Saturday, November 9, 2013

If You Peel The Onion Long Enough...

... eventually you start revealing some weird things.

I think I'm at that point now.

I'm beginning to question whether I've ever had major depression at all.

I think what I've actually had, all this time, is an anxiety disorder. Situational depression, surely, but I don't think depression has actually ever been my problem.

One thing that has been a problem is that I've never fully understood or appreciated the difference between the two until recent experiences demonstrated that there is, indeed, a very big difference, and they don't actually have all that much to do with each other, and seeing what anxiety looks like in me and how it works has given me one of those great cosmic clicks that you get when a whole bunch of things in your past suddenly shift into the right grooves and make perfect sense after years of confusion and angst.



Yeah, when I said, "I'm beginning to question whether I've ever had major depression at all," what I really meant was, "I don't think I ever did."

First of all, let's dispense with the obvious: PTSD is, first and foremost, an anxiety disorder. Of the extreme kind. Officially classified in the DSM. Boom. 

So I DO have an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder that would naturally have presented itself as depression and any number of other confusing things over the years, since I and anyone treating me had no idea that I had it.

Major depression would have been the obvious assumption to make. 

But anxiety fits so much better. It explains my general optimism, my lack of sadness, the persistent shortness of breath that has plagued me over the past 17 years. Those things never quite fit with the depressive profile, although the chronic exhaustion did; the lack of motivation and dulled senses and emotions did. 

It was never a clear picture, really. It didn't seem to matter all that much, because anxiety and depression didn't seem all that distinct.

They do now. It matters now.

I think another big problem has been that until I began the work for PTSD/PTSR, I considered myself a depressive and I'd been treated as one. I'd taken antidepressants and I'd gone to therapy as a depressive and I'd worked on my depression.

But I wasn't depressed.

I'd been treating the wrong thing.

I still am.

Over the past two months, it's become very, very clear to me that anxiety is at the root of most of my problems. Sleep trouble. Muscle tension. Migraines. 

Migraines! Some of them, anyway! 

In the past two weeks, I have had three separate migraines which have, after not responding to prescription migraine meds, OTC migraine meds, trigger point massage, or various other methods, respond immediately to a very small dose (1/2 mg) of anti-anxiety medication.

Well, I should say 2.5 migraines. The third one is in progress as we speak. :/

Something is happening, folks. I've had to figure it out myself (with the help of my husband, who of course called it ages ago and I'm just catching up), but I'm figuring it out.

The problem I face with this is that my doctors have never taken my questions and complaints about anxiety seriously. I'm too tentative an advocate for myself, I guess, when it comes to these things (goes back to my "hypochondriac" childhood days, I suppose). 

I brought it to my migraine doc last week and he literally gave me a brushing motion with his hand (in case I didn't pick up on the verbal brush-off), and handed me a flyer for a "How To Cope With Stress" workshop.

I understand that "anxiety" is a broad subject, and coping skills are definitely an important part of dealing with it. Totes get it.

What Migraine Doc doesn't know about me is that I am Homework Girl. I am fucking SHERLOCK. 


I've taken ALL of them. I've done ALL of it. I had a career as a coach helping others learn ways to manage their own stress. 

Coping with the dangers I see is not my problem. As a stay-at-home mom and a highly-compartmentalized PTSR pro, I am so fucking proactive with the coping as to have rendered it mostly obsolete. No need to cope with crises that do not happen in my regimented world.

(Okay, that's not the same as coping, I realize. But that has definitely been my Plan A for a long time and has worked shockingly well. Fortunately for me, I'm also quite good in a crisis, so Plan B goes very well, too. I cope. I'm a coper. Look at me, coping away. I just don't like to have to do it, so I endeavor to avoid having to do so, and I'm even better at endeavoring. MAD SKILLZ, I got.)

It's escaping the impulses of my lizard brain that I have trouble with, and that's where I need help.

That's why I've been on antidepressants. I can tell there's a chemical imbalance, one beyond my ability to control on my own, and the antidepressants haven't helped the way I'd hoped, and now I might know why.

We've addressed a problem that doesn't exist. It's not depression, it's anxiety. We need to take a look at the undercurrent of anxiety in my psyche and see what we can do to mitigate it until I can get a handle on it.

I hadn't known it was there. I didn't know until I experienced those few glorious hours without it at my cousin's wedding. I didn't know it was there until it was missing, and now that it's back I can really see the impact it's had on me.

But that is about to come to an end. If I have to, I'll take my husband with me. Tentative with doctors, he is not.

I am going to do a major reshuffling with my medical staff (excluding the wonderful Dr. Oz, of course), and I am going to get my anxiety addressed properly. Now.

I'm not looking for miracles, but man, it would really be nice not to feel like I have to figure this stuff out for myself. I just want someone to take me seriously, you know? 

Someone who hears "PTSD" and "anxiety" and doesn't immediately label me a hysterical female and hand me a fucking flyer.

I've done my homework. And I'm doing my legwork. And I'm going to continue to do it. And I'd like an astute collaborator in the medical profession who can recommend the right medications for me at this point in my work that will help me get to the next stage.

That person had better be prepared to fucking bring it, though, because I'm not in the mood to waste any more time waiting for them to catch up. 

Listen up, doc: I'm going to tell you what I've done and where I've been, and you've got one chance to respond in a way I deem appropriate: with curiosity and agency. If I catch one whiff of condescension or brush-off, you're fired. 

To the left, to the left. Next! 

Let's do this. Operation Monkey Off My Back 2.1: Anxiety Attacker.

UPDATE: Make that 3 migraines, gone, from anti-anxiety meds. OMG. O.o


  1. Yes! I am so thrilled that you got to feel the next CLICK. You have worked so hard. It is a long road, but you are moving in the right direction by god, one step at a time. I said it last night and I'll say it again, you deserve a team of people who are willing to collaborate in order to support you in this. And if they can't, they can't and you get to make your next move. You are a strong and powerful woman and you are calling the shots. In addition, you have got some fierce and loving advocates that are willing to have your back, myself included. Love you!

  2. NFF!! (No fucking flyers!) good for you kate, so happy your path is smiling at you these days. It seems like you've been figuring its shit OUT lately. Yes!!!