Friday, August 23, 2019

Take Back Your Life

In 2013 just before I moved out to California, I was terribly, terribly depressed. I'd been on medication before, but with poor medical supervision and careless doctors, my dosage was pushed up and up until I couldn't feel anything anymore except for mildly content. Due to my lack of medical coverage at the time and with no money to go to the doctors to get refills, I was forced to wean too quickly off of the meds. Getting off of that medication almost killed me and I ended up in the hospital.

Fast forward to after I'd moved to California, and changing my life so drastically shoved the depression right out of me. It wasn't until later, with the help of a therapist, that I found out that anxiety and depression don't like each other much, and when one is strong the other will go dormant. I'd never had horrible anxiety before, just the mild panic whenever I did something I disliked (like making phone calls), and when my depression was gone and the anxiety began to well up in me, it became overwhelming. I'd dealt with depression for almost a decade at that point, it was an old foe and I knew how to wrestle it, but anxiety was a whole new beast. 

From my past blog posts, we know that I've got an autoimmune disease, and for a lot of people when they're not controlled well they can become chronically ill, and it creates a cycle of mental despair and physical deficiencies that develop slowly, over time, until one day a person looks up and realizes that they've been living a shadow of a life behind their illnesses. This happened to me. Despite my attempts to land a good therapist several times over, and my fear of going back on medication when it turned out so very badly last time, combined overall with my unstable medical insurance that would switch from year to year, forcing me to switch providers and therapists, I felt stuck.

Almost a year ago last October, my illnesses reached an overall peak. I was having migraines more frequently than I'd ever had them, my anxiety was almost crippling and I turned down opportunity after opportunity due to my fears. Something that you wont often find in your research to find help for autoimmune diseases is that anxiety and illness go hand in hand, one scratches the others back, and anxiety will make you more and more ill. Illness will give you more and more anxiety. At some point, you have too find the will to put your foot down. 

Well, it took a while, but I finally did. 

Soon after we moved to Michigan I researched for days before I settled on a therapist that I wanted to reach out to (check out to find yourself a therapist that will fit your needs), and once I finally did she read me like an open book and broke it down for me.

"Brook, we need to get your anxiety under control. Have you thought about going on any type of medication?"

I had thought about it, and I said so at the time, but my anxiety extended to doctors as well. Would I find a doctor who would listen to me about my illnesses and take me seriously? Would they respect my wishes about what I will and won't allow during an exam? Will they treat me as though I know what I'm talking about, or dismiss all of the research I've ever done because it's been the only thing I've been able to rely on for the past 6 years? 

Despite my fears, my therapist helped me to do the research and I booked an appointment with a doctor that we felt would suit my needs and would give me the best shot at a positive medical experience, but my doctor wouldn't be back from maternity leave until late August. 

Then I ran out of my migraine medication. 

Desperate, I called the facility and booked an emergency appointment for the morning that I was to leave for a trip. For me, fears can outweigh other fears. The fear of going without my medication outweighed my fear of a prescription refill appointment, and I went willingly, alone (normally I bring my husband-- doctors are significantly more willing to listen to an old white man). During the appointment, my wishes were respected, the physician was kind, and she immediately noticed my severe anxiety. She, like my therapist, asked if I had interest in going on medication. I said I did, and that I was waiting until my appointment in August to ask for medication. She asked why I was waiting, and I hesitated. Was she asking me if I'd like her to write a prescription for me?

It turns out, she was. She was entirely willing to refill my migraine medication, but the frequency of my migraines concerned, her and she was hoping to put me on something that would prevent migraines. There is a well known antidepressant/antianxiety that also prevents migraines that we could try. And so to my surprise, I left with a new medication and a little bit of hope. 

The first week on the medication was awful. It causes nausea, and I was its victim those first few days. But once I got into the swing of things, the medication began to work its magic.

I started my medication on July 23, and in that short time that I've been taking it, my anxiety has decreased tenfold. But that's not all. My therapist was right, my anxiety was making me so, so much more sick than I actually was. I suddenly have more energy than I know what to do with. I'm completing tasks way before their deadlines, with ease and even enthusiasm. I need fewer naps. I wake up rested. There aren't entire days spent on the couch recovering from the minimal tasks from the day before. 

In the past few weeks I've gone to a concert at DTE, something that would have definitely given me a panic attack just a few weeks ago, and I've gone to the flea market in Shipshewana, IN, a 6 hour round trip drive with miles of walking in extreme heat. The old Brook would have needed at least three days to recover from that, and wouldn't have lasted nearly as long as she did, nor would she have been the one with the confidence to drive. 

I'm amazed at the changes, and so are my closest friends and family. I'm happier, healthier, and I'm living a normal life these days. For me, it's a miracle. I'm finally a functioning human being and my illnesses aren't controlling my life-- now I get to do that.