Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"May cause dizziness" - Confessions & reflections on Mental Health Awareness Month

I am lucky. Until now, I have never suffered from anxiety and depression like some of my friends and family do.  Perhaps that is why I didn't realize how far down the rabbit hole emotionally I was until something very simple happened.

To back up a little bit, last fall I was having some breathing issues that I thought were allergy related. As it is not unusual to react to new environments after a move I didn't protest when my doctors prescribed some new medicines for me to try.  The next time I went in I was prescribed more meds as my breathing was labored, my heart was racing sporadically and my blood pressure was all very erratic. Tests were ordered to discover whether I might have pulmonary fibrosis (as it is present in my family) or an artery blockage.

As you can imagine, I felt like crap.  I was anxious and scared to think I might need major surgery or have a fatal illness.  I found it harder and harder to simply move. I found it harder and harder to get motivated to work.  I slogged through my days- doing what needed to be done and nothing more. I wasn't sleeping well and had to drag myself out of bed in the morning.  Simply, I was not my normal self.

After my exploratory surgery determined I indeed did not need a bypass I told my doctors I wanted a re-set. That I felt over medicated - lightheaded, jittery and erratic. I asked if there was any harm to discontinuing the pulmonary and heart pills I was on for a week or two. With their blessing, I discontinued them.

Two days later I woke up and told my husband "I feel like myself, instead of trying to ACT like myself."
Turns out the initial medication I was placed on just causing me to physically have the symptoms of panic attacks, anxiety and depression without the stereotypical "blue" feelings. I assumed Ifelt nervous and sad because of my escalating physical symptoms. Laying in bed at night and having my pulse leap to 98 beats a minute, breaking out in a cold sweat reading a book, being half way through a 2 mile walk and not being able to catch my breath - none of this was anything I have ever encountered.  

Lucky me, my mental health issues were solved by NOT taking a pill.  I have a whole new sympathy for people that have depression creep up on them or suffer from other mental illness.  When I confessed to close friends and family what had happened, everyone, EVERYONE was surprised and nobody saw it happening. Even those friends that suffer from depression themselves did not recognize it in me until I started reeling off my symptoms.  Then they recognized themselves.

1 in 5 people in the United States suffer from some sort of mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) has a plethora of resources to access if you or a loved one needs help.  If you want to learn more about the warning signs of mental illness check out their link here

If you need help, please ask for it. If you love someone that deals with the reality of managing a mental illness every day, educate yourself on how you can help them.  If you don't think you know someone that struggles with mental illness you are misinformed, you do.  

1 in 5

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
PS It seems like most of my health issues at this point can be solved by losing 50 pounds so cheer me on if you see me out walking. Of course they are still are threatening me with a statin but I am a little gun shy...

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