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Friday, January 15, 2010

More Anxiety? More Panic Attack? Do Meds Really Help? (read if you want to)

I'm sorry this is a really long blog.  Read if you like and at your discretion. 

So I'm sitting here this morning in a state of exhaustion, panic, anxiousness, and depression.  Let's start at the beginning of my work week. 

Monday: I walked into work with the normal Monday attitude.  I have been having technology (i.e. Smartboard, document camera, projector) in my classroom since before the Christmas holidays.  No one was sent from tech support to put these things together.  I went to a training the week prior to learn how to use all of this exciting stuff, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  After speaking to the Master Teacher at my school, she dispatched the custodian to put the cart and the board on it's legs as that was all that had to be done on Monday.  As this is going on, my students are creating writing samples to send off to the state for "mock scoring" so that I can target areas of weakness in each students' writing.  Let's just say that I was not happy with the students.  I told them numerous times I was not helping them through this, and we were pretending that it was state assessment.  On that assessment, I am not allowed to help the students through any part of the test. As a teacher, I wanted a true picture of where they are at the moment, not how they would be if I were helping them along.  They acted like they had never wrote an essay, huffed and puffed about doing the assignment, and did not do their best.  It frustrated me to no end as I HAVE taught them the writing process, and we HAVE done numerous essays in class and for home assignments.

Tuesday: Technology is on it's "legs" and ready for the next step.  I spent 4 hours installing and uninstalling software and hooking up hardware (on 4 different laptops I may add) to find out that the reason nothing was working the way it should was because my Smartboard had a defect in it.  The defect is not my fault, but for any teacher, who spends a lot of time doing something, it was very frustrating knowing that this exciting stuff, that I have been giving hours of my free time to go to trainings on, would still have to wait to be used.  I want the students to benefit from this.  These things make learning fun and engaging, and knowing that my students are already struggling (I have the lower end of the spectrum) with it being so close to state assessment, I was severly disappointed that I now have to wait to get this stuff up and running in my classroom.

Wednesday: Financial issues are always a problem for some of us from time to time, and at this point, after Christmas, it is not a good time.  I am not only thinking about money, but I have the stress of my job (which has never been easy), being promoted as a teacher that pulls kids up, all of the supervisors looking to me to be a miracle worker with these students, teaching students who are basically special but not classified as so, wondering if they are going to pass state assessment, my family is on my mind, my dad's dog was killed by a car, and the list can continue.  It's life and we all go through it right?

I realized that many of the stressors I just listed are a part of life; but, for someone who has panic and anxiety disorder, I guess it was too much to handle.  Wednesday afternoon I became very dizzy, my hands became numb, my heart started to race, I had hotflashes, and I began sweating all at once.  Recognizing these symptoms as a panic attack, I asked a student to get me a chair (as I never sit down in my classroom...GOD forbid you sit) and tried to breathe deeply and tell myself I was OK.  This worked until the students were dismissed to PE, which was about 10 minutes from the onset of the attack.  Once they left, I proceeded to stand, only to feel the way I felt when I sat...PANICKED!  I knew that I could not drive home feeling as dizzy as I was, continuing to panic about the dizziness, so I called my husband to come pick me up from work.  He left his car at my school, and he drove me home in mine.

So let me bring you up to speed on what happens after my panic and anxiety hits me like this out of nowhere.  I feel "weak-minded", which pisses me off and depresses me.  Before last year when I was diagnosed with this, I never had a problem handling stress and normal life situations. I never had issues with what was "out of my control".  Now all of a sudden I can't cope? This doesn't make sense to me, which starts a cycle of rage, anxiety, depression, and doubt. This doubt is about my inner self. "Why can't I just live a normal life?" "Is something physically wrong with me?" "Maybe I am dying of some disease (a brain tumor, heart failure, high blood pressure, cancer)?"  "Why me?" "Why can't I just deal?"  These are only a few of the many obsessive thoughts that run through my head.  And they don't let up.  I sit in bed and cry. I take my meds and try to sleep.  It doesn't work. If I do sleep, I wake up feeling the same way I felt upon going to sleep.  It is a horrible cycle of mental anguish that is uncontrollable for me.  If I could choose to not be this way, I definitely would.  I would not wish this on anyone.

Aside from the OCD thoughts, I am having physical manifestation of anxiety: dizziness, shaking, heart racing, zombie-like feeling in my head, out of balance, sweating, numbness of my extremities, headache, nausea, and the feeling that the insides of my body want to pop to the outside.  They are like tiny, 30 second panic attacks on and off all day long.  A feeling like I'm about to give a speech to thousands of people right before I walk up to the podium.  That is the only way I can explain it.  Over the last couple of visits with my doctor, he reccomended upping the dosage of my antidepressant (which is also supposed to help my anxiety).  For many of you who continue to ask I take Lexapro and a mix of benzos (sedatives) that are prescribed by my doctor.  Remember, my initial problem was never depression, it was panic, but studies have shown that antidepressants, along with benzos can help to combat anxiety disorders.  I was not happy about doing this.  I have a surpressed fear of mind altering medications.  The side effects of the meds are too much to bare.  But after the horrible week I had, my family (husband, parents, and sister) told me I should follow the doc's advice from two months ago and take the higher dosage of my meds (as I had not listened to my doctor and continued to take the lower dose of medicine - I thought it was working for me).

And I will not lie to you, the side effects are a bitch!  I feel more anxious and dizzy than I have all week after taking the larger pill last night. I feel like if you told me hello, I would burst out into tears.  The depression of having this illness has taken me to a point I have never been. I only remember feeling this way once, and that was after the death of my brother 4 years ago.  I'm doubting the medication, I'm doubting myself, and I'm doubting my view on this illness.  Why can't I just snap out of this? Why is it affecting me so badly all of a sudden?  If you have read this since the start of my week, you can see how rational it can all be. You can probably see how irrational I become within ten minutes of talking about it. 

In closing, I'm sorry for all of the negative tweets, I'm sorry for the lack of happiness, I'm sorry for putting my family through hell this week, I'm so sorry for many things I should not be sorry for.  If any of this makes any sense, I have no idea.  I was just hoping that writing it all out would help.  Like confession for Catholics...getting it off my chest you would say.  Do I feel any better at the end of this blog? No, not really, but if there is anyone out there like me, anyone who has felt this before I guess know that you are not alone.  I think that is something I NEED to remember, "I AM NOT ALONE IN THIS!" but it is so hard to remember when you are so low in a rut of anxiety, panic, and depression.


Anonymous said...

Toni you know I am ALWAYS here for you. Anxiety and panic is something I have been dealing with since I was 7 and was NEVER treated for. No meds. No help. Please remember I am always just a tweet away. It is very hard to feel like you are not alone when everyone is offering their support but no one truely understands how you feel or what you are going through. They can feel for you but they can not feel what you feel.
Its tough but its a short tunnel that you will find your way out of soon enough.
Thank you so much for writing this blog. I know it isnt an easy thing to share but you will be helping so many people realise they arent the only ones going through this, and hopefully helping others understand.
I think you are a wonderful, amazing, inspiring woman and I know you will get through this.
Stay strong.
Love you

JOAELLIS said...

I just wanted to say I know a bit about what you are going through. I used to have panic attacks myself. I had another problem that caused them. Now that problem is sorted thankfully my panic attacks have stopped. But for a good year or 2 I was really suffering with them. I used to get the dizzy feelings and a lot of the things you described. If u ever need to talk with some1 that knows a bit about how your feeling please dont hesitate to leave me a message on youtube. I love ur videos you seem like a lovely person and I know you have a lot of people that care about you. At home And from yt. Try to keep your chin up. You CAN get through this!! x Remember message me if u want. If there is a delay in replying it'll be the time difference between where u r and UK :) X

kerryfinchuk said...

Hi Toni,

I wanted to say please stick with the meds. I was diagnosed with extreme anxiety, panic attacks and depression about a year and a half ago and was put on anti depressants. My doctor also advised me to go up to a higher dose after a little while and I am glad I did. It takes a while but they do work. It wont be overnight, but slowly you will realise it is getting better and your life is easier to deal with. At my worst point I could not it move off the sofa I was so agrophobic, last weekend I went snowboarding with my boyfriend. Take the time to get better and relax as much as you can. I know that is harder than it sounds. Take as much time off work as possible. You need to heal your mind which is much harder than healing the body. I feel like I have waffled on too long. I just wanted to let you know that I know this is terrifying and devistating but it will get better. P.S. the side effects of the meds go away quite quickly. while they are making you feel crap lay on the sofa, sleep, watch youtube videos and funny films. Lots of love Kerry x x x

JOAELLIS said...

oh I am on twitter aswell so follow me if u want :)

Tracy and Stefanie said...

Hey Toni,
I completely know what you're feeling like. I hate when my anxiety hits and usually it's for no reason at all. I'm just somewhere and I become aware of my surroundings and it just starts. I feel like I can't take a deep breath, like I've just been punched in the stomach, and I'm about to have to give a speech to an auditorium of people. I take wellbutrin every day and also have xanax for when the anxiety gets really bad. I can def tell a difference when I stop taking my wellbutrin b/c I think I don't really need it, but then I go back to it and feel so much better. I hope things get better for you. It's the worst feeling in the world. It feels like everything is spinning out of control and you can't do anything to stop it. My doc also told me that sometimes anxiety can be caused by a buildup of adrenaline and that exercise can help. I haven't tried it b/c I'm kinda lazy, but it's something to think about it. He said we used to need more adrenaline b/c we'd have to run away from things (like caveman times, lol) but that we don't need it as much anymore so we get a buildup and exercise can help release that. Ok, sorry I've rambled, I just feel like I can relate. Lots of love!!!

nelle4362 said...

Hey Toni,
I just wanted to say that you are not alone. I have been suffering from panic attacks since high school, and they got progressively worse from then. In college I did a double degree (Law and English) and the Law portion was the most stressful thing I have ever done. I would get panic attacks on a weekly basis, and when I had any kind of assignment, test these attacks increased tenfold. The worst was when it came to finals and it became a vicious cycle of panic, tears, not being able to breath or even really function, eventually calming myself and then the panic attack would start back up. I almost dropped out of college in fear of these attacks. Thankfully I got through those 5 years but it has left me with a fear of taking on anything resembling too much and has prevented me from getting a position in know deep down I would kill for. I have learnt to take each day as it comes, that each day is a fresh start and that it is okay to take a break.

Thank you so much for your honesty, Toni. You are an inspiration.


NickN said...

I am so sorry that you feel this way Toni. First of all you are not weak. It happens to a lot of people and you do not need to feel alone or helpless. I cannot say I know exactly how you feel but I have had similar issues before and even blacked out from them
Just remember you will make it through this and you have family and friends here for you. I am sorry I cannot do more to help but I hope you know Natasha and I will do all we can to help. You take care!

Anonymous said...

Toni I am so happy for you for coming out and releasing this energy through your blog. I'm always here for you whenever you need to talk (as we were finally able to do last night) but never fear about turning to others for support. You have over 4K people that support you, and many more will come. I am at the top of the list of course (besides Drue and Wayne) since I have special bff privileges (a title I gave myself).

I know it seems like the shyt hits the fan in January and teachers never will get the respect and pay they deserve. Please continue to use this blog as an outlet as you will see how many of us are truly here for you.

lubs u always!

Anonymous said...

Hi Toni. I'm one of your followers on YouTube and Twitter. I just wanted to let you know that as others have said, you aren't alone. There are a lot of us out there with anxiety disorders. I've been on my meds for 19 mos now and I don't know how I survived before I had them.

I can relate to the anxiety worsening with a change in med level. When I first started my meds, I experienced nearly constant panic attacks for 2-3 weeks. It seems I'm part of the 1% of the population who experiences increased anxiety in response to the medication (until the levels correct levels were established in my body). We are on different meds, so I can't say for certain that it will get better, but I do believe that things will get better for you.

This is probably a stupid suggestion, but it worked for me. When I began having major anxiety from the meds, I started playing around with the way I took my meds. There were no requirements with the prescription, but I did eventually figure out that if I took my meds with food or at least 8 oz of liquid, the overall level of anxiety I experienced was lower. Since then, I've never had to take the prescription with food or more than a sip of water since the meds established itself in my system. I don't know if you've tried anything like that, but I'm guessing any suggestion that might help would probably be appreciated.

Kimberly said...

I follow you on twitter, and I am a subscriber of yours on YT and blogtv. I just wanted to say that you have been in my thoughts and prayers lately, and will continue to be. Hope that you start feeling better soon, and I look forward to seeing your smiling face on blogtv soon too!


girlstock said...

You are definitely not alone as you can see. I have been there and know several others as well. Please let me assure you that none of the women I know with anxiety are weak or weak-minded, quite the opposite really. I had my first anxiety just a few years ago in a very stressful job and wished I fought harder for more help sooner as I have had permanent damage to my physical health b/c of extended periods of extreme stress. When I first went to my doctor, she told me to exercise more and try meditation. Things just got worse and I felt she was just blowing me off. I went back again and she had me try Lexipro. I had to take one fourth of a dosage because anything more would knock me out and it did not help at all. I sought help through my employer's EAP program, got one on one counseling, and things did start to sort out, she was able to send me to a psychologist who was more equipped to deal with my situation than my primary care doctor. Some of my co-workers in that job had success with other medications. Before you increase your dosage on what you're taking, could you get a 2nd opinion? The psychologist I finally went to told me that the Lexipro probably wasn't helping me, it was probably just making me tired enough so that I saw a change. Can you take some time off? (I know most women will say there's no way, but really think about it.) It's your health. Whatever you decide, just try to take one thing at a time and take care of yourself.


strawberries_67 said...

Toni, you are definitely not alone. Like you, I take Lexapro (20mg) and I also take valium. I'm a single Mother of a wonderful 15 year old son, I work for the State of California and have just had a 20% pay cut. Most of the time the Lexapro, Valium and my monthly visits to a Psychotherapist do help. But last month I realized I had to declare bankruptcy. The cut in pay and the astronomical rise in workload have really been too much to bare. The Dr. did change my Lexapro dose from 20mg to 30mg...but I found that I had a very hard time sleeping. I would sleep for two or three hours and then wake up sweating and in a panic.

With the support of my family, friends, Psychotherapist and my work family - I know that I can feel better again. In the meantime, I just take the day as it comes, one minute at a time. I can only do the best I can do. I am only one person. And, I am not perfect. No one is.

I wish you all the best and hope that you know that what you are experiencing is chemical and situational. The meds will help, if and when you find the right combination. Hang in there, Girlie. It will get better.

Twiztid Angel with Horns said...

I took ativan for anxiety for a long time, and it did help. Remember it's nothing "wrong" with you, it's just a part of who you are. Don't let it keep you down. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Bi-polar in 2007. I'm currently what they call "un-medicatable". You have a lot of people who care about you and don't even know you :) Stay Strong :)

sarah xo said...


Do not put yourself down over this. There are millions of people out there who understand exactly what you are going through (including myself). I take cipralex for anxiety and depression as they seem to come in a package and it really helps me. Without it sometimes a simple task can become nerv racking. If you feel your medications arnt working then you should talk to your doctor about other options. Remember that there are so many people there for you. Things will get better. :]

LVMAKEUP said...

Toni, I know exactly what you are going through! Until someone has truly had the same disorder they do not know what it feels like....I wouldnt even wish it on someone I hate, thats how bad it feels... You are so not alone..I hope you blogging about it makes you feel better. Because I think there is a misconception by many, that your going crazy or your weak minded! 100% NOT TRUE!! I am here if you ever need someone to talk to :D

Dana said...

aw, love to you girl! there are so many people who go through the same issues you do. you are not alone!!!!!! stay strong!

kristin said...

you are not week!! this happens to many people, including myself.. it is not easy, but you need to say : i am getting through this no matter what.. i know, it's hard.. but it can help you.. every night when u you too sleep it helps saying : THIS is not taking over my everyday life, i am the queen of my own body! it helps.. :)

and if it happens in you classroom , sit down. breathe from your belly , easily and come. and drink some water. if u get stressed out ( when it happens, it just makes it much worse) and i am sure ur blood-pressure is going way high when it happens. witch is normal, so try breathe easily :) remember drink loads of water.

i hope ur doing okay! many of us have been trough it, and understand how hard it is.

if u feel there is something wrong, go do a real check . scan ur body,head everything. and do a good check , so you know there is nothing else going on :) it helps.

kristin said...

weak ***

Juana said...

I hope you are feeling better. I've never been through this and none of my family either, but by reading your blog it sounds very scary to go through that. It will get better with gods help. Just pray to god and he'll help you in the worst times. I will have you in my prayers. You're stronger than it.

Juana said...

I love your videos and it dies help somehow to talk about it. It always helps me when I get it out of my chest.

Sarabeth said...

Toni...I'm so sorry to hear about your struggles with anxiety and depression. I know all too well about these issues and unlike most people I couldn't take medication for it...b/c of a sensitivity. I found out about a year ago that my anxiety is all related to a medical problem. I actually just wrote you an e-mail about it...sorry that it is a little long. But I hope that somehow it might help you :D

saniyagodil said...

i know what you going through. i get major panic attacks even for things that dont matter. literally a random person has come up to me and told me to just chill. stick with the medicine. it really helps even if just a little. try bath and body works aromatherapy. i find the eucalyptus spearmint hand cream really relaxes me. seriously you are not allone/ and you are not week/ tons of people fromm all over the world care for you.

saniyagodil said...

weak* sorry mispelled it earlier

ohhh, another tip. i find that when i help someone else or volunteer of give money, it makes me feel so good about myself

A.N.A said...

Though I've never experienced anxiety, I kind of know what you went through. My sister and mom have problems with anxiety. I always try to make them feel more relaxed and comfortable when they go through this.

Adriana said...

I never knew that panic attack could be this bad. Thank you so much for sharing, and stay strong! All of us are supporting you =)

sunshinegalz0002 said...

wow..i feel so bad :( well glad to hear your feeling a little better :)

ana said...

I didn't know until now that you have panick attacks. I didn't know it was that horrible. I feel horrible that you have to go through that. I there would be a way for me to take away your pain. I really hate to see anyone in the world sick or in pain. It just makes me feel sooo hopeless. I know god is always with you and he will help you get through this. Take care love you.

Susan said...

I understand what you are going through. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder with severe anxiety in 2003. I have been on Lexapro since then, and have only had a problem with it one time. While I am no longer depressed, I still have bouts of anxiety. I transferred out of my previous office in May of last year, and have noticed my health improving by leaps and bounds since then. Before that I was stressed out (and this doesn't even begin to cover how I was feeling). The way you describe how you are feeling, that's about how I was. I felt like I could not function at work. The environment and people I worked with at the time made it so much more worse and it affected my health.

Talk with your doctor about ways to control the stress as well. I did that and it has helped tremendously! I am still on the meds, but it helps to know how to handle situations. Situations that 10 years ago I could handle. It is frustrating. But please don't view it as something wrong with you. It's how our synapses in our brains work and sometimes they just need help. That's where the medicine comes in.

I hope things start to get better for you soon.

marie.tieu said...

i thought this blog was long but i decided to read all of it since it was something different and it was about things that are bothering you. even though i don't experience panic disorder, i do know how it feels like and i know it's not a good feeling. i don't have much to say but you have a lot of people who support you, a wonderful husband, your blog followers, your family. you are not alone and you can't blame yourself for this to be happening to you, you have been through so much.

Lana said...

I'm afraid I suffer from anxiety as well, although no where near the extremes that you are facing. I'm not on medication.. in fact, I haven't even been clinically diagnosed, but I know it's anxiety, I just know. I get situational panic attacks.. they're spurred by an event (in my case, having the doorbell ring). Once the doorbell rings my heart skips a beat, my stomach drops, my heart feels like it's pounding out of my chest.
Just know that we're here for you.. and I truly hope you can overcome these obstacles.

Clerk said...

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