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.

 

 

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.

 

 

How Can You Help Someone With Anxiety?

We Don’t Always Know How to Ask For Help

Helping someone with anxiety can be difficult, especially if you haven’t experienced the dreaded illness yourself.  If your friend or loved one has let you in, close enough to share their illness, you must be a very special person to them.  Society has taught us with anxiety to feel ashamed of our illness, and we fear what others might think about us if we open up and reveal who we really are.  Very sad, but true.  We need support, but don’t always know how to ask for it. This makes it extremely tough for those that want to help us, but just don’t understand how. Below are some helpful tips, from an expert on anxiety,  on how to help those you know with this illness that has such a negative stigma.

  1. Show Them You Care – Learn About Their Illness! – There is nothing that would show us you care more than to know you took the time to learn about anxiety.  Knowing the causes, symptoms, and how to help us through difficult times is the absolute #1 thing you can do.  If you understand what we are experiencing is a normal part of our illness , we will be more reassured.  If you know what the symptoms are, you will be able to help us through attacks of severe anxiety.  All we need is for someone to tell us that what we are feeling is a normal part of our anxiety, and that we will be okay.
  2. Stay Calm! – We will do all the worrying, you just need to stay calm and reassure us that we will be okay. If I am feeling like my chest is tightening up and I am having trouble getting air, the situation could go one of two ways.  During an anxiety attack, I am very aware of my surroundings.  You can bet I am watching how you are reacting to my attack.  I might feel like I am going to suffocate to death.  If I see you panic, then that will reassure me that I am in bad shape, and a trip to the ER is eminent.  On the other hand, if you calmly rub my back, tell me I am okay, and that it is just a symptom of my anxiety, I will eventually calm down and be okay.
  3. Be Patient – Please be patient with us.  It may be obvious that we are being irrational, but it is so real to us.  We will be worrying that you are going to get tired of dealing with our illness and we will pick up on any frustration you may show.  Anxiety sometimes makes us irritable, unsocial, and insecure.  Just realize that we are trying our best and knowing you understand, and are patient with us, takes a lot of weight off our shoulders.
  4. Be Encouraging – Anxiety can talk us into believing we can’t accomplish anything.  It may even force us to stay home for days.  Encouraging us to get out of the house, even if it is just going on a drive together, will build confidence.  The more confident we get, the sooner we will realize we really are okay.  It might take a little push to get us going, but it is what we need.
  5. Show a Little Extra Affection – Anxiety can makes us insecure.  I have often wondered why certain people put up with me.  I sometimes feel guilty that I am a pain in the ass.  Show us a little extra affection to reassure us that you love us unconditionally.

Let’s Talk About Anxiety & Depression

There Are Times When I Can’t Complete Simple Daily Tasks

If you are like me, you have anxiety and depression. I have struggled with this illness most of my life, and I am pretty sure there is no symptom of anxiety I haven’t been nose to nose with. There are many times in my life where my illness is well controlled. There are also times when I can’t complete simple daily tasks because of crippling anxiety or depression. It’s during those times you learn what the true definitions of insecurity and vulnerability are.

I Find Myself Seeking Out People I know That Have Anxiety or Depression

Seeing a medical professional will always be my first suggestion. Whether a medication change is necessary, or you just need someone to talk to – See a doctor!  Next, I find myself seeking out people I know that have anxiety or depression. Those are the people I feel comfortable with. I can share what symptoms I am experiencing without the fear of being judged. I feel blessed to have some family and a few friends who can relate to me and I can always count of them for support.

Anyone with empathy for my situation is what I find myself searching for during my low times. Sharing feelings, fears, & symptoms with someone who understands has always proven to be the best therapy for me. The first time I almost passed out during a panic attack was one of the most fearful moments in my life. I thought for sure I was near death. Once I began to feel a little better, I started worrying about it happening again. I would obsess about it. I talked to a family member about my experience and she told me it was nothing to worry about. She experienced the same thing many times and gave me a paper bag to put in my purse to breath into in case it happened again. Once I knew she had the same thing happen to her, I wasn’t as afraid anymore. At that time, it just became a normal symptom of anxiety and I knew I would be okay.

We Need to Keep Talking to Each Other and Learn That We Are Not Alone

Anxiety and depression can be very scary, especially to people who have not experienced it before. Once you learn that your symptoms are typical for your illness, it lifts a huge weight off of your chest. We need to keep talking to each other and learn that we are not alone. Send me a private message if you need someone to talk to. I have been so fortunate to have people in my life who know what anxiety and depression can feel like. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through some very tough times if those people weren’t there for me. For those people who feel alone – I am here to talk to. I am not a doctor, but I sure have experience with mental illness, and I’d love to help you!

-Michelle

Why Am I Having Anxiety Now?

Why Am I Having Anxiety Now?

I have often asked myself this question. How can I be feeling well for so long, and then my anxiety symptoms appear out of nowhere?

Anxiety and depression have been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. I have become an “anxiety expert” and have a very good understanding of what feeds my anxiety. Trust me, it has taken me years of severe episodes of anxiety and depression to pin point triggers, and learn ways to manage the symptoms. At times, being able to continue my daily routine was very difficult, and sometimes impossible.

Continue reading

Side Effects of Antidepressant/Anxiety Medications

There may come a time when you are faced with making a decision on whether or not to start taking antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medications. I will share some of my experiences to help you become more informed of some possible side effects and things you should consider before making your final decision.  Side effects should always be discussed with your doctor, however, it is nice to have someone else’s view that has actually experienced some of these unpleasant side effects.

Almost 18 years ago, after the birth of my third son, I experienced an episode of extreme anxiety.  This definitely wasn’t my first experience with anxiety, but it was severe enough for me to see the doctor. This was the first doctor visit where the topic of medication was brought up. I didn’t know anything about it, besides it would help control my anxiety and depression. I was so excited to start taking it! We did not discuss any side effects of the medication I was put on.  I believe it was Paxil.

The medication took about a month for me to notice that it was helping. I gradually had less anxiety attacks, and stopped obsessing over things I couldn’t control.  Side effects for me at that time were tremors, dry mouth, and decreased sex drive. I started feeling great, so after approximately 3 months, I decided I didn’t need it anymore so I stopped taking it.  I was young and uninformed and didn’t know this was a “no no”.

We had a wedding to go to a week later that was a six hour drive.  I had been feeling very ill and contemplated whether I would be able to go or not. I was getting so dizzy,  and couldn’t hardly get out of bed. This was making me worry and my anxiety was  beginning to return. I ended up going to an immediate care medical center and described my symptoms.  The doctor said I had an inner ear infection and gave me an antibiotic and a medication to help with the dizziness.

I was on my second day of medication and there were no changes with my symptoms. If anything, they had gotten worse. I decided I would still go out of town with my husband.  I was miserable the whole time. I was getting more nervous and thinking something horrible must be wrong with me.

One evening, days later, I was looking up my symptoms online. I ran across an article talking about side effects of stopping these medications and they were exactly what I had been going through. I was relieved and angry at the same time. Why wouldn’t my doctor discuss this with me? Why did the doctor diagnose me with an inner ear infection when he probably could have figured it out if he would have asked me questions about medications I was on, or had recently been on?  Keep in mind, this was almost 18 years ago and doctors were not as familiar with these types of drugs as they are now.

I learned a very important lesson during that time. When my doctor suggests a medication, I ALWAYS ask questions.  Most importantly, make sure to ask about the side effects of a new medication and read as much as you can about it.

Make sure to subscribe to my blog if this article interests you. I will be writing more about side effects of antidepressants and look forward to hearing some of your stories.

 

 

 

Defensive About Mental Illness?

I understand it can be difficult at times to be close to someone who suffers from anxiety, depression, panic disorder or any other mental illness. Speaking from experience, it is more difficult to actually suffer from one or more of these illnesses. On top of that, try to imagine living in a world where mental illness has such a negative stigma.

I have an excellent doctor who once told me to not be ashamed of my diagnosis and that it is so common these days. He explained that he treats it no different than any other illness. Of course that made me feel better, however, my “anxiety mind” wouldn’t quit thinking about this topic. If it is so common, why don’t people openly discuss it? Why are people embarrassed to tell people they have a mental illness? I know people that have type 1 diabetes, and I have the utmost respect for them and what they go through, so I am not trying to put them or their illness down in any way. I just often compare diabetes to mental illness because they are both so common and can be hard to cope with on a daily basis. In many cases, if you have diabetes, you are not ashamed to tell people that you have it. You most likely inherited the illness. I can tell you that I inherited my illness as well.

How can we change this? I think we need to start talking openly to others about our illness and STOP feeling ashamed! What are your thoughts?

Anxiety and Panic Attack Symptoms

I’m sure all of you anxiety and panic attack sufferers out there will know what I am talking about when I say that I have done a lot of searching on the internet to find other men and women that have experienced similar symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks as me.  Not that we (anxiety & panic sufferers) would wish any of these unpleasant symptoms on anyone, but it just gives us assurance that we are not alone, and there are people out there who actually could relate to us.  There have been times when I will have a new symptom pop up and I start worrying about it compulsively.  Even before I call the doctor, I am on the internet trying to find something to prove to me that it is just my anxiety and nothing horrible is wrong with me. Continue reading