Ride it out.
Try it out.
I do worry about addiction – and as effective as Alprazalam has been (and, literally, I think, a life saver – I want done!)
So, when I talked to my doctor about the increase in my anxiety, I already kinda knew what he was going to say. I also knew what I was going to say back.
I know the day of the week not from a calendar, but, from my medicine box!
It’s beyond ridiculous. And I want to FEEL! I want to be me.
I want to be the best me.
So, he suggested a new pill.
“Does this mean I can stop taking Alprazalam??”
“No, you’d take this in tandem.”
“But, if it WORKS then …”
“Then you can use Alprazalam for spells. This med doesn’t work that way.”
Probably shouldn’t have. Because 1/2 of the people taking my new meds had an AWFUL time. I had a consultation with my pharmacist and felt um, sorta confident?
Placebo effect. I had to be SURE it would work.
To be able to walk the length of Walmart without leaving my cart.
To be able to drive without losing sensation in my fingers and mind!
Let’s make all of this make sense with some of what my pharmacist told me.
Turns out, he has the same heart condition that I do.
(That’s how long the ‘consultation’ was – I only had one question, he had a hundred answers, which also kinda explains why my pick up takes so long lol)
Our hearts, already in fight or flight mode, due to electrical misfires, need the brain to tell it to chill out.
Any (insert Star Wars here) ‘disturbance in the force’ be it a past experience or recent one – aggravates our medical condition and there you have a medical anxiety.
So, taking pills for the actual heart condition and pills for the anxiety has taken a toll.
It’s been over 6 years.
The body builds up a tolerance.
But I didn’t.
I don’t WANT to be THAT girl.
If I can get through the rough patch of this NON narcotic solution, I can maybe wean off of the benzos, which IS my goal.
I’ll never be off the Digoxen or the Metopropolol – and that’s fine! They are literally a life saver. I know I need them.
But, what if … Just what if – I don’t need Alprazalam anymore?!?!
I can’t wait for the day that I can walk into any situation and feel at ease – or lay my head down and not wake up in the middle of the night to a ‘spell’.
But – I feel it coming. I hope.
And I’m in.
I’ll ride this out.
Let’s try it? No?
“But, I don’t want to be ‘that’ girl.”
“Amanda, anxiety is a medical condition – you have nothing to be ashamed of.”
This was a conversation I’ve had over and over with my doctor.
When did it start? Approximately 2008 … I had ‘spells’ I couldn’t explain. Couldn’t lay down – couldn’t breathe – felt out of body, but so very aware of every sensation, as negative as they were. I was scared, I wanted to sleep – I wanted it over! But couldn’t and had to wait it out.
To be fair – I was soon diagnosed with Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, (Basically, I have an electrical misfire when it comes to my heart – so that makes a very real, and very scary condition hard to distinguish from an anxiety attack) but also with COPD after a random chest X-ray after a rapid heart beat sent me to the ER. They caught my lungs on that shot and shared that with my doctor.
My doctor shared that with me and I cried and cried.
I was that kid that every time I caught a cold, I’d end up with bronchitis. That, or walking pneumonia.
My lungs were enlarged.
OK. So, we deal with that.
I was put on Digoxin and Metoprolol.
That seemed to help for a while – but then I started having what I call ‘spells’.
Not just heart palpitations due to my heart condition – but debilitating full on attacks at random times.
Anxiety/panic attacks don’t come for me when I’m stressing out – they come when I least expect them and yes, I know the difference between ‘them’ and a heart episode.
I tried breathing patterns, I tried cooling my pulse points under running water – usually, just finding someone to sit with who wouldn’t ask me how I was would work. The spells would pass.
My doctor added Alprazalam to my regime.
THAT helped. Until it didn’t.
I would wake up in the middle of the night, certain I was having a heart attack. Chest pain, back pain, rapid heartbeat, out of body sensation, clammy palms, jaw pain, left arm pain – total and complete feeling of helplessness and impending doom.
It got to the point I couldn’t ‘walk it off’ (literally, and that’s something they say you should try.). I was too dizzy. I also couldn’t be horizontal, it made it worse. With blurred vision and terrified, I’d hit my knees and lean over either my couch or bed (if I was at home) and this agnostic prayed. And prayed HARD!
Usually these spells happen when they really shouldn’t. Watching a movie – sleeping – or just working and feeling happy.
No stress I was aware of.
Fast forward again.
For eight years I’ve been taking 2 Metoprolol, 1 Digoxin and two 1/2’s of Alprazalam per day.
I’ve learned to ‘deal’ with the bad times.
Past month, I’ve been getting goosebumps only on one area of my body. My left thigh. That concerned me. (Mostly because my house is in the 80’s and no, I hadn’t been watching a horror movie at the time.)
Also, my anxiety has upped, big time.
Yes, mostly it’s random. But, I do have triggers. Raised voices, my dog barking, a car too close behind me …
Then, a new symptom. I can feel completely fine at work or at home, but trying to run an errand? I suddenly feel complete and utter intestinal distress. An urgency that shouldn’t be there. Because my tummy was fine when I left.
I also can only be in ‘public’ for a short amount of time. I’ve left a cart at a grocery store quite a few times – unable to find my footing and having to abandon it.
Crowds? Oh goodness no. I can’t do crowds.
Add to that driving. Now, this is something note worthy because, NOW, I’m putting OTHERS in danger. I accidentally tried to change lanes one day and someone was in my blind spot – they honked. Since then, I’m terrified to change lanes. I also feel a LOT of pressure when I’m doing the speed limit and someone is behind me wanting to go faster.
Worst experience was trying to take my fiancé at the time to Vegas – the closer we got to ‘big’ traffic, the more symptoms. I literally couldn’t feel my hands, couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see – I had absolutely NO control over my body or what it was doing!! The first exit we found with a phone, we called a taxi for him to finish the trip for an absurd amount of cash.
Today – I shared all of this with my doctor.
Today – I received an additional prescription for buspirone (BuSpar) for generalized anxiety, OCD and panic.
It doesn’t work for everyone. I’m REALLY hoping I’m a good candidate! Mostly because it’s non-narcotic. I want OFF of Alprazalam.
I see my doctor again in a month and if it DOES work for me, I can be weaned off of Alprazalam – and I’m SO grateful!
Bottom line – Anxiety and panic attacks are no joke.
My son has spent hours with me telling me “You’re not in danger” and telling me to focus on things that ground me when I can’t even move.
Anxiety is crafty and unpredictable and terrifying.
But – If you’re going through this for the first time? You WILL be ok!
It feels like you’re going to die. It does. I don’t think people who don’t have it understand that.
I also don’t think people understand how legitimate the experience is.
Things to NOT tell a person going through it (from my experience, not a medical book.)
“You know it’s all in your head, you’re fine!”
“Just breathe.” (Although, there ARE some great breathing techniques that DO help.)
“You’re making this happen.”
If you wake up with a pounding heart and can’t feel your phalanges and can’t believe how helpless you feel – YOU try telling yourself to ‘just breathe’ – lol.
And, if you can’t relate. I’m SO glad. I AM SO GLAD. Because it’s fucking awful.
I’ll give you an example that maybe you CAN relate to.
Ever have to be at work and you have an excruciating toothache or earache that renders you unable to sleep? Yeah.
It’s sort of like that. ALL you want to do is have relief and relax, but your body DOES NOT cooperate!!!!!!!
You have NO control.
So – I’ll try this new medicine and let you know, let’s see how my experience goes. I already made the mistake of ‘googling’ and reading user reviews.
No wonder I’m a bundle of nerves. LOL!
Because, I’m tired. And I’m tired of going through this … I’m willing to try anything. I’ll be a Guinea Pig.
“You’re not in danger … try to breathe with me. I’m proud of you – you’re going to come through this.”
Those were the words I listened to as I struggled to my knees and bent over the couch, clutching at it as air snatching fear hit me wave after wave. My heart pounding – on the verge of fainting. Mouthing “please, please, please” to some power greater than me. “Please – no.”
My vision blurred in and out. My arm tingled. Palms sweat.
“It’s going to be ok.”
And, nearly an hour after it had begun, it was okay.
That was my panic attack yesterday. They come out of the blue. This one in particular while I was merely laying on the couch watching a television show.
The one who talked me through it? The one who held my hand and stayed calm when I could not? My son.
I know all the tips mentioned above by heart – but ironically, since I do also have a very real heart condition, these ‘spells’ as we refer to them in my home are exacerbated by that knowledge. It’s hard to tell yourself ‘everything is going to be ok’ when at the same time, your brain is saying, ‘but what if this time it’s not?’
I was exhausted and grateful. And slept, after finally being able to assume a horizontal position again. The thing about panic attacks, your whole body gets the equivalent of ‘restless leg syndrome’ and staying put only amplifies the experience. Rocking helps if you can’t get up and walk. And if you’re feeling dizzy, pacing probably isn’t the best idea.
I know why this one occurred however. I had stayed up far too late spending time with … My past. We’ll leave it at that.
Got up at my usual time yesterday morning and woke Nic. We went to run errands. Oil change (that turned out I didn’t need) a car wash that I wasn’t able to have as they were having electrical issues. Then lunch with Nic.
That was the good part.
I love spending time with him.
We had so much more on the agenda – but after lunch, neither of us felt up to continuing.
We came home and resolved to finish our errands today.
The house was pretty clean and that’s when I decided to catch up on a few recorded shows.
AND that’s when it hit.
I tried to ride it out, realized this was a big one and managed to reach my iPad and send Nic a message asking him to come and sit with me.
And I want to thank him for going above and beyond. And caring so much.
As for my past – I’m going to leave it there.
I’m going to stay in the moment and seek healthy, positive and calm things.