My Struggles with Anxiety and Panic Disorder

I’ve been debated whether or not to write about this for a while. I am not sure if it fits into Glamazon Diaries since I rarely get personal on here or on my social media channels. But let’s get real for a minute.  This topic is extremely personal and I am hoping that opening up about my struggles on this platform will help someone reading it not feel alone in their own personal struggle.

I suffer from Anxiety and Panic Disorder! For the past four years, I’ve felt a shift in my health but couldn’t pin point the issue. It was the summer of 2016 when I felt a tightness in my chest, accompanied by tingling in my arms and legs, increased heart rate and an overall feeling of my impending doom. I was sitting in my home office working on new business when I began feeling these symptoms. I immediately typed in WebMD on my web browser to check my symptoms (not such a good idea for a hypochondriac like myself), which ranged from a heart attack to diabetes and everything in between.

Never experiencing such symptoms before, I hailed an Uber (no need for an ambulance at this point since an Uber ride cost me just under $8) to my nearest emergency room 9 blocks away to be checked out. When I arrived at the hospital for check-in, I was asked several questions and then directed to sit in the waiting room for two hours. When I finally went into triage, they took my vitals as well as an EKG and was told there was nothing wrong with and was discharged after an attending physician gave me a look over. WELP!

A few weeks later, I experienced the same symptoms, again feeling a sense of my impending doom, I booked myself another Uber ride to the ER. I had my WebMD search results in hand (because obviously I thought knew better than trained medical professionals). They took my vitals, did an EKG still nothing. I asked about my blood pressure and was told it was normal. That couldn’t be! The doctor instructed me to book an appointment with my regular doctor for a full physical.

So I went home, booked an appointment with my primary care physician and tried to relax. When I got to my appointment, my doctor did some blood work, told me I needed to lose weight and proceeded to try to sell me on HCG weight loss treatment another physician in the office was touting. I kindly declined this request. Even though all my tests came back negative, I still felt the same symptoms. I went back to my doctor a few weeks later.  He decided to prescribe me Metformin (saying it would help me lose weight). Mind you I had normal blood glucose levels. He also prescribed hydrocholothiazide (again I don’t have high blood pressure) because he said I was overweight.

At this point it had been 6 months and my symptoms became much worse. I began suffering intense migraines that would last for days and well as the feeling of water draining under my scalp. This time, doctor told me to go see a neurologist. Determined to get to the bottom of this unique illness only I had, I booked my appointment. He gave me several tests, including an MRI, which is the scariest test I’ve ever had to endure. I had to lay still while trapped inside a cylindrical machine for almost 30 minutes while it scanned my brain for tumors or abnormalities. A few days later the results were in: NO ABNORMALITIES DETECTED. The Neurologist prescribed me magnesium, B12 and riboflavin because he didn’t want me taking aggressive migraine meds.

Was I going crazy? My mom, a nurse, had been saying it was all in my head and that I needed to go back to therapy (I hadn’t seen my therapist in over 3 years). She also told me not to get the scripts the doctor wrote me filled and to find a primary care physician stat. Momma always knows best! I called my therapist to resume our weekly sessions.

After restarting therapy, my therapist told me I was suffering from general anxiety disorder and panic attacks. She gave me two options, to see a psychiatrist if I wanted a prescription for anxiety or to keep our sessions and try the talk therapy route. I chose the latter because I LOATHE taking medicine. I barely take Tylenol or Motrin.

It’s been 3 years since I restarted going to therapy once a week and I’ve learned some coping techniques to help me deal with panic attacks and my general anxiety. Do I still get them? Of course! But the difference now is that I know how to manage my anxiety and panic disorder with meditation, exercise and techniques my therapist has taught me to calm me down when I feel a sudden onset of anxiety. Do I consider myself cured? No! I think my Anxiety and Panic Disorder will be with me for the duration of my life, however, have developed better coping modalities to help me live a relatively normal life.

Mental health has been a hot topic for the past decade or so with the increase in mass shootings, suicides, bullying and depression. Law makers have been grappling with how to deal with the repercussions of untreated mental illness and it seems they are torn. With our healthcare system so volatile, getting access to life saving treatment (yes I consider therapy life saving) for those with mental illness can seem frustrating and discouraging. The cost of therapy can hinder patients from seeking treatment.

In the next coming weeks, I’m going to talk more about my experience with anxiety, how I’m coping with it amidst this coronavirus pandemic and techniques you can do for yourself to help you cope.

Coping with Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Let’s keep this conversation going. Do you suffer from anxiety? Panic disorders? Let’s lift the stigma associated with mental health disorders. The first step to treatment is seeking help. Don’t be afraid to keep going back to your doctor or switch doctors if you feel like he/she isn’t helping. You have to be your own health advocate and seek the proper course of treatment you’re comfortable with.

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