Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"It's all in your head."

Is there anything more frustrating than having someone tell you that? Well, yes... it's even more frustrating when it's a medical professional, and it's taken you a good 13 years to actually get up the courage to tell a doctor about it.

I have panic attacks. They're not an every day thing-- I may go three or four months without having one, or even longer sometimes. And then I may have three in one week.

If you've never had one, you're a very a lucky duck, and I'm envious. If you have had one, you know how absolutely fucking terrifying they can be.

I had the first one in high school, in first period band. It came along with a flashback of abuse that happened to me when I was younger, and I had no idea what was going on. I was scared, felt like I couldn't breathe (though I could breathe-- it just felt like someone was holding my head under water), and my heart was hammering in my chest. I was too scared to get up, too scared to leave the band hall, and I just put my head down on top of the marimba in front of me and hoped to hell I didn't die, and the band director didn't notice and call me out in front of everyone.

So when I told the doc yesterday that I'd wanted to ask him about something for anxiety attacks, and he said he'd up my Prozac to 40mg. I figured he misunderstood, and thought I meant generalized anxiety, and I'd kinda been considering asking if I could go to a little bit higher dose anyway, so I just nodded blindly and didn't press the issue. I was already naked (with sheets, but naked still) for my annual girly exam, and I'm never very eloquent when naked. Besides, I had the last one in mid-December; surely it would be a while before I had another, right?

Wrong. I left early for school this morning, intending to get there in time to go to the library and do a little studying. I had my first quiz in micro today, and I was going to go look over my notes again. (I should stress right now that I do NOT get test anxiety, so this wasn't an 'omg, I have to take a test' freakout. I freaking LOVE to take tests. I realize that makes me a dork and a nerd, and probably a weirdo, but so be it. I've loved them since kindergarten.) My school's a 30-ish minute drive from my house, and things were good until I got to the exit from the parkway (about 3 minutes from the school). I started feeling shaky, and I knew what was coming. By the time I pulled into a parking spot 3 minutes later, I was shaking so hard there was no way I would've been able to walk. My entire chest felt like there was a hummingbird inside of it trying to beat its way out. I did the only things I could do, which were stay in the car, turn the cold air on full blast (these damn things cause my roscea to flare horribly, so I have red hot burning splotchy face in addition to everything else), and tell myself over and over that it was okay, I was safe, I wasn't really going to die.

20 minutes later I'd stopped shaking enough that I could walk to class. Note I said I'd stopped shaking enough to walk-- not stopped shaking entirely. I just hope everyone around me thought I was cold and was shivering.

So after class I call to speak to the doctor's nurse, because I've suffered through these things long enough, and I finally decided to listen to people who've told me there are things that can help. The doctor calls me back, asks what's going on, and he tells me "Well, that's why we upped your Prozac. It'll take 3 or 4 weeks... if it still doesn't help then call me back." I tell him I had one this morning and was shaking so bad I couldn't walk, and he asks what happens when I have one. I tell him about the chest pain and rapid heartbeat, and the shaking... and he tells me to get a plastic bag and have it with me at all times, and breathe into that when I have one. I'm too dumbfounded to say anything other than okay, because... I don't hyperventilate when I have a panic attack. Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe, but I always can, and I don't start gasping for air. A bag is not going to help this. And at no point did I say "I have trouble breathing." (You know... not to mention if I've been having these for 13+ years, it's a pretty fair bet I've tried the bag trick and all the other helpful little tips for getting yourself through an attack.) And then he tells me that I need to learn the right way to take control of these things, that if I'm in nursing school or will be, there will be drug testing (yeah, I realize that. Hence why I would want a prescription instead of finding someone who has one and asking them to give me a handful of pills) and I need to just breathe into the bag and tell myself it's all in my head, that it's a panic attack and I'm going to take charge of it.

Yeah. That'll fix it. I'm sure that'll fix it, because I've only been trying that for the past decade, and do you know what happens when I tell myself "You're just having a panic attack. It's all in your head. Calm down. It's not real."? It gets worse instead of better. My brain says "Well, if it's not real, why can't you stop it? Just stop it. You can stop it right now if it's not real," and the shaking gets worse, the hammering in my chest gets worse. Sometimes I get so freaked out I start crying.

The extra 20mg of Prozac that are supposedly going to fix this? Well, I've been on 40mg before, and the panic attacks didn't stop. I've been on much higher doses of antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds, and they didn't stop.

I'm so frustrated. I'm not wanting something to take every day. I assume that's what he's thinking I'm asking for. I'm wanting enough for an as-needed basis. PRN. 15 pills would probably last me an entire year or longer.

I'm lucky at least that my mom understands, and I think was just as frustrated as I was. I told her at least six months ago that I intended to ask for something to help me at my next appointment, and she told me she thought he'd write me a prescription. She dealt with my grandma having attacks that were very similar to the ones I have, so she knows how scary they are.

Unfortunately, I don't have insurance, so it's not as simple as just finding another doctor to see.

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