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Essay of me

When we’re young, we get scared, and we go to our parents or people we love for support and comfort. We cry, we talk about the boogeyman, we complain of feeling sick, of things that hurt, of things that frighten us. At what age does that stop? And why?

An essay on ButYouDontLookSick.com titled, “It is 5am. It’s a horrible, ugly hour to wake up, not yet morning, not quite night.” by Christine Miserandino inspired me to write this essay of my own. I have a 5am, only for me, it’s 1am, 2am, 3am…it’s any hour after a normal person’s bedtime, namely my husband. When he sets off to dreamland, my waking nightmares tend to haunt me.

I am a night person, but the night is the worst time for me. In the darkness, things hurt worse and I feel the pain exponentially more. And I know that it is my anxiety that heightens the feelings, but I am helpless to stop or change that fact. I worry…I worry that the pain in my arm and my chest and my jaw are because of my heart, despite having been checked out by a cardiologist. I worry that the headache and the pain in my neck that I know is from clenching my teeth when I sleep (and am awake) are signs of an impending stroke. And the anxiety makes my heart beat faster and my breath come less easily…but I worry those things are signs that I’m dying. The pain the back of my thigh, is that a blood clot? Will it race from my leg to my heart or my brain?

And what will happen to my husband and my parents and my siblings if I die? How will they suffer with the pain of loss? How will they cope with the hurt of never being able to see me again? What will happen to the friends I’ve made that I may not have spoken to recently? Will they be haunted by guilt of not staying in touch more often? Will they be crushed by their conscience that often told them I wouldn’t go out or spend time with them because I wasn’t well…and they didn’t believe me? Who will watch my precious dog all day when I’m gone? She can’t go 8-10 hours without time outside during the day…my responsibility since I work from home. Who will comfort her when the storms rage and the fireworks explode nearby?

And in the darkness, these thoughts come to me, compounding the pain and anxiety I’m already feeling. I feel crushed by the weight of all of this, and yet I am unable to make any of it go away. I sit up—in the only position that comforts me—shoulders hunched, body curled over, legs crossed, knowing that even as I do, this will only intensify and lengthen the duration of my pain. I cannot tell you how many nights I’ve spent like this, sometimes struck with dizziness that keeps me off-balance and feeling like I’m on a rocking sailboat, since I first became ill. Diagnosed with multiple syndromes that are invisible to everyone else but me. Though there are names to categorize what I deal with, they are mostly incurable, and I am unable to take medication for any of them because of my sensitivities. So when I’m flaring, I suffer through my days by hiding away, either physically or figuratively, from the people around me. My husband sees most of it, my mother recognizes a lot of it, my siblings offer polite sympathy, but no one else lives all of it but me. And at night, I suffer alone, because the guilt of dumping any more of this on my husband—my main support—is too much. He wakes early, works long hours to support us, spends much of his time taking care of me and himself and the dog when he is home. I cannot wake him at 1 in the morning to tell him I’m hurting, or I’m afraid. He can’t fix it—which is what he wants to do—and telling him only to have him feel helpless is even more of a burden to both of us.

Alone in the dark, I do not reach for my husband and his comfort, I cannot sleep, I can only be awake with my demons. And for those of us who suffer with diseases and syndromes and…well, life, sleep is what rejuvenates us, what refreshes us, and what repairs us. So not being able to sleep only makes everything worse. There have been nights when I never set my head on a pillow, and when my husband wakes, I am quick to put myself in a prone position so he doesn’t know I’ve been up and in that horrible physical position all night. And to my shame and embarrassment, there are mornings where I wish I could beg him to stay home with me, so I am not alone in the light. Because alone in the light when I’m feeling this way is equally as frightening as being alone in the dark with him beside me. But I keep my thoughts to myself, because he is the bread-winner, and he has to keep his job. Asking him to stay home is a luxury we cannot afford often, and I must save it up like he saves his sick-days to take care of me. I must only ask when I really really need it. But he never hesitates to offer, and he never hesitates to come home early. I am thankful for these things, don’t get me wrong. I am lucky in this instance, because although he doesn’t have the capability to really understand, he does try.

Reading Christine’s essay brought tears to my eyes, because I could literally feel her pain, and I could feel her distress, because it is my life as well. And when I tried to post a comment, I wrote three, and deleted them all. Embarrassment raced through me because I didn’t want people to know how I feel in the darkness of my illnesses. It was embarrassment because I couldn’t admit how I feel, and embarrassment because I was embarrassed. So I posted nothing, and I tried to explain to my husband why I needed the extra few minutes to read Christine’s essay before turning off my laptop. And I reminded him of her “Spoon Theory” so he would know who I was talking about. And I admitted to him that I understood everything Christine had written, because I’ve lived it myself. And I admitted to him that I’ve never really shared all these intense and intimate fears even with him. Because I was embarrassed and ashamed to feel those ways.

And in the light of the morning, I was thinking about children, and how they can admit their fears. How they seek the comfort of those they love to help them assuage their fears. And yet, I, as an adult, can’t even admit to or seek comfort from the one person in the world I know loves me more than anyone in the world. He’s never put me down, he’s never made me feel weak, and yet I never told him the things I’m admitting here in this essay. Why? What am I afraid of? Why can a child speak so easily of their fear, and ask so easily for comfort, when I can’t?

But I know deep in my heart it is the fear of being a burden. I am already that, I cannot dump even more on the person who cares for me, who works hard for me, who needs to be healthy because I am not. And it is the fear of how people will treat me. I don’t want to be pitied, or coddled, or seen as a “disease”…and I don’t want to be treated differently.

I’m sitting here writing this and I can feel the tears dripping down my face. I’m not sure if I’m crying for the life I have lost, or what I feel I’m taking away from those around me. I only know when I’m in the middle of a flare, my life is different, and I hate it. I hate the fear that engulfs me and the anxiety that plagues me. I hate that it changes me into someone I would never want to be. And I hate that it makes me secretive about how I feel and who I am. That, most of all, is why I’m writing this.

(written 7/2010)

 

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My second major attack

It was almost thirteen years in between my two major panic attacks. The first attack I had was a classic one, you can read about it here. But my second attack was different, which I believe because it was more chemical in nature. I believe it was partly induced by my adverse reaction to Prilosec. Even so, it was a panic attack.

This panic attack started differently, as I don’t recall feeling poorly. I had been sitting in bed and I was probably on the computer. I felt almost like I couldn’t hold my head up properly, like the muscles in my neck were too weak. And I remember that I started feeling twitchy. My head twitched, my arms were twitchy, my body twitched. Then I started trembling, like I was getting a rush of adrenaline through my body. I tried to tell my husband what was happening, and the words coming out of my mouth were trembly, like I didn’t have enough air to get the words out. But while I felt like I couldn’t talk normally, I felt like I was having a normal conversation. I stood up, I felt weak like I couldn’t stand, so I sat down on the chair near my bed. My husband asked if I wanted to go to the ER, but I couldn’t decide. I knew my in-laws were downstairs eating dinner, and I was loathe to walk by them in the condition I was in.I was laying in bed, wailing and moaning, telling my mother that my brain was broken. That I didn’t want to BE this way, that I didn’t want to live like this. I didn’t want to be broken like this.

My husband suggested that maybe the local walk-in clinic would be better than the ER, as I would be seen faster than the ER, which is notoriously slow. But I couldn’t make a decision, I felt like my brain was frozen in place, like I had no ability to come to a conclusion on anything. So my husband said we should just go to the clinic and get a prescription for Ativan so it would calm me down. Since I couldn’t make a decision on my own, I agreed. As I lumbered around trying to find clothes to put on to go out, I felt like I was floating overtop of myself, disconnected from my body, even while I felt the trembling in my body. I had trouble putting pants on, I could barely get my trembling leg into one pant leg hole.

When I was finally dressed, I asked my husband to go have his in-laws go into a room and close the door, so they didn’t see me. I was now sobbing and shaking so hard I could barely stand. I cried and shook as my Mom tried to help me down the hall and downstairs. My husband helped me out to the car and my Mom got in the backseat. She kept rubbing my shoulders and all I could do was sob and shake. The drive to the clinic was about fifteen minutes, and by the time I got there, the trembling had slowed somewhat. I tried to compose myself enough to answer the questions for the intake, though I did cry through that, too. The guy doing the intake was actually very nice and didn’t make a big deal out of the situation.

On the other hand, the doctor I saw was pretty awful. He treated me pretty shitty and acted very pompous, basically told me I needed to get help. I told him I was already seeking help, but I couldn’t get to anyone that time of night or on that day (a holiday). That I really hated medication, but I needed to get a few pills to help me down off the cliff I was on at the moment. I don’t recall all the conversation, but my mother and husband agreed with me that the doctor was awfully crappy to me in the moment. I told the doctor I could only take Ativan, since it was something I was familiar with, but he blew me off and told me Xanex is the same thing. If you’ve ever taken either, you know that isn’t true. But he refused to order Ativan and only gave me a prescription for Xanex.

When we tried to get the prescription filled in the clinic, it was then that they told me they didn’t keep that kind of medication on site. So we had to rush off to a 24-hour CVS to get the prescription filled. By the time we were in the parking lot for the CVS, I had calmed down. When we finally got home, I was exhausted, but no longer crying or shaking.

Like I said, it felt totally different from my first panic attack, but in retrospect, it was very similar to a previous (and more recent) attack I had. It was more minor, and we did go to the emergency room. Somehow I was able to come down more quickly from that attack, before it progressed quite as far. That smaller panic attack happened while I was on the Prilosec as well.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in anxiety, panic attacks

 

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My first attack

I’ve had two major panic attacks over the last 13 years, though I am sure there have been some minor ones that I did not identify as a panic or anxiety attack at the time. I have had a few ER visits, one that I know now was a panic attack, but did not realize at the time.

When I’m in the throes of a panic attack, I feel different than when I am feeling anxiety. A panic attack makes me freeze, in the manner that I am not able to do anything but be in that horrible, frightened state. I’m sure you know the symptoms of a panic attack, which can vary:

The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes, and they rarely last more than an hour.

A full-blown panic attack includes a combination of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations or a racing heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Choking feeling
  • Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy

The first panic attack I had was 13 years ago. I was alone at home and at the beginning stages of dealing with (at the time undiagnosed) chronic illnesses. One of them gave me symptoms that includes pain in my chest, pain in my back, pain in my jaw, and pain down my left arm. Does this sound familiar to you? A heart attack, you say? Yes, thank you, that was what I believed at the time. As I sat and thought about those pains as they persisted, I began to freak out. I started having trouble breathing, My heart was racing a million miles a minute…I could feel it pounding vigorously in my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath or think clearly. My fingers started to tingle and go numb…the edges of my vision started to go dark. I knew I was dying. I knew the world was going to end for me. I clutched the phone in my hand and called 9-1-1. Even as the dispatcher spoke to me, I was sure I was taking my last breaths. The woman on the phone told me that I needed to go to the door to let the paramedics in when they arrived, but I was on the second floor of my townhouse and I wasn’t sure I could make it. I was in a tank top and underwear, nearly naked, adrenaline and fear racing through my veins. I knew I couldn’t make it down the flight of stairs because I could barely breathe.

Then I saw out the window that the fire engine and ambulance were going past my townhouse, unable to find me. Still holding the phone, I gave a weak cry, saying out loud “they can’t find me!” The dispatcher on the phone tried to talk me into getting to the door again, and I knew if I didn’t, they would never find me, and I’d be dead. Alone. So I stumbled down the stairs, still on the phone, still half-naked, still unable to catch my breath. My heart pounded in my throat, nearly choking me, and I pretty much stumbled to the front door and threw it open. The fire engine was coming back up the street and I tried to wave at them, but the “HELP ME!” I tried to scream only came out as a warbly little mewl.

Somehow they found my house and came to help me. I remember the two paramedics being ultra-sweet to me, as they tried to help me. The female medic came in and immediately found me a blanket, which she wrapped around my naked legs. My vitals were “normal” but they saw that I was hyperventilating and they tried to help me calm down. To this day, I still use the technique they showed me. When I finally calmed down and could breathe again, my mother showed up with my grandmother, and the paramedics told her that I had hyperventilated. No one used the word “panic attack” but later I figured it out. The paramedics only told my mother that if I had hyperventilated enough, I would have passed out and my body would have automatically taken over my breathing and I would have been okay. It was the strangest thing to hear that passing out would have been the best thing to happen to me at that point.

After that incident, I went to a cardiologist to take a stress test (at 28), to make sure my heart was okay. The cardiologist did the test, but basically blew me off, saying I was too young to have a heart problem. At the same office, on the same day, a young man of 15 had an appointment and I heard him talking about the heart attack he’d had. I was baffled, and I knew anyone could have heart problems. I hated that the doctor had blown me off, so I was sure at the time that he had missed something. So my anxiety levels increased from there forward.

Oddly, I did not worry about having another panic attack (which is usually what a panic disorder is about)…probably because I did not identify that “episode” as a panic attack. But I did live with the high levels of anxiety. I was married by then, and there were days that I begged my husband to stay home from work with me because I was afraid to be alone. My levels of anxiety fluctuated for quite some time. When I found out that the pains that had started that attack was chronic gastritis, my anxiety lowered, because I knew where the pains came from.

There were some days when I had trouble reminding myself that it was not my heart, and to this day I still worry about my heart. To this day, I have to remind myself that the pain in my arm is likely from a gastritis attack (or gas pains, sadly!).

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2013 in anxiety, panic attacks

 

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My ER experience

I went into the emergency room of a local and well-known hospital  because of the symptoms I had been dealing with for several weeks. On top of an onslaught of depression and grief, I had been suffering from extreme lethargy, lack of interest, paranoia (mostly over food), body pains, weakness, severe panic and anxiety, lack of concentration, heart palpitations, and more. I had no idea where all this was coming from, and I was unable to continue the way I was. I scheduled with my husband and parents to go to the ER on a Monday morning, so that we knew who would take care of our dog and how my in-laws (in from out of town) would be dealt with. I had packed my bags for a multi-day stay, just in case. Even though I knew I was doing the right thing by seeking help, I was scared shit-less. I was terrified the hospital would find me mentally unstable and would have me committed. I begged my husband to never let me out of his sight, to not let them take me away. I was so sure I would not be coming home that I left my husband a note telling him goodbye, telling him how much I loved him and how sorry I was that I had done this to him. There was more in the letter, very personal and private emotions that spilled out, because I knew in my heart that I was going to be taken away from my family.

We went into the ER and as expected, had to wait. Because of some of my symptoms, they did take me in briefly for an EKG to check my heart, but I guess it must have been normal because they then sent me back to the waiting room for quite some time. While I was out there, I struggled with my panic and anxiety. I struggled to sit still, but failed. I shifted in the wheelchair I’d come in on (I had no strength to walk in from the car, let alone walk through the ER), constantly moving my body around. My heart raced continuously and my fear over what was going to happen in the ER escalated minute by minute.

When they finally brought me back to a tiny room, they re-checked vitals and took a urine sample. Pretty quickly they realized I was dehydrated, so they set me up with an IV before I even saw a doctor. I don’t remember everything about the experience, but I know at some point they moved us from this one room that had a private attached bathroom, to another room that was just as small but did not have an attached bathroom. It was here I was seen by doctors, including a neurologist. They were concerned that I was neurologically impaired due to something called Guillain Barre syndrome, but the best way to test was by spinal tap. Since the neurology resident wasn’t feeling confident about the diagnosis, we requested she speak with her supervisor before we went for such a painful and (terrifying!) invasive test. Instead I went for a CT Scan of my head and neck. My husband, G-d bless him, insisted he go with me to the CT scan, even though he had to wait in the hall outside. It was a quick trip, and the neurologist came back in shortly thereafter to do her physical exam. I’ve been through these before, stand, sit, walk, scrape the foot, test the eyes, strength, balance… the majority of these results were normal for me, a few slightly abnormal, but nothing alarming. She felt my hearing was compromised in one ear from one area, but it wasn’t something I’d ever noticed.

Then the CT scan came back with an abnormality in the hearing and balance area of my brain, so they immediately scheduled me for an MRI. I’ve had an MRI before…once. I hated it. And even then I’d been concerned about the dye used because people can have anaphylatic reactions to it. But I was told this was a different kind of dye, and that if I was nervous I could have an Ativan before the MRI. I told the nurses that yes, I have anxiety, and yes, I am severely anxious about the MRI and how enclosed it is, and how I can’t keep my head still when asked to do so. But that I was too scared to even take the Ativan. They assured me the Ativan would be short-lived, and that it was unlikely that I would have a reaction. I was actually surprised at how compassionate the nurse was with me, and the resident doctor as well. And considering I was in the emergency room and could be seen right away if I had a reaction, I finally relented. They gave me a small pill and I took it. And I sat and counted the clock, waiting to feel something…good or bad. Instead I started feeling mildly sleepy…and numb. When they came to prep me an hour after the pill for the MRI, they gave me more Ativan intravenously, then took me away. They wouldn’t let my husband come this time, as they said it would be a long wait and no place for him to sit.

Although I remember going to the MRI, and how nice the techs there were, I had no real sense of time. I knew I was in there a while, no question, and I was bored out of my gourd, I was mostly just…bored. The noises were annoying, and staring up at the stupid mirror showing me my feet was … boring and aggravating and kind of confusing. It was like, what the hell were my feet doing over my head? After some time, the tech came out and gave me the dye in my IV, then rolled me back into the MRI, telling me it would only be another hour! And no, even though my ass hurt like a mother-fucker, I could not adjust on the table because I had to be in the exact same position. I think there was music playing, which they’d asked about initially (top 40 or pop, please), but I don’t remember much of it.

When I came back, my husband was waiting in the hall for me, like a caged animal. He told me I’d been gone for 3 hours. I had no idea…again I knew it had taken a while, but not that long! Ativan, interesting creature.

The neurologist came back saying I had something called a schwannoma in my brain. Benign, she told us, and smaller than they had originally thought. Centered on the balance and hearing part of my brain on one side (I think it was the right, which would affect the left side). She scared the hell out of me and my family. Schwannoma is a collection of extra cells that grows extremely slowly. They apparently don’t do anything unless it is causing problems. I’ve had balance problems for 13 years, attributed to migraine associated vertigo. Now we were left wondering if it was the schwannoma instead.

The neurologist talked to her supervisor about the guillain barre syndrome, and they decided it didn’t really match what was happening, and so the lumbar puncture was canceled. And I was told I was dehydrated and undernourished, and that my inactivity had led me to the pains I was having, as well as the lethargy and stiffness. I was told to go home, stay hydrated, eat more, and move.

(and not so incidentally, after weeks of no update from the neurologist, I made an appointment with their out-patient clinic, went out with my supportive family, only to be told by the resident and senior neurologist that there was nothing showing up on my MRI at all — well, except my brain…so the whole scare was a false reading! ARG!)

After the ER visit, the next day, I had that horrible panic attack and eventual realization about Prilosec.

 

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My adverse reactions to Prilosec

In the early fall of 2012, I realized that the OTC version of Prilosec I’d been taking was not helping me as much as it had when I was taking the prescription version 12 years prior. I went to a recommended gastroenterologist and spoke to him. He told me that taking OTC Prilosec was a joke because it was only 10mg. For someone like me, with the symptoms I was having, I needed to be on the full dosage, 40mg twice a day. Since I’d taken RX Prilosec before, and knew I didn’t have any side effects with it, I filled the prescription and began taking the pills.

See, I’m really sensitive to medications. If there is a side effect, I will get it. I can’t take anything anymore, including advil or motrin or alleve or anything…OTC or Rx. I even have weird side effects from taking anti-biotics. I only take them when I absolutely have to, and in that case I only take a z-pack, because I know the side effects I will get (which include burning hands and feet…something my doctors had never heard of, but it comes on shortly after I start the first pill and doesn’t go away for several weeks after I’ve finished the pills). But since I’d taken RX Prilosec for almost 8 months the first time, I figured it was safe.

I began taking the Prilosec as prescribed. The first week, it relieved my symptoms and I felt okay. Shortly thereafter, maybe 5 days in, the chronic gastritis symptoms returned, and some new ones came on. I thought it was the gastritis getting worse, but found out afterwards that it was the Prilosec side effects (like that horrible lump in the throat feeling? yeah, that one that makes you feel like you have to clear your throat all the time or swallow harder, or for some people–gag!) that were bothering me.

At the time I was taking Prilosec, I’d already been seeing a therapist about some grief issues, which were wrapped up with some mild depression over the loss I had sustained. The anniversary of the loss was coming up, and I knew I’d need to talk to someone, so I started going to see a nice (and highly recommended) therapist to talk. It seemed like she was able to help me with the grief and the trauma from the grief, but the depression seemed to be getting worse…going from mild to somewhat moderate. In addition, I began to feel tired all the time, lethargic and uninterested in getting out of bed. My energy was gone, my interest in even moving to go to the bathroom was zilch. I’d been dealing with food issues because of my gastritis, including cutting back on carbs and sugar, as well as the regular GERD diet, and I was eating smaller meals to relieve my stomach pain and heartburn. When I began to drift into this lethargy, I stopped eating almost everything and began watching every morsel that went into my mouth. I also started to become paranoid about what was IN the food I was eating. I was sure everything I ate would give me an allergic reaction (like anaphylaxis). Food that I’d never had issues with before were starting to scare me. If it wasn’t something plain, like grilled chicken or lettuce or cottage cheese, I wouldn’t eat it. My mother made tuna salad with mayonnaise and celery, but I wouldn’t eat it because I was afraid there was something in it that would make me sick. I eat tuna salad all the time…but my brain was telling me no way was I putting that in my body.

I also began to be afraid to be alone. And in some cases, not just alone in the house, but alone in my bedroom–which was where I was living…in bed. I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t moving. I was existing, in a weird reality of depression and anxiety and paranoia. In addition, my body was in pain. My neck and shoulders were stiff, my limbs all felt heavy and immovable. I couldn’t hold my head up. But yet, I couldn’t lay still in bed…I was constantly shifting and moving my legs and my body. There were times when I could carry on what felt like a normal conversation with the person who was staying with me, and other times when I couldn’t bear to concentrate. I was too tired, or too depressed, or too upset. This all was occurring when my husband and I were hosting his parents in our home for a week. What luck, yeah? They were in from California, and we hardly ever see them. So while my husband entertained his family, my mother would sit with me in the bedroom.

One evening while the in-laws were here, I just couldn’t deal anymore. With encouragement from my parents and my husband, I decided to go to the ER of a local but well-known hospital. The night before, I packed things I might need if they wanted me to stay. I prepared myself with personal products and clothing, wrote a note to my husband about how I felt about him, how sorry I was for doing this to him, and what I wanted from him if I didn’t come home again. I was entirely convinced that the hospital would want to commit me, or that I would die. The morning we went to the ER, I begged my husband, in tears, not to leave me alone. Not to let them take me away. That it was my utmost fear that they were going to commit me and take me away from everyone I knew. I was desperate enough to go for help, but terrified at what the “help” might actually mean.

My ER experience…

(Luckily, after researching Prilosec after my ER visit, I quit cold turkey and the “adverse reactions” tapered off. It took several weeks for me to start feeling normal again! It is appalling that this isn’t being talked about and that doctors aren’t warning their patients of the possible adverse reactions…)

 

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Anxiety is inside me

That’s what I have, anxiety. Sometimes it splashes into panic, but most of the time it is a humming, buzzing level of anxiety. It’s always inside me, sometimes I notice it, sometimes I can ignore it. But no matter what, it’s there, and I have it.

I’m okay to tell people I have anxiety. I can admit I have had panic attacks — at this point in time I am able to recognize two major episodes. The first one brought on by my first illness about thirteen years ago, the second one induced (I believe) by an adverse reaction I had to Prilosec. The two panic attacks were very different, which has also led me to feel confirmation that the second panic attack was due to the Prilosec I was on. Even so, yes, it was a panic attack. And yes, I went to a local walk-in clinic to get medication because I was so afraid that I was not going to recover without pharmaceutical help. The adverse side affects to Prilosec I had were varied and, well, pretty intense. I hope to never forget the whole incident, because it taught me a lot. And in this instance, Google was my friend, because it helped me find that I was not the only one having these side effects from Prilosec.

I have chronic health issues, which I will talk about another time. The onset of those health issues began in 2000, and it took years to figure out what was going on. During that period of time, I had lots of health anxiety because no one could tell me what was going on. I’m one of those people who needs to know. It’s why I pretty much live by Google. I’m learning now that Googling symptoms or researching health-related things is bad for me. I am trying to restructure my thinking to not run to Google everything. When I began to understand why I was having the health symptoms I had, my anxiety levels decreased. I understood what was happening, and even though in many cases I was unable to get rid of the symptoms, at least I knew what they were coming from. It was the unknown or unnamed that I could not handle.

For many years after my diagnoses, my anxiety was manageable, where most days I was unaware of it. I know, of course, it was still inside me, but I was living as normal a life as I could with my chronic illnesses. Then I had a traumatic event. Grief and depression began creeping up on me, and I believe it triggered some of my chronic illnesses, among which is a stomach ailment (chronic gastritis). When I went onto prescription Prilosec from my gastroenterologist, the depression got worse and the anxiety got higher. I have health anxiety, so every time I had a pain, my anxiety  levels peaked…it was a vicious cycle. On top of which the adverse reactions to the Prilosec started piling up, and I had no idea where those symptoms were coming from. By this time I was seeing a therapist for the grief and depression, but when I began to have more major issues that I couldn’t identify or handle, I ended up going to the ER. I stayed for many hours, had many tests, unfortunately got a bad diagnosis for something totally unrelated, and was sent home after being rehydrated. The day after I came home from the hospital, I had the second major panic attack… I was getting an adrenaline rush, I was shaking and crying, moaning, wailing, telling family members that my brain was broken. My husband and mother helped me get dressed and into the car, where I continued to sob uncontrollably, and we sped off to a walk-in clinic. I do NOT take medication because of side effects, but when I’d been in the ER, they gave me a small dose of Ativan so I could go for an MRI (I have a fear of MRIs). Since I was in the hospital where I could be seen to if there was an adverse reaction to the Ativan, I let them give it to me. And I was okay, other than feeling sleepy and sort of…numb. So I thought if we went to a walk-in clinic, I could get two or three pills to tide me over until I could see my primary care doctor to get a prescription. However, the clinic would only prescribe Xanex, and I’d never had that before. We went to a CVS to get the Rx filled (the clinic never stocks these kinds of meds, they tell me after the exam), but I knew I wouldn’t take the pills. At the time, my paranoia and fear was too high. By the time we returned home from the clinic and CVS, I had calmed enough that I could lay down without sobbing. I think I slept, while my husband tried to contact my therapist again. He had tried before we went to the ER and after we got back, but she never responded. When we asked about medication, she told him to call my primary.

By this time, my husband was really pissed off at my therapist for being both unresponsive and unhelpful. The next day, she referred me to a new therapy office where I could be seen by both a therapist and a psychiatrist…my current state was too much for her to handle. I made the appointments with the new therapist and to see the psychiatrist, and shortly after that, began researching Prilosec. Something came together in my head that morning, telling me that my depression had started getting worse after starting the Prilosec, and so did the rest of my health. I was shocked and appalled at what I found… I talk about that in another post, because it is important on its own. I’m well aware that not everyone has the same issues I did with Prilosec, but it’s clear from the reports that many many people do…most of them without any history of anxiety or panic. And if no one talks about what could happen, others could wind up the way I did, without knowing what was happening.

This was a long first post, so I’m going to cut off here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here merely to bash Prilosec, it just so happens that it is an important link in my life and my experience.

 

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