Anxious thoughts run through my brain on a very continual basis; they have for as far back as I remember. In my early 30s, I was finally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The inital diagnosis was both a blessing and a curse.
I was going through a divorce when I received my first diagnosis. I truly believed I was losing my mind at the time. I cried constantly; I couldn’t sleep or eat, and the only time I felt ok was when I was running. I was afraid of pretty much everything, and I felt like I couldn’t go on with life. About a month after I moved out of my marital home, I went to see my doctor. I was desperate, and I needed help. My doctor gave me the “suicidal” quiz, and after I described my situation to him (sobbing hysterically), he announced I had situational anxiety. He prescribed me paxil and trazodone then told me to come back in three months.
The medication did help me feel better, although I gained weight and pretty much didn’t care about anything. Two years after my divorce, I decided to come off the medication. I mean if it was only situational anxiety, I should be fine now that there is no situation – right? It took me three months to detox off the paxil; it was the worse three months of my life. Everyone experiences these medications differently, and lucky me – I become dependant on them. After three months of vertigo, no sleep, depression, anxiety, confusion, night sweats, and no appetite, I was finally detoxed. I started to feel good, and I had lost all the weight I had gained from the medication. BUT WAIT…..
Another situation happened, and then another, and another. My anxiety was back full force, but this time I didn’t understand what was happening. I recognized my worries, as they were the same things I worried about before my divorce, but for some reason they seemed unbareable. I no longer had the coping skills I had before the divorce. Maybe this was because I hadn’t needed them for the past two years – I had paxil. Since there was not major cause for my worries like that of my divorce, I figured it couldn’t be my situational anxiety. Instead, I thought it was me. It was me that couldn’t cope at work because I wasn’t smart enough; it was me that caused the problems in my relationship not the abusive man I was with; it was because I was a bad person that I couldn’t control my drinking… and on and on. I no longer had a label for what was happening to me; therefore, I beat myself up and told myself I was worthless.
I woke up every morning feeling sick to my stomach. I cried on my way to work because I hated my job so much. I only felt good when my abusive boyfriend would give me some kind of attention. At my final breaking point I sought out professional help. First, I went back to my doctor, and he put me back on medication. Cipralex this time, as I was too afraid of the withdrawls and weight gain that came with paxil. The medication helped a bit, but it really only took the edge off. This wasn’t good enough for me, as I was still completely miserable. So I searched the internet for anxiety help and found the name of a local psychologist. It was only then did I get a proper explaination for my disorder. What I suffered from was a form of generalized anxiety. My major triggers were identified – I am mostly triggered by the fear of not being loved, and the fear of not having financial security. Of course both of these fears can be triggered by hundreds of things that I experience every day. For example, I panic if my boss disapproves of my work or actions because I think I will lose my job; therefore, my financial security. If a man tries to give me constructive criticism, I believe he doesn’t love me because I am not good enough.
Learning what triggered my anxiety tought me to understand that my thoughts were not rational. They were a producted of misguided coping mechanisms, and the good news was with a little effort, I could actually change them. I have worked hard to understand my anxiety. Even though I still get anxious, I have the ability to work through it.
My doctor did me a dis-service by giving me such a quick diagnosis. What followed was years of depression and self-hatred. I am not blaming him, however, as he is a general practitioner and his first concern was my well-being at that specific time. The medication he prescribed did help me through a very difficult time in my life, and I am grateful he cared enough to do what he did. With that said, I do think that doctors should probably refer patients to more qualified mental health care givers before making any type of diagnosis. The same as they do with athletic injuries or neurological disorders. People with mental health disorders need proper care to help them manage their emotional well-being.
Today, I have good days and bad – but now I know why, and this gives me peace of mind.