Feb 15, 2009

Contributing Factors and Medication - My Story

Photo by Fade The Great

After a conversation I had last night turned to medication it seems like now is the time to talk about this. Towards the end high school physical issues emerged for me - it began with stomach aches, moved on to daily headaches, and became very strange dizziness/lightheaded-ness more recently. You can imagine how difficult it is to keep a job or even look for a job when you’re feeling like crud most days. Of course, being how we shy’s are it’s often incredibly difficult to get help for anything - I spent much too long dealing with these issues before getting a solution.

When the fear of passing out became too much I went to see the doctor. My regular doctor wasn’t in and the woman I did see seemed pretty concerned. When I told her that it felt a bit like my chest was bruised she sent me off to get tests right away and it shouldn’t wait until tomorrow. Naturally I freaked out and cried while I walked to the test centre. Blood tests, urine test, and an ECG were administered. They too were concerned about my elevated heart rate and the ‘chest pain’. “Just to be safe” they said, they called an ambulance. When it arrived I was placed on oxygen, had an IV inserted, and was put on a stretcher. I didn’t think it was necessary at all. Maybe it was a good thing they had called the ambulance for me because shortly after in the other room a man had been complaining about feeling ‘burnt out’ and they figured it was pretty serious so they used the ambulance to take him first. Another one came and took me to the hospital where I proceed to lay there for hours in the emergency ‘hallway’. My heart rate was still up around 130 BPM. It got pretty draining laying down for so long with nothing to do. More blood was taken, more vital checking, and another ECG. Finally after everything I saw the cardiologist who recommended I wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours.

The Holter monitor basically looks like a cassette player with wires coming out of it. The wires are attached by electrodes at specific places on your chest in order to monitor your heart’s activities, while the recorder hangs by your side like the most ghetto music player you’ve ever seen. All you have to do is write down your daily activities and any time you feel particularly bad. This test is completely harmless sans taking off the super sticky electrodes which leave nice little red patches for a few days.

After a rather strange and tiring couple of days I went back to the doctor for my results, and… everything was fine! A relief in a way but it also meant we’d have to keep looking for the problem.

Luckily judging by my personality and everything that I’d described as well as the excessively high heart rate there was a very likely possibility – anxiety. I was prescribed Cipralex, an antidepressant. I hadn’t thought I was really ‘depressed’ since I had little to be sad about but now it’s very obvious looking back.

The first few weeks had ups and downs. Sometimes I would feel better but my sleep was strange. Either I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d wake up in the night, or just feel plain weird. My dreams even seemed to change – strangely they were more realistic! Normally I have messed up dreams, so these were weird for me.

Eventually my body adjusted to the medication. For me not only were the physical symptoms alleviated with an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication, but I found myself happier and more open – like I knew I should feel. I felt like myself again. I’m still shy and still have bad days but in general I've improved and I’m very happy to be where I am now.

Now, medication isn’t always the answer and certainly not always the best option but if my little story sounds anything like you it’s worth it to get yourself checked out. You aren't supposed to feel miserable. The first step is to find the problem and a doctor can not only help you find it but they can give you many of the options to solving it.

I hope to revisit this topic in the future and provide a more informational overview of medication, the relationship between shyness and anxiety and depression, as well as alternatives to medication. If you have any questions you'd like answered please let me know and I'll do my best to explain.

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