I have mentioned before how much I hate waiting, have I not? And I think I have brushed on the topic of how anxious it makes me. Well, now I would like to share a bit more about that with you. I am a sufferer of generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (self-diagnosed with the latter). This is not a condition I have dealt with all my life. It comes and goes and usually I have no symptoms. However, the pressure of TTC has caused it to worsen over the past year.
People often chose to dance around the subject of mental illness. And I actually hate to describe what I have as a mental illness. But it is what it is. And it is so very common with approximately 18% of the population suffering from some form of anxiety disorder. Actually, a good handful of my friends are as anxious as I am (I still think we should start a club)! It is nothing to be ashamed of, and is very treatable! Like infertility, there is a stigma around mental illness that needs to be addressed. I hope by sharing my story I can encourage others to get help, because that is the most important thing!
For as long as I can remember I have been a perfectionist (perhaps not in cleaning my room, my parents will attest that it was always a mess) in the areas of school, sports, games, etc. I strived to be the best at everything, and if I was not, or if I was not properly recognized for my talents (take soccer for instance) I would quit so that I would not have that “less than perfection” on my record. Anything less than an ‘A’ in a class angered me. My clothes are all organized by color and categorized by style (short sleeves, organized by color; long sleeves, organized by color; skirts, organized by color; I think you get the picture). I make lists on top of lists on top of lists so that I never forget anything. I often check to make sure the door is locked several times, or that my heater in my office is off (even though I am positive I turned it off and checked it three times already). That may all seem silly to you but to me that is life! Thus I am pretty sure I have OCD.
My OCD feeds my anxiety. I have always felt nervous before taking a test, or performing a gymnastics routine in front of the judges, but that is pretty normal. It was not until my sophomore year in college that I truly began to feel anxious. I blame it all on my Precision Language course. This is a course at OU (in the Scripps College of Journalism) that students dread. I was told before the first day that it was one of the most difficult courses on campus. I psyched myself out before even looking at the syllabus. And all because of a grammar course. I began to feel panicky before exams, which lead to me not being able to eat or sleep for long periods of time. I had also recently broken up with my boyfriend, so that didn’t help either. I was miserable.
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and went home for the weekend and visited a doctor who diagnosed me with anxiety disorder. In fact, my cortisol levels were through the roof! I was prescribed Celexa and visited a psychiatrist a couple of times. The psychiatrist kept trying to blame my anxiety on my parents and the pressure they put on me, which was not the case. Needless to say I went to two appointments and then quit. All I wanted was to pass this damn class!
The Celexa really helped. I was back to my old self in about a month. There was a warning sign on the bottle that alcohol could increase the effects of the drug, but being a Bobcat I didn’t let that stop me from going out on the weekends (or weekdays)! I became a lightweight and attribute a lot of confusing mornings and headaches to the mixture. But that was all worth it to finally feel free again. And guess what? I received an ‘A-‘ in the class! So all of that anxiety was for nothing….right?
I stayed on my Celexa throughout the rest of college, because I knew my course load was only going to get larger and the pressure would continue. After graduating I weaned myself off the meds and felt great. It would be another 6 years before the real anxiety hit again.
Cue the summer of 2014. I began a new job (which I love) and we also began trying to conceive. It wasn’t long before I began waking up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall asleep. Eventually I couldn’t sleep at all, because I couldn’t turn off my brain! There were weeks where I would go three full days without sleep, and sometimes I would drink a couple glasses of wine before bed just to knock myself out. What I thought was insomnia for over a month (I tried melatonin, velarian root, lavender, Benadryl – which had the opposite effect – meditation, sleep hygiene, etc. Nothing worked.) before visiting my doctor again and realizing it was the anxiety returned. I went back on my Celexa.
Celexa takes about a month to start feeling the effect of the drug, and in the meantime I suffered my first panic attack triggered by someone close to me revealing they were pregnant. I now knew what my trigger was. Now, every time I find out a new person is pregnant I seem to have an attack. They have gotten fewer and smaller since the Celexa has kicked in, but as you can see TTC is very stressful.
Celexa is a Pregnancy Category C drug, meaning that it could pose a potential risk on a fetus but not enough studies have been done. I have chosen to continue taking my Celexa because the benefit outweighs the risk right now. I am not pregnant and had I not taken the medicine for the past year I would be in really bad shape. I need to be at my healthiest to carry a child, and for me, right now, my healthiest is when I am on my Celexa. I plan to go off of the medication as soon as I see a positive test, although several women have continued taking throughout their pregnancy and had healthy children. I just don’t want to risk that right now.
In addition to the Celexa, I have seen a counselor and tried yoga. Both have helped a bit. What has helped the most is trying to focus on the positives in my life and keeping myself busy. I couldn’t do this without the love and support of my husband, family and friends.
We all fight our own battles, and we should not be ashamed of that. I encourage anyone with anxiety to please get help, you CAN feel better.