Wellness Check: I’m actually okay!

I’m gonna be honest, for a minute there, it felt like I was never going to be okay. I wrote about my struggles with medications and mental health in this post, and it was a real shit show for awhile there. Like I mentioned previously, I’ve been on some form of anti-anxiety medicines since the age of 12, and I felt the full force of my condition getting off of them back in August.

With my new dual-diagnosis of anxiety and ADHD, I was put on a medicine called Strattera which, on paper, should have ticked all the boxes and treated both conditions. But between withdrawals from getting off of effexor and then just worst case scenario side effects from the new meds, ya girl was a hot fucking mess.

And wow, does it feel uncomfortable to admit it and talk about it. It was scary, I’m not going to lie. I’ve never felt so out of control of my own mind. My body constantly felt it was in a state of fight-or-flight, I was getting physically ill, sweating non-stop, flushing, extreme chills, brain zaps, bone aches, weight loss, shakes, my sense of smell became more sensitized and every scent was making me dry heave (in public, so embarrassing omg), crying from constant overstimulation, super emotional, and just extremely anxious.

I’ll also admit how badly my school suffered during this period. The irony of almost failing pharmacology while going through my own pharma induced nightmare does not escape me… at least we can all laugh about it now… ha ha ho ho so funny.

I think one of the hardest parts of the experience, The Great Downward Spiral of 2019 as I like to call it (TGDSO2019 for short), was the shame that came with it. I felt so much shame and embarrassment for not having full control of my mind. I could sit and rationalize every single thing that was stressing me out, that I was obsessing over, but I couldn’t stop the worry that drowned me. I couldn’t control my emotions like a “functioning” adult. It just felt like I couldn’t get my shit together. I can honestly say, it was the most extended, acute physical challenge I’ve ever endured. It was a dark time, but I made it through.

Now, with medications that are right for my body and mind (I am on a low dose of Prozac and something called Guanfacine, which helps with mental ordering and executive function with ADHD), I can reflect on how much I overcame, not how I may have failed to fit some mold of normalcy. Mental illness and neurodiversity are as real as any other disease out there. It isn’t weakness. It isn’t a lack of ability. It isn’t something you can wish, pray, meditate away. It’s a pathologic condition that isn’t my fault and doesn’t define me.

In a weird way, I’m glad I went through the physical and mental ringer these past 12 weeks. It showed me a great deal about myself and my resiliency. It was also an excellent check on the stigma I still carry about my own illnesses.

I’m in the midst of Hell Week at school—quizzes, projects, exams, practicals every single day—and somehow, I am doing okay. Like, really okay. Better than I’ve been in probably four years okay. I have a new found confidence in my abilities to power through extremely difficult times. I do feel extremely fortunate as well, and I recognize how lucky I am to be have the means to seek treatment and to have a partner and family that are gentle with me during dark times like that.

I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who reached out to me during that time. The kindness I received from strangers on the internet was one of the most comforting things I found during that time, and I am so grateful for the encouragement and kind words.

As always, my inbox is open if you ever want to talk!

HEY, I’M REALLY NOT OKAY: A Talk About my Mental Health & Medications

I’m taking a break from talking about books and writing to discuss the absolute shit show that is my physical and mental health right now. I wrote my first novel as #OwnVoices for anxiety disorders, and I think I need to start practicing more of what my characters preach.

History of me:

The first panic attack I remember was in first grade. In school, we would have to read books on our own time and take a short comprehension test on the computer. I was always an avid reader, devouring anything I could get my grubby hands on, but the thought of these exams sent my poor seven-year old heart spiraling into panic. I put the tests off until the teacher told me I absolutely had to take it. I remember walking up to that computer, my hands shaking, vision blurring, blackness creeping in at the edges, and hyperventilating my way through that exam.

By the time I was twelve, my anxiety was so bad I was only sleeping about 2.5 hours a night, up worrying about EVERYTHING, but mainly school. My worries and anxiety always centered around grades and assignments and my performance. I was suffering from panic attacks so frequently, I was finally taken to a child psychiatrist who diagnosed me with acute panic syndrome and anxiety induced depression. I was put on Prozac, the dosage tweaked throughout the years.

The meds helped but it didn’t take away my anxiety, it more just made me passably functional with this constant fist wrapped around my chest.

At 19, I decided I wanted to try different medications. After trying a few that actually made my anxiety so much worse, I was put on Effexor, a drug I asked to try because it worked for a friend and also helped her lose a ton of weight (sick, right?).

I’m not a fan of Effexor. Missing a dose even by 12 hours means I’m knocked on my ass by physical withdrawals. Nausea, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, and these electrical pulses in my brain that are truly awful. As much as I hate this drug, the fear of how I would physically survive getting off of it kept me on it.

I started dental school last year at 23, and it was the worst mental health year I’ve ever experienced. My anxiety was constant. Heart palpitations, daily panic attacks, worry induced insomnia. I walked through every day feeling like I couldn’t breathe, worries circling and rebounding around my mind until I couldn’t focus on anything but the physical manifestations of this anxiety. I found a lot of outlets to cope with these feelings—I even took up running and ran a half marathon, and then decided to write a whole damn book, but I digress.

I went to the student health center about my anxiety and depression and some random nurse doubled my meds on the spot. This made me incredibly ill, but I didn’t know what to do, so I kept taking them.

I found the first psychiatrist on my insurance plan that would take me. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get an appointment with a psychiatrist? HARD. Ridiculously hard. Even harder for me to find a therapist, I’ve been reaching out to different providers on my plan for over a year with no luck.

Isn’t that fucked up? Isn’t it crazy how we like to talk about mental health as a trendy buzzword in elections and advertisements and books and movies, but I’ve been trying to see a therapist for a year and rarely even get a call back to let me know their schedule is booked? Isn’t it fucked up that the psychiatrist I finally got in to see about my medications would spend the half hour she allotted me asking me the same questions as the previous visit because she didn’t bother to remember my answers? I’m talking questions like “any family history or high blood pressure, cancer, depression, etc” shit that was covered at the initial consultation.

After putting up with this for months, I decided I needed better. I needed a doctor that would actually listen to me.

I bit the bullet and paid $450 to see a private practice psychiatrist, and I guess it’s true you get what you pay for. Because he’s amazing. EXPENSIVE AS FUCK. But amazing. So I charge these appointments to my already stretched thin credit card because, for the first time since I was twelve, I feel like someone is actually taking my mental illness seriously.

After a lot of talking and testing, he’s actually diagnosed me with Adult ADHD combined with my anxiety disorder. Getting this new diagnosis was like finally being seen after years of waving my arms around in the dark. I’ve started researching ADHD more and more, and can’t believe how well it fits me. I never was disruptive in classes, or struggled in school, so no one ever took the time to consider this neurodiversity may be contributing the anxiety that has shackled itself to my ankles my whole life.

I’ve recently been put on Strattera, a drug shown to treat both ADHD and anxiety, and I’m being weened off of Effexor.

But this is where things get interesting.

This transition of medications has me feeling physcially worse than I’ve ever felt in my life. I wake up feeling almost drunk, everything dizzy, my tongue heavy, limbs not working. I want to throw up and I can’t stop sweating while shaking with chills. My heart won’t stop pounding and I’m forgetting to eat. It feels impossible to get out of bed and even harder to go to school and try to learn to be a dentist when my hands aren’t fucking working.

All of these withdrawal effects fall under “normal,” which is insane to me, but I’m trusting the process, despite feeling like I’m dying.

And I guess my point with all of this is, sometimes being neurodiverse fucking sucks. I wish so much the issues with my mind could be healed like a broken arm. Sometimes I wish my illness showed up on my body like a scar, so I could point to it and tell people: “There. Right there. That’s where it hurts, that’s what needs fixed. That spot is why I’m crying and hurting and you can see it so you know I’m not faking it.”

But instead, people question why I’m so stressed, what I really have to worry about, why I can’t see that things are okay? People tell me not to worry about it, tell me to let things go, tell me to rise above it. But they can’t comprehend that I can’t do that. I WANT TO SCREAM AT THEM: YOU THINK I LIKE FEELING THIS WAY? YOU THINK I LIKE BEING THIS OUT OF CONTROL OF MY MIND WITH WORRIES? YOU THINK I LIKE THAT MY BODY TREATS ME IN THIS CRUEL WAY? I can’t stop the swarm of bees jolting and stinging around my brain. I can’t put a road block to the obsessive worry that circles and circles my chest at night.

My disorders are never something I hide, but they are something I get tired of having to explain and justify.

Getting a medical degree can make it even more frustrating. We learn illness after illness and exactly how to treat it. For X you take Y, for A you take 2B.

But there’s so much guesswork with the mind. You may have H but it could also be 2D with a touch of M and we can try treating it with L or P or a mix but then hey you may get 100x worse and want to crawl out of your skin. Or we could miss the root cause altogether and treat you for something completely wrong while inhibiting your ability to emotionally, mentally, and physically function.

So, all four of you that read this blog, I’m telling you I’m not okay, but I’m hopeful I will be. I’m telling you this because it’s important that people start admitting when they aren’t okay.

I need to admit this because, for the next few weeks, I will not be a good student, I will not be good with my hands in the lab, I will not be a good friend, daughter, girlfriend, writer, blogger, runner, reader…

But I’m trying.

I’m trying so fucking hard.

And I see you, if you’re trying too. Don’t give up the good fight, and don’t be afraid to let the world know you’re going to battle.

Side note: I’m shocked number of accurate gifs out there for mental health and I feel hella seen

FINALLY

So, I’ve been in a hella slump with life lately. Reading slump, writing slump, query slump, exercise slump…

Quick update on the query process: I’m probably doing it wrong 😂

I’ve read a lot of advice that encourage writers to query in batches of five and wait for feedback. Which makes so much sense. Unless you’re me and have absolutely no chill or self-control and just go nuts querying everyone.

Okay, okay, I’ll give myself a modicum of credit and say I’ve put weeks and weeks and weeks of research into who I’m querying and I’m very intentional about why I’m querying them, I’m just AWFUL about waiting to query this list I’ve worked so hard on.

With all that said, right now I have one full MS out and a partial, which I am SO EXCITED ABOUT. But I’ve also received a ton of rejection.

AND DAMN, REJECTION HURTS SO MUCH. It really does. No one likes to be rejected and having it be about something so personal feels like sending out a nude and receiving a nice but cold rejection letter.

But each rejection gets easier. I’m holding out faith that what’s meant to be is exactly what will happen with my work and I’m trying to believe that every rejection brings me one step closer to the acceptance.

I’ve also been putting so much into this process that I’m kind of lost in the forest and not seeing the trees. I would sit down to write and end up in a rabbit hole of query tracker.

And I’ve had a lot of ideas for my next story (like tons and tons and tons) but none of them screamed at me like I originally experienced with my first MS.

Then last night, I HAD MY NEXT IDEA AND THE CHARACTERS ARE SCREAMING AT ME AND WON’T LET ME NOT WRITE THEIR STORY RIGHT NOW.

And it feels so good! I’m writing a story outside of the Tongue-Tied (current MS) world, which I didn’t see coming because I do have series plan for it, and it feels so fresh and exciting and revitalizing.

I’ve also been reading some great, light rom-coms by Jana Aston and it is the most delicious brain candy and just what I’ve been needing.

So, that’s kind of it. A lot of pieces in my life are so up in the air, but I’m so glad to have found a fresh thread of a story to chase.