Where do I even begin…
I guess where it all started was when I had my very first panic attack at the age of 12, soon after losing my first close family member, my grandfather. I was home alone at the time with no one to help me and from there I have not been the same. I’ve always felt very different from everyone else, always very sensitive and empathic… I just felt things so deeply. Fast forward a few years into my teens and more and more signs kept popping up that I had anxiety (although I didn’t know these signs until into my early adult years). My parents didn’t know what was wrong with me, nor did I understand why I was feeling the things I felt. I am now 36 years old with two children and have been on and off several different medications since the age of 17.
Back in 2019, returning to work after having my second child I decided to make the most of my time away from home by attending the gym during my lunch hour. With the lack of sleep from being a mom and working eight hours a day Monday to Friday I felt I needed some help in the energy department, so I asked a coworker who I knew was very much into weight lifting for some help with finding a pre-workout supplement. She brought me one of hers from home and as I slowly sipped this drink things seemed fine. I had tried one other pre-workout drink and had no issues so I thought this wouldn’t be any different, but as I was heading back to my desk I started feeling all kinds of weird tingling in my arms and face and my heart was racing.
I left work to head to the gym, trying to ignore these sensations but as I got into my car, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was going to die. So I hurried back into my place of work and went up to a coworker who I knew was a paramedic in a previous career. I told her how I was feeling, and I was panicking — my breath was fast, I was shaking and I was terrified. I sat down and had some food, hoping it would soak up some of the supplement or just help me shake this feeling, but it didn’t…
I ended up going to the emergency room, telling them “I think I’m dying.” They did their usual checks and sent me into a room where I lay in the dark with my husband by my side; they gave me two Ativan to help calm me. The doctor came back in to check on me and I said to him, “Am I dying?” He said, “Not today you aren’t” and sent me on my way.
From there I began to develop severe health anxiety and could not function at work. I started to feel very unfulfilled and went into a deep depression. Thankful for living in a small town and knowing people, they got me in on a crisis call with the local psychiatrist — we spoke, and he suggested a medication change. Let me just say he is an amazing psychiatrist and never pushed pills, but considering I was already on some he thought that maybe changing them would help.
Unfortunately, after several medication changes and nothing working but only making it worse, with me feeling like I was going to drop dead every day, I had to leave work and go on long-term disability as I was in no condition to be in the work force. I also decided along with my husband and psychiatrist to come off all medication and give my body a chance to just figure itself out. Withdrawing was awful — brain zaps, nausea, emotions running high, confusion, etc.
I ended up putting my focus onto more natural ways to help my anxiety and depression. I was working out almost every day and focusing on regulating my hormones. For about 10 months I was working with a holistic nutritionist, she was also a counselor so I had someone to talk to on a regular basis but with more of a spiritual based approach vs medical based. I was also working with another counselor for two years and it was so great to have someone to vent to and help me through some of my troubles.
This was the best I had been in years, if not ever. I was seeing hope for my future and had dreamed up so many things, until October 2021 when my grandmother got sick and ended up in the hospital where she passed away a couple months later. Her getting sick triggered me so deep I started obsessing about my own health and again went into a cycle of feeling like I was going to drop dead every day. Then in the following months I broke a bone, had surgery, a friend unexpectedly died, and we had to put our longtime fur baby to sleep. My nervous system was beyond shot, so I surrendered to doctors and agreed to go back on medication after two visits to the emergency room.
I do not want to be on medication, and I know it’s just a band-aid for me as I believe there is deeper work to be done for myself. Before starting meds again, I would get wonky lightheaded dizziness, brain shaking, heart vibrating, random pains, nausea, aches and pains and so many other random things going on in my body almost daily, and these are all still happening. I’ve been seeing a naturopath, my family doctor, an acupuncturist, massage therapists, I’ve seen Chinese herbalists and I’m still lost… What is happening in my body? And has being on medication caused long-term side effects or damage?
My naturopath believes it’s most likely my stress levels and even possibly hormone levels, some of my closest friends believe the same but how do you really know what’s happening in your brain when you don’t know what will give you those answers? I’ll forever be searching for them; I want to feel “normal” again and live a life of enjoyment vs fear and anxiety. I want my kids to enjoy me again and for me to enjoy them. If anyone out there thinks they could be of help please reply here or reach me at [email protected]. I will fight to the death to figure this out — I won’t give up. I just hope this fight can end soon so I can enjoy the rest of my life. Thank you to anyone out there who is even thinking about reaching out to me. I know there must be answers or someone who can relate.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.