Friends, let's have a mental health chat. Now, I know this is the sort of thing you're not supposed to talk about on the internet, at least not without some form of anonymity. But I am not ashamed. And if somewhere down the line, a company reads my blog and decides not to hire me because I take medications or because I have depression or anxiety, then that's not really a company I'd want to work for anyway. Being open about my health gets a weight off my chest and can ease the anxiety, and I think it's so, so important to take away the stigma from mental health issues.
As some of you may recall, two years ago I had what I now call a panic episode. It was not a panic attack- it lasted several days, worsening each one, until I was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. That summer, the summer of 2014, I decided (along with my doctor) to stop taking Lexapro in favor of a different SSRI. (I can't remember if it was Prozac or Cymbalta.) I thought things were going okay until I gradually started feeling more anxious in early September. At first it was just general anxiety feelings- nervousness, restlessness, agitation, etc. Some mild nausea. General unease. That spiraled into me being so agitated and restless that I had to be moving at all times. I was constantly shaking my hands, wiggling my fingers, kicking my legs, anything to keep moving. I felt like if I stopped, by heart would go into overdrive. I felt like I was going to burst. I grabbed at my skin, because I constantly felt like I was going to pass out and need to feel something in order to stay grounded in the real world. I would pinch my arms to keep from panicking. I needed to feel something or I felt like I was going to slip away, like nothing was real. It was terrifying.
I called my doctor, but got the voicemail of the resident nurse. He called back saying that I should switch back to the Lexapro, as clearly my new medication was not working. Now, before I had switched, I was taking 40mg of Lexapro a day. That's a pretty high dose. My new medication was also an SSRI. So I took 40mg of Lexapro the next morning, after very little sleep, and without tapering off my old medication or back on to Lexapro. Within an hour or two, I knew something wasn't right. Not only was my panic episode increasing in magnitude to the point where I was having trouble breathing, but I also felt incredibly dizzy and nauseated. It was then that I called for an ambulance- I knew full well I was in no state to drive a car.
The ambulance ride was okay, all things considered. The first thing I told the paramedic was that I got motion sickness very easily, and that riding backwards in a vehicle with no windows was going to be an issue. I was given intravenous anti-nausea medication and managed to make the whole ride, bumpy as it was, without incident. I also had an oxygen mask, which made me feel a lot better.
The ER was a different story. I was left in a room, alone, for a very long time. I didn't have my oxygen mask. I thought I was going to pass out at any moment. I paged for a nurse, who told me to try and relax and turned off the lights. Needless to say, this did not help. The only way I got through that agonizing period of time was listening to a podcast on my phone to provide just the slightest distraction. Eventually a doctor came in and gave ma shot of something, which calmed me down almost instantly. Since I had slept a total of about three hours in the past two days, I fell asleep. My mom came to get me, and I was sent home to get some rest. I was prescribed Klonopin and Ativan, two benzodiazepines.
My doctor back home was out of the office, so I saw a different doctor. He explained that I had essentially overdosed on my Lexapro since there was already another SSRI in my system, and it had caused serotonin poisoning. I was taken off Lexapro for a month, and just took the benzos. That month was wild. My emotions were so different than anything I'd known in so long. I've been on Lexapro for about ten years, and this month without it was bizarre. I was emotional about everything. I just felt things differently.
Two years on, and I'm back on Lexapro, ever since November of 2014. However, I'm also still on the benzos. Those aren't supposed to be long-term medications, but my doctor kept prescribing them. And now I'm in a very weird place. No doctor here will prescribe them to me, and I'm on my last refill. I've been trying to taper off of one of them this past week, but last night I started experiencing withdrawal symptoms. (I'd always get minor withdrawal symptoms if I missed a dose, but this was full on anxiety, nausea, insomnia...all that jazz.) I wasn't able to go to work today. I still feel pretty awful, but more than that I feel very afraid.
I'm afraid of going off of these meds and experiencing withdrawal. I'm scared of having another panic episode. I'm scared of not being able to work and I'm scared of being fired. I'm worried I won't be able to get off my benzos, and I'm worried I won't find a replacement that keeps my anxiety at bay. I feel like I'm running out of time to get new medications, and I'm incredibly stressed out.
Dependence. Withdrawal. Getting worse before it gets better. These are all things I fear are coming. I feel so helpless and unsure of what to do. So for now, I'm just seeking good vibes from you guys and the universe to help me through this.