Living with Anxiety Part 2: A relapse

This is part 2 of a 3 part series. To read part one, visit this link here.

In the last blog post, I explained how I was initially misdiagnosed and eventually diagnosed with severe anxiety and panic disorders. I left off explaining how I was officially diagnosed in 7th grade and spent much of that time in between figuring out what was causing my symptoms. After the majority of the year had passed, the medicine had taken affect and I was finally getting better, having no symptoms for the entirety of 8th grade.

At the end of 8th grade, my parents decided it was time to move out of my old house and move to a new house. After looking around, my father picked out a great house in a new city in Massachusetts, just about 20 minutes north of where I lived. This meant I was leaving my old friends to attend a new high school in a town I hardly knew, but I was nothing but excited. I have always been thrilled to meet new people and interact with everyone I met. I’d miss my friends, but this was going to be a great experience at a great new school!

Jump to the first day of class, and I was enthusiastic about my classes and all the new people I was meeting. The school was small, but much nicer than the high school in Peabody. Everything was going great and I loved it here. On the 3rd day of school however, I noticed I was getting extremely dizzy while sitting in one of my classes so excused myself and went to the nurse. Maybe I was sick? Maybe I had just ate something the night before that disagreed with me? I don’t know. The next day…same thing but more severe. Something was wrong…this wasn’t supposed to be happening. I was happy to be here, loving the classes, and enjoying the people. What was going on?

The problem with anxiety is that, in many cases, it does not go away. Medications and therapies, depending on the type of disorder and severity, can manage symptoms and help lead to better control of situations when anxiety arises. That being said, sometimes when a medication is taken for a long time, the body creates immunity to its effects, similar to how the body creates immunity to viruses. This does not decrease the benefits of a medication to 0%, but does decrease them.

There I was; I’ve had my first panic attack in over a year and I was scared. I ended up going home that day early from the nurse’s office and thought about other factors that could have happened…Was it maybe just something I ate or some virus I had gotten causing a trigger for a panic attack? Doubtful. I went back to class the next day and the same thing happened. Things only got worse from there and the panic attacks became more severe and occurred every day shortly after arriving to class. There was no doubt the anxiety and attacks were back, and far more severe.

After about a week, we called my neurologist, Dr. Hart, and tell him everything is back and the medication no longer works. He advised I see a behavioral therapist to treat me in addition to the medication. Behavioral therapy is a fairly broad term when it comes to therapy, but in this case refers to a specialized psychologist who works with individuals with anxiety to overcome fears of triggers, fears of attacks, and help lessen the panic when an attack occurs.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of a trigger for my anxiety attacks and the severity, behavioral therapy was not appropriate for me. In many cases, behavioral therapy for anxiety and panic disorders can lead to favorable outcomes, and is a well-founded method for treatment both alone and in conjunction with other treatment methods.

The next step in the journey, after these methods failed, was to find a new medication to treat my disorders. This lead to another hiccup in my road to recovery; many of the medications were not right for me given an inherent sensitivity to medication. Many SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) have side effects that should be taken note of when talking to your doctor. If you are starting a new medication, it’s important to let your doctor know about any symptoms you are experiencing and how they may be affecting your daily activities. What is usually a very small period of finding a medication in the majority of the population, turned into a 3 year period of ups and downs on medications ( I’d like to note that this experience is atypical of what individuals will go through when finding a medication for anxiety and panic disorder, and was due to my sensitivity to medications.). In this time, I was unable to attend high school and did not have a formal high school education. Much of this time I spent in bed, at home, with daily trips to doctors. Despite all of the problems and despair, I did not give up my hope of one day attaining an education

From my experiences, I learned it’s incredibly important to find a provider that works with you and that you feel comfortable with. Anxiety and Panic Disorders are very hard on the individual that is going through it, as well as the individuals surrounding them. This can lead to a lot of stress and strain when it comes to communication with your provider. When medications are not acting favorably, it can also be difficult to point out what’s important. When entering an appointment, normally I would make a list of the following:

  • Do I have decreased or increased anxiety
  • Have I been experiencing any side effects (negative or positive)
  • Has this medication interfered with my daily activity
  • Am I happy with this medication
  • How long have I been on this medication
  • How does this medication compare to a previous medication (if there was one)

In my next, and final, installment I will talk about how my life turned around completely and I got to where I am now.

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