September 11, 2010

Anxiety & Depression: My Story Continued

Part 2: Depression

When I left the doctor's office, I was about a 70% convinced that I was really not dying, just experiencing anxiety. Severe anxiety can lead to panic attacks which is what I was experiencing on the drive to the doctors office. (Sensation of throat closing in, hyperventilation) I mean, all the pieces fit, but there was still a tiny piece of me that wasn't buying it yet. But the more I thought about it (okay, and googled it) the more it made sense.

I started taking my Xanax, crazy pills I called them. They were helpful. About every 12 hours I would go into a little panic and then I would pop a pill. The plan was to see if they were helping and if they were then we would discuss a more long term medication. They did help in the way my doctor said they would. It was like drinking a couple of beers. Just something to take the edge off. But the underlying anxiety was not going away.

Anxiety can cause the body to do some pretty freaky things. For starters, it can cause the tingly feeling, also described as a pins and needles feeling. It can cause twitching in your eyes. It can cause severe headaches. It can cause a sensation in the back of your throat that feels like there is a lump there. These are just a few of the disconcerting symptoms I experienced at some point. Not good for someone who already has a heightened awareness of her physical ailments and each one seems to indicate impending death. More anxiety!

Before the new prescription had a chance to get into my system, I actually hit rock bottom. By this time, the anxiety had been there for so long it was beginning to mess with my brain. The way I understand it, and this is a very watered-down explanation, is that our bodies are equipped to deal with some stress. Some stress. But we are not equipped to deal with a lot of it over extended periods of time.

There is the thing that happens when a truck suddenly falls on a mother's first born and she is miraculously able to lift the vehicle and save the child. That's normal and that's supposed to happen, once in a while.

But for a person with anxiety, that thing happens all the time. Every time I felt a pain or read some medical article, that would be my reaction. My heart would pound, I would break out in cold sweats and basically I would hyperventilate. Over and over again. During the worst of it, this was happening several times a day. My body never had time to recover before it went back into the fight or flight mode again. This really messes with chemicals in the brain and is what can sometimes lead to depression.

For me, that is what happened. I recognized the depression right away. I had experienced post-partum depression with both of my children. It lasted for a couple of weeks. Maybe it was just the "baby blues" but whatever you want to call it, it wasn't fun. And this was worse. Like 10 times worse. Being depressed is literally the worst thing ever. It is a concept not easily grasped by someone who has never experienced it.

I constantly worried about the fact that I was worrying about worrying. There were times all I could do was stare at something. There were tears. So many tears. Tears that I couldn't explain. One minute I would be okay and the next I was like a different person. I felt hopeless. I felt like my life could never be the way it had been. I wanted to literally climb out of my body so I wouldn't have to feel what I was feeling anymore. My poor husband had no idea what was going on. And neither did I. I guess you could say I was at my wits end.

Psalms 107: 25-27
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end.

I was definitely in the depths. Courage gone. Incapacitated, like a drunk. The waves were all around me. This description is so fitting because I repeatedly had this vision of myself standing on something very tiny and unstable in the middle of a big body of water with danger all around me. I was in a place that was far, far away from God, but somewhere in me I knew that He was the only answer to my suffering.

Morning after morning I would get up extremely early (got very little sleep during this time), head straight to the bathroom and lock the door. I put a small lamp in there so that I could read my Bible in relative darkness. I read and read. Especially in the Psalms. I had never understood what the guy's problem was. He was always crying out "Help me!" or "Can't you hear me? When are you going to answer me, Lord!" I had never felt like my Heavenly Father couldn't hear me. Until then. My prayers seemed to be hitting a hard ceiling and falling right back down. I was SO frustrated. And scared. My situation seemed utterly desperate.

Even though it seemed futile at the time, I stuck with what I knew (what had been taught to me my whole life) and kept crying out to God Almighty.

Psalms 107:28-30
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

to be continued


Mom to the Fourth Power said...

Wow Keelie... I am so sorry for all that anxiety, panic, and struggle with depression you have had. That must be SO exhausting. How courageous of you to keep crying out to "God Almighty"... you know where to turn for peace, comfort, courage, etc. I KNOW that HE sees your pain and is doing ALL HE can to help you. Never give up girl, and hang in there!! You are a strong woman. :)


cmoursler said...

wow, I did the same thing. The stress, over extended periods of time made me hit bottom. I didn't feel like I was drowing...I felt like I had drowned and all that was left was the corpse. Walking dead as it were.
A sermon brought me out of it...and a four day trip to Las vegas.
But this is your story.
Think I am knowing the end.

A Girl Who Loves Cupcakes said...

I am so sorry you had to go through this but thank you for sharing with us. I am still fighting this same struggle and it's not easy telling other people about it.

Drazil said...

I have felt this and you are right - until you've felt it you can't understand it or explain changes who you are.

Chris in FL--Joyful Mother said...

I have dealt with bouts of depression and some anxiety. I never really recognized them as such until I noticed that they came like waves and from one minute to the other I was in tears for no reason whatsoever. I also have felt the feeling of being in the middle of the ocean and there being no way to be rescued. It's all feeling though.

I thank God for his deliverance in my life. Do I still have down days as I call them...yep. But I know what to do now. :)

MissyMcM said...

During a time of depression a wise pastor's wife told me, "everytime you feel anxiety,bend your knee...not just when you get time -EVERYTIME and you can read then New Testament in 1 year by reading at conversational speed." I accepted that challenge. Conversational speed gave me time to "listen" to what God had to say...bending my knee is submission to His Will. Thank you for sharing your journey

Jess said...

Great post! I gave you an award, come and get it!

Just Me said...

I have had panic attacks and anxiety since I was 21 years old. I'm now 49. They are pretty much under control via medicine. But I know I use food to try to drug myself (sugar) as well. My only advice to you is, if this doctor doesn't help you look for another...if this medication doesn't help you try another...I went through many doctors and many meds., before the right ones clicked. BTW, if you are having a panic attack I have some tips for you. If you are interested, e-mail me at and I will e-mail them back to you. From one survivor to another...this too shall pass.

99ToGo said...

Whew! Still crazy-freaky, the similarities.

That "tingling" feeling, we didn't know what to call it. I couldn't explain it to the doctors; mine was not just arms and legs, but all through my body. So many doctors saw me, yet it wasn't until a friend of mine (who has struggled with anxiety herself) mentioned that what I was feeling sounded remarkably like a big adrenaline rush (like one you'd get during 'fight or flight' or DING-DING, during a panic attack.

She has been one of my mentors in my spritual life, and I know God got us on the phone that night, because the healing started then.

I too, spent many-an hour in the bathroom with my nose in the Psalms. I didn't have the stomach for Job. Psalms open, with tears all over the pages.

Wanting to crawl out of your body. How many times have I used that exact phrase?

The lump in the throat, the post-partum depression, it's all there. Right down to the part where God feels so far away, and praying seems to be futile, but it's the only answer, and you know He's your only Help.

Looking forward to the rest of your story....

Acai said...

I am so sorry you had to go through this but thank you for sharing with us. I am still fighting this same struggle and it's not easy telling other people about it.
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Liz J said...

Hey K, I understand what you've gone through since I've been fighting anxiety attacks and depression since we were in high school. I finally got help (via therapy and meds) when I was 26 and I truly belive they were lifesaving for me. Thank you for sharing your story.

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