Monday, September 27, 2010

Help Wanted

A little over a month ago I came about as close to desperation as I have ever been in my life. For two weeks prior I had been having an irregular heart rhythm that wasn't painful, but just there. I'd be going along fine then instead of the usual "thump thump thump" my heart would go "thump thump THUMPTHUMPTHUMP". It was certainly enough to make me notice. And the longer it went on the more I noticed it and the more I was convinced I was dying. Like, literally dying.

See.....I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Of course, I didn't know that then. I just thought I was dying.

I know I've joked around on here probably since the birth of the blog about how I alphabetize my canned goods and books and eat my M&M's by color and number, things I've done since childhood, but there's more to OCD than having a neat pantry and a spotless house. (By the way, I do not  have a spotless house. Just in case you were wondering.) The alphabetizing is the "C" of it. The "O" part is the obsessiveness, the inability to stop thinking about something once it's wormed it's way into your mind. It's horrifying. It's paralyzing. It's cruel.

My little sister was diagnosed with OCD several years back when she was having obsessive thoughts that something was going to happen to her kids. She was completely convinced she would lose them, that something bad would happen to them. My cousin laid in bed one night and convinced herself she had bone cancer. Another night she was 100% positive she had a blood clot in her arm. These two women are very close to me and as they told me these stories I was sympathetic and said, "Oh honey, bless your heart," but .... until you have laid in the dark at 3am and planned out your funeral, have started writing letters to your children so they won't forget you when you're gone, have envisioned in your head the Highway Patrolman coming to the door to tell you your husband was in an accident and didn't make it. Or had the recurring thought that because you looked away for 30 seconds and didn't see your kids step onto that bus that morning you have somehow caused the bus to wreck on the way to school ..... you cannot for one second be as sympathetic as you need to be.

I hate going to the doctor and because I use the Native American Tribal Healthcare System for my medical needs it is sometimes a crapshoot getting in to see a doctor unless you have a severed limb or chest pains - and believe me when I say I was considering telling someone, anyone who would listen, that my chest hurt. I  needed to see a doctor and I needed to see one soon.

I managed to be the first one through the door on my second attempt at an appointment. That was totally a God thing - He knew how badly I needed to see someone. The RN who triaged me was concerned at the heart rhythm and got the doctor to order an EKG immediately. It showed nothing abnormal whatsoever. I kind of knew it would. See, I did this same thing roughly 17 years ago - irregular heartrate, elevated blood pressure, crying jags, etc. - and after an EKG and an echocardiogram was told I had a healthy heart, was suffering from panic attacks, was given a prescription for Xanax and sent on my not-so-merry way. Eventually life evened out (ie, we got pregnant) and I was fine. I never even refilled the prescription. So even though I was conviced I was dying, I knew the EKG would be normal. Because I knew what this was - anxiety.

The doctor came in, listened very intently to my ramblings and said, "We got this. This we can handle. You knew when you came in that OCD runs in your family. You are experiencing an undue amount of upheaval in your life right now. You not only have OCD, but also Situational Anxiety which gangs up on your General Anxiety Disorder. Now, here's what we're going to do for you..."

And right then I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. He didn't think I was a nutjob. He didn't think I was insane. He didn't even think I was weak. His words were, "You're not broken. You just need some help right now." Those were the exact words my sister comforted me with days before - "You just need some help right now."

I struggled for a few minutes with the diagnosis of what is a "mental illness", but I for once didn't dwell on it. I knew I needed help, know I still do and I'm going to be okay. I'm not insane, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that needs some balancing. In order to be a better wife, mother, person in general, at this point in my life I need help.

My help right now comes firstly from my God who is strengthening me daily. He is the Great Physician and I know He will see me through. My second help is in the form of a daily medication (an SSRI used to treat depression and also OCD) and an additional one for the attacks that creep up on me out of nowhere. I feel so much better. I was worried the medicine would disable my ability to feel anything and I'd be an emotionless zombie, but now I just feel life. I can still cry. I can still laugh - in fact I laugh so much more than I did. I don't walk around with my fists clenched and my jaw locked. My teeth don't hurt from being gritted continually. My blood pressure is lower. My husband is happier. My kids are happier.

I am happier.


Sam said...

I'm there with you. *hugs* I love me some zoloft & xanax.

Casey said...

I bet we're on the same medication. I also have OCD, extra O, easy on the C. I spent several years telling each and every airplane I saw, "Safe journey," because if I didn't, they would crash. Doesn't sound that bad, unless your office is literally ON the tarmac at the biggest airport in the state. *twitch* And like your sister, I do the obsessive worrying about my daughter. Sometimes it is all I can do to stay at work a full day without going to her daycare and getting her.

Good job in making this public. I think that normalizing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues is something our nation desperately needs to do. Otherwise, people don't realize they need help, or they're afraid to go and get it because they might be labeled.

Hang tight, sister.

MrsCoach said...

They probably don't need to know we are friends then at IHS because the doctor asked me one day if I was suicidal and said "nope but homicidal---definitely!!!". But seriously, been there, taking that. Sucks.

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