Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Anatomy of a panic disorder Part 1

In honor of Mental Health Awareness week I thought I would share my story. Or rather, stories. Maybe it will help someone, or maybe I will just feel better after purging all the bullshit. Either way; welcome to my crazy.

Before I had even hit middle school, I was diagnosed with the following. Although some of it kind of smooshes together, and some of it didn’t have such tidy, convenient names back then, here they are in all their glory along with MY definition of each. *IMPORTANT DISCLAINER* I am NOT  a doctor or an expert in any capacity, and each of these may be experienced differently by different people. This is why I included links to pages with more credibility than I possess, also more check-your-headache-on-the-symptom-checker-oh-my-god-i-am-going-to-die than you can handle.

Social Anxiety Disorder – Social anxiety disorder is not about being shy, socially awkward, or uncomfortable at your new boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding. Everyone experiences social settings with varying degrees of discomfort. SAD goes beyond awkward and uncomfortable into excruciating and impossible. The thought of being placed into a social situation in which they are expected to be normal and carry on conversations and mingle, sets the SAD sufferer into a tailspin of dread, panic and thinking of any possible way that to get out of it. Click to read what Mayo Clinic and WebMd have to say on the subject.

Seasonal Depression – Apparently also called Seasonal Affective Disorder, Seasonal Depression strikes its sufferers, well, seasonally. As fall sets in and the weather gets colder, the days get shorter and the dark gets darker, the bleak also gets bleaker. Winter is approaching and it feels like the days of sunshine and summertime are never, ever going to come back and you’re doomed to wander this cold world, dark and alone, forever. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Click to read what Mayo Clinic and WebMd have to say on the subject.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder – GAD is an affliction that is the most counterproductive of all, in my opinion. It’s a cycle. Worry causes stress, stress causes fear, sleeplessness, soreness of body and mind. The constant and overwhelming worrying about something makes it impossible to productively focus on, let alone fix, whatever you began worrying about in the first place. Problems set off the GAD cycle, and, The GAD causes its symptoms, which cause more problems which give you more to worry about. It’s never ending and completely exhausting. Click to read what Mayo Clinic and WebMd have to say on the subject.

Claustrophobia – Everyone knows that this is the fear of closed, or small, spaces. While no one particularly likes being closed in small spaces, claustrophobics simply cannot handle it and will alter their life in whatever ways possible to avoid it. At all costs. They cannot handle the thought of being trapped in an airplane, so no trips. Elevators are absolutely not acceptable, so lots of stairs. Doctor’s offices - small rooms, closed doors, - cause panic so we usually just don’t go. Hospital? Surgery? Ha! Prescribing an MRI or a CAT scan is like prescribing death. Oddly enough, my two medical websites didn't have anything on claustrophobia, but I did find this, which pretty much covers it.

Agoraphobia – The actual definition of agoraphobia is “fear of open spaces.” It comes from the greek word agora, meaning market. And no, the irony is not lost on me. From a mental health standpoint, agoraphobia has basically come to mean the fear of any situation that may cause panic.  Large crowds, tall buildings, unfamiliar surroundings for some. Being lost, not knowing where to find a bathroom or being somewhere by yourself for others. Agoraphobia is an all encompassing disorder and affects everyone differently. And it’s my least favorite. More specific, medical type info at Mayo Clinic and WebMd.

Panic attacks – For me, and for many, any of the above situations can cause panic attacks, and are in turn worsened by panic attacks. I know that’s confusing, but I will get into it more later. A Panic attack never looks or feels the same for different people, or even for the same people in different situations. I’ll do my best to explain the way a panic attack most often feels to me:

I usually feel it coming and it usually starts with a heightened awareness of everything in the room. All of the noises and voices are suddenly closer, right in my ears and echoing in my head. The walls close in, while any chance of escape seems nearly impossible. I am sure everyone is looking at me, if not talking about me. And no, I don’t give a half a fuck what any of these people think about me, but why are they doing this? I’m sweaty and crampy, or nauseous. Extremely hot or extremely cold. I may be sick, or I may shit myself (seriously) and oh my god I am going to die. If I were being rational I would know that I am not actually, but panic replaces rationality. So no, not exactly literally, but I am still going to die. Or I am not going to die, instead I am going to feel this way forever and wish I would die. Why is this happening? Why can’t I just be normal dammit?! Fuck this, get me out of here. Now. No, I can’t leave, then the panic wins. I have to fight it. Why do I have to fight it? Why can’t I just stay home, where this won’t ever happen again and I don’t ever have to feel like this again and oh my god just please make it stop. It’s never going to stop. I am going to die. Where’s the door? Where’s the bathroom? When can I leave without it being awkward and making them all look at me and talk about me more than they already are….

That’s the best I can do and it doesn’t even come close. Here's what Mayo Clinic and WebMd have to say.

Now, before I get into my personal experiences, I have to say something. I’m sure this is going to piss some people off, but I’ve been pissed off about it for a long time, so suck it up. If you feel like you have some kind of a disorder, please, please talk to somebody and get help. Please. But it you don’t – shut the fuck up. Allow me to explain; if you don’t like spiders, you do not have arachnophobia. You just don’t like spiders. Now if you refuse to go into some places, no matter how badly you need to, or alter your life in dramatic ways in order to avoid any situation in which you may possibly encounter an 8 legged asshole, then you may actually have arachnophobia. In the same sense; shy people do not have SAD, people who worry do not have GAD and people who prefer summer do not have seasonal depression. In order for any of these to be an actual condition, they have to be extreme, usually irrational and cause excruciating consequences. Not be simply uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is life. Everybody is uncomfortable. It seems like it has become trendy as of late to claim some sort of mental disorder or another. Everyone and their little sister has Generalized Anxiety Disorder now, or gets Panic Attacks. These are not things I would wish on my worst enemy, let alone want to have myself. Believe me, you DO NOT WANT this! Why pretend, or exaggerate, so that it looks like you have this? Seriously? Why? I think it is a result of drug companies and doctors. Someone has to be labeled in order to be medicated, and the more prescriptions they write the more money they make. But the whole thing makes me sick. The result is that those of us genuinely affected are not taken seriously. Try to tell someone that you suffer from a disorder that has exponentially hindered you in your life, and have them say, “Oh, me too.” Really? No. 

Okay, rant over. You’re still here? Awesome. Lets continue.

Now if you go back and click any of those links, every one of them lists medication as the first and sometimes only treatment. Xanax, Valuim, Paxil, Effexor, Ativan and on and on and on. You’ve heard of them, I’m sure. You may take them. You may love them. I do not. I am on no medication. My opinion is that we are, as a society, completely over medicated and that these drugs do more to mask the problems, and zombify us, than to fix anything. While in some cases, medication may be a necessity, behavior modification, thought control and therapy are much more effective and may actually treat the issue instead of chemically covering it up. But again, I’ll get into that more later. And though I do feel that medication has its purpose, that purpose is NOT in me. It’s not because I’m so strong, I don’t need drugs, I am going to fight this on my own. Nope. Most of the time I would so much rather pop a pill and have it go away. But I can’t. I literally cannot handle drugs. You know that little insert that comes with all the prescriptions? The one with the tiny print that lists all of the things that could possibly happen as a side effect? All of the things that could possibly go wrong? That list might as well be titled ALL OF THIS SHIT IS ABSOLUTELY GOING TO HAPPEN AS SOON AS YOU INGEST THIS PILL on anything prescribed to me.

I took Zoloft once. The doctor had been begging me to get on it for months,, and he finally convinced me by saying that it would likely lessen my panic attacks and my migraines. “I am going to get sick” I told him. “Just take it for 3 month and we will see” he responded. Okay. Here goes nothing. He gave me 25 milligrams, and I broke them in half. 12.5 milligrams a day. I was in bed for 2 weeks. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t really sleep, but couldn’t get up. I was nauseous and puking. It was like the worst flu AND hangover I had ever had, combined with not being able to grab onto any one thought for too long. I muscled through those miserable 2 weeks. By the third week I could get up, I could eat a little, but I was still all fuzzy, not really present. After a month I was almost normal, just felt a little disconnected. But if I forgot a pill, took one too early or too late, I was sick again. I sucked it up for 3 months, because I said I would. It did reduce my panic attacks and my migraines, but at the end of it all, I just couldn’t take it. My body does not like drugs.

So I’m pretty much on my own here. Come back for part 2 please, and read all the shit I did wrong in dealing with all of this on my own. And then for part 3, where you can read all the shit that I did right!

Until then, come check us out on facebook, we get in all kinds of trouble over there. And stay outta trouble, y'all, or at least share the pictures!

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