I Hate Panic Attacks!



I Hate Panic Attacks!

Fishing With My Daughter

I really dislike the word HATE but I don’t know how else to describe my feelings towards panic attacks. They pop up, uninvited, and can literally knock you down. In fact, last evening, a panic attack sucker punched me so hard while I was out to eat with my family that I had to get up and leave.

Panic Attacks are Very Convincing

We were spending a much needed relaxing week in our favorite vacation spot, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. It was dinner time so we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant, mainly because we all felt too tired to go anywhere else. The waitress came and took our order. I was looking forward to their famous popovers they serve as their appetizer.

Maybe I’m Having a Stroke

While waiting, I noticed I was feeling a little short of breath. I told myself it was just because I was a little anxious and I tried to convince myself to relax. My back was aching, which didn’t surprise me since I had been sleeping on a pull-out sofa in the hotel room. The mattress was so old that it felt like laying on metal bars. The ache in my back was moving to my right shoulder and then slowly down my arm. As I was trying to join in on the conversation, I kept getting interrupted by the obsessive thoughts in my head. I was asking myself “Why would my arm be aching?”, “Is it my heart?”,  “Am I having a heart attack?”, “Maybe I’m having a stroke because it just feels funny on one side of my body”. At that time, I felt my heart palpitate. Now I knew something bad was going on and panic set in.

I Got Up and Went in the Restroom

As I was panicking inside, I looked at my mom. She was laughing and having fun with the rest of the family. I decided to take a xanax in case it was only my anxiety making me feel this way. Finally the popovers came. I raised my right arm to grab the bread out of the basket. My arm felt funny as I reached over to grasp the popover. It even felt hard to grasp it. My daughter was asking me to put butter and jam on hers. I was trying to contemplate if I was going to speak up and tell everyone that I thought I was having a stroke. Instead, I told my daughter to have her brother help her. I sat there for a minute and I was moving my fingers around to make sure I could still use them.Since I had no problems doing that, I decided to butter my popover. As I picked up my knife, it felt very peculiar. The knife felt extra heavy. At that point, I looked at my mom and said “Can you come with me please?”. I got up and went in the restroom.

Crying Took a Huge Amount of Weight Off

Mom knows my history of anxiety and panic disorder. I started bawling and told her I was super nervous and was either having a panic attack or a stroke. I told her I might have to go to the ER. She looked at me and said I was fine and that it was just my anxiety. My mom also has anxiety so I trusted her. Crying took a huge amount of weight off of my back and it was starting to feel better. I told her to go back and I would be out in a minute.  I asked her to tell the rest of the family not to ask me about why I left.’

I Was Fine the Rest Of the Evening

Crying and the xanax was making me feel more normal and I believed my mom when she told me I was not having a stroke. I took one more xanax to knock the remaining anxiety out. I went back, ate my dinner, and was fine the rest of the evening.

I Thanked God I Was Okay

After dinner we all went fishing off the dock in town. The water was so still and it was very peaceful. I was able to enjoy the scenery and I thanked God I was okay.

Grand Rapids, MN

I Am Still Vulnerable

That was just a reminder that I am still vulnerable. I have not been “cured” of my mental illness and my medication does not heal me 100%. That panic attack proved to me that talking openly about mental illness and trying to help others with similar experiences is what I am meant to do. When I need help, I look for people who are empathetic to my situation. Some people are not as fortunate as me to have a support person that understands exactly how I feel.

I Want to Help You

I strongly believe in “pay it forward” and that is what I am doing. I want to help you. If you have questions about symptoms, techniques to get through stressful situations, or just need to talk to someone who truly understands, CONTACT ME!

– Michelle

 

 

Expert on Anxiety & Depression?

Anxiety and Depression

My mom, best friend, & main support person for my anxiety & depression

The last year I have considered myself an expert on the topic of anxiety and depression. My goal has been to help people suffering with the crippling illness. Since I have experienced years of debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, and haven’t had any major symptoms for years, I beat it. My focus was to teach others that their symptoms were normal and once they realized that what they are going through is so common, they would not be afraid any more.

I was so confident that I “beat” my anxiety and panic disorder. I even told my doctor I wanted to decrease my dosage of Lexapro. I went from 20 mg down to 10 mg approximately one month ago. I thought I was doing great and couldn’t wait to be off it completely.

Then it Hit Me

I had a very busy day yesterday helping my family paint and pack for a move. I was exhausted when I got home. I was in bed by 9:00, which is very early for me. I started thinking about this little lump that is on my shin that I was going to have the doctor check out next month at my appointment. I convinced myself last night that it was a cancerous lump and it probably spread from another cancer in my body. I came to the conclusion that my body is full of cancer and I was probably not going to live much longer. Then I started thinking about my 9 year old daughter and how she would take it, because we have such a close relationship, and she relies on me for everything. At that point, I started feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath – almost like I just ran a mile. My whole body was getting tingly. I went in to get help from my husband but he was sound asleep and I knew he had to get up early. I took some xanax and sat back down. If that all wasn’t scary enough, I had a little pain in my chest. Now I knew I was having a heart attack. My teenage son was still up so I texted him. By the time he texted me back, the xanax was starting to kick in so I told him never mind. I went and took some tums, because I figured that was why I felt some heartburn, and that it was probably not a heart attack. I finally fell asleep.

The Next Morning

I slept pretty good, probably because of the xanax. When I woke up, I paused to see how I was breathing. My chest was feeling tight again and then I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. Here we go again….it was a repeat of the night before. My mom, who is my main support person, came over and we talked. She said she has done this same thing, so after taking some more xanax, and having a nice talk with her, I settled down once again.  I sent a message to my physician asking to increase my medicine to my original dose.

Lesson Learned

I was wrong. I have not beaten anxiety. My medication has masked my symptoms and I now realize I will probably be on anxiety meds the rest of my life. The unpleasant symptoms, mainly weight gain, is better than not being able to function.

I am Here for You!

Although I am not as confident in saying this, I am an expert on anxiety, depression, and panic disorder.  I have years of experience with these illnesses and I am someone that would be great at answering your questions. I have an amazing support system in place which is the best thing you can establish. Never hesitate to message me. I am here for you as so many others have been there for me.

 

 

Is Stress Always Negative?

Stress is Not Always Negative!

I just experienced one of the most stressful months of my life, but it was definitely one of the happiest, most memorable.  My oldest son married his high school sweetheart, the love of his life. A woman who loves, respects, and cherishes him as I do.

A major life event can be stressful for anyone.  Someone who has an anxiety disorder, or any other mental illness, may have a more difficult time adjusting. It does not mean they aren’t happy about the change, it is just their body’s reaction. On my wedding day, I started feeling an anxiety attack coming on right before the ceremony began.  I couldn’t wait to marry my husband, and I was counting down the days until our wedding day.  The emotions I felt, the love, anticipation, excitement, and even a little nervousness put my brain on overload. I started to mentally shut down at the worst time.  Thankfully, I powered through it and we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary next month.

We had 10 months to prepare for my son’s big day.  Eight or Nine of those month were pretty uneventful for us.  Next thing I knew, we were down to a month before their wedding day.  For me, panic set in.  I had to make sure my dress still fit, and that I had shoes and jewelry to match.  My daughter was the Junior Bridesmaid.  I had to make sure her dress still fit, her shoes were still the same size, and how she was going to wear her hair.  How would I wear my hair? All of these things seem pretty simple, but for someone with anxiety, it can almost be unbearable.

The wedding day arrived and everything went beautifully.  The day was over in a flash and I have a wonderful daughter-in-law now.  I couldn’t be happier for them.  So you can see that these two occasions I mentioned were positive and welcomed changes in my life, however, they still were very difficult for me to get through.  It is one week after the wedding and I still feel mentally exhausted.

Stress and anxiety can come in all forms.  What might make me anxious might sound silly to you and vice versa.  Stress isn’t always brought on by negative things, including finances or a stressful job.  For me, it can be a wedding, birth of a child or even changing to a better job.  What is your main cause of stress?  I would love to hear from you!

SSRI Weight Loss Journey

Have You Gained Weight While on SSRI Medications?

You aren’t alone. I’ve been fighting my weight for years, and it wasn’t until recently, that I acknowledged my 100 pound weight gain was due to the SSRI medications I have been on for almost 18 years.

I have emotionally abused myself. I have looked in the mirror and have asked myself “how could you let yourself get like this?”. Disgusting, fat, cow, ugly, & unlovable are just a few things I have said to myself. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how good I felt about myself 100 pounds ago. I loved clothes, going out, being active with my kids, & trying new things. I often try to remember how good it felt to feel pretty.  I miss those days.

When I started to gain weight, I would express concern to my doctor. I wasn’t doing anything differently than I normally did. I ate the same & was active. I started dieting. At first I could lose a little, but it was very slow going. I would eventually give up because I wasn’t seeing results.

My doctor ordered bloodwork to make sure there weren’t any underlying health problems. Everything was always fine. He suggested that my weight gain was most likely due to my anxiety medication. We have changed medications, lowered my dosage, & even tried going off medication completely at one time.

The Motivation I Needed – Or So I Thought

I finally got some very exciting news that I knew would be the motivation I needed to lose my excess pounds.  My son and his amazing girlfriend are getting married! I was so thrilled with this news and couldn’t wait to get started on my weight loss journey. I had about 10 months to lose weight and I set a reasonable goal of losing 70 pounds.

I started limiting my food intake and kept track of calories. I allowed myself one cheat meal a week. I actually started working out consistently and did great for the first two months. The scale wasn’t moving as rapidly as I would have liked. I did notice my pants fitting a tiny bit better, though. As I was looking online for dresses for the wedding, I found the perfect one for me. It was a good price so I decided I was going to order it, and I was going to get the size I wanted to be on their wedding day.

Days passed and the scale wasn’t budging. I was working very hard and was getting extremely frustrated. Eventually I broke down and gave up, just like I always did. I was so disappointed in myself and there was a constant battle in my head. I was telling myself I had to lose weight because I wanted to look stunning at the wedding, but on the other hand, I was beginning to believe I was fighting a losing battle.

Finding motivation to get back on a diet seemed next to impossible. My brother was telling me he has had success following a low carb diet.  I felt desperate and I would have tried anything. I went all  in and stuck to eating less than 20 carbs per day.  I immediately lost a lot of water weight but at that point, I didn’t care what I lost, as long as the scale was moving in the right direction.

Low carb seemed to be working but I noticed I was feeling very down and easily agitated.  My mood was not good, so I was about to make a doctor appointment. My husband found something on the internet that we found very interesting. It suggested that a low carb diet can cause depression to worsen by somehow affecting the SSRI in the brain.  Although I don’t believe everything I read on the web, this made sense to me so I added carbs back into my diet. That definitely elevated my mood back to the way it was.  I came to the conclusion that low carb dieting was not the route for me to take. I will definitely be doing more researched on this topic and sharing it in a future post.

As time passed and I wasn’t any closer to my weight loss goal, I began to panic. I would try again, only to fail again. I gave up on my perfect dress in the smaller size and began searching for another dress.

The wedding day was quickly approaching. As I was ordering a different dress, in the size I was working so hard to get out of, I realized I had failed once again.

It is now July 5th and my son is getting married in nine days.  I have run out of time to lose weight. I am very upset with myself, but for now, I can’t think about that. I am focusing on the fact that this is a very special day for our family. I am fighting my emotions and trying to convince myself that my family and friends will love me, no matter what size I am, or what size my dress is on that special day.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

 

SSRI Weight Gain

SSRI Weight Gain- A Growing Problem (Literally)

Don’t let anyone tell you that SSRI medications don’t cause weight gain. I have gained over a whopping 100 pounds on them over the years.

It has been almost 18 years since I was given my first SSRI prescription.  Prior to this, I had always managed to maintain a healthy weight without having to work too hard on it.  Weight gain was not discussed at my doctor’s appointment when I was put on Paxil.  The medication did it’s job, it increased my mood and decreased my anxiety.

My weight gain didn’t happen all at once.  At first it was five pounds here and there and then before I knew it, I was 20 pounds heavier.  Life, for me, was changing.  Dieting was becoming something I had to think about on a daily basis.  I was really beginning to get down about my appearance, and wanting to lose weight seemed to be on my mind constantly.  Losing weight seemed nearly impossible, I would get frustrated, and fail.  Next thing I knew, I reached 200 pounds.  I felt like a failure and was really down about my appearance.

While at a doctor appointment to follow up on my anxiety and depression, I expressed concern about my weight gain.  I brought up the question of whether my SSRI medication could be what has caused my weight to increase and the difficulties I was having while trying to lose weight.  My physician explained to me that originally, it was thought that SSRI medications caused weight loss, but that thinking had changed.  Blood work was done to rule out any other medical issues that could affect my weight, but everything checked out okay.

I went through years of switching medications, lowering the dosage, and even trying to get off it completely.  All which were unsuccessful.  Now it is almost 18 years later and I am 100 pounds overweight.  Throughout these years, I have experienced all kinds of highs and lows.  I lost my self esteem,  felt like a failure, and relationships suffered.  I’ve tried dieting, exercising, weight loss pills, and more.  Each time I would try something new, I would have hope, only to be left angry at myself for giving up and being unsuccessful.

I have read stories about these medications causing weight gain. I have talked to people, similar to me, that have had the same weight gain with SSRI medications, I have gone through years of steady weight gain and unsuccessful dieting.  I went through so many emotions.  I would be down about my weight, and then excited to try something new that might actually work.  Then I would be devastated when I learned that it wasn’t the answer.

Where I Am At Now

I’m frustrated.  I’m tired of telling myself that it’s possible the weight gain wasn’t because of the medication, maybe it is just because I eat too much and I am lazy. I feel beat down and sad that it is because I did this to myself.  I’m sick of trying to convince people that my medication is to blame for my obesity.  More importantly, I’m sick of trying to convince myself of that same thing.

My doctor is currently weaning me off of Lexapro, and adding Welbutrin, in hopes that might be the answer.  I will keep you posted, but in the mean time, I would love to hear your stories about SSRI medications and weight gain.

 

 

Quit Being Ashamed of your Mental Illness

Why are so many people ashamed to admit they have a mental illness?

They are ashamed to admit it because mental illnesses have such a negative stigma.

It is 2017, yet society still can’t accept that having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re crazy.

Educate yourself people! Think of it this way, there are two individuals standing in front of you. Melissa is in her forties.  She is 5’6″ tall and weighs 165 pounds.  Angie just graduated from college.  She is 5’5″ and 150 pounds.  Both women are attractive and appear to be healthy. Melissa and Angie have both been diagnosed with an illness.

Both women were admitted into the hospital when they were first diagnosed with their illness. Their stays were very similar.  Melissa and Angie both went through a series of tests, they were educated on their illness, & given medication.  Follow up appointments were scheduled and they were sent home.

The illnesses these women were fighting were due to an organ in their body that was not functioning properly.  One organ was the pancreas and the other organ was the brain.  Melissa’s diagnosis was diabetes.  She went home and talked to her family about her illness.  Melissa explained what she needed from them and what her treatment would be.  She asked them for help and support.  Angie’s diagnosis was bi-polar disorder. She was devastated.  Angie kept her illness hidden from her family and friends.  She didn’t get the love and support she needed because she was too ashamed to tell anyone.  Angie felt so alone and her illness worsened.

Angie’s family would get irritated with her because she could be very moody.  She finally opened up to them and told them that she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and that it is a mental illness.  Sadly, they were skeptical about her diagnosis and told her that she shouldn’t take medication for that.  Angie was told that she just needed to relax more and to quit being so uptight.  “You just need to keep busy and toughen up a little”, they said to her.

Does this story irritate you as much as it does me? Can you imagine Melissa’s parents saying she didn’t need insulin and she needs to toughen up? Of course they wouldn’t say that. Melissa has an illness that is accepted in society.  People know that Melissa can’t help it and diabetes is something people are educated on. There is no difference in Angie’s diagnosis..  Angie cannot help it that her brain is not functioning at 100%. She is told to just keep busy and maybe it will go away.

Nothing will change unless more people are educated on mental illnesses.  Having anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder or any other mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  I’m on a journey to raise awareness to mental health and to help change the negative stigma associated with mental illness.

Do your part.  Educate yourself, and always treat mental illness the same as any other illness.  God Bless.

 

 

Anxiety Medications & Weight Gain

Anxiety Medications & Weight Gain

Anxiety Medications & weight gain often go hand in hand. When I started gaining weight, soon after I was prescribed Paxil, I discussed my concerns with my doctor. He acknowledged that weight gain is definitely a possible side affect of anxiety medications.  As disappointed as I was, I knew I couldn’t go off the medication that was finally making me feel less anxious and much happier.

The Next Thing You Know, It’s 6 Months Later and You’ve Packed on Thirty Pounds

It’s like a double edged sword. You start taking anxiety & depression medication and the next thing you know, it’s 6 months later and you’ve packed on thirty pounds.  You feel better from a mental health standpoint, but the extra weight is really getting you down.  Trying to lose the weight seems like an uphill battle and you are feeling very discouraged.  What would you do? Would you get off the medication and feel miserable, like you did before, or make the same decision I made and struggle with your weight constantly?

I Obsess About My Weight and Think About it Several Times a Day

Thirty pounds turned into fifty.  Fifteen years later, I am 100 pounds heavier than when I started the medication.  Being overweight controls me.  I obsess about my weight and think about it several times a day. I look in the mirror and am disgusted with myself.  How could I have let myself get this way? Am I ever going to look good and feel better about myself?  I have tried dieting hundreds of times, without success.  Each time I get more discouraged.

Several People I Know Have Experienced Similar Side Effects

Several people I know have experienced similar side effects while taking anti-anxiety medications.  If I was asked my opinion on whether someone suffering with anxiety or depression should take a medication, such as Paxil, I don’t know what I would advise them to do.  Medication has helped me in so many ways, but it has created a different type of battle in my life.

So that is my story about anxiety medications and weight gain.  I would love for you to share your thoughts.  Do you have a similar story or suggestions?  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Hi! I’m a Kid with Anxiety

Kid’s Can Have Anxiety, Too!

“Hi! I’m a kid with anxiety and sometimes it’s hard to get through a day.  I always try to be positive and happy.  When I’m nervous, I kind of feel like I’m in a tight space. I also feel like it’s hard to breathe.”

Seeing these words that my child wrote made me sad, proud and determined.  I am so sad that my child has to fight some of the same battles in life, that I have had to.  I feel proud that she is wanting to talk about her experiences to help other children with anxiety.  But most of all, I feel determined to continue to raise awareness about mental illnesses, and help end the negative stigma associated with it.

Anxiety Can Cause Irrational Thoughts in Kids, Too!

“When I had the flu, I threw up on one side of the bed.  For weeks, I did not want to go off that side of the bed.  I thought if I touched that  same side, it would make me sick again. Now I know that the bed didn’t make me throw up.”

Trying New Things Can Be Especially Hard For A Kid With Anxiety

“Trying new things, like a sport, is hard sometimes.  Starting a new grade in school makes me nervous, too. I go out for dance and I love it now – I didn’t like it at first.  I’m doing softball, now, and I get really nervous.  I get scared that I might do something wrong. I might get used to it, like I did with dance.”

“My friends are sad sometimes if I can’t sleep over at a slumber party. I don’t like to sleep at their houses because I get really nervous. I don’t like sleep overs because I’m away from my family and not sleeping in my own bed. At night, Sometimes I don’t want to go to sleep because I’m afraid someone is going to break into our house.”

Advice From A Kid With Anxiety

“Everyone gets anxious sometimes, so don’t be mad if you’re always nervous.  I get nervous a lot because I always think of the future, and not the present.  I used to go to therapy and my therapist gave me a list of things to do when I’m feeling nervous.  When I did some of those things, I became busy and not anxious.  I play with my fidget spinner sometimes and it distracts me. When you’re nervous, you should always stick with a buddy.  You can stick with an adult that you trust or a close family member. “

Help Your Child Breathe Through Their Anxiety

“If you are a parent with a kid that has anxiety, you should have your child breathe in and out slowly.” 

Breathing exercises are a great thing to teach kids with or without anxiety.  Here is a link to some very helpful instructions on how to relax your body and mind.

Excellent Breathing Exercises

Subscribe to my blog and watch for more posts about anxiety in children. Learn what your child needs from you, and show them that you are there to support them, no matter what.

What Caused My Anxiety & Panic Disorder?

It’s In My Genes, But There’s More

Mental illness runs in my family. My great grandparents, grandmother, many of my great aunts, uncles, mother, brother, cousins, nieces and nephews have all been touched by this dreaded illness. I have even passed it down to some of my children.  So yes, I was destined to be diagnosed with some type of mental illness in my lifetime.  There’s more to this, though.  I began experiencing symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder at a very young age.  Three months before my third birthday, my little brother passed away due to complications of a heart defect.  My family was traumatized and I learned about death, heartache, and uncontrollable pain at a very young age.

Continue reading

Should Mental Health Be Taught in Schools?

Every Student Should Be Required to Take a Course on Mental Health

I often think how different my life would have been if we were taught about mental health in school.  Kids graduating from high-school would be aware of the symptoms, know how to support others, have learned some techniques to deal with stress, and know how to get help if they need it.  Mental health would lose it’s negative stigma – wouldn’t that be great?

I Wouldn’t Have Felt So Afraid

Thinking back on my very first experience with a panic attack, I wonder if it would have escalated to the level it did if I knew what was actually happening to me.  A mental health course would have taught me about anxiety and panic attacks.  If I suspected that was what was going on, maybe I could have reasoned with myself.

I Wouldn’t Have Been So Embarrassed

If all students were educated on mental health, and how common it is, maybe we wouldn’t be so ashamed to talk about it.  We wouldn’t be hesitant to get the help that we need.  Who knows,  it’s possible the suicide rate would decrease!

I Would Have Had More Support

Still to this day, I am very selective as to who I share my illness with.  I pretty much only open up to friends that are educated on mental illness or suffer with it themselves.  If more people were educated on the topic, I would feel comfortable talking to many more people about it.

Mental health illnesses are not going away. The world we live in can be a very scary place, especially to those of us who suffer from an anxiety disorder.  I am confident that everyone in this world could benefit from learning about mental health, whether or not they will be diagnosed someday, or close to someone that has a mental illness.