Thursday, October 22, 2009

Losing my shit

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.


Shar said...

Oh Frankie, i feel for you and I think that you have made teh right decision for the here and now.
Your health and your kids are the most importent thing and yes an education is great but not if either you or your kids are really suffering at its expense.

Well done for being brave and bloging this, you know there is heaps of support on here so use it.

Shar x

Lia Halsall said...

After reading this post and knowing what we know now about you this must of been REALLY HARD for you to put out there. I take my hat off to you Frankie. One way or another we're all f&*%$d up so you're not alone. I'll never judge you, I simply accept you and all that comes with you. I'm here to support you 100%.

You've done the right thing for you and you're now moving in the right direction. Hard yes, impossible no. Congrats on taking the first step!


Raechelle said...

Oh honey-I feel so bad for you!
Yes, you are making the right decision-and your mind and soul will thank you for it.
Bravo for blogging about it-we all have our demons! ;-)
Triple to what Shar & Lia said-we are here to support!
Take care you you! Now sit down and breathe....:-)

cam said...

Hey Frankie
Congratulations for having the strength to make such a huge decision. I can't actually say I understand what you are going through, but my sister went through a similar thing (change in anti-depressant meds) and suffered similar concerns as you are. She made it through to the other side and is doing absolutely great - I'm sure you'll make it through!
Wishing you all the best.

LizN said...

Sending positive thoughts your way Frankie. I know what you're going through!

Kerry W said...

Hey Frankie...I'm lost for words. I hope you feel better getting all that off your chest, and making such a big would not have been easy.

Strange, but when it comes down to it, it's the simple things in life which we all truly want, and sometimes in our search for a simpler life we manage to complicate it somehow.

I hope things get better real soon, and you can feel some joy again, and spend time doing the simple stuff...spending time with your kids, cooking a nice meal, etc. That's something I've been doing since Phil was born, and for me, it's done the world of good. I'm not such a stress-head anymore!

Hang in there! We're all behind you. Take care of yourself. Though it sounds like you're in good hands. XOXOX

KRISTIN said...

Hang in there Frankie... thanks for sharing what you are going through, it must be tough for you. Sending you big hugs cause I know that there is nothing I can say to make it better. Just know we are all here for you and will support you every step of the way, as well as listen to everything you need to talk about. The study will always be something you can go back to, so just do what you gotta do XOXO

Frankie said...

Thanks Shar. Yep, it's definitely the right decision, the kids really need me right now :)

It was quite hard Lia, that's why I've not blogged for a while but getting it out there has made me feel a lot lighter now. Thanks for your support.

Well Raechelle you talking about your demons has helped and encouraged me to 'out' myself and it's all good. Yes...breathing now.

Thanks Cam, yeah it's going to be difficult but I will probably feel like a new person by January.

Thanks Liz :o) Feeling better already.

Hey Kerry. Yeah it is the simple things isn't it? I just didn't want to look back in 4 years and realise I'd stressed away my 40's and my kids. I'm quite excited and hopeful now but still nervous about weaning off the meds :oS

Thanks Kristin. Yeah, as my doc said I can go back to study when I'm 60 if I want to. It's not the end of the world. Thanks for your support.

Elissa said...

Hi Frankie,
I am de-lurking, I have been stalking your blog for several months now. Thank you for being so open and honest. I understand a little what you are going through, I myself have suffered from anxiety my entire life also, and I finally went on meds several years ago. They worked well, but as you say you can only take a certain dose before you cannot take anymore. My Dr wanted me to change meds for a few reasons, and I also had to come off my meds before I could start the new ones. The amazing thing is that I didn't need the new meds because I was actually doing better without any of them. I think the steps you are taking are great and I wish you all the best, and I hope the new meds work out better for you. I know it is scary, but it is worth it, who knows, maybe you won't need them afterall.

Tearose said...

Frankie!! Yay for making the right decision, it can only get better from here. You are a strong woman to do what you've done and admire that.
I hope you can relax and some things that make you HAPPY, just because they make you happy.
Also ditto to what everyone else said. I used to think everyone had their shit together but me. Not true, is everyone is messed up in one way or another. Its great that we can support each other through it all.
have a great weekend Frankie :)

Hilary said...

There is probably nothing much I can say that will help, so sending you big cyber hugs... it sounds like you are making the right decision for you - you have to do what feels right, and is going to make you happy.

Hilary xx

Frankie said...

Hey there Elissa :o) Thanks for de-lurking! And thanks so much for your story. Whether or not I find I need the meds or not I know that I will feel different than I do know..which will be great! Without the stress of study I might be able to cope on my own. I won't know til I start weaning off these I guess. Anyway, nice to meet you and thanks for finally popping up to say hello!

Hi Yvette. Yep. Decided to only do things that make me happy and definitely not waste time on things and make me unhappy. Life IS too short x

Hilary just getting it out there and talking about it has helped immensely. No-one can really change things but me but your support is much appreciated nonetheless. Cheers x

Nicole said...

Hey Frankie. Congratulations on making a decision to take the control back. Fuck, we make our lives complicated don't we? Its just the simple things that we need, love, fun and family. We tie ourselves up in knots trying to do it all. Sounds like you now have the right support from your GP. I hope you are feeling better soon. I'm sending you lots of hugs and heaps of courage. Remember that on the other side of this.... is bliss. xxxx

Nicole said...

and by the way - you DO have great hair.. :)

Frankie said...

Thanks Nicole. I truly believe that bliss WILL be waiting for me. Gawd...I don't know why I took on the study when I was already so stressed. I put myself through all the voluntarily! What a knob! Oh yes and thanks I do have great hair. It's kinda blonde stripey at the front now..very odd actually but I needed to change something NOW. xxx

Frankie said...

(((hugs))) Fern. I've always been one to change my mind whenever I feel like it but just got so paranoid at everyone rolling their eyes at "Frankie changing her mind again" that I started to try to stick things out, even if not happy. But that's changing DAMMIT! :o)

Trudi said...

Hey Frankie, theres nothing like the backup support of your kids and friends. Work will come and go, qualifications can be persued but your kids and you will always need first priority. You dont need a degree for that. Always following your journey with much interest and support. Trudx

Frankie said...

Thanks Trudi, that means a lot :o)

Valley Girl said...

Hey beautiful,
hang in there, we are all fucked up in one way or another. No ones never not had down these days days.
1st step in getting you better & youv'e started that.
Lots of people are on medication, life is just a struggle these days.
You are a wonderful mum & YES you have great hair.

Enjoy your life, you'll only get this chance, so strutt it girlfriend

Baby steps~ you are a star xx

Frankie said...

aww thanks for the kinds words Valley Girl. Hopefully I WILL be strutting my stuff. I'm very hopeful about 2010. Can't wait :o)

Erika said...

Hi Frankie, been there, done that! No I don't mean to be flippant at all. I was on tri's for a long time, then changed to SSRI's then a SNRI, have been normal/well since the last change - 5 years! Thank goodness I found something that worked. I hope you find soem peace with the decisions that you have made.

Frankie said...

Hey Es. Yeah I'm improving big time already. Settled in well to the lower dose already. Will drop again on Monday. I'm quite excited about the possibility of feeling 'normal' :o)