Tag Archives: doctors

Rock Band and PTSD. Yup.

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Rockband-drumsetI don’t know that I ever would have guessed this, but someone at church started providing their Rock Band game during our weekly volleyball/game night, and I can’t think of a better way to say this: it kicks my anxiety’s bu*t! Every week after playing, my anxiety is practically gone, enough so that after just the first week I was thinking, “If I get disability and my disability back pay, I’m going to buy Rock Band!” Can you imagine my recovery? “Take one hour of Rock Band drums, vocals, and a little guitar a day, and your anxiety level will be low enough to get rid of at least half of your PTSD symptoms…..”  I don’t know if it would be as dramatic as that, but it’s been a long time since I’ve found anything that made that much of a difference, aside from time with friends and my therapist and doctor.

I’ve been singing my whole life. I have a minor in music, I’ve conducted several church choirs and got to conduct my college choir once out of a stroke of luck (and maybe some hard work, but there was luck involved), and growing up my favorite thing to do at home was to sit at the piano and play and sing. For some reason it’s not the stress reliever now that it once was. If I get to help out by accompanying our church choir when my hands aren’t shaking too much, I really enjoy it, even though I get excited when the better piano  player shows up.  I like to be able to be helpful, but I prefer the other person. When singing, I love to get to sight-read the hard parts. I’ve been able to sing, on and off, in more rigorous community choirs over the past years since college, but sometimes after a semester or two (what they call it, even though they’re not college choirs) if my anxiety levels get too high again, it gets to be an anxiety producer instead of an anxiety-buster. One strange thing about anxiety is that something that is helpful can turn into too much.audio-2202_640

In the most recent large choir I was in, it could be the level of the noise (even if beautiful) or the mood of the director or a sudden burst of claustrophobia with so many people in the room (or a combination of all of it) that would get to me. I’d be doing breathing or inner meditation exercises, but my hands would start to shake harder and I’d start to get dizzy and suddenly I’m overwhelmed too much to stay in the room. The most recent choir directors didn’t like us to sit down, but sometimes I’d sit anyway, because….health issues. But I still felt like a failure. I felt comfortable discussing it with the choir president, but I wasn’t sure that the directors would think it was such a good idea for me to be there, and eventually it got to be too much, so that I knew it was too much, too. So choir, the thing that helped me keep my sanity through my first two years of college, had to go again. I couldn’t sing in choir my junior and senior years of college, either, which is a very long story in and of itself. And yes, it was anxiety/fatigue. One of the hardest times of my life, when it all became serious.

So in the same way that Rutter, Fauré, Mozart, and John Jacob Niles helped me in college: it looks like Queen, Bon Jovi, Green Day and Pat Benatar may help me out of my current funk. When I’m around others, I tend to have a sense of humor and joke around a lot: but when I’m at home, I seem to be too serious, and perhaps more my “over-thinking” self. It’s so exciting to find things that work, no matter how odd it may seem. Rock Band’s drums seem to be especially effective.  They just make me happy, even if I get a terrible score. 🙂  I can live with this!

Exercise, a healthy diet, and…..Rock Band.

On that note, the FODMAP diet has been helping, but true again to my over-thinking nature, I get to where I worry about it and then my stomach hurts from the worry, and not just from what I eat. My therapist and doctor both smiled and said that was really common. The cherry on top of that info? My new primary care doctor (new insurance) has IBS as well! I was hit with a feeling of peace when she told me and I knew that she understood.

cooking-chocolate-674508_640So my stomach was bothering me a LOT yesterday. On the 1-10 pain scale, I was probably at a 6 or 7. I had some paperwork that I had to finish though, so I had to get on the bus and get back to the library to print some things out. So, what did I do? I forgot the notebook with the information in it that I needed to log into the website where I needed to print out the forms. I tried to make myself feel a little better by checking out a couple of library books. I then called several friends to see if they could help me out. The situation was getting a little ridiculous. I have had a ton of paperwork to do lately, but three weeks of bus rides just to get it done was frustrating me, because it feels like I haven’t gotten much of anything else done during the day.

On the way home, I knew it was getting time for dinner, and I just didn’t want to eat anything. It came to my mind my favorite treat that is allowed on my diet, but that I try not to eat too often, a Lindt Intense Mint bar. I thought, “I could eat one of those,” and suddenly my stomach pain was gone. Completely gone. Like that, I went from a 6 to a 0, just from the idea that I could eat one (so of course I did). I wish anxiety and physical symptoms always worked that way! (Believe me, I’ve tried….thousands of time). I was so happy that I was almost giddy.

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On a scale of 1 to 10…

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number-10I’ve discovered that there’s sometimes still a large disconnect between what some of the people who “know” me think I’m going through, and what I’m actually going through.

Have you ever been asked by a doctor how severe the pain is that you’re going through, on a scale of 1 to 10, or 1 to 100? I finally got the courage to ask one time, “So, what is 10? Is 10 going through labor? Because it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.”  I’m still not sure how to do that with friends, or when it’s even worth it. I have just a few friends that I will try to further explain it, because they’re the friends who have felt comfortable in the past asking for more details, and who seems to mostly “get it” even if they haven’t been through it. I learned the hard way, at a more needy time of my life, that even if I think someone who absolutely doesn’t get it and doesn’t seem to want to, even if they ask me questions, I probably won’t be able to ever talk or explain enough. They’re probably not emotionally ready, and I’ll just end up getting hurt, and maybe they will, too.

I still haven’t figured out the pain scale. Doctors seem to be able to figure out what they need to without me trying to gain clarity for myself.

As for my anxiety, thus far the “10” (and worst) for me was the time I had to go to the E.R. My doctor and therapist know what that means. I don’t think that many people have seen a panic attack that’s that bad, though.cure-297557_640

So, a couple of people asked me what it was that keeps me from church sometimes. (I feel a little vulnerable on this one, for some reason, despite the irony of writing it on a blog where I’ve already revealed quite a bit.) Usually, it’s that my anxiety is so bad that my nightmares have kept me from sleeping very well and I can’t wake up. If I can wake up, it’s more tricky. I’m more likely to go to church, but nervous about how I’ll be able to handle it. Last week I managed, but I had to miss a lot because I had to sit outside of Sacrament Meeting and Relief Society because the noise and crowds were too much. This week, I managed to sit outside Sacrament Meeting okay, but by Relief Society, I just needed to lie down. Some people may think, “oh, just do some breathing techniques” or one of the many other things I’ve learned. Those things help me on a regular Sunday, or in the long run, but when my anxiety is hitting a 7 or 8 (nothing most people ever have to deal with, I don’t think) that’s not going to do it. As I said to a friend, “If you had the flu, and weren’t retaining anything you heard, and all you could think about was lying down so you could calm down and get some sleep, would you stay?” Also, I DON’T LIKE missing things. Yes, I do get embarrassed if I start to twitch or I feel stuck somewhere and my mind is about to turn off because I keep trying and trying to do calming techniques and it’s not working, because I’m “running faster than I have strength.” No one was ever promised that none of us would have to deal with a difficult mental illness in this life. I don’t want to make people have to see it. It makes people uncomfortable. On top of that (and probably more important) is that it will keep getting worse until I find a way to calm down, and sometimes the only way to do that is to be able to lie down in a quiet room, by myself, where I know no one will bother me. dice-10

I had to ask a friend to take me home early on Sunday. It was quite a bit out of her way to drive several miles to drop me off, go back to church, then come home again this way. It was extremely kind of her. When I got home, I said, “I don’t want to be here, but I need the rest. But this means I’m missing church again.”

What did I learn from this that I need to work on? I took a long nap on Saturday afternoon, that ended up being full of nightmares and thus not restful at all. I ended up afraid to go to bed on Saturday. I need to try to go to bed earlier on Saturday nights, and learn not to be afraid. Plenty of techniques I can use with that.

I understand those who mean well who think one or two simple things, applied daily, will fix all this. It’s just not that simple. It’s more like a very long list of things that will possibly work, as I go through it and pray about it and talk with my doctor and my therapist etc., will fix this. Please don’t insult the intelligence or the integrity (even if we’re not perfect….I know I’m not) of those of us dealing with serious mental health issues. And obviously I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people: no hallucinating, no long stays (or even short ones) in the mental hospital. But getting over my PTSD is like having a full-time job: but one with odd hours and no sure answers. The answers are looking a lot better than they were 5,10,20 years ago, but one of the biggest battles is yet around the still elusive corner: (will I get approved for disability?)

Medication

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vitamins-521365_640So, a friend who deals with depression and anxiety was wanting to compare our medication history and how different meds have had such different affects on the two of us (as you can imagine, this is a common conversation between experienced mental health patients and family members of mental health patients). I figured that since I took the time to type it out in one place, I may as well share it here. I’m leaving out plenty of stories, but this hits the basics. And humor hits the spot and is the spoonful of sugar for psyche outpatients. (I still haven’t been an inpatient….I really hope that I never have to.)  And to those reading this who may need some of these meds someday, remember that our bodies are all *very* different. I was in the very small minority with some of my reactions to these medications. You can’t give up from having one or two bad experiences. Fortunately, I started out with good experiences. But the right meds will be helpful. And don’t *even* think that I would have been okay without medication. I know it’s not the same for everyone, though. But that’s a tale for another day. And I appreciate the concern of friends and family members who freaked out as I was (and still am) going through this. Not that I want them to continue to freak out…I just appreciate those who studied the meds I was on and were concerned.

***PLEASE NOTE: I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or give medical advice on any type of psychological or psychiatric condition.*** The purpose of this blog is simply for me to share my experiences.

To my friend “Gabby”:

Effexor has been amazing for me. I’ve been on it for about 10 years now, I think? It replaced a few years on Paxil. I noticed an immediate difference. It’s still helping me, even though it’s been that long, but the doctor’s had to add the Prazosin and Klonopin and Ambien. He wanted to add more anti-anxiety drugs, but the other two we tried gave me horrible side-effects, and I think we’re down to a place where I can’t do several categories of drugs for various reasons: one category gives me Parkinson’s Disease symptoms (which would become permanent), one category lowers blood pressure and I already have low blood pressure. I think Klonopin is one of those, but the “safest,” and it hasn’t lowered it in the few months I’ve been on it.

Yes, Neurontin helped me get to sleep. Prozac actually made me sleepy (I think I was one of 5% on that one) so I took both at night. If my anxiety/insomnia gets bad enough, though, not much will put me to sleep. I think that’s why they gave me the Ativan at the hospital. It did the trick. The “retrograde amnesia” was rather amusing. They were going to have me stay the night, but my “home teachers” from church (one was my bishop) came to pick me up and the hospital felt comfortable letting me go with them. Most of my shaking had stopped and I’d managed several hours of sleep. They took me to the In N Out drive thru on the way home because I was starving. The last thing I remembered was entering the drive thru. The next thing I remembered was waking up in the morning. My roommate thought it was pretty funny (we need a sense of humor about these things.) I mean….what a tragedy. I got to eat In N Out and I didn’t get to remember it? I still don’t remember any of it. So I called my home teacher and he said that the hospital had warned them that I would end up forgetting things. Maybe it was a higher than normal dose? And I called the hospital to ask if I’d ever remember it….they laughed and said that it was normal and that most likely I wouldn’t ever remember. Such a tragedy.
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Worst medication experiences for me: Zyprexa (made me gain 60 pounds in six weeks. Yup. I went from 127 to almost 190. They took me off it and I lost most of it in 6 months. 127 was too low for me.) It was too bad because I felt the least anxiety on that med that I have since I was a child. But I was *starving* ALL the time. I was very, very strange. Abilify made me gain weight, too.
Other bad medication experience (the worst) was Geodon. It helped my energy level and made my sleep schedule almost normal. After about 7 months on it, though, the Parkinson’s Disease symptoms started. I could do hardly anything with my hands. Signing my name was stressful. Somehow my psychiatrist didn’t pick up on it, and I’m not one to always know that something is a problem. I thought they were side effects I’d have to live with. It affected my eyesight and I needed glasses to read. One of my legs bent and turned inward as I walked. I had developed a facial twitch (which I hadn’t noticed) and TMJ. My arms twisted in and out, too. My father in law and ex-husband (my former father in law has Parkinson’s) were the first to think something was really wrong. I saw my parents for the first time in several monthsand my step mom flipped out at the changes she saw and called my doctor and insisted they see me right then. Getting things done fearlessly is definitely one of her strengths. I had to see a neurologist for a year, and I couldn’t drive for a year. The shaking went away and my eyesight back to normal, but the neurologist was disgusted and said that it would have become permanent. I really appreciated him and his help.

My doctor here tried two other meds recently, both which gave me problems. Seroquel gave me bad flashbacks as I was falling asleep, and I was starting to have problems with my eyesight again. I can’t remember the name of the other one, but I was depressed. That’s when I asked if I could try a sleep medication. (See two entries ago for more on that).

I cannot wait to try some holistic remedies when (hopefully not if) I get my disability back pay, if I get approved for disability. It’s supposed to happen any time now.

 

Fixing the Thinking

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***PLEASE NOTE: I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or give medical advice on any type of psychological or psychiatric condition.*** The purpose of this blog is simply for me to share my experiences.
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I always experience a downer when I come back from visiting my kids. I live in Utah because I came here to try to finish my degree, which didn’t work out due to my health: then I ended up staying because my parents are helping me out until I get disability (hopefully) and Utah is cheaper than California. It is quieter here than the L.A./Orange County area, and the pace of life is blessedly slower, but….my kids aren’t here.

Not getting to spend Christmas with them thanks to the flu has given me the opportunity to work harder on my thinking patterns. Now, as a warning, I’ve heard several different terms applied to what I’m going to talk about: and not being a professional, I don’t think I can adequately distinguish between them. Years ago I was taught “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” then about 8 years ago “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,” or “DBT,” and I have a friend who is a therapist who refers to it as cognitive distortions, or thinking distortions. I’ll have to ask him again.

So, how to make this short…

22 years ago I was loaned a copy of the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. I highly recommend it if you have issues with anxiety or depression, or really just for anyone. He talks about distorted thoughts and shows a method to work on getting rid of them by writing them down and then identifying what types of “distortion” they are according to a list he made (which was very handy) and then writing next to each thought what the reality really is, which is almost always better. It helped a great deal, once I stopped beating myself every time I caught a “distorted thought.” I was pretty much the queen of hard on myself at the time. I’m a lot better at it now, but I still struggle.

Just after my divorce, I became a patient at an anxiety clinic at a university that I love, but won’t name here, due to a bad experience I’m mentioning.  I would see a resident there (who was great) and then one of several supervising psychiatrists. One of the doctors didn’t seem happy that I was seeing my own therapist (who had specialized in anxiety for her dissertation), and seemed a bit upset when I mentioned my religion, and that my therapist was also that same religion, and that someone close to me had been addicted to pornography. He didn’t seem to think that certain addiction was possible. It had been the source of a great deal of trauma to me and my kids, mostly because of how this family member had acted because of it: increased temper and less of an ability to be aware of the feelings of those around him.

Anyway, they insisted that I do “DBT” (which is good) but in a way that was just like the lists I’d done from the book years before. They had the resident sit next to me and go through it slowly, and make me think of things to write down. They were already feelings I was aware of and had been working on a long time. I don’t know how to explain why, but it was extremely traumatizing. They weren’t things I needed to work on, and it felt like they were twisting a screw in my back psychologically. I ended up leaving in tears one day. The one doctor that I’d had a bad vibe from, I found out later (when I wasn’t supposed to, but certain people had a feeling it would be helpful to me emotionally/mentally) was dropped from my case. Years later, when I heard that “DBT” was found to be helpful to those with PTSD, I felt discouraged, as if it was yet another things to check off my list of things that I’d “already done.”
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Then last year I was blessed to be assigned to a therapist who had specialized in trauma, and to be able to attend a trauma support group. The therapist explained to me that there is now more to DBT than “just” those lists. In the group we learned quite a few techniques that were different from the lists, and quite a bit more helpful to me at this point. Also, up until about two years ago, when my anxiety would be at its worst and I was struggling (like I still do) to talk and function and think clearly, I could name, perhaps, the trigger that got me there, and the overall larger problems I was dealing with, but I couldn’t tell you what was bothering me. Sometimes I could sit and write down what was going on, but more frequently I felt extremely confused and like I just needed some sleep so I could function again.

As the time is getting closer that (hopefully) my disability hearing will come, and has winter has set in, I’ve been having a lot more problems with deep depression than I usually do. I ran into my friend who is a therapist (but not my therapist) and he asked me if I was doing my positive thinking exercises, and I realized that that weekend I hadn’t been. I took it as an important reminder. At first, I realized, the thought came into my head that “but I don’t know what’s bothering me….” but unlike in the more distant past, when I got home and sat down to write, I kept going and going. It just came out. I’m taking this as a good sign that, just maybe, some of this depression is the old emotions, stuffed in down deep, finally coming out and being dealt with. It’s not that I haven’t had to deal with things before, but these are things that came in too much at a time, that I wasn’t ready to deal with, due to trauma, and perhaps this is another step in filing those thoughts and emotions in their proper places in my mind, and healing more.

A few weeks ago, someone also randomly posted on Facebook a link to a BYU devotional by Elaine Marshall, of the school of nursing, several years ago. I really needed this quote and saw it as a blessing that I noticed the link and happened to click on it:

I have learned that healing is a process of restoring and becoming whole. This morning I would like to share six lessons I have learned about the healer’s art.

First, healing hurts. When I was a young nurse in the hospital, hardly a day went by that a patient did not ask, “Will it hurt?” If I had been truthful, the whispered answer would nearly always have been, “Yes, it will hurt.” I have learned that healing hurts. Life hurts. Healing really only begins when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul. For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price. Author M. Scott Peck reminds us that if you do not want love or pain, you “must do without many things” (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978]: 133). I think you would do without dating, graduating, getting married, or having children.

Sometime in your life you will know a crashing crisis or heavy heartache that will threaten all sense of logic or hope or certainty—from which, no matter how you emerge, nothing will ever be the same. Hurts come as unique losses, unwelcome surprises, fading hope, or grief.

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Trigger Tales: the Helicopter

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I had been told several times during my twenties that I probably had some form of PTSD, but since it didn’t hit me in the same way as it did war veterans, I took a strange comfort that it wasn’t the “same kind of ” PTSD that I’d heard about. In fact, it’s a common misconception when people hear about mental illnesses that everyone who has PTSD has it the same way, that everyone who is bipolar has it the same way, etc. It makes sense to order it in our minds that way when we’re fortunate enough to not be having to deal with it. Mental illnesses are like any other type of illness in that they manifest in as many ways as the people who have them.

Starting in about Jr. High, friends in one of my classes figured out that I had an exaggerated startle response. In other words, when they would do some sort of game like waving their hands in someone else’s peripheral vision, the person might move a little. I, however, jumped. I’m not sure why I remember this. In some strange way it was comforting to me, because they hadn’t teased me about it (I guess they thought it was some kind of superhuman reflex) and it was also some kind of proof to me that I wasn’t okay, even if my parents tried to pretend everything was normal at home. Jr. High was also a difficult time for me, probably the worst of my growing up years at home, which translated easier into difficulties feeling like I fit in at school. I went from “brainy” and mostly normal to “struggling socially.” Not too different from a lot of kids in that stage, unfortunately. I found out later that out of my siblings, only one enjoyed Jr. High.helicopter-390488_640

I have two kids, about 4 years apart. My daughter is the youngest and was born in Los Angeles not long after 9/11. My former husband and I had gone through a couple really hard years, followed by a small amount of peace (during which time my daughter came to be) and we moved to L.A. for him to finish graduate school. I was going through severe postpartum depression and constantly on myself, thinking I was doing everything wrong. As my ex once put it, “Do you think you’re responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world?”  At which time I realized that I did, and that it was odd, but I couldn’t seem to make the feeling go away.

We lived in student housing next to the 405 freeway, and not far from the intersection with the 10, and about 10 miles south of what they said was then (and still may be) the “busiest freeway intersection in the country.” It was a nice neighborhood. West L.A. is a nice area. It is still L.A., though, and we frequently heard traffic and news helicopters outside. Once I was walking back from a friend’s place in the student housing complex, and a helicopter passed overhead and on a loudspeaker someone said something similar to, “please stay indoors, suspect is in the area, on foot. Police are in pursuit.”  Not terribly comforting. Needless to say I quickened my pace and told my family.

The kicker for me in realizing that it wasn’t “just” Postpartum Depression (which is not a “just” for anyone, of course) and anxiety was when I was feeling overwhelmed, which was what I’d come to believe my life would just have to be like, and my kids were watching tv or playing in the family room and my ex husband was either walking by or sitting there. A helicopter passed nearby, and in a split second a felt a HUGE adrenaline rush, and I fell to the floor and covered my neck like we used to do in earthquake drills in CA in elementary school. It felt like there was a war right there, like the terrorists had come to Los Angeles and we were about to die. Then in another split second I realized what had happened: that I was “okay” and we were okay, and that it was just a helicopter (and I have never been in a “literal” war zone), but I was not okay. I just started to cry, wondering what was going to happen to me.

“You Seem So Capable….”

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superman-295328_640This is something I’ve heard more than once. Frankly, it’s something that frequently goes through my head, so I understand where it’s coming from.

In my inexpert non-doctor but “I live with myself every day” opinion, these seem to be my biggest issues with being able to work:

  1. I can’t guarantee that I can be somewhere at any specific time
  2. I deal with debilitating fatigue
  3. When you see me, I’m *usually* at my best
  4. I still don’t understand all of my “triggers” or where they come from, so I have a lot to work on
  5. When bombarded with unexpected or expected triggers that take over quickly in an unexpected way, my mind just “shuts off.”
  6. I have both a “genetic tremor” that, when combined with the shaking from the anxiety, kind of freaks out employers. They want me to go to the doctor to get it “fixed.”

 

Things that throw people seems to be that

  • I usually have higher than average abilities socially (with some quirks thrown in, but who doesn’t have that…)
  • I have (supposedly) a high I.Q.
  • I have a lot of people skills, writing skills, networking skills, etc.

However, I also need a lot of sleep. My son asked a really good question of me one time when he said, “But if you work out, will you eventually work through the fatigue and build up more resistance and be able to sleep less?”  I wish this were the case. I’ve been dealing with the fatigue for twenty years now. Sometimes I can do more than others. Somehow it seems tied to my anxiety. I can walk 3-5 miles several days a week and I’m just fine. If I try to up the amount of just about anything I do, though, and I keep pushing it, my ability to endure doesn’t increase.  Instead, my body “crashes.” The most common thing that happens in that case is that I end up sleeping for about 30 hours, and you couldn’t wake me up if you wanted to or if I wanted to. If there was a fire in the building and someone didn’t carry me out or lead me by the hand, I’d probably die. It’s just a fact, not asking anyone to feel sorry for me.

When my son (now 17 years old) was an infant, I experienced extreme sleep deprivation. I was put on anti-depressants after that, and changed my diet quite a bit (I went gluten-free before he was born) and slowly gained more stamina. When my daughter was born four years later, I was doing a lot better, but it wasn’t hard to tell that I didn’t have the stamina that other moms had. I either felt like I needed to go to bed around 6pm, or I felt “wired” like I just needed a few hours to myself after everyone else was asleep. I was also so tired that I would forget to eat enough during the day, so just before bed I’d be shoveling in food during a time when I didn’t need to worry if everyone else was getting enough.

I didn’t take my kids many places, compared to the the other moms we knew in the graduate student family housing where we lived. If I started to think, “hey, maybe I am normal….” I’d have either friends or random strangers ask me if I was okay. The general consensus of the other moms was that I always seemed more tired than other moms. I supposed that, coming from other moms of small children, that was saying something.

I think that, more than anything, the way my mind will just “turn off” is the scariest symptom I have. I look normal (I think) when it happens, but if people try to talk to me, I can’t speak back. It can take a lot of effort to remember what is going on around me.

I think the mind turning off started towards the end of my marriage. I don’t mean to be negative towards my ex-husband, who has made a lot of progress and is a good dad and provider and (thankfully) remarried several years ago. He was in graduate school, trying to finish a PhD., and at least three or four years before that had just gotten tired of my anxiety issues. I had had several doctors and therapists tell me that I needed more time to relax, or things would get worse. He didn’t like that because he wasn’t sure how we’d accomplish it. He often took the kids to school, took them to the grocery store with him, or to visit his parents. But towards the end of the marriage and during the divorce, I could be completely wiped out, and he’d just leave. My kids watched a lot of t.v. and movies. More and more I had difficulties sleeping, no matter how tired I was. I felt like a zombie. I wanted to talk about other things we could do, maybe talk to people at church for ideas, and I was seeing a psychiatrist at a Post-Partum Clinic who after a year or two had me transfer to the Anxiety Clinic.

There was a lot more to it, but probably not worth sharing. I asked him if maybe the kids and I could go live with his parents, but he didn’t want that. My psychiatrist there (and the ones where I’ve lived since) said that I already had PTSD at that point, but that my marriage had made it a lot worse. The anxiety seems to have started when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It’s a very long story how I figured out that part.

Changing Meds is for the Birds

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birds-311975_1280When you’re on psychiatric medication, it’s a given that at least every few years your medication will “wear off” i.e. not work as well, and that your psychiatrist will need to find some changes for you. I will not try to outline every problem I’ve had with every medication change in just one post. That would take a l*o*t of writing and trying to remember lots of random stuff. But let’s just say that I’ve been on one particular medication for almost 10 years. It’s worked really well for me. 10 years is a long time for one medication to keep working, though. (Now remember, I’m not a doctor….notice the “liability” notice at the very bottom. I’m spouting what I remember best from what I’ve been told through several sources. This is NOT medical advice. I majored in history, people. Minors in music and French. I can’t help diagnose anything or give advice on prescriptions.)bottles-309391_640

So, about three years ago when I came to this mountain state to try to finish my degree, the nightmares that I’ve had on and off almost my whole life (at least since my teen years) got a lot worse again. So, I got put on a medication that’s supposed to help lessen the nightmares, called Prazosin. It did help, a lot. Then trying to do school full time messed up all my symptoms. I’d be sitting in class and my fear would increase even though I couldn’t think of anything I needed to be afraid of. The harmless people around me suddenly seemed scary, even though generally I’m not that easily intimidated by people. I was exhausted and I’d go to bed around 4-6pm and sleep until 2pm the next day, and my roommates would be worried whether or not I’d eaten, and I’d wake up with my blood sugar abysmally low and unable to speak or walk straight. I had several bouts of sleeping 32-36 hours straight. When I was married, my ex-husband would call this “comatose” because he could say my name and gently shake me and talk to me and pick me up a few inches then let me drop to my pillow and nothing would rouse me. I’d be in a deep, deep sleep because I’d get so tired. My therapist in Los Angeles had done her Ph.D. Research in anxiety, and she explained to me that high anxiety, whether from good or bad things, tires people out. So, those with high anxiety problems are often tired….all the time.penguin-159784_1280 sleeping

Hmm, back to the subject. I had wanted to finish my degree so that I could at least be a substitute teacher in CA and work on the days when I felt up to it, and rest on the days that I didn’t. I also figured that school would be a good “dry run” because I had to go full time in order to get a Pell Grant, and I could “rest” when I wasn’t in class. Instead I had some of the same problems I had when I’d come home from France for my Junior and Senior years at BYU years before: sometimes I was okay, but increasingly I couldn’t concentrate, at all, on my readings. I could “fake it” pretty well in class, for a while, but then I crashed. The fatigue increased to where I couldn’t make it to class much anymore and if I did, my insides felt like there was an earthquake, and even if I though I looked okay on the outside, complete strangers would ask me if I was okay and if they could get me something to eat or find somewhere for me to sit down. I had been bound and determined to finish school, but it wasn’t going to happen.

This was about medication, huh?  🙂  So, it’s cheaper for my parents, who are helping me out (huge blessing) for me to be here than in CA with my kids. Not going to go there right now. Worst thing of my life. My kids are in great hands, though. Still worst thing ever. But…I started my application for disability, for the second time. I’ll tell the “first time” story another day. And waiting on disability can take a very long time. It’s been almost two years now.nightmare-455776_1280

Last fall, when I thought I was recovering, sort of, from too much stress, things got worse instead. After about 4-5 months of not being able to wake up and the worst nightmares I’ve had since my divorce ten years ago (but there were more of them, and they seemed “real,” and I couldn’t tell if they were my reality or not) my doctor tries a few meds that gave me severe side effects. We finally settled on something for sleep, and within a few weeks I had the most normal sleep schedule I’d had since I was 22 years old. The best part? I could wake up if I needed to. No more hours of nightmares about trying to wake up, and getting taken to a different place in my nightmares instead. I could set my alarm and wake up.

We’re almost to the end of this chapter. I had several months of good sleep and getting more Priesthood Blessings (I apologize if you’re not LDS and you don’t know what this is, I can explain or provide a link later) and learning a new sort of meditation technique called “tapping” and using some essential oils, then a few weeks ago things got really bad again. This time it was racing thoughts. I do have these from time to time, but it hadn’t been this bad since I was in school, and it was worse. I felt like I was losing my mind, like I was afraid of everyone. I think part of what precipitated it was a lot of paperwork I had needed to do for various things (I get kind of paranoid about paperwork, I feel like I’m going to do everything wrong) and some stressful things in my family life. All I could do for the racing thoughts was to lie down in bed and try to clear my head, but I was having trouble getting enough to eat. I wondered if I should check myself into the hospital. I got advice from several different people over the weekend and ended up with an appointment to see my doctor. I found a ride to my trauma group before my doctor’s appointment. That group is always helpful to me, but this time especially so. Everyone in the group said that it sounded like I was in need of a medication change, and that I would be okay. So much better than however expensive the hospital or E.R. is (thankfully I’ve never had to stay in the hospital overnight) and the doctor was really helpful.teddy-242848_1280

End of the story: the doctor upped one of my meds and put me on another one that I was on years ago. I’ve been sleepy for a couple weeks (only awake for maybe 6-8 hours/day) which of course also freaked me out, but it was much better than the paranoia and racing thoughts. The past couple days I’ve been feeling like I’m pulling out of the sleepiness. Also, I had a really nice visit from an uncle and aunt that I love a lot.

I do not want this to go one for the rest of my life. I’ve been told by a couple doctors that they believe I can come out of this eventually, as well as therapists. I want to believe that.

I didn’t expect to make this entry so long, but there it is. Kudos if you got through the whole thing.  🙂