Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Side Effects

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, but never got around it.  Then recently our community was hit with some tragic deaths.  I have several students with anxiety disorders and/or autism, and know countless people who have been treated for depression.  So I just wanted to write a quick, but heartfelt post about my recent experiences.

I've never had a history with anxiety or depression.  Sure, I've gone through life experiences that have left me momentarily sad or "blue."  But I've never been diagnosed with or treated for depression or anxiety disorders.  I've had my share of anxious moments, even had a few panic attacks while living in Brazil, but that's about it.

Then, randomly, last Fall, I started having unexpected, uncontrollable, crazy anxiety and paranoia.  The paranoia was very intense.  I started having completely irrational thoughts, worries, and paranoid ideas about the most bizarre things.  For example, I started thinking that the entire world's electricity was going to suddenly go away forever and we'd be stranded in Alabama with no way to contact our families and no way to get to them.  I started thinking "what-ifs" and making extensive plans for what to do if all electricity went away forever.  I didn't want to drive anywhere, so that we could "save our gas" in case something like that happened.  I didn't want to go anywhere alone, in case I happened to be alone when an apocalyptic event were to happen.  I started to worry that we'd run out of food or a way to prepare food.  I began to imagine life as it would have to transition back to "the olden days," when people worked farms for food.  I began to worry about my allergies and asthma, and what would happen if someone needed surgery.  I was a little obsessed with this paranoia and it was all I could think about.  (The electricity situation was the mildest of the paranoias I was experiencing.  I also had thoughts about disease epidemics, apocalyptic events, and random other things.)

I knew it sounded crazy.  I knew it wasn't plausible or possible.  And I knew it was all in my mind.  So I didn't tell anyone.  The anxiety and fears got to be so bad, that I felt physically ill.  And still I didn't tell anyone.  I told Peter that I didn't want to go to Barnes and Noble because I didn't feel well.  I came home from school and laid in bed until dinner time.

In the meantime, I knew that this was crazy and that I was being irrational.  So I prayed.  I read my Bible.  I bought books on overcoming fear and anxiety.  And that helped a little.

Then, one day, I went to take my medicine.  I was taking an allergy pill and an asthma pill to help control my crazy allergies.  I happened to read the label for the asthma pill.  "Side effects may include: anxiety, paranoia, suicide."

I stopped dead in my tracks.

WHAT THE?!?!?!

I hadn't gotten to the suicidal thoughts yet, but I didn't want to risk heading anywhere near there.   So I immediately stopped taking all my medicines.

And within a few days, I was completely back to normal.

No more anxiety, no more paranoia, no more crazy and irrational thoughts.

I went to a follow up with the doctor and I told him my story, and he immediately knew it was that specific medicine and told me to stop taking it (which, of course, I already had).  He said that a reaction like that is very rare, only 2-3 cases in the last 10 years.

But I have to wonder... How many people experience side effects from medicine and never report it?  How many people have anxiety and paranoia and suicidal thoughts and don't realize that it's their every-day medicine that's causing it?  I know that I never would have expected my asthma medicine to be the cause of those thoughts.  I've had asthma my entire life and have never had side effects to any medicine I've had to take.

So I've made it my mission to tell everyone I can.  Please check your labels.  Please be aware of your moods and mental health.  And if anything, anything, seems off to you, please tell your doctor and check every possible side effect.

I know that anxiety and depression are real issues that people deal with every day.  I know that suicide can be a result of many, many different issues.  BUT what if some people, like me, are being affected by medicine that they never would have expected?

Thanks for reading.  Sorry for such a random post, but I really felt like I needed to share my story.  I hope you are all having a wonderful week.  I'll be back later with some more uplifting posts.


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