So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before, but I have an anxiety disorder. It’s pretty bad. I’ve had it all my life but didn’t know what it was. I’ve had obsessive compulsive behaviour, Hypochondriasis and an addictive personality (addicted to anything). It's all part of the same disorder.
Things came to a head when I left my husband in 2001. I had a little brain snap and could not sleep for nearly 3 weeks. My well meaning doctor at the time put me on anti-depressants to help me sleep, he also told me it was help with my anxiety, which it did after a couple of weeks.
So, I’ve been on these tricyclic meds for eight years, gradually increasing my meds every year as the stressors in my life increased. Oops, I’m a single parent with a 5 year old and a 2 year old…meds…now I’m working 20 hours a week…let’s increase the dose, now I’m studying – increase again.
It’s got to the point lately where I can’t increase the dose anymore and my symptoms are worse than ever.
I’m not just talking ‘stressed out’. I’m talking debilitating anxiety with physical symptoms. It’s at the point that even if there is nothing ‘pressing’ that I am worried about, the physical symptoms just don’t go away. It’s like extreme butterflies in my chest and stomach nearly all day, followed by bouts of breathlessness, headspins and heart palpatations. This is nearly ALL day.
I can’t concentrate on anything, I can’t string a sentence together. Every situation is a potential stressor, and usually blown out of proportion. A walk to the mailbox can set it off. There might be bad news or a bill I wasn’t expecting. The phone rings – this is going to be bad, just don’t answer it.
I thought I had everything under control but it’s been getting worse and worse, especially the last year or so – something had to give. These last few weeks trying to find a place to live and keep up with study and work and kids has just seemed to flick a switch that now I can’t turn off.
Study is the worst stressor, it’s unrelenting. As much as I’ve loved the challenge and the opportunity that university has given me (as a high school dropout) I have decided that I can’t continue. This has not been an easy decision and I’ve spent many sleepless nights worrying about it.
I’m half way through my degree. I’ve completed 13 units (and will complete another this semester). Two of those were prac units and 11 were academic units for which I received 7 HD’s, 3 D’s and one C (theology LOL). I’m half way there. Only 14 academic units and 1 prac unit to go. But I just can’t do it. I don’t want to do it.
This has taken me three years, and they’ve been three years of stress and tears and isolation and a decline in my health. I’ve neglected my kids, my family and my friends. I haven’t had a relationship and hadn’t even had sex until my one year leave of absence. I went from a healthy 70kg at the start of my degree (2006) to nearly 90kg in 2007 through to early this year.
I started my degree because I was passionate about health and fitness, in particular, strength training. But in the process of learning I found I was no longer DOING.
I’ve thought long and hard about why I am studying. What am I going to get out of it at the end. Yes it will be great to have a piece of paper saying I’m clever, but is it worth what I have lost? The thought of waking up in another 4 years, finally finished my degree and having spent the whole of my 40’s isolated, stressed and out of touch with reality is positively terrifying for me. It’s the same feeling I had when I realised I needed out of my marriage…the exact same feeling.
So I’m done.
I’m not saying I will never go back and finish. Maybe when Ethan is in high school (3 years time) I will go back..maybe never. I should be able to get a credit for my completed units if I re-apply at a later stage.
My lecturer/dean has tried to help and has been wonderful in suggesting I apply for a retrospective withdrawal for one of my units I have not been able to complete this semester, due to a near breakdown last week. I was quite happy just to lay in bed and fail but she wouldn’t let me. I know she would like me to stay on but it’s just not right for me now.
I saw my doctor today and she fully supports my decision (and encouraged it). She said that my previous doctor had put me on the wrong meds for anxiety and that we are going to wean me off my current ones and transition into some newer SSRI’s which are targeted at my condition. She said she can’t believe that I had actually managed the study all this time at that level without proper medication.
I will probably feel like a new person when the new meds kick in. But, first she wants me to try and relax…knowing I have made the right decision and to try and get my stress levels down first before we try to cut back on the meds. I still have a maths exam to get through and Christmas looming and have to completely wean of the old meds before I can start the new ones as you can't take them at the same time.
Right now my heart is beating so fast that I feel like I could have a heart attack and the thought of cutting back on my meds scares the shit out of me but it has to be done. I’m not kidding, I’m fucking terrified. I don’t know if I can handle getting any worse than I am now. I really feel like I could keel over at any minute. But I have to do this as we can’t increase the meds I’m on and in any case she thinks they’ve not been working for some time.
I just want to live a normal life. I haven’t enjoyed my life for quite some time. The constant stress of study and having something always hanging over my head, has taken the enjoyment out of everything. I want to be able to sit on the couch and watch Dr Who with my son without squirming around feeling like I need to go do research for a report. I want to be able to help the kids with their homework and chat and cook healthy meals instead of slapping easy crap on their plate because I’m too busy.
I want to go to work, work, come home, train, hang out with my kids, go out with my friends…normal life!
Arrgh….I know I’m waffling but I just want my fucking life back!!!! And I’m taking it!
I’m going to try and blog about it as this is supposed to be my diary but I’ve been too wound up to do it. I overcame that tonight by not typing straight onto my blog like I usually do but starting it in a word doc…not so daunting.
So there you have it. I’m not bloody superwoman I’m just as fucked up as everyone else.
But I do have great hair.