The Beginning of an anxiety disorder

Happy New Year – 2011

School and work are back in session! I had survived the holidays and Christmas break with high doses of Xanax, four times per day. My calendar for the next two weeks is pretty normal. I work Monday through Friday and have several meetings at work. I have a weekly psychologist appointment and a weekly psychiatrist appointment. My husband is at a fishing tournament for a few days so I will have to coordinate the logistics of where my kids spend the day. I have a hair appointment one night and two birthday parties for my son’s classmates. This is probably a normal schedule for a lot of people, (except the psychologist and psychiatrist appointments) but it would prove to be a little too overwhelming for me, even with Xanax.

I still could not physically attend most of the meetings at work. If they were going to be short meetings, with only a few people, I would physically attend. As a fail safe, I would take a Xanax in my pocket just in case. Knowing that I could excuse myself during the meeting to “use the restroom” (take a Xanax) helped me attempt the meetings. During a couple of meetings, I did need to actually excuse myself. I would feel the sensations of a panic attack begin to take over, for no obvious reason. I would feel like the room was very warm, too warm, and there was so much information being discussed, that my mind could not process it all. Of course, before THE panic attack on November 1st, I was able to manage any meeting perfectly fine. Oftentimes, I was the one leading the meeting! During this time, however, being in a meeting, in a conference room enclosed within four walls was suffocating. Several people talking at once, trying to make their point, was overwhelming. I found myself distracted by the fact that I was not feeling well and would tune out of the discussions – breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. I would tune back into the discussion and not know what anyone was talking about. I hoped nobody would ask me a question!

I did not want my co-workers, especially those in leadership roles, to know what I was going through. I truly felt like this type of “mental” condition, would hinder my chances for a promotion or any type of growth, in the future. This kind of pressure, pretending to be perfectly fine when I wasn’t, was difficult. I was trying to be exactly the same person I was just a couple of months ago – just as efficient, just as sharp, but I wasn’t that same person right now. I was someone I did not recognize. I felt like a weak person. I was very hard on myself and that didn’t help matters.

On January 11, 2011, I went to sit in my car at lunch time to listen to a guided meditation CD. I had been doing this every day at lunch time, even though it never actually worked. Several people were telling me to meditate and try to relax, so why not give it a shot. It was better than sitting at my desk freaking out. On this particular day and again for no apparent reason, sitting in my car was unbearable. I sat in the driver’s seat, pushed the seat back, closed my eyes and tried to relax while listening to the CD. Like other times I did this, I started to cry. Imagine Niagara Falls, but in my car and on my face. Sobbing. After several minutes of “meditating” and “relaxing” (ha ha ha), I sat up and looked at the mirror to fix my make up. I had stopped wearing mascara because what was the point? I could not stop crying. I called the psychiatrist. “I can’t stop crying! I’m sitting in my car like a crazy person, just crying! I’m trying to relax, but I can’t!! Why is this happening?!?”

He reminded me that Xanax was not the solution. He reminded me that we still needed to find the right medication for long-term use. I asked if I could take another Xanax right at that moment, based on what I had taken so far that day and he said yes. He also said, “be careful if you’re going to drive”. There was that reference to driving again. Any sentence indicating that I was not able to drive, immediately sent me into a frenzy of worry. What if I could not drive? What if something happened while I was driving? I started to well, you know, panic. I took the Xanax, but had to get home before it kicked in completely, just in case. I did the only thing I knew how to do these days. I put that car in drive and sped out of the parking lot….again!

This time was different. This time, I was TREMBLING while I drove. I really did fear for my life. I was driving about 10 miles per hour on the highway, sobbing. I really didn’t think I was going to make it home. I started obsessing about everything that could go wrong, from crashing, to getting pulled over, or ending up in jail because maybe the officer would think I was on drugs. WAIT, I am on drugs!!!! (insert panic).

I drove to my parent’s house this time and asked my father to drive me to the psychiatrist’s office. He didn’t ask me much. He just said “ok, give me a few minutes”. My father suffers from anxiety as well, or so I think. Having him drive me to see a psychiatrist, when I think he needs one just as much as I do, was pretty ironic. I am not sure if I was more nervous when he was driving, or when I was driving. Either way, we made it. My psychiatrist gave me a medication called Pexeva. He chose that medication because he had samples in his office and wanted me to start right away. I had my dad drive me home and I started on a very small dose that night. The fear of driving was now REAL.

That night, my husband had to go get my car with my dad. That is how ridiculous this was. My parents live ten minutes away from me. I had driven there practically every day for years, but this night, there was NO WAY I was getting behind the wheel of my car to drive anywhere. For the next few days, my parents took shifts to take me to work, pick me up from work, take me to my appointments and help with the kids when my husband worked. When my husband was off, I wanted him to only focus on our kids and try to maintain a normal life for them, while I tried to figure this out. I did not want my kids to see me this way, or ever look back and remember a time when I was constantly crying. I wanted to shield them from all of it and I did.

On 1/14/11, I threw in the towel. I stopped going to work, I stopped driving, I stopped caring. I was exhausted and I could no longer think. I was done.

Continue:Short Term Disability

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