Between missing out on everything in the states, making new friends, trying to fit into a new lifestyle, managing a new job, and language/cultural barriers, living abroad can be a bitch sometimes.
When you add an anxiety disorder into the mix, things get downright complicated.
This is something that I have not told very many people in my life. I have been keeping it locked away from most people so that they won’t worry about me and so that on the outside, I look as though I am a happy, healthy person. It makes for a lonely existence when you lock things away from people you are close to. Rather than letting it out and seeking the help that you need, you push people away and hide. Suddenly it seems as though you have no one to go to because you have alienated them.
It took me a while, but finally, I have realized that the more people that I am able to tell, the better I do. I don’t put the added pressure on myself to not let anyone find out, and I keep the support system that I desperately need.
So, for my sake, I am going to say it here:
I have an anxiety disorder.
How did I find out?
Well, my entire life, I have been a worrier. I always have had issues with thinking up situations that could possibly happen to possibly make things go wrong. I never thought it was a problem because everyone worries. That isn’t weird. I also have typically been, throughout my life fairly cynical and pessimistic. Again, not something weird, I mean everyone is different, and there isn’t a problem with having a different world view than some people.
What I didn’t realize was that the extent to which I took it all was not normal. The amount of worry and pessimism was not at all at a normal level for everyone. Of course, at some point, I was going to have to reach a limit. That limit hit about four years ago, and it all blew up in my face.
Setting the stage for my breakdown: I was in a bad relationship that was draining me. I got a job that had a bad environment and a crappy work schedule (work until 11pm, back to work at 6am, with no full weekends), and I couldn’t go home to see my family or friends.
I got to a point that I was really depressed, and I thought that it was simply depression that was the problem. I was crying a lot and feeling bad about myself all the time, so I decided to go to a doctor to fix the problem. Some friends of mine had used antidepressants in the past, and they were fine, so I thought that it could help me. The doctor talked to me and put me on 5 mg of Lexapro per day for a couple weeks, and told me that after a week to move to 10mg, and then 15mg after three weeks.
The first couple of weeks, the pills seemed to work. I felt a little better and I wasn’t having any crying episodes. But after a month, things went down the tubes. I started not only being incredibly depressed, but also having panic attacks…something that had never happened to me before. I would start shaking and just be scared of everything…I had no idea what was going on.
I had an episode one day where I decided nothing mattered anymore. I skipped out on work and left for two days without answering my phone for anyone…prompting my boss to use the emergency numbers they had on file and call my family because they had noticed changes in my behavior and were worried about me.
I didn’t get fired, luckily. My boss was nice enough that she listened to what I had been going through and told me she would work with me. I went back to the doctor, who upped my dosage to 25 mg. She told me that there was a transition period, and I just had to work through it. She told me that I was the problem, essentially
I listened and kept taking the pills, and things got worse. I just wanted to die. I made plans for my death. I knew that everyone’s world would be better off without me. I was a mistake from the beginning anyway. My car could go off that bridge with just a little turn of the wheel… I went back to the doctor, and after hearing this, she decided Lexapro wasn’t working for me. She switched me to 75 mg of Zoloft. Again, I was the problem, not the medication.
After a couple more weeks, I had never felt so awful in my entire life, and I was scared. I didn’t feel like me or act like me anymore. I felt like the voice in my head was someone else just telling me to do awful things. The worst part was that I had retreated inside my head and was stuck there with that awful voice. I just tried to keep telling myself that it wasn’t me.
I decided to make a radical change. I quit my job. I moved back home for the last few weeks of summer before school, and I threw out that medication. It was poison. I was only on medication for four months and it changed my life forever.
Since I took that medicine four years ago, I have not ever been able to get rid of the panic attacks. I have good periods and bad periods, but they have never completely gone away. I also am mildly agoraphobic and claustrophobic. I can’t be in large groups of people at all, and small rooms freak me out more. I suddenly feel like I can’t breathe and my heart starts jumping out of my chest. The panic sets in and grips ahold of me.
Why did the medicine have such an effect on me?
Rather than treating an anxiety disorder or giving me tools to manage my anxiety better, the doctor that I went to treated my disease as a chemical imbalance causing depression. The doctor I went to was not a psychiatrist, just a general family doctor. She had no idea what she was doing. Since I did not have a chemical imbalance, she created one. Rather than taking me off of the medicine, she told me that it was just me and kept switching my medication and upping my dosage.
If your doctor tries to do this to you, get the hell out of there. Slam the door in their face. They have no right to screw with your brain like that, and they will take advantage of you if you let them. Do your research first. I am sure that medication helps some people, but it certainly made me worse.
Judge me if you will, but this has not been an easy thing to write, and there is more to tell. Working through this and managing it is a daily process. Keeping it to myself has been killing me, and it is time to let it out. I don’t care if anyone reads it or not, I need to do this. This is just part one of my story thus far, and my first step toward finally getting my nerves in control.