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Author Topic: New Member--Graduate student suffering from depression and anxiety  (Read 200 times)

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Offline Andrea24

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Hello all,

I am so happy to have discovered this forum.  These days, it is one of the few things that I am happy about (unfortunately).  A little about me, I'm a 27 yr old PhD student from Florida.  I enjoy my program and am making good progress (but come on Dec 2014 graduation :-)). And although they live out of state, I have a loving, supportive family.  But as of the last two months, my quality of life has been ravaged by depression and anxiety.  I believe my tipping point was about this time last year when my mother developed a mysterious illness that kept her in and out of the ER two months.  About a month into the problem, a random ER doctor realized that her issues stemmed from her long term use (7 yrs) of xanax and H Pylori.  It took many months to wean her off of the Xanax--and she is still having problems from the H. Pylori.  As I mentioned before, my mother and I live in different states.  And because I was in my first semester of teaching/prepping for my PhD exams when her health problems presented, she and my step father insisted that I stay in FL and continue to focus on my school work.  They believed that it was not necessary to "disrupt" my life to come home unless things got dire. So, I stayed at FL and kept up with her health from afar.  I believe that this situation was the catalyst for all the anxiety and depression that I have experienced this year.  While my mother was sick, I developed insomnia and had multiple what I believed were mini-anxiety attacks.  I also became a chronic worrier--worrying about her, about myself, my younger brother, anything!  At this time, however, my situation was not awful.  My attacks were intermittent and if I ate well/exercised I could manage to sleep ok.
Fast forward to April and I ended up in the ER because I had severe headaches and had lost all feeling in my left arm.  The ER performed an MRI--came back normal.   The docs recommended that I look into therapy because they felt my symptoms severe anxiety related.  Well I did just that, I got counseling and began to feel better.  But...I only got counseling twice. I felt that maybe I just needed to unload a couple times and all would be well.  Needless to say I was wrong.  To skip over all the summer and early fall details, anxiety slowly but surely began to set in and I got progressively worse.  I developed bad insomnia, a racing heart, and other standard anxiety symptoms. By the time my PhD exams were successfully completed at the end of September, my anxiety had started to morph into a depression.  I was completely perplexed by this, as I should have felt on top of the world after passing my exams.  Instead, I had severe brain fog/depersonalization I didn't want to get out of bed everyday, my apartment was a mess, I would go days without showering, and the list goes on.  My ability to carry out my teaching obligations were seriously diminished, as I no longer had the energy nor desire to respond to email or grade.  During this same time, I began to experience extreme stomach gnawing aches, esophagus burning, chest pain, headaches, and various other random aches and pains in my extremities.  I was scared that my body was shutting down; that is, that I was dying.  These feelings were embarrassing so I tried to keep them to myself, which made the anxiety worse.  I went to the ER three times because of the chest pain.  I went to the cardiologist (I have a minor leak in a heart valve so I already had a cardiologist). EKGs and ECGs came back normal, besides the small issue I already had.  Even after the ER and cardiologist's verification that my chest pains are not a result of a heart issue, I continue to obsess over my heart and the other physical issues.  My primary doctor have me Prevacid for gastristis--what he believed is causing my gnawing stomach pain.  As of today, I have been on the Prevacid 25 days and the pain continues to happen.  Further, I have an MRI scheduled with my neurologist next week because of my headaches. Of course, I don't want anything to be seriously wrong with me, but I have fixated on the gradual onset of physical symptoms and convinced myself that they are indication that my body is shutting down.  Especially in light of the malpractice my mother dealt with, I think that maybe docs are missing something.

To move backwards a bit, I was referred to a psychiatrist in September after my exams.  She recommended Zoloft for the anxiety but I resisted.  I really wanted to try to get better on my own.  But by November I was at my wits end. I finally agreed to start a small dose of Zoloft--I think it was 5 mgs.  By the second day, my brain fog was gone! I still felt depressed and anxious, but simply being relieved from the brain fog felt so nice.  However, the psych doc realized on day four that I had been put on Prevacid for gastritis, so she believed that I needed to switch off Zoloft and on to something that  "doesnt work in the stomach".  So, I started Lexapro.  The Lexapro side effects were too much to bear so I stopped after 5 days.   I was switched to Prozac.  The first day of Prozac I felt immediate relief from wanting to stay in bed all day.  Yes, I still felt depressed, but I suddenly had the energy carry out normal activities.  In fact, my appetite picked back up somewhat and stomach didn't hurt as much during my first week on Prozac--5 mgs.  By the second week I started to feel that my anxiety was increasing and that I was obsessing about my health again! During week 2, I went to urgent care once and my PCP once.  I could no longer fall asleep, so I started taking .25 mgs of Xanax before bed---which scares the heck out of my due to what my mother went through with Xanax.  Today is day 17 on Prozac--day 14 I increased the dose to 10 mgs as directed--and I still feel so frustrated.  The night time anxiety is awful! And the random anxiety attacks during the day are so scary.  And even though I have energy to do things because of the Prozac, the depression makes me feel so low the whole day.  I know that I have to be patient but this is so difficult.  I am sick of going to doctors and Im sick of mental and physical pain. I really want Prozac to work because I am sick of switching medications--and more importantly, I just dont want to start over because this is the longest amount of time I have had on a single SSRI. I am supposed to increase my dose to 20 mgs next week--but I need this anxiety to reduce.  I have heard that Prozac is not the best for anxiety, but I do feel that Prozac was what I needed to pull me out of the hole to fulfill my teaching obligations to my undergraduates.  I feel that my graduate student colleagues have normalized depression/anxiety symptoms and/or self medicate with alcohol, so I find it hard to express to them what I am going through.  Does anyone else have a similar experience?  I would really like to hear if anyone has had a similar buildup of health problems and a subsequent belief/obsession that he or she is terminally ill.  Anyone present with anxiety that eventually transitioned into depression? Also, any Prozac experiences? General tips?  I'm sorry for the long rant but this is the first time I have been able to tell my story.  This seems like such a supportive community and am thankful to have stumbled upon it--despite my docs advice to stay off of blogs.

Thanks all :-)
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~I have found intelligence and success to be hazardous~

Offline Leo99

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Re: New Member--Graduate student suffering from depression and anxiety
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2013, 10:32:19 AM »
Hi, Andrea24. Welcome to Anxiety Zone!

Thank you for sharing your story. Though at times of crisis we tend to feel we are alone in the world, many people suffer from similar issues and go through similar stuff.
Basically, you have come to the right place. This community is about sharing experience and offering support.

My advice at the beginning of your journey here is to find the forums/ sections you have interest in. Feel free to post or start a new topic.
You might be interested that we also have a chat room for members over 18 years of age, who have made 3 meaningful posts.
By meaningful posts we generally consider posts that include more than a few words and contribute to the subject.
Anxiety Wire is another feature we have, where you can registrate, post a blog, chat with members etc.

I realize it's hard to wait and have patience but with anxiety and depression, we are often forced to do just that.
Your doc has probably explained, that antidepressants usually take 6-12 weeks for you to start noticing full benefits.
Best results usually come from combining the meds with some sort of therapy and you might wanna look into that again.
Personally, I have benefited from CBT.

Nice to have you aboard, Andrea! Hope you feel better soon.

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From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
(E. A. Poe)

Offline Harmonium

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Re: New Member--Graduate student suffering from depression and anxiety
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2013, 07:58:55 AM »
I'm so sorry for what you're experiencing. I'm also plagued by worry about health problems. I've been diagnosed with postpartum anxiety following a traumatic c section any hospital experience. What you're going through is totally normal. There are so many others here with similar stories.

I was given Lexapro, as it's one of my only options while still breastfeeding. The side effects were horrific. That means I've had to go all natural, which i know is a longer road. i am also very frightened about benzos. I was overdosed in the hospital with another drug, but it's left me terrified about taking meds in general. My acupuncturist put me on 3 supplements. I had to start them so slowly because of the fear.

Your symptom of brain fog is the one that bothered me the most a few months ago when my anxiety was at its' worst. Also like you, my anxiety has gotten worse at times that I "should be feeling better". I think that happens a ton with health anxiety sufferers. When our life circumstances get better, we then expect that the anxiety will lift and then it doesn't. That perpetuates our fear that something underlying must be wrong. It feels very unfair. A very good therapist explained to me that anxiety is fear manifesting itself physically. It's not stress. Stress can make anxiety worse, but getting rid of stress will not take away the fear of our bodies' strange sensations. At one point my family was giving me all of this free time so I could rest and get better, but I just brooded over my symptoms and got worse. So, we are supposed to accept the symptoms as anxiety. Stop the fear over the symptoms and then allow them to happen for awhile without crawling back down the fear rabbit hole.

When I followed that advice I did get almost all the way better. But then, I got put on birth control pills that changed my hormone chemistry enough to amp my anxiety. Instead of accepting the symptons, I started "researching" and freaking out. Today, I've decided I'm back on track mentally, accepting that the physical sensations are anxiety. I'm already feeling a bit better.

I know how hard these feelings are up handle. We will get through it. I've been lucky enough to meet some people that have fully recovered. Take care. I hope this site helps you see that you're not alone. That really helped me the last few days.
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