I was thinking about a lot of things yesterday and I realized that it’s been 15 years since I was diagnosed with my anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Up until that moment I hadn’t realized it had been so long. Sometimes it feels just like it happened yesterday. In that amount of time, I’ve been off of my medication two times. The first time was about two years after starting. My physician at the time wanted to test the waters to see if I would be able to come off and function without being medicated. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well. My physician didn’t know how to ease someone off the medication safely. It happened too quickly and I ended up becoming very sick.
Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, cold sweats, shakes, and brain zaps. And of course, an eventual relapse in the anxiety and panic attacks. I ended up going back on medication because it wasn’t worth the struggle of pulling myself together everyday.
For someone who has maybe never been on antidepressant/antianxiety medication and have tried to come off, a brain zap is one of the wonderful side effects of stopping the medicine. At least for me, it usually happened in the morning to afternoon after not taking a high enough dose. If I moved my head too fast, or stood up too quickly my brain would get this odd jolt. The only way I can describe the feeling is as if you turn your head quickly and your brain, instead of staying stationary, it feels like it keeps moving. It’s one of the strangest feelings. They can be nauseating and debilitating.
The second time I went off of my medication went a little better. I was tapered off of it slowly and I didn’t get the terrible sick feeling quite as often. But, just like the previous time, I ended up going back on my medication. The time between stopping and starting the doses was a bit longer this time. But with the many ridiculous and upsetting family happenings that would occur, I needed a crutch to get me through it.
But what is the root of it all?
I wholeheartedly believe that depression and anxiety is something that can be inherited from your parents. When I was a small child, I was adopted by my grandparents. Both of my biological parents dealt with depression. My birth mother is severely bipolar with a history of going off her medication. My birth father took his own life many years ago. Both of my maternal grandparents have also dealt with depression. So, in a way I was doomed to deal with depression myself.
I think that the inevitability of depression being an issue, as well as the issues that arose as I was growing up took a toll on my psyche. The breaking point came when I was transitioning from middle school to highschool. That transition is hard for anyone, but growing up I tried my absolute hardest to keep my family situation a secret. But of course, over time, people found out and I was bullied mercilessly about it. So I believe that moving to another school with a ton of new people who could find out my secret was the tipping point.
At this point in time there was one person in particular that I was very worried about spreading everything around the school. She, I won’t mention her name out of some semblance of respect, was the main person that had made my life hell. She bothered many other people during K-8, but for some reason I had a huge red and white target on my forehead.
This person would make fun of my weight, my height, the fact that I got boobs before everyone else, and the fact that my parents seemed to be so much older than everyone else’s. Even poking fun at it while on a field trip in grade school, in front of my sister. That ended up being a pretty ugly, yet gratifying scene. And trust me, I’m not trying to blame everything that happened to me, as the main reason why I was reacting the way I did. I just know that it was definitely a contributing factor.
Trying to keep everything a secret from everyone, not being able to talk freely about anything at home and having to transition into high school and suddenly figure out who I was? Talk about a damn shit show.
When I had my first panic attack, I remember sitting in an English class and we were talking about that night’s reading assignment. Suddenly the room start to distort, my brain felt like it was swimming, my heart started to race, and the cold sweats began. I ran out of the room and down the hall to the girls bathroom, locking myself in a stall. A giant rush of unbridled emotion washed over me and I completely lost it. My eyeliner was running, my face was wet, I couldn’t breathe, and I knew that something was wrong. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack and die in that bathroom.
Eventually the panic attack passed, at the time I had no idea what had come over me. I mostly kept it to myself for a while, I didn’t know that anything was very wrong and I figured it was just a passing emotional moment. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Over time it started to get much worse, and I couldn’t leave the house in the morning without having a giant panic attack first. And then 9/11 happened.
I remember seeing the rerun of the footage on Good Morning America, and I watched as the second plane hit the tower. Even though this was happening on the other side of the US, I was still panicking. But I still had to go to school, since it was only the first week of classes. But really, that day, I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling anxious. That was a real moment in time when I didn’t feel like the panic I was feeling was out of the ordinary. That I wasn’t alone. Everyone cried. Everyone was on edge. And for that moment I felt like everyone else.