No? Nah, me neither.
Yes. Yes I did. That is exactly the week I just had.
Check THIS out:
I told you a couple of weeks ago that I was going to find a new doctor, remember? I was going to bring my assertive husband with me, I wasn't going to take no for an answer, and I was going to get myself heard.
I also told you a while back about a psychopharmacologist I wanted to go see: a profession so mysterious I'd never heard of it. And neither, apparently, has my spell-check.
Well. I finally got all the information I needed to make that happen. It turned out that I needed to go to another doctor at this facility first and get a referral in order to see the psychopharmacologist. My friend had gone to a Nurse Practitioner that she really liked, so I made an appointment with her as well. As it happens, I'm dissatisfied with my current GP (as you might imagine) and am shopping around for someone new. This NP is in my network. I figured, what the heck.
(I don't know about you, but I have had excellent experiences with Nurse Practitioners in the past. I find them to be extremely thorough, caring, and just generally more human and humane than the average GP. I have never been let down by an NP. I've seen them for everything from gynecology to routine physicals. I would choose an NP over a GP every day of the week. If you've never seen one, give it a try!* Love 'em! LOVE!) *This statement reflects the author's personal opinion. The author has not been paid by any Nurse Practitioners to express this opinion. The author would express this opinion whether she were being paid or not. And since that is the case, would it hurt you to throw a little cash her way, Nurse Practitioners? I mean, Christmas is coming! "Tis the season of giving! God bless us, every one, or whatever!
Where was I?
Oh yes, Nurse Practitioner.
So we all troop in there, me, the husband, the girls.
The NP comes in, young, pregnant, glowing, adorable, perky.
I am not sure what to think. I'm just there to give her my basics so she knows I'm not crazy so she can give me a referral to the psychopharmacologist.
She starts asking questions. I start telling her how I got to where I am. Immediately, it became clear that she got me. She picked up on every vibe, she heard every word, she asked every question I hoped for and wrote down everything I said even if she didn't ask for it.
I don't remember all the details of the conversation-- it was emotionally heavy, for me, so the fog has shrouded much of it; you know how I am-- but a few key moments are emblazoned in my memory for their singularity in my lifetime.
Me: I've been going to doctors since the '90's, telling them that I can't breathe. I can't draw a full breath. I feel like I'm slowly hyperventilating, and it lasts for weeks, sometimes months, sometimes longer than that.
Her: (stares. blinks.) And no one. Has ever. Put you on ANTI-ANXIETY MEDICATION??!! HAS NO ONE EVER LISTENED TO YOU??!!
Me: (opens mouth. closes mouth. looks at husband. bursts into tears.)
Me: I was diagnosed with major depression 13 years ago, during a time when I was definitely depressed because of a lot of things that were going on in my life, but I didn't know I had PTSD then and neither did anyone else, and I think it was an easy mistake to make, but I think it was a mistake.
Her: You mean think your depression is episodic, but that your real diagnosis should have been anxiety disorder.
Her: Yeah, I agree. That sounds right. Let's correct that in the record here (types into the computer).
Me: It was an easy assumption to make at the time. I didn't understand the distinction between depression and anxiety until this past September, when I OD'd on Wellbutrin and had that huge anxiety attack. I had never felt it like that before, so I didn't know the difference.
Her: It's not your fault that you didn't know the difference. You weren't the one who was supposed to know the difference. Let's get you off these anti-depressants. They're doing nothing for you. Let's get you some anti-anxiety meds instead. Which one was the one you said worked for you?
Her: What about drug use? Any history of drug use?
Her: What about drug use? Any history of drug use?
Me: Um. Yes. In the 90's. And...
Her: Have you ever tried marijuana for anxiety?
Husband: She's tried some for migraines, and she says it doesn't do much for her, but the last time she tried it, she seemed to relax. I saw her smile. She doesn't do that very often.
Me: I'm not really much of a-
Her: It helps.
Me: I don't really enjoy-
Her: It heeeeeeeellllps.
Me: I haven't really found a strain that has worked for me. It hasn't helped with the migraines, and it hasn't really helped me feel relaxed, but I haven't exactly gone looking for my own medical grade stuff.
Her: I can write you a prescription right now.
Me: Are you kidding?!
Her: Nope. Want one?
Me: (looks at husband. husband grins hugely.) Um, sure. I'll try anything at this point.
Forty-five minutes later, we walk out of her office, with a firm request to make another appointment with her within the next two weeks, before she's out on maternity leave. (Her: And there are plenty of great people here that you can see while I'm gone... but... (whispers) I'll make you a list of who they are.)
In my hand are the referral to the psychopharmacologist; the physician's statement that serves as a prescription for medical marijuana, which is legal in my state and plentiful in my vicinity (helloooo, Bay Area!); and a prescription for Lorazepam, the anti-anxiety medication that was so helpful to me when I needed it.
I'm being very careful with it, only taking it as needed, and usually only half a pill at a time. I'm quite anxious these days, but I'm not interested in forming a habit that's going to make it harder to learn what I need to learn to be less anxious in the future.
Because here's the thing:
I think what's happened is that I've had this anxiety disorder-- PTSD/PTSR-- running rampant in my body, unchecked, for the past 22 years, and while I've experienced a lot of it as stress and social phobia and shortness of breath and that sort of thing, I've experienced very little of the emotional side of anxiety because...hello...
I experience very little of the emotional side of anything I don't want to experience.
But as I've gone through all this therapy and writing and work over the past two and a half years, as much as I've felt sometimes like I haven't gotten very far, I really must have, because I've been slowly but surely dismantling my ability to protect myself from the emotional impact of stuff like this.
I've been breaking down those walls, bit by bit.
This is progress, people, don't get me wrong. This is all very good stuff. But all of a sudden, I've got only paper-thin layers between me and a twenty-two-years-strong anxiety monster, and I'm FEEEELING this thing, and my ability to cope with it has not developed at a comparable pace.
My survival instincts have quite heroically kept me from having to deal with all of that, for all this time.
So for now, and for a little while, I'm going to accept a bit of help in regulating my anxiety. I'm going to let that Lorazepam help me regulate my moods. And if it brings a few more smiles to my face than I usually manage on my own, well, I ask you: what could be bad about that?!
As for that other thing, the thing I never thought in a million years I'd ever do, I bet you've figured it out already.
Yup. I--me-- I went to a medical marijuana dispensary. My husband, not having a physician's statement, was not allowed to accompany me inside. I went in, got approved, was given a tour and told the rules, and was shown where to go and how to choose and purchase medical grade marijuana.
I bought some. All by myself. Legally, after waiting in a roped-off line and being offered a "Black Friday Special."
I kid you not.
It was actually pretty cool there. They teach classes: yoga, tai chi, meditation, reiki, accupuncture. They teach you how to grow your own meds. They have support groups for seniors and cancer patients. The consultants are all very knowledgeable about the different properties of the strains.
Yeeeeaaahh... I will probably go full Sherlock if I find something I like about this. I'm not holding out much hope that I will, but you never know. At any rate, there's a lot of interesting science to learn.
I got tiny amounts of three different strains to experiment with, and see if any of them help. I figure, I can't really drink alcohol anymore, and now that pot is finally being legalized everywhere the reports are being released that suggest that it might truly be a miracle substance that we maybe can't afford not to use in some form or another, so what the hell?
I don't see myself becoming a regular pot-user, but a little vaporized anxiety-killer now and then, if I can find one that works, might be just the thing, especially since it isn't habit-forming. Beat that, Lorazepam, and then we'll talk.
All in all, I have to say, it was a pretty good week, with a lot to be thankful for.
Casting off the mantle of "Major Depressive" is having a pretty profound psychological impact on me. Surprisingly so. It feels exactly right that it was wrong. And letting it go is transformative in a way that I didn't expect.
I feel lighter, somehow. I feel less encumbered. I feel like I've corrected my internal inventory and realized that I'm carrying 50 fewer pounds than I thought I was, and I've literally felt those pounds drop away.
Why is that, I wonder? Was it an expectation I was living up to? Or down to? Or something I felt I couldn't escape?
I don't know. It's not like I traded it for something much better.
I think it's just... rightness. That was wrong, before. This is right. I know what's happening. I know where I am and what I'm doing. I know what I'm looking at.
The NP actually apologized to me, the other day, for that misdiagnosis, all those years ago, and the delay that it caused in getting me the right meds and on to the right path.
"It's okay," I told her. "I didn't know what was happening to me back then. I wouldn't have known what to do about it. I know what I'm doing now. I know exactly what I'm dealing with."
And that's true. I'm sure I could muster up all kinds of regret over missed opportunities if I spent my time that way, but the fact remains that at this point in my life, I am ready for this healing, and I know how to go about it, and I have laid all the groundwork there is to be laid, and I have as solid a foundation as it's possible for me to have.
I am prepared. So I'll take my miracles now, please. Because I know exactly what to do with them.
She said something else funny, the NP, before we said goodbye.
"I'm sorry this appointment was so long," she said. "I'm sure you have better things to be doing with your day."
I turned and looked her full in the face. "Are you kidding?" I said. "I have been trying to have this appointment for 20 years. You have just changed my life. Right now, you are my favorite person in the entire world. I would spend the rest of the day with you if I could."
She smiled. "Awww," she said. She thought I was joking.
She looked at me. I was a little teared up. And then she got it. She got a little teared up too.
She nodded. I nodded. She smiled again.
"Thank you," she said.
Because what else can you do, when someone changes your life like that, but try to make them see?
And because she was just that awesome, she saw.