This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
When on psychiatric medications, there can be side effects. I am accustomed to them after 23 years of treating my anxiety and depression, but the past two months have been full of dizzy spells and nausea. As we try to find a cause, my psychiatrist stopped one of my medications as a test. I was off of it for one week. The dizzy spells continued though, some days worse than others. We then decided to decrease one of my anti-depressants, in addition to stopping the other med.
At this point I was weary of doing so. My anxiety had reached its peak. My brain had been on overdrive. Want to know what that’s like? I have outlined below exactly what went through my head over the course of a few days.
I was shaking as if I had Parkinson’s Disease since the med that we stopped helped with calming that side effect which my two other meds caused. At work, where I use my hands constantly, I was self-conscious of my shaking and was very concerned what my co-workers and customers thought. Toward the end of the day at work I was overly-focused on what I needed to get done once I went home:
I need to get out of here on time so I can go home and change my clothes and eat dinner. I hope I can spread the cream cheese on my bagel quickly so I can sit and eat and spend time with my daughter. Then I have to eat quickly in order to be a part of her nighttime routine. But first I have to get my lunch ready for tomorrow for work so that will be all set. I must do that first before I can do anything else. Eat faster and make lunch, that’s what I must do right now. Keep chewing and finish the damn bagel. My feet hurt. I could use a treat tonight but I’m not sure what I want. I better go right to sleep tonight. Now I’m tired and cranky. I can’t let anyone know that though. I can control myself. I can’t stop shaking. My teeth are chattering and my hands are shaking more now that I am all worked up. Damn it! I have so much nervous energy and it feels as if I am doomed.
I worked and tried to remain calm. My hands were still shaking and I was overly focused on 2 p.m. when I would leave and run an errand before going home. I focused on the timing of the errand:
I will simply use my shopping list and will not be distracted and I can be in and out in under 15 minutes. Great! Then I’ll go home and take a walk to try to burn off some energy. Why did that customer take so long? I’m leaving work at 2:10 p.m. and now I am completely thrown off. My timing won’t work now. Ugh! This errand is taking longer than I thought. And now the sky is gray and rain is imminent. Damn! I won’t be able to take a walk, which means I will feel extra stress and spend my time hoping the rain will end quickly so I can try to walk. It’s not working out as I planned. I am beyond frustrated!
While rushing home I kept thinking that maybe the rain would stop but it only became worse. Once in my house, I felt frustrated and angry. I not only wanted that walk, I truly needed it. My shaking increased and I felt pressed for time. I had to pick up my daughter from her bus from camp and the rain would not stop! I had already left my psychiatrist a message informing him that my anxiety was making me feel crazy and I did not decrease the other medication out of fear. I kept looking at my phone in the hope it would ring.
I am so anxious about my work schedule and I cannot stop the thoughts. So many hours this week and I am worried I can’t handle it. And then to have jury duty tomorrow while also being scheduled to work in the evening is making my anxiety even higher, if possible. My manager told me not to worry about it since she scheduled a back-up for me but being the responsible person I am, this is completely stressing me out! Not to mention I have to get up on Wednesday morning to drive to Boston for my therapy appointment. Aaahhhh! It’s all too much within only a few days.
Update, Early Evening: I called in to jury duty and was told I was not needed tomorrow. I’m not sure if I am happy about that or not. Now I definitely need to work and will not get home until after 10 p.m. This is making me crazy! Luckily, my psychiatrist called and agreed I should re-start the medication I had stopped. Please work soon!!
Update, Bedtime: I took Ativan as well as my regular nighttime meds, so why am I not tired??? I’m lying in bed and my legs are shaking and my mind won’t stop. This is ridiculous!
Starting to feel in more control but now I wonder if all of this is really anxiety. Could it be something else? Is there another mental illness that fits better? I don’t know what to think anymore.
Living with this level of anxiety, or whatever it may be, is exhausting physically and emotionally, and I wish I could have dealt with it better, but I did the best I could with what I had. Half of the time I have been ignoring it which only fuels it and increases it because obviously, it cannot be ignored.
Yet this past week has been a good lesson for me. There is something bigger in my brain that cannot always be controlled by my good cognition and years of treatment—there is biology at play. This week, I was reminded that anxiety, and any mental illness, is not my fault. You may not “see” the wounds but they are there and they ache. It is real.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.