what happened.  I'm going to continue telling our story in another blog.   Thanks for reading! 


Uploaded 08/21/2015
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