The next day I called in sick at work again. I was going to meet the psychiatrist at 3:45pm and was not feeling well at all. I spent the day the way I spent most days. I was nervous, sick to my stomach and my heart was racing. Again I hadn’t slept the night before. My husband is a fire fighter and so he is not home ever day. His shift is one 24-hour shift and then 48 hours off, then 24 hours on, 48 hours off, etc. On the day he works, he leaves the house before I wake up in the morning and comes home the next morning, after the kids are in school. My oldest was four years old and my youngest was one year old at this time. I was use to the schedule and routine, had lived with it for years, but now everything was different.
What if something happened to me at night while I was alone with the kids? What if I couldn’t take my son to pre-school? What if something happened while I was driving? I was sure I wasn’t experiencing panic attacks, so when I thought something would happen to me, I was thinking more along the lines of a heart attack, or stroke, or something else, caused by the unknown, incredibly rare disease I had that nobody could figure out.
To get through this, I had my mom and dad help me out. My mom would sleep over just in case I had a heart attack or stroke in the middle of the night. She would then drive my son to school in the morning, just in case I had a heart attack or stroke while driving. I would leave my daughter with my dad, so my mom could drive me to my appointments. As I write this, I realize how important it is to have a support group. For me, it was my parents and my family. Also, as I write this, I realize how incredibly crazy this all sounds. When I look back at these years, I still cannot believe how I felt…but more on that later.
So here we go, off to the psychiatrist. I am just exhausted. I have been running on high for almost two weeks now and just couldn’t do it anymore. I was hoping I would get some answers today.
My psychiatrist was not what I expected. He was a short, middle-aged man from India. I had never had a health care provider from India. I was already skeptical. If he was from India and I was Cuban-American, how could he possibly figure this out?!? I was really losing it because obviously one thing had nothing to do with the other. Anyway, I proceeded to tell him my story and of course I was crying. He asked me if he had done something to make me cry. I started laughing. Did this very serious, soft spoken man just make a joke, without smiling? Yes, yes he did. I started laughing and immediately liked him and felt at ease.
I explained everything that had happened so far.
- During my pregnancy I felt like fainting a lot and had heart palpitations.
- After I gave birth, these feelings got a little bit better, but did not go away.
- I did several tests – bloodwork, EKG, wore a heart monitor, etc. and nothing was found to be wrong.
- I started taking Prozac and it created anxiety, or something. It made me worse and I ended up in the ER.
- I stopped taking Prozac, but have not improved.
- Lorazepam doesn’t really help.
- I wake up every night gasping for air and trembling.
- I cannot think about day to day activities without becoming overwhelmed.
- I am nervous all the time, which makes me feel nauseous or sick to my stomach. I feel this way ALL THE TIME, for no apparent reason.
- Sometimes I feel electric currents run up and down my arms, like if I am a robot and I am short-circuiting.
- I cry like ALL THE TIME.
- The psychologist who referred me, thinks I have a full blown anxiety disorder
He listened and nodded a lot while I spoke. He asked me a few questions. My mom was there so he asked her some questions about my childhood. She explained how quiet I was as a child. I never cried, was a great baby and how the woman sitting next to her (me) was never this way.
He assured me and my mom, without a doubt, that I had an anxiety disorder and the sensations and experiences I had been going through were panic attacks. This included the palpitations I had as a child. The tics were also related. He explained that Prozac can sometimes increase anxiety. Wonderful.
I am not a doctor, but my interpretation of what he said was this. I have a chemical imbalance and this caused an increase in anxiety and mild panic attacks. If I had led a simple life, like on a deserted island with an abundance of everything I needed, I probably would have been fine. Since my life is not so simple, plus the fact that I am a perfectionist, the anxiety continued to increase. Add to that, hormones, babies and work and I was at the end of my rope. All I needed was a little Prozac to push me over the edge and that is exactly what happened. Of course millions of people take Prozac and it only helps them, but I was not one of those people.
I asked the psychiatrist if he could fix this and he said yes. I told him I did not want to take medication and he told me that I had to, in order to get better. What made me finally decide to do it, was that he told me we would go slowly, with small doses and that after six months, according to the textbooks, I could slowly taper off. I did not want to feel this way anymore. Six months is not a big deal. I need to be able to function, work and take care of my kids. I agreed. I left with a prescription for Clonazepam to calm me immediately and Zoloft for longer term. He also gave me a 24 hour “hotline”. It was his cell phone number that I could call anytime I needed to. I think that was the part of the visit I liked most. VIP access.
I left his office unhappy. I did not like hearing I had a mental disorder and that I needed medication. I immediately pictured myself in an insane asylum. I also did not like that Zoloft and Prozac were similar medications. They are called SSRI’s. If Prozac made things worse, why would Zoloft not do the same?
I ignored my hesitations and decided to try out his new plan. He wanted to see me in one week to see how it was going, but he would be hearing from me sooner than that!
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