Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Anxiety Went Up to 11*

So, yeah, I'm a great big hypocrite. Okay, being kind to myself, it's easier to see things in other people than in yourself.

Hi, I'm Faith, and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Hi, I'm Faith and I have a mental illness.

Hi, I'm Faith and I actually decided to start treatment for mental illness, something I recommend to anyone and everyone, after years of totally toughing it out for no apparent reason. Hey, you! Go to a therapist, you'll feel great! What, me? No, no, I got this.

I don't know what it feels like for other people, but I can tell you that for me, it was very hard to recognize that I have a medical condition involving anxiety. Mostly because being poor tends to lead to anxiety. Being chronically ill tends to lead to anxiety. Working with a fucking maniac tends to lead to anxiety. And, I grew up with an unmedicated rapid cycling bipolar with narcissistic personality disorder. I've always been a bit anxious.

So, when people started to notice that I was anxious, cranky and withdrawing into myself, I had excuses. Of course I'm cranky, I never sleep. Of course I never sleep, I'm in pain. (And that is part of it, don't get me wrong.) Of course I'm anxious, I always need $100 worth of stuff and I never have an extra $5. It's totally reasonable to spend hours obsessing over the health of your 67 year old mother. Sure, she was fine the last time you saw her, but what if she goes blind? What if I go blind? What if I go deaf? What if I can't work anymore? Am I being offensive to blind and deaf people by fearing this? Am I prejudiced against the disabled? I am an awful person.

Of course I have to worry about appliances breaking, I can't afford to fix them. What if the oven breaks? We won't be able to prepare food. I'm on a special diet. I can't just eat anything. Of course I have to sit up at night and worry about money, I don't have any. No, I don't want to go to a party, I'm tired, I have a headache, I'm in a bad mood. Now everyone's going to hate me because I didn't go to the party. Now I can never go to parties again because then they'll think I hated the first person because I skipped their party.

No, I cannot relax for 5 seconds. I just can't. Seriously, could you relax if the above were the inside of your head- all the damn time?

The truth was, I couldn't relax. Ever. I was too wired up to eat and losing weight. I was too wrapped up in my worries to enjoy anything, not my dog, not my nieces, not video games, nothing. I couldn't read anything for more than a minute or two, my attention was fracturing and my short term memory was a total loss. I wasn't sleeping more than 3 or 4 hours a night. Online, I was okay, but in real life even familiar people were making me nervous.

Sleeping, or rather, trying to sleep, was such a torturous event that I considered trying to sleep on the floor because looking at my bed was making me physically cringe.

Yeah, at that point, you can't deny you have a problem.

Lyrica Reappears as the Hero of My Story

Remember Lyrica? That failed anti seizure medication that Pfizer created to replace Neurontin? Yeah, and then Pfizer marketed Lyrica as a pain medication, gussied up some fake studies, sent out their salesmen in full force and made life very difficult for pain patients who just weren't getting any pain relief from the fake pain drug. Then there was a class action lawsuit and doctors stopped prescribing Lyrica for pai-- what? Oh, that's right, no they didn't. I get prescribed Lyrica for pain every time I see my doctor. It's hilarious. I have a prescription right now for a year's supply, and at least 20 free sample bottles.

Anyway, I always remember Lyrica fondly. I couldn't figure out why. It didn't do shit for my pain and I wasted hundreds of dollars on it. Yet my memory of it is very positive.

Last night, I spent an hour talking to a very nice psychologist. She determined that I have GAD and we talked about treatment. I like the idea of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy** and totally nixed the idea of drug treatment. She thought I was just opposed to psychiatric drugs, some people are, then I explained that I've tried them for pain and the results range from extreme mood swings to violence to suicidal ideation. She suggested benzos (valium, xanax), I explained my rather unique reaction to that. Um, serious, overt, can't-be-out-in-public sexuality. Yeah, I'm weird***.

Then she says that in Europe, Lyrica is a standard treatment for GAD and all of a sudden, I understood why I remember Lyrica fondly. It didn't do jack for my pain, but it did calm me down. So, fuck it, I opened a sample bottle and took a pill last night.

And slept. Sort of. My dreams were like Inception as written by jabbering monkeys on a meth bender. One hyperrealistic frantically frantic dream "waking up" into another. By morning, I was really confused about reality, really dizzy and fuzzy headed. Which is exactly why I wouldn't pay $90 a month for Lyrica in the first place.

Until 10:00 am, when I was still dizzy and fuzzy headed- and friendly. I was saying "hi" to people. I was engaging in conversation. I wasn't holding off on making copies until the copy room was empty. Which was freaky weird, let me tell you. Somebody asked me how I was doing, and I enthusiastically replied, "good!" and meant it. Dizzy, fuzzy headed, questioning reality and good.

Brain chemistry is a weird thing.

Anyway, we'll see. If these side effects last, I won't last on Lyrica. I'd really hate to choose between relative calm and friendliness and not being dizzy and fuzzy, though. This is kinda fun. Being friendly and all. Hey, I haven't even considered being homeless in at least 2 hours. Neat.

*I hang out with a music engineer/producer. "Up to 11" never gets old with that crowd.

**I've actually been doing it to myself to some degree. It's pretty intuitive to my way of thinking, and a short course of treatment is intuitive to my budget.

***Or, once you completely remove the anxiety, I'm hypersexual to the extreme. Yeah, I may want to hold on to some of the anxiety.


  1. Words just wouldn’t do justice, so …


  2. Yikes, and I was just whining on my blog about a little minor depression and panic attacks. Whew! I feel for you(I almost wrote ya but thought it might be a trigger.LOL).

    Anyway I'm on Celexa and thought the same thing at first. But after it got into my system, I'd say about 2 weeks, I haven't felt that way anymore. Drugs that work are fabulicious!

  3. I hope that the side effects will lessen as the medicine itself reaches peak levels in your system. I don't know anything about the half-life of Lyrica; is it long? How long have you taken it before, before giving up since it didn't treat pain?

    It's really strange/amazing/terrifying/awe-inspiring/freaky what they theoretically invent a drug to do, and what it actually ends up doing. My husband takes an anticonvulsant meant for seizure disorders to treat the polar lows of his bipolar disorder. (I mean, he takes that among other things. Many. Other.)

    And FWIW, you're not the only one who has that reaction to benzos. They are officially Not A Good Idea for me unless, I dunno, I want to get knocked up right quick.

    I'm so, so glad you decided to meet with a professional to discuss your anxiety. You are one of my few friends who really gets that awful balance of taking care of your husband vs. taking care of yourself. And isn't it funny how clear it is that we must take care of our husbands, but how unclear we make it about ourselves sometimes? Makes no sense.

  4. Thank you! And write me, D'Ma. I have few triggers, and they are weird. personalfailure[at]ymail.com

    Ariadne: I am so good at taking care of hubby, and others. I have become the expert of dealing with other people's panic attacks, other people's obsessions, other people's fears, other people's explosive moods . . . and then I don't notice I'm all the way to 11 until I'm literally terrified of trying to sleep.

    And I do not want to consider that taking care of me might mean not doing a lot of the above list. Not really an option.

    Oh, and I don't think anyone has much idea how the brain works. I think the fact that seizure medication treats mood disorders proves that nobody really knows how brain chemistry interacts with mood.

  5. Add another virtual hug from down here in Darkest America.

  6. E-hug from Boston. It's made in Wisconsin, though, so it hopefully has a little of the togetherness and uniony goodness from up North.

  7. > Brain chemistry is a weird thing.
    Definitely. I wonder how hard it is to get studies approved?

    I've only got major depression and am on 3 meds now. Currently awaiting a blood level report for one of them. Kinda hoping it's too low and they up the dose and that helps with my recovery.

    Benzos are a weird beast. Experienced withdrawal syndromes when they put me off them after the first 2 weeks in the hospital.

    Great to get help from a professional. Hang in there.

  8. "Oh, and I don't think anyone has much idea how the brain works."

    Well, I'll tell you this much. I have become pretty okay, over the last couple of years, at parsing the meaning in something as low-level as a Wikipedia entry on different classes of drugs used to treat bipolar disorder. I can read Lithium's pharmacology page and mostly-more-or-less get it, from a lay perspective.

    And yet, I look at this for Lyrica, and I go, "Wuh?"

  9. huh.

    lyrica has a GOOD side?

    well. just... wow.

    anything i can do to help?

    [ps: remember for the love of Bacon that SSRIs = BAD. porphyria+SSRIs=bad. i'd let whomever you're seeing know that ASAP, because they don't always tell you it's an SSRI. especially if it's something that can be classed more than one way. last time i was in the hospital, and couldn't sleep [because they DON'T LEAVE YOU ALONE! FFS every night when i was supposed to be sleeping, i'd have someone come in at LEAST 6 times. OF COURSE i wasn't sleeping] they decided to give me something to help me sleep. i was firm on the "nothing related to ambien" line. so they gave me something with a name that i can't pronounce.
    which turned out to be EFFIXOR. on which i was on for exactly 1 month, and during said month i tried to kill myself something like 20 times [hung myself from the shower, the doorknob, broke a mirror for the glass... i don't even REMEMBER it all] and that's in my fucking CHART. the next day, after i'd done a couple things i don't want to think about, i'm screaming at the doctor demanding to know why the hell he'd give me something that was PROVEN to cause suicidality in me. that was an SSRI and contra-indicated because of the porphyria, which he ALSO knew.
    his answer? "i thought if you didn't know what it was, it wouldn't happen".
    please please PLEASE be careful!!!]

  10. An e-hug from the Old World too.


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