Medicine = Hope

med quoteMy doctor told me I needed to take an antidepressant for panic attacks. My first reaction was, “What? Why? I’m not depressed. I have anxiety, not depression.”

He explained that imbalanced levels of the chemical in our brains, called serotonin, affects both depression and anxiety. And, he said, it’s common for people with severe anxiety to become depressed.

I was desperate for relief from panic. I was willing to try almost anything. I could hardly wait to get to the pharmacy and pick up my new prescription. For me, the antidepressant signified hope.

I took sertraline (Zoloft) that night. I noticed a difference in a few days. I could drive and not have a panic attack. I could shop at the grocery store and not panic. The doctor told me it’d probably take a couple of weeks before it started helping. I wondered if it was a fluke that I felt better. It wasn’t! I had fewer symptoms, and if I felt panic coming on, I could control it.

The downside was when I first started the medicine, I was extremely tired. I’d take Mackenzie and Talee to school, go home, and take a nap. Then I’d pick Talee up from kindergarten a few hours later, and fight to stay awake to make lunch and play dolls with my little girl. I was miserable, but stayed with it. I didn’t want to give up hope. After two weeks my body adjusted and I wasn’t tired anymore.

I felt fortunate that the first medication I tried, worked. Fortunate isn’t a strong enough word. To be honest, it was like a miracle. It changed my life.

Sertraline, or any other medicine, isn’t a cure for panic attacks. But it allows me to manage my anxiety. The fear of fear no longer dominates me.

There are times I still feel anxious. Sometimes I need to take deep breaths when I drive, to ward off panic symptoms. I prefer to shop at an outdoor mall, so I don’t get the “closed-in-feeling,” and the “I-can’t-get-out-quickly-if-I-panic feeling.” But that doesn’t stop me from going to an indoor mall, or even a huge, warehouse store with no windows, and only one exit at the front of the store.

Now I’m able to participate in life. I control my panic — it doesn’t control me.

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