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Now I Thrive

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Sunday, 23 January 2005

Posted by: lovemyz on Sunday, January 23, 2005

 I remember a therapist saying first you survive and then you thrive. I had a very traumatic childhood and its taken a lot of years to face the effects of that, take responsibility for my well-being and be willing to accept whatever help I needed to do that. My dad is a recovering alcoholic and my mom has OCD and other anxiety disorders. I'm never quite sure what is in your genes and what is learned behavior and I guess it really doesn't matter except to say that I had OCD tendencies as a kid (counting my steps, setting up specific routines - I think they call them "rituals" - stuff like that) and I later used alcohol to self-medicate emotional pain. Depression and general anxiety were so much a part of my life that I didn't even recognize them as "abnormal" until I was an adult.

My first panic attacks happened at 21. I was borderline failing a science course (as an over achiever perfectionist with an inferiority complex, this was too much to cope with) and I remember peering into this microscope trying to identify the dorsal nerve cord of an earthworm and panicking because I coudn't find it. My head started to swirl, my hands shake, the room spun, sweat pouring, you know what I mean. I ran out and began avoiding anything and anyplace that I thought may trigger another episode. I went into the therapy for a short time and when I got reassurance that I wasn't crazy and that many people experienced this, the problem started to ebb away. The therapist suggested that I "go with it" and repeat that I wasn't going to die or lose control and I found that helped a lot during an attack. The attacks stopped after a few months and I was off and running again and drinking more than ever.

At 27, I quit smoking and that seemed to trigger some symptoms and intrusive thoughts began - like avoiding high places in case I lost control and decided to "leap". More therapy, Al Anon and AA started me o­n the road to recovery. All in all, I've had about 10 years of therapy and I've been sober for over 12 years.

I have always worried somewhat about my health but I chalked that up to my mom who would spot a mosquito bite o­n my leg and announce, "I hope you don't get encephalitis from that. If you get a headache, go to the emergency room." In 1996 right after my wedding, I ended up being treated for whiplash from a car accident. The radiologist discovered something "suspicious" o­n my x-ray. So o­n Thanksgiving eve, all of 2 weeks married, I thought I had bone cancer and was dying. o­n top of that o­ne of my closest friends was in the final stage of a terminal illness. Fortunately the bone scan revealed that what they saw was from a childhood injury that had healed messy. But between my friend and the cancer scare I started thinking a lot more about my mortality. In addition, I still had vague depression and anxiety as part of my daily existance and several people had suggested medication to me. No Way!! Especially as a recovering alcoholic, there was no way I was going to be "dependent" o­n any drug.

That changed in 1999 when my daughter was born. When she was a few weeks old, I thought I found a lump in my breast. Within 2 minutes, I had myself dead and her without a mother. The mammogram revealed no abnormality but I kept focusing o­n the doctor saying that because I was breast feeding, the tests may not be able to detect a malignancy. So I ended up with a "Go home, there's nothing there...we think". It seemed every TV show and magazine had an article o­n breast cancer. I couldn't take it. I knew that at some level that this was irrational and I went to a psychiatrist who put me o­n 50 mg of Zoloft. If I had known how much that would help me, I would have done it a long time ago.

It became evident to me that a lot of those unexplained behaviors and feelings were connected to my serotonin levels because Zoloft worked so well for me (love my Z). It was like the cloud I had been walking under (even with all the therapy) had lifted. I had been asking God to help me and I think I finally got the message that he had been sending through the people around me - medication.

A year later the doctor suggested seeing if I would be okay without the meds. All was well for a few months and then I was just certain that the mole o­n my leg was melanoma, my sinus headaches were aneurisyms at best and if I had another child, I would most surely sink into post-partum psychosis. Went back o­n the zoloft and don't plan to ever go off it if keeps working for me. I later was lead to several medical books that explained that brain chemistry can be permanently altered by repeated trauma and that o­ngoing medication was not o­nly necessary but may prevent further damage. It was very possible that living with raised adrenaline levels day after day throughout my younger years may have contributed to how my body responds to stress.

And so having been through that tunnel, I will share that my anxieties are minor now and do not interfere with my enjoyment of life. I notice that if I start to having some OCD behavior or health anxiety, its usually because I'm tired or need to go to o­ne of my twelve step meetings where I'm reminded that God is in charge and all is well. The medication makes it possible for me to stop and do that. Without zoloft, I can't recognize that these are symptoms of anxiety and nothing more. So I've found that I can be symptom free for long stretches of time but in my case, I don't believe that I will ever by cured. And I'm not afraid of that because I will never again hesitate to reach out for help.

God has been very good to me and I think its important that those who have found peace carry that message of hope to others. I agree with the founder of this site. There is a spiritual purpose in all challenges. I look at my life today - a loving husband, a beautiful daughter, all the blessings in my life and I think, this is because I had no choice but to rely o­n God and trust that if I continue to put o­ne foot in front of the other - all is well despite appearances -- and all will feel well in time.
Comments (1)add comment

Irish said:

Excellent Blog. I couldn't agree with you more throughout the whole story. It's me to a large degree. We are all different and have to seek out our way for the best way to handle our illness. You have found it and so have I for the most part and that's what works for us. I am impressed with your intelligence and your belief in God. I always remember a quote from Jesus to handle suffering and I still believe it to this day. He sai..."Them more I make you suffer, the more I love you." This is God's way, not our way and we must accept that. You have done it well. Congradulations and take care......Ed
September 12, 2009
Votes: +1

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