Living with a chronic illness throws a lot of obstacles in your way. Along with my migraines, I developed an anxiety disorder and depression. For a long time I would sit up at night and cry over things that I couldn’t control. I would be scared to go to school, and I would be antisocial when I was there. I know when I’m having an anxiety attack because it feels like my lungs are incapable of using normal air. It feels like I need to cry but I don’t know what is wrong, I just know something is off. It feels like I’m trapped in my own head and I just need to scream. It feels like I need to rip all of my hair out of my scalp or scratch my skin off.
I tried to cope without medication for a long time because I didn’t want to be the girl that was on antidepressants. I felt miserable; I didn’t want to live my life. I finally asked my neurologist if it was possible for them to put me on something to help. They put me on Cymbalta, and everything just felt easier. I felt like I had normal emotions and I didn’t overreact over little things.
Of course I still have bad days, medicine doesn’t fix everything. As a matter of fact, sometimes it makes things worse. When I went to Charlottesville, my new neurologist recommended that I see a psychiatrist. So then, I had to see my primary care doctor for a referral. I thought that I might get seen soon by the psychiatrist. With the wonderful luck I have, I couldn’t get an appointment until May. Being the dummy I am, I let my prescription run out, and there was absolutely no way to just stop taking Cymbalta safely. My doctor obviously refilled it so I wouldn’t have withdrawals, but it would take a week before it got to the house.
Unknowing to me, Cymbalta is known to have HORRIBLE withdrawal symptoms. There is actually a thing called Antidepressant Withdrawal Syndrome that happens when a patient is on the medication for more than 6 weeks and the medication has a shorter half-life. I cannot express this enough, NEVER quit your antidepressants cold turkey. I legit thought I was dying last week. It started with just being an emotional mess. This doesn’t seem horrible given the fact that it was to help my mood. Gradually things got worse.
I remember the second day without my medicine as being a blur. I was so dizzy, it felt like my brain was bouncing around in my skull. I began to feel nauseous and my body was craving the serotonin that it wasn’t receiving. I had to have Andy drive me home from work because I was worried that I wasn’t going to make it safely. That night began the horrible nightmares. I would wake up in a pool of my sweat even if I slept without the covers and my windows open. I was afraid to go to sleep the rest of the week.
I got my medicine Thursday, unfortunately I couldn’t take it until the morning because it causes insomnia and I was already 10 miles past exhaustion. I went to bed with a migraine starting, and I knew it was only another side effect of my stupidity. I woke up at 2 am with tears streaming down my face because my head was hurting so bad. I crawled out of bed and took medication and gave in to taking my Cymbalta. It was a new day already, and my body was tired of suffering. Within the next day I began to feel like a completely different person. I wasn’t shaking, my brain wasn’t crying for help, and I was finally able to sleep again. I hope I never have to experience that pain again, and I’m definitely requesting a different medication when I see my psychiatrist. I should not need 90 mg of something to help me enjoy life.
As I was suffering last week, I came up with some coping mechanisms to help with my anxiety while my emotions were all over the spectrum. They really helped a lot when I couldn’t do anything to keep me sane.
- Sticky notes. My favorite thing I did was my collection of pink sticky notes on my wall at work. I am horrible about thinking that I’m the problem, or people are judging me, or things are my fault. So I took my sticky note pad and wrote myself reminders, then I stuck them all over my wall. There is nothing anybody can do when I’m breaking down to make me feel better. Seeing my sticky notes (which were written when I was okay) makes me realize that it’s in my head, nothing my brain is trying to make me believe is real.
- I work out. When I first started to withdraw from the meds, I started working out on the Boflex. I needed something to take my mind off of the side effects, and what is better than sweating all the bad gunk out? I actually finished a full workout for the first time in a very long time that day, and I only felt like I was going to pass out for 5 minutes afterward.
- I cried a lot. Throughout the week I had a lot of emotional breakdowns. There would be times where I would be perfectly fine, but would start crying out of nowhere. Of course I felt so much better after I laid in the floor with my tear soaked face. There’s just something about crying that makes the stress melt off of you. I felt like everything that I was holding in was finally released and out of my system.
- Dress as if nothing is wrong. This was a hard one. It’s hard to motivate yourself to try when you feel like there is no point. However, I felt like I had a purpose when I was actually dressed in nice clothes compared to my t-shirt with leggings attire. It felt good to look in the mirror and say “Wow you actually look pretty today. Good job,” and the compliments felt good too.
- When in doubt, take a bubble bath. or if you’re me, sit in the shower and just let the water hit you in the face. I don’t know what it is, but I always feel better after I lay in the shower floor for 15 minutes. It helps my asthma, my migraines, my anxiety, nausea, anything. Every little gross thing that is bothering you washes away, you can relax because you’re alone with yourself, and you can breathe better because of the steam. If you’re feeling super snazzy, throw a bath bomb in there and enjoy the happy colors and glitter.
How do you handle your stress or anxiety? Have you found any other ways that work for you?