I am still reeling.

What a lot can happen in the course of a few days.

The evening I wrote my virgin post,  I went to my sister’s birthday party.  This was good, I thought.  My family will be there, I love my family, there will be pizza, there will be cake, I have been feeling down and miserable since that panic attack of doom of Friday, this will be good.

And initially, it was.  Until, near the end of the evening, I went off to the bathroom and found myself bursting into tears for no reason I could name.

I cried in the bathroom for a while, until I thought I had myself under control.  The last thing I wanted to do was to come out sobbing when this was my little sister’s day.  When I thought I was all right, I came out and sat down again.  I guess that I didn’t look quite as good as I hoped, because my father moved to come sit beside me and put an arm around me.  And I burst into tears again.

I don’t remember, now, exactly what it was I said.  I told dad about Friday, where I was up and on top of the world and could not stop moving, and then crashed into this panic attack and hadn’t really picked myself up from it.   I said that despite my talk of “there are good days and bad days” I really wasn’t doing as well as I was saying.  I’m aware that I try to screen my family.  I’m not sure why I do it.

I was denied permission to return home alone.

After some discussion between my parents, it was decided that I would spend the night at my dad’s, since my mom’s house is quite a ways out of town.  I didn’t sleep much last night.  The next day I went to work for a very brief period of time, just to do some necessary paperwork.  I wept often, seemingly unable to stop.  And I went to my doctor’s appointment.

I had been taking Wellbutrin.  This is never one of the first antidepressants they put someone on, ever,  but I hadn’t had a lot of luck with others.  For some the side effects had been so bad I couldn’t deal with them (gaining sixty pounds — I will have those stretchmarks forever — or the complete and utter cessation of sleep for several days, to give a few examples) or they just really didn’t seem to, well, do anything.  I had been completely disillusioned with antidepressants.  I only agreed to the Wellbutrin when it was pointed out to me that I was so very, very depressed and that I had an unknown wait until counselling and there really should be something in between.

Well, the Wellbutrin was not working.  Conceivably, it was making things worse.  So no more of that.

Four things came out of this doctor’s appointment.

  1. We are no longer tossing around the word “depression.”  We have been trying to treat “depression” on and off for over a decade, and nothing comes of it, long-term.  My doctor is now of the opinion that the problem is not that I’m depressed and that it’s making me anxious, but that I’m highly anxious and it’s making me depressed, that this is an anxiety disorder and the depression is secondary.
  2. Anxiety disorders are somewhat out of her realm of expertise, and she’s writing me a referral to a psychiatrist.
  3. She replaced my Wellbutrin prescription for escitalopram (brand name Cipralex, apparently).  I have been on citalopram, but that “es” at the beginning is apparently important, because this one is an antidepressant that is extremely good for patients with anxiety disorders.
  4. Antidepressants take a long time to work, and I am on the line of barely-functional-with-suicidal-thoughts right now, so for the short term she has given me a prescription for clonazepam, a benzodiazeprine.  Clonazepam is a  muscle relaxant, anti-seizure, and anti-anxiety drug.  It is also dependency-forming and addictive.

This last one.

I recognise that I can only been on clonazepam for a short period of time.  I recognise the possibility of dependancy and withdrawal syndrome, and these are scary things to think about.

But it has given me my life back.

Two days ago, I could not see how I could ever possibly manage to carry on any further.  I was so exhausted, so drained, in so much mental agony that I wanted everything to stop, to go away, to end.  Within a very short time of taking the first dose, Monday night, all the muscles in my body that had been taut and tight with tension miraculously relaxed.  I relaxed.  I went to bed, and I actually slept.  When I woke up in the morning, my father looked at me and said, “You look better.”  I went through my day, worked the longest day I have since I came back from my sick leave, and it was fine.  Things happened that would have upset me terribly, but I was fine.  I went home, briefly, had a nice conversation with one of my housemates, and went back out.  I caught the bus out to my dad’s, something I have never done.  I do not know the route, I am not entirely sure where to ring the bell, and the bus that goes out that way, being a not-very-highly-populated route, runs once and hour and uses one of the handicapped-equipped handi-DART mini buses instead of the full citybus, which I have never ridden on.  The reason I’ve never actually gone out to my father’s that way since realising it was possible is simply that it scared the crap of me, that trying to plan it out swept me up in an unstoppable vortex of agony and anxiety and nerves.  Yesterday?  None of that.  I even rang the bell at the wrong time, and it didn’t matter, and I even joked about not knowing where I was going to the bus driver, and I did not agonise about it for hours afterwards.

It’s not that the anxiety is not there.  It is; it’s just that it doesn’t consume my thoughts entirely, and I’m able to think about other things.  And despite that it makes me sleepy and the fact that there’s a lingering feeling of having drunk half a beer far too fast, that feeling of being free from that constantly, oppressive anxiety… it’s like being able to think clearly for the first time.  I feel better than I have in months.  Possibly in years.  I am over the moon.

This is like being forced to breathe only through a very thin and narrow straw.  Sometimes that’s fine, but if you want to get up and do things, take a brisk walk, clean vigorously, run a marathon — you can’t do it.  It bcomes difficult.  You can’t get enough breath.  Suddenly having this experience is like suddenly having the straw taken away, and being allowed to breathe through my mouth.  I did not know it was possible to think like this.

It is, alas, temporary.  Hopefully the therapy, the psychiatrist, the antidepressant will be doing a good job by the time I need to stop taking this.

But, my god.  What a difference.

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