Friday, September 09, 2005

An Anxiety Observed

No man in his right mind should relish such an admission, but I suffer from bouts of anxiety and depression and have my entire life. I'm not proud of it, and I don't want to use it to excuse a single action on my part. I don't identify with it, and I don't want sympathy. I just want it to go away, or at least take away its power over my life.

I first admitted that I had a serious problem with it during a period of extended underemployment in 2001-2002. What I needed to do at the time was make more money, and I found paradoxically that this was the last thing that I could muster up the energy to do. I knew at every level that the simple, commonsense thing to do was to put out more resumes, go on more interviews, and hit the phones to stir something up, but the constant refrain in my mind was "Hopeless, hopeless... Pointless, pointless..." Thank God for Mrs. Zeke, or I probably would have just curled up in a ball and waited for disaster to strike. She suggested that I go seek treatment for it. A few days later, after no more than 15 minutes with a psychiatrist, I had a prescription for Zoloft in hand and a referral to a support group.

So then I'm medicated and sitting in a circle with a bunch of other depressed, angry, and fearful people. One guy said he was still full of rage about September 11th, almost a year later. One woman just hated herself. Another found it exhausting just screwing up the courage to leave the house. I felt relieved to a point that my condition wasn't so desperate, and I appreciated for the first time how difficult it must be for others to live with depressed people. I didn't like being around them, and I was one of them.

That was now about three years ago. I am no longer on the Zoloft; the side effects were unpleasant and constant. It sapped my libido and dulled my enthusiasm even as it dulled my anxiety. Dull doesn't work for me, so I tossed the pills and decided to deal with the bouts in another fashion. A prescription for Ativan followed, and I just took one or two when I felt particularly anxious. The side effect of Ativan was reliable drowsiness, so I ended up using my prescription primarily to help me sleep, and I continued to endure the anxious bouts during the day without medication. My Ativan ran out a few months ago, and I haven't refilled it.

Prior to this week's bout, my last bout was a couple of months ago. Also pretty severe, it ran for about 10 days. I'm on day 6 now.

For those of you who do not have this particular cross to bear, all I can tell you--and I'm not prone to exaggeration--is that it is a special kind of hell. I pride myself on being a pretty commonsense kind of guy, and anxiety and depression are insanity by comparison. Imagine getting consumed by fear of nasty circumstances, and having the most difficult decision being the one that is most likely to remove the fear. I mentioned already my problem with underemployment (which is a nice way of saying I don't make enough money), and there are a thousand things I can do to change that. But its all hopeless, hopeless and pointless, pointless. I don't just think that, I believe it right down to my core. Going through the motions to change it feels like trying to become a prima ballerina. What's the frigging point? The grip this illness has on my mind really is that powerful. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Being a Christian adds another dimension to both the illness and the treatment. Is the illness a demonic attack? Is it a manefestation of sin nature, or just my cross to bear? Is prayer all I need to overcome it? If I pray in faith in Jesus' name, can I trust him to remove it? Is this illness present in my life to teach me a lesson? To make me more compassionate? Is a victory in the wings that will serve as a testament to God's work in my life?

I have no answers to any of these questions as I sit here in a funk. All there is is the funk. Just the haze and buzzing in my head. Just me and the chattering monkeys that are the array of my fears.

Still, it helps to talk it out, and if another person reads this post who suffers from this ailment or has a loved one that does, then yeah... maybe it will be helpful to another person and become something more than just cathartic. I sure hope so.

So I'll end this in a common prayer of mine: God, remove this burden from me and heal my mind. But if it's not your will, provide a way for this to become a good thing in my life and the lives of other people. Take what feels like waste and make it treasure for the good of you and the people that you love.

(By the way, the image above comes from the website of artist Zsuszanna Szegedi, and I pimped it without her advance permission. I'm sending her a note now to ask, and if she says no I'll take it back out.)


At 2:06 PM, Blogger Geoff said...

I believe I have the same problem only it seems to not be as severe in me. As a general rule, I have period of about two months of hell, then I start to fell better and it takes eight months, or so, to feel completly normal (whatever that is) again. I have found that as I get older it becomes easier to deal with but I could wake up tommorow and not be able to deal with something I may have never imagined. It is all grace I guess.

But one thing I do know is that I always comeout the other end knowing more about God than I did before.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Thanks for your honesty and transparency Zeke.

I have been around anxiety with my wife's bouts with that and depression over the years and it is so hard to understand and explain...especially to those of us that don't have the chronic condition.

I used to tell her to just relax when she was in the middle of her anxiety bouts. What an idiot. She finally got through to me with this analogy. I am an asthma sufferer and she told me that telling her to relax was like telling me to just breath when I was having an asthma attack. That was enlightening.

Recently (and as a follower of my site you might know this) life has handed me some situations that have caused me to face regular bouts of anxiety and depression. It is interesting to be able to relate to what my wife has suffered through for many years. I hate the meds that I have been offered to help with my sleeplessness. I only take them as a last resort....when sleep has escaped me for several days and I begin to not function. But they put me in such a fog that it almost isn't worth it.

Now, the roller coaster that I am on is slowing down and the dips are coming farther and fewer between. However, lingering depression exists and I can relate to not mustering up the energy to be able to do the tasks that I need to... i.e. make appts with clients, prepare invoices, collect money, follow through with things....this is frustrating. Even blogging (once my outlet) has lost it's luster.

But now I am in a functioning state of depression and the basics are being handled again. Life has gained some of its color back. But not completely.

Reading your story brought me some comfort and I hoped you would hear that although I wish you weren't in your pain, sharing your pain has encouraged me to know that I am not alone. Thanks.

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Ativan Side Effects said...

My name is Brian Lane and i would like to show you my personal experience with Ativan.

I am 30 years old .I started taking this drug about 10 years ago to help with some pretty bad anxiety and depression I was having at the time. I started taking a 1mg dose twice a day 1 in morning and 1 before bed. I tapered myself down to .5mg twice a day and then finally was able to get off it for about 3 months this year. I just started taking it in .5mg doses again due to the anxiety and depression resurfacing after 10 years. I dont know if its coming back because I got off the medicine or just that I am having a relapse but I have to honestly tell you that those years in between when I was taking it were the best years of my life. Just be VERY careful not to take this in larger doses.

Side Effects :
sleepiness, addiction It really helped me for what I was taking it for but it was very difficult to stop.

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Brian Lane

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