Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Have you ever been getting over an illness and suddenly realized just how very sick you were? Over the past few weeks, as I've been climbing out of a black hole I fell into, I realized that I fell into it almost a year ago. I realized that I was just going through the motions on many days and simply getting by.

Since last fall I've felt that my paxil had stopped working for me. My psychiatrist increased the dose (I think that was in December) and then again in the spring. Sometime in early fall my daughter's dance teacher asked us not to change in the bathroom and to use the changing room, so that others could access the bathroom. We'd been using the bathroom since she was halfway taking her clothing off to use the toilet so I had figured that it was just quicker. The teacher's request was totally reasonable, but I nearly burst into tears and had an awful, stung sensation in my core. I think it is related to the first grade incident I talked about the other day. Ordinarily, with the help of therapy and my medication, I've been able to shake off this feeling and go on with life. I noticed that I still felt stung and shamed the next day. I continued to feel unwell mentally as both my sister and sister-in-law talked about moving further away from where I live. My wonderful therapist helped a lot, but often I would wonder how on earth she could tell me I was doing so well when I felt so awful. I was so tired of feeling bad, and wondered if the only way to stop it was to end my life.

Sometime this spring my therapist said that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and most likely have since I was a young child (like four or five years old). I've been in therapy on and off since college. I've been taking paxil for a number of years now, but that was the first time anyone ever mentioned GAD. I've always known I was tense, high strung, and a worrywort. But this, this was such a relief! Things started making sense, although it has still been a long journey.

At the end of the school year I would climb into bed and practice "benign neglect" of my children. Except I don't think it was completely benign. I don't believe in always entertaining my kids, but when I look back at those last six weeks of school I really didn't interact with them much. My husband put them to sleep most of the time. I did no crafts with them, didn't read with them. I don't mean that I was completely isolated from them. We had snuggles of course, and I did a lot of things with them over the summer. However I really did take to bed as much as possible. And in order to avoid the things that were upsetting me, I spent huge amounts of time on the internet.

Despite feeling so trapped by the anxiety, I did do a lot this summer; I'm amazed looking back. I volunteered at one of my kids' summer camps, I took the lactation exam, attended a conference where I had a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. And finally, I saw the psychiatrist again. Since I've been able to look at my symptoms under the lens of anxiety (and not depression, which is what I'd always thought was my primary problem), I described to her the physical symptoms that dog me--intense butterflies in my stomach, an anxious feeling in my chest, tingling in my arms. She peered at me from over the top of her glasses and said " You are having Way Too Many physical symptoms and medicine can help with that. I'm going to increase your prescription again. Most people would have been on this dose two years ago." I felt so relieved to hear this--I can't think of a time when I haven't experienced these symptoms more days than not! I sat in the car after the appointment, and told my husband, crying tears of relief.

I've been on the increased dose for a few weeks now. About two weeks ago I could tell that it was helping, because I did some things that I haven't been able to do for the past six months--I cleaned the bathrooms. I've attacked clutter in the family and living rooms (clutter is a huge trigger for me). My heart races far less. When I am feeling anxious, one or two deep breaths, along with reminding myself that everything is ok, calms me down.

I keep finding myself thinking about the past year, and shaking my head. I don't know how it got so awful. Even though I knew what to do to help myself, it was nearly impossible to do those things (get a good night's sleep, eat well, exercise). It astonishes me that it has taken nearly a year to feel like myself again. (There are small voices whispering in my ear that others have suffered far worse years, and I feel like erasing everything I've written here. I'm going to resist that though.)

It is such a relief to have energy, to realize that small steps in removing clutter or doing dishes or working on projects *does* do some good. I am sure I will have bad days sprinkled among the good ones, but I'm so glad to be living more fully again, and I'm excited to dream some dreams and go after them.


Suna said...

This will probably sound weird, but I found myself smiling at your post. It was like "Yay, it's not just ME with the physical anxiety symptoms! I am not alone!" So, I wasn't happy at your pain, just happy to know it can be helped, and that, well, I need to get my prescription refilled--I have a very strong feeling that my current downward trend completely coincides with running out of medication but not wanting to get another prescription because the doctor I liked moved away. LOL.

Thanks for encouraging me to make that appointment so I can be there more fully for my kids and my man.

(and thanks for your nice blog comment yesterday)

Rhonda said...

Oh Jen, I hadn't known you had a blog until today. I wish I could give ya a hug and make so much better but realize that won't make it all better. Just want ya to know I'm thinking about ya.

Melba said...

About 7 years ago my therapist said I had GAD. I didn't go on medication and soon after I stopped seeing her because I moved about an hour away. It comes up for me again and again. I am reluctant to go to another therapist because of the process...
I have had several (before that one) a good therapist is hard to find.
You are very brave for doing what needs to be done for you and your family and facing your fears and sharing here.

Miss Dot said...

good on you for being so brave to post this. Take it easy on yourself and set yourself small tasks with tidying up clutter, I am the same, it helps if you just make small steps in that direction. Be well and thanks for posting. The more we all talk about it the more normal we all become :-)

nyjlm said...

suna I really do know what you mean- it is a relief to know what it is, isn't it? I didn't recognize my stomach aches till I was 18, and I'd probably had them since Kindergarten!
rhonda Thanks, babe! I'm so glad you're my friend.
melba Thank you Melba. I'm sorry you have anxiety too, no fun. I was very lucky with my current therapist. Really serendipity to hook up with her.
missdot Thank you, you're very sweet!

BipolarLawyerCook said...

I am so glad to hear it's working for you! Wishing you lots of feelings of accomplishment in the months to come!

Kiandra said...

hi, i understand all of what you are going through...i can't say that i have the same diagnosis. but i truly understand. over my blog break i saw a therapist, more so concerning my eating habits, as my doctor was afraid that i had an eating disorder, since i can't gain weight. i assured him i didn't, and then he immediately thought i was depressed, and again me and my husband assured him i wasn't...but, i wanted to make sure so i made an appointment and saw a eating disorder specialist, who told me almost immediately that i wasn't depressed or had a eating disorder (this was after her 20-30 minute questioning). she immediately said that i was suffering from too much stress, post tramatic stress from a traumatic childhood (that i thought was normal) and let me know that i was okay...overly stressed over extending myself...but nevertheless okay. not that this doesn't mean that i didn't need to see her, and have lots of work to do to heal myself...just different work. I share some of your symptoms...but my triggers are more so from stress, and an inability to deal with stress. i asked her if it was anxiety, and she said that could be a side effect of not knowing how to deal with the stress...all the stress.

it is amazing how much help a therapist can be, i never felt someone in my corner and my corner only as much as she was. she was firm, yet loving, and very effective in helping me re-adjust my thinking patterns. i felt like she was in my corner, routing for me, fighting for me, when i couldn't stand up and say no for myself. i needed that.

i am wishing you all the continued success. i am so proud of you for all the progress that you have made, you are inspiring me to make sure that i remember to live like i am suppose to...fully so that i can be there for my kids and husband...and mostly for myself.

shisomama said...

wow, you've been through so much! it must be such a relief to have a great therapist who's able to work with you, and to help identify what you've been suffering from. i'm happy to hear the positive tone in your post, and wish you continued recovery. and it never hurts to have a fantastic husband!!!

cathy said...

I'm just getting to know you from the link TB made to your blog on Beyond Blue.

I certainly can relate to the tangle of depression vs. anxiety. It's very easy to think (or for others to think) we're just depressed when we're immobilized by fear and worry. It helps to sort it through, name the anxiety issues and begin addressing them directly.

And hooray for the vacuuming husbands! I have one of those, too!

OMSH said...

I understand the going to bed part - I can chase away anything with sleep and it feels so good - such refuge - for a while.

And then the morning comes.

Thanks for your encouragement over at my place. I definitely feel significantly better and I'm so very thankful that there are options available to get me there.

I hope to be able to keep myself there on my own one day, but for now this will do just fine.