I Went!

I went to the doctor. I described my life. She said there’s no need to be embarrassed. Anxiety is very common. She thinks I have general anxiety disorder, which I was going to argue against, but then, like, I can’t use the stairs without having a panic attack, so I guess I’m arranging my life a lot so that I don’t notice that I have this thing that affects me all the time, which is nuts, but okay.

So, she’s going to do what she can for me, which is basically sertraline every day and alprazolam for when I’m having a panic attack, so that I don’t, you know, get stranded in rural Tennessee again.

If this doesn’t help–though I am wondering how I’ll judge “help;” I guess I’ll have to wait and  see–then I get to go to a psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety who can either prescribe other drugs or work with me to develop ways to retrain my brain or both.

But I had to laugh when she was describing all the ways these drugs would help me because it sure as shit seemed like I could get the same effect from becoming a pothead.

Anyway, I was embarrassed and it was horrible, but it was also fine and I’m glad I gutted up and did it.

But I also want to say, just for the sake of thoroughness and trying to understand myself, that I think I was avoiding this because, at some level, I have internalized my dad’s belief that some forms of mental stuff is just because you’re soft and a baby. And I am soft and a baby, so I kept waiting to work up the strength of will to get over it.

But I told the doctor, too, that the hardest part about the panic attacks–which you guys know–is the feeling that I can’t integrate what my senses tell me–everything is fine, look, you are not falling–with the sense that I am, in fact, falling and going to die. And, you know, obviously, I don’t want to die, especially not in a really unpleasant way, so if all it took were willing myself to be better, I would have done it before now.

So, that’s that. Victory is mine. I have a mental illness, which I kind of knew, considering the panic attacks, but I also got to be in denial about because I never had a doctor say it to me. The upside is that I guess this means I don’t have to break myself of the habit of saying crazypants or lunatic or nuts or whatever, because now I’m just reclaiming the terms, which is good, because I can’t give up lunatic, because I love the idea of the moon reaching in you and pulling at you and making you do things. The moon, the inescapable hypnotist.

Ha, I should write a story called “The Inescapable Hypnotist.” Not tonight, though.

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9 thoughts on “I Went!

  1. Very proud of you. Remember, if your brain doesn’t make adequate neurochemicals, storebought is fine.
    And we, as a society, must embrace treating illnesses and issues of the brain just like illnesses or issues with any other body part. If you had a nasty boil or tonsillitis or cancer, fuck yeah you would fix it! And everyone would be supportive and no one would think it’s weird. THIS IS NO DIFFERENT.
    And I totally support you.

  2. Assuming you don’t already read this particular blog, Jen Yates (of Cake Wrecks) write a lot about dealing with her anxiety at epbot.com. There’s a couple of years worth of material written there – it’s a long journey, but there’s progress and hope and support and all kinds of good people. High fives for the progress!!

  3. So glad for you! Sertraline generally takes some time (weeks or even months) to kick in completely, but if it doesn’t *start* working for you soon, don’t be afraid to ask if you can increase the dosage.

  4. Betsy, the step you just took is huge and so very difficult, and for once I know what I’m talking about. I internalized that same stuff you talk about–that my mental illness is really weakness. Who hasn’t? We give lip service to mental illness as a medical issue but deep down we still see it as a character flaw. This may sound smarmy or cliched or whatever, but taking action in spite of that stigma is actually very strong. I commend you.

    Welcome to the club. I hope you find the right drugs and they make your life better.

  5. Aw, you guys are very lovely. I am looking forward to being able to go up and down stairs without crying and not having to let strangers drive my car. I am also looking forward to the nausea passing. It does pass, right? Someone tell me it does.

  6. I second the epbot recommendation and would like to offer one of my own. When I first got diagnosed with panic disorder I read “The Ten Best Ever Anxiety Management Tips” and I it was so incredibly helpful. It walks you through what your brain is going doing and why, and ways to change it with and without medication.

  7. The nausea may be from an interaction of the sertraline with something else. It really ought not to make you nauseated. Are you taking it with food?

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