Coping with Anxiety: Finding Treatment

This week’s segment of my “Coping with Anxiety” series deals with finding proper treatment. My journey finally takes a turn in the right direction! Last week I wrote about struggling with my old doctor and finding a new one. After two months without a proper diagnosis from my old doctor, I’d had enough! While I liked my old doctor well enough, I needed better help and decided to get a second opinion.

Coping with Anxiety - Finding Treatment

 

If you’re just now stumbling across this series on my blog, you might want to start at the beginning of this four-part story:

Coping with Anxiety: My Journey – part one

Coping with Anxiety: The Abyss – part two

My journey with anxiety began with a simple cold, which blossomed into a nasty flu. One physical ailment led to another and many weeks later I was sure there was something seriously wrong with me. That’s when the anxiety started settling in.

Last week I ended “the abyss” portion of the journey with my weird and scary experience with an ocular migraine – a type I’ve never had before where my vision became weirdly distorted. The next couple of mornings I feared I’d have another episode of distorted vision, but one day passed after the next with no recurrence and I started to relax a bit. I did however, start having my typical migraines each afternoon. Not that I typically have a migraine each day – I don’t. In fact, I rarely have them. But they were the type of migraine that was familiar to me. I was beyond frustrated. It felt like one area of illness would get better, only to be replaced by something else.

I had another scheduled appointment with my new doctor and told him about the recurring migraine headaches. He took one look at me and said, “I want to put you on something.” Now mind you, he knows I don’t like medication but at this point, I was ready for help of almost any kind. He wrote me a prescription for a very low dose of Citalopram, which is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). In high doses it treats depression; lower doses are used for treating anxiety.

My doctor told me that in very simple terms, my brain isn’t making enough serotonin to help me cope with the stresses of life. Citalopram tells my brain to make more serotonin so I can deal with things that make me nervous or stressed out. The doctor told me I probably wouldn’t feel any side affects and it could take two weeks or more to feel the positive effects of the drug. Well, I did feel side affects – drowsiness and an upset stomach. After being sick for so long, I wasn’t about to deal with new physical ailments and called the doctor’s office about it.

Pale Rose

I was told I could cut the medication in half from 10 mg. to 5 mg. Honestly, I just didn’t want to take it at all, but my husband encouraged me to give it a try. “I think you’re having anxiety about taking anxiety medication,” he said. He was probably right. The nurse also told me that the side affects should eventually wear off. That night I reduced the dosage and hoped for the best. What else was I going to do?

I woke up the next morning feeling okay. Not great, but not bad. Over the next couple weeks the side affects varied a bit – the occasional dry mouth, a random twinge in leg muscles, an occasional heart flutter – but nothing that incapacitated me. As time went on, the random side affects started going away.

Day after day, week after week, that internal heat that I feared and dreaded did not return. Still – I had gone for 3 weeks without that heat only to have it reappear out of seemingly nowhere, so I wasn’t holding my breath. But then three weeks became six weeks without heat and I started feeling hopeful – finally! I had a doctor’s appointment coming up soon and was prepared to tell him I was okay for the most part. I was feeling like my old self and had even started running again! That was a huge milestone!

But a couple days before the doctor’s appointment I started feeling anxious. My nerves felt raw. I started feeling warm, too. Not that awful internal heat, but warmer than normal. Enough to make me nervous. When I shared that information with my doctor he told me to bump the dosage back up to the original 10 mg. He said none of his Citalopram patients were on 5 mg. – just me. I followed his advice and have been on 10 mg. of Citalopram since mid-June of 2017. I never would’ve thought that a little pill could turn me around like it did. The migraines, the heat, the weak legs – it all just disappeared!

Sometimes now, out of the blue, I feel a bit of nervousness come on and wonder if I need to increase my dose again. But since I don’t like taking medication, I try to do something positive when that happens – like go for a walk or perform a random act of kindness – you get the idea. I find it helps if I don’t focus on myself when I start feeling a bit anxious. It also helps to have a proper diagnosis under my belt. I’m not constantly worrying about what’s wrong with me. Now I can mentally tell myself not to worry about my health – I’ve certainly had enough tests that tell me I’m okay!

Pink Dahlia

And then there’s prayer. I remember that no matter what, God is always with me. I’m in His hands and I find that to be a really comforting place to rest. I visually picture myself in His hands. I’m working on my faith in Christ – I often fail, but failure is part of the spiritual journey. And God is always there to pick me back up again. Even writing this right now, I feel a sense of encouragement and peace from His Holy Spirit.

Next week I’ll wrap up this series on anxiety by sharing what I’ve learned throughout the process, and what pushed me over the edge. Yes, the Citalopram has been extremely helpful and a huge sense of relief for me. But there are so many other things I learned about myself and others through this process that I want to share with all of you, in the hopes that it well help you if you’re traveling the same path of anxiety and fear!

Thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me – it truly means the world to me!

 

Read the Entire Series:

Coping with Anxiety: My Recent Journey – part one

Coping with Anxiety: The Abyss – part two

Coping with Anxiety: Finding Treatment – part three

Coping with Anxiety: Moving Forward – part four

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Comments

  1. Again, thank you Jennifer, for sharing your journey. I know it is difficult, but you made it and continue to gain strength. May God continue to bless you.

  2. My husband was put on that drug 3 years ago and it has been a godsend! He takes 10 mg per day as well. Congrats for searching out a new doctor.

    • Hi Cheryl! I’m glad your hubby was able to get some relief. I’d never heard of Citalopram before I started taking it. I know someone else who takes it – she calls it her happy pill. 🙂

  3. I hope your doctor has talked with you about nutrition, and other lifestyle factors. Unfortunately most doctors know next to nothing about real nutrition and how it absolutely affects our health, for many reasons.

    • Hi Terri! I do try to exercise regularly (I used to be a fitness instructor and am now an avid runner). I need to work on my diet though. I like sweets but I know how harmful sugar can be. Processed foods, too. And sleep is critical! Thanks so much for your helpful reminder!

      • Hi Jennifer, Sugar is not the only ‘harmful’ food. I have a FB page you could check out if you’d like. I don’t sell anything. I’m trying to bring awareness about health…all the aspects that need to be addressed. The page is called ‘Think Fungus First’,…crazy name, but it’s also about how fungus/yeast/mold/mycotoxins can and do affect our health status….along with other things. Thanks!

  4. Jennifer, thanks for sharing your story. I just want to add, for those that struggle with taking this kind of medication, to hang in there if the first one or two don’t help. For me, it took trying three different medications to find the right fit for my body/type of depression and anxiety I have. It is very hard to go through the process of starting, failing, and getting off a medication… and then starting over again on something else. That was my situation. But eventually I did find the right medication that works for me. It’s so important to have a loved one walk with you during this time, to give you another set of ears and eyes in the doctors office, and just to support you.
    Glad you are feeling better. Glad I’m feeling better!

    • Hi Christine! I’ve heard it can take several attempts to get the right medication and dosage. I’m so sorry it took several attempts before getting it right in your situation. I was a little worried that would happen to me, too. And then I worried, “what if nothing works?” Ugh! The mind of an anxious worrywart! That’s me. 😉 So glad you’re better!!!

  5. Jennifer, I am so glad you found something that helps with the anxiety. It pays to seek another doctor if a problem persists. We all doubt our faith from time to time but you have persevered and are on the right track to good health.

  6. Hi Jennifer,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am on fluoxetine (prozac) for depression and GAD & it has helped me so much. I’ve been taking it, on and off, for almost 30 years. I’ve tried to wean off or try another SSRI but I always come back to this one. For me, the citalpram made me edgy. It’s funny how we all have different reactions on different meds. I’m so glad you found the one that works for you! Having strong faith helps a lot, too. ❤️ God Bless.

    • Hi Karen! Thanks for sharing your treatment information. When I complained to my sister about the initial side affects of the Citalopram, she said basically the same thing you just said – and that it could take a few tries with different medications and doses to find the right path. I’m glad you’ve found what works for you. God bless you, too!

  7. Another Home Run, Jennifer! I think that I speak for your other readers when I say, “Thank you and we are so proud of and grateful to you for sharing this story.”
    Most often, that is the necessary component of final healing. You are sure giving that ol’ devil a few good whacks!! 👏

    • Thank you, Deb! I’m not gonna lie, it was really hard to write the first installment – it brought back memories of all the fear and loneliness I felt at that time. God gave me the strength to share my story. 🙂

  8. Again, thank you so much for writing this series. Baring your soul is not easy, but this can benefit so many others. In fact, I need to get a loved one to read this because they have many of the same symptoms, and the doctor is leaning towards anxiety as the issue, rather than ADD that was diagnosed many years ago. I’m beginning to agree.

    • Hi Tracy! I’m glad you’ve found this helpful. The right diagnosis is key and that’s all I focused on after realizing my flu symptoms were part of something bigger. I hope your loved one is able to find relief soon. It could make a world of difference!

  9. It takes a strong person, both physically and mentally, to travel the path that you’ve been on. I’m so happy you’ve found the right solution to your problem. I’ve never experienced clinical anxiety, so can’t say I understand what you’ve gone through, but the telling of your story has made me more aware of personal difficulties possibly and probably being experienced by those close to me. Thanks for the first 3 parts of your journey and I’m looking forward to your last installment where you share your insights on why this happened and how you’ll deal with this condition going forward. We all have our methods of coping and while I’m not a religious person, I have faith in the power and spirit of the Universe and Nature, so I’m happy that your faith in a higher power has helped you conquer and flourish.

    • Thank you, Pat! Someone I know experienced the death of a son and were devastated. But after time, they began to realize they had “healing under their wings” and could help others who experienced the loss of a child. I hope that’s something I never have to go through, but I truly admired this couple’s willingness to turn their tragedy into something positive. Thank you for following my story!!

  10. Marlene Stephenson says:

    Thank you Jennifer, everyone needs to know that anxiety is real and comes indifferent form and we need not be ashamed just get help. You have certainly helped i am sure, God has used you for the purpose to help someone and i am so very proud of what you have done. God Bless you dear friend.

    • Thank you so much, Marlene! Your words mean a lot to me. I do hope more people will talk about anxiety and depression and get the help they need. God wants us to have an abundant life!

  11. Roberts response, I think you’re having anxiety about taking anxiety meds. Totally spot on, I’m glad he was so supportive during this time. I’m like you In this way. I HATE prescription drugs, but I’ve seen it help so many of my friends in such a tremendous way. I’ve noticed such a change in you since all of this. I remember hanging out for the first time in awhile with Bear, seeing that excitement on your face, laughter and you playing with him. I thought to myself, my mom is back (not that you were gone persay, but I think you get what I’m saying) she’s happy and joyful and free again. I’m crying as I write this, thank you pregnancy hormones!

    • Thanks sweetie! I do know what you meant by saying “your mom is back again.” I certainly felt lost during that whole ordeal and wondered if I’d ever be “me” again. Now I have understanding of what others go through and what they might be struggling with. I’ll write more about that next week in the final series. 🙂

  12. I’m so glad you found the right doctor and got the right treatment! I am very anxious to read what you’ve uncovered about yourself next week. This has been a very eye-opening, enlightening journey! Thank you for sharing it. I know you are helping so many of your readers including me!

    • Thank you so much, Donna! I’m really glad I found the right doctor, too. I often think how much sooner I would’ve gotten better had I been already seeing him. I’m glad this series has helped you, and anyone else. 🙂

  13. Hi Jennifer, I have been reading this series. Haven’t said anything because I have been dealing with bronchitis.

    I know about this all too well. Chemical depression runs in my family. Having MS is a double whammy because depression comes with disease. Mine is also anxiety driven. Sometimes, as much as we think we can fight battles that are health related is an unrealistic expectation.

    You know what, that’s okay. Not a sign of weakness or mind over matter. God put doctors in the world for a reason. We have the blessings of be able to utilize their gifts to help us. Having dealt with these diseases makes me understand the process and need to put my life in the hands of medicine because they really are a gift.

    I trust my team of doctors and I am fortunate to have access to the best in their field.

    Sorry you have this going on and put you faith God since he created the doctors to be here to help.

    Cindy

    • Hi Cindy,

      I’m glad you have a great team of doctors. It makes all the difference in the world. There’s no way I could’ve fought this battle with anxiety on my own. The medication has bee a game-changer for me. I hope that you have a healthy year ahead of you!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing !! It’s so important. Glad you are better and bringing awareness. I was on Sumatriptan (severe, cluster migraines), Citalphram (for anxiety). The Triptans stopped working and i became really ill in the summer (made migraines worse). Really need anxiety meds in the right doses, but waiting for my 9month follow-up. Worry wart to the n-th degree and i need to change that. Stay well, healthy and happy! May 2018 be the best yet ox

    • Hi Chris! So sorry about those nasty migraines! They can really knock you out. I hope your follow-up appointment goes well. I hope you have a healthy and happy 2018!

  15. Jennifer,
    So thankful you found a doctor and medication that helps you and praising God that your journey involves Him!! I so appreciate your honesty in your story and thank you for not being hesitant in bringing your faith into the equation! Revealing ones self as you have takes courage and grace. 🙏🏻
    Denise

  16. You have educated and helped so many people, me included, with this blog and the posts about your anxiety. I wonder whether my husband could be helped with something. We’ll be visiting our doctor soon. Thanks.

    • Hi Eileen! I know a lot of people don’t like going to the doctor, but if he/she can help it’s so worth it. I hope your hubby is able to get some help. It was a game-changer for me!

  17. I follow your blog and I was interested in this post. I too had a bad flu in January of 2014. After that my body changed and I too was experiencing symptoms, and what made it worse was that I was going through the change of life. I have never suffered from migraines like you, but it is crazy the amount of symptoms we experience from the loss of estrogen, let alone body chemistry changes after an illness. I have experienced that twice off of flu bugs. What test confirmed that serotonin was the definite cause/issue? Curious. When you described the terrible hot flashes, blurred vision…I immediately thought…”’35 symptoms of menopause” and wore anxiety” is even one of them too. Lord knows, I have researched enough about what a female body goes through. Happy that you are coping and in a good place now. Prayers for all… as this current flu epidemic is rather concerning. Yes Jennifer, does have us all in the palm of his hand.

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