As I lay on the examining table on my side I might as well have been laying on the edge of a cliff. Teetering. One gust of wind and I would have toppled over. I stared at the wall as the doctor came in and offered me something to help me feel better. Yes, yes I wanted something. She was very firm with me when offering me an Ativan shot. It was a strong drug. I didn’t really care what they were giving me or how they would administer it I just wanted to feel like I wasn’t going to roll off the cliff anymore. I had been on the brink and was coming back to safety but I had no idea what to expect next so anything to help me roll farther away from that edge was something I was going to take.
The nurse came in and prepped me for a shot in my right hip. I didn’t even feel the prick. She couldn’t give it to me though because she aspirated blood and told me that if she had given me the shot it could have killed me. She had never, ever had a patient aspirate when she gave this shot. I told her that now she could really remember me but in the back of my mind I wondered if it wasn’t God telling me that maybe the shot wasn’t such a good idea. I slowly rolled over on to my other side and this time she was able to give me the shot. After about 20 minutes I thought I felt better but honestly I was so wiped out it was hard to tell.
They moved me into a wheel chair where I sat slumped. It was just at that time that my husband came into the room. I am sure he did not expect to see me in the state that I was in which was: a completely railroaded wife. He hid it well though; I have to give him that. He and a family member gently wheeled me out of the room and out into the waiting area past watching eyes. Everybody looked at me and I just looked back. I was too tired to care. My husband wheeled me out to the car and with the help of two people I was able to sit in the front seat. Then we headed for home. I only had an hour until the doctor appointment I had scheduled that morning and the hospital doctor strongly urged I keep that appointment. The shot wouldn’t last forever. She was only able to prescribe a few days of Ativan pills for me and it was my responsibility to follow-up with my doctor.
We arrived home to all of my children waiting for me in the front room. I really didn’t want to wade through them and scare them but the younger ones especially just saw me as really sick and were glad I was home. My family helped me back to my bedroom and deposited me in the bed. I could hear grandma take charge of dinner in the kitchen. As I sank into my mattress, my seventeen year old son gingerly opened my door and hesitantly walked in. In the best way he knew how, he tactfully asked if I was going to be okay or what? I smiled and told him that yes, I would be okay but it might be a little bit and he didn’t need to worry. Relief flooded his face and he left me to myself after that.
It seemed like I had just laid down and my husband was urging me back up to go to the doctor. I knew I had to go but I did not have much strength. I also knew I looked a fright. My long hair was hanging stringy around my face and haggard wouldn’t even describe the condition of my being. We arrived at the doctor and were ushered back to a humorous and outspoken man. He had just looked me up in the computer health system and saw what I had just been through down the hill at the hospital. He rambled on about how he was on anti-depressants because his wife was going through cancer, etc. I’m sure he told me way more than appropriate for a patient/doctor relationship. He prescribed me Lexapro, an anti-anxiety medication and took one look at my prescription for Ativan and doubled it for ten days instead of five. He also was annoyed with the hospital doctor who signed the original prescription in the wrong place. I would have never been able to fill it. Was that another sign to stay away from Ativan?
We left the office promising to come back in two weeks and swung by the pharmacy to drop off my prescription. Then it was back to bed for me and the only thing I could think was that I still didn’t know what had happened to me and I was sure glad grandma had brought KFC for dinner.
A couple hours later I sat up in bed and called for my husband. Where was my medication? I could feel the darkness returning. The frenzy in my lungs and heart were crawling back and drawing me to the edge of the cliff once again. He rushed into the room and I took my Lexapro and then an Ativan. I lay there breathing and waiting for my body to relax. It finally did and my rolling toward the cliff ceased. Another attack had been averted. Was I going to have to take this medication forever? I only had ten days of it and in my mind as I accessed my now unfamiliar body there was no way I was going to be ready to be pill free by then. This is how I lived during the next days. I lived by my pills. As they wore off my body would begin to crawl toward the cliff again only to be yanked back by the pill. I watched the clock. I was not, absolutely not going to fall again.
Somebody took my kids to school and picked them up. People brought dinner and my husband managed to work full-time and care for all the kids. I laid in my bed. I couldn’t do anything else. Showering for me was painful. If I did shower it was the only thing I could do that day. Being in an enclosed place with water rushing over my head caused my anxiety to rocket through the roof. It was hard to lift my arms I was so bone weary and by the time I had finished I was completely done for the day. I could not eat anything. The smell of food made me want to vomit so I had to drag myself into the kitchen to make protein shakes. I literally gagged them down. If I didn’t eat, I felt terrible and eating was an extremely difficult chore but worth the results which were less shakiness and less nausea. Within three days I had probably shed ten pounds from the stress.
I knew from the doctor that it would take 4-6 weeks for the Lexapro to really work. That seemed like a lifetime. By now we were coming up on Christmas. The kids were home from school for Christmas Break. It had been five days since my anxiety attack. I mostly stayed in bed but for the sake of my family I would lie on the couch sometimes. I was feeling about two percent better and I wanted them to see my improvement. During this time I wasn’t able to read or watch television. It took all of my energy to focus on my breathing and to battle my mind. My mind was at war and I was one weary warrior.
By the end of the weak I was able to wean off the Ativan. I moved to taking 1/2 a pill during the day and a full pill in the morning and at night. Ativan is a strong sedative and for the first time in nine months I no longer had tightness in my chest. The Ativan gave me a brief respite. The tightness returned when the drug wore off and during that hour or so before I was due for the next dose I had to lie in bed and breathe counting the minutes until I could take my next pill. I was totally immobilized during that time, concentrating on warding off an attack.
The good and bad thing about the Ativan was I could function on it. I was grateful for that because we were coming up on the holidays. Somewhere deep in my soul however, I knew it was just masking the symptoms. All I could see though was that I had both Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day dinner at my house coming up. Of course I didn’t cancel these events. A full blown anxiety attack didn’t seem to be enough of a warning to slow down. Between prayer, frequent rests and Ativan it was the only thing that helped me make it through those two days…which looking back was a big mistake. Not the prayer, the Ativan and pushing through. Pushing through is partly what put me in the hospital in the first place. I don’t know why I didn’t learn my lesson the first time regarding over doing it, but by the end of Christmas Day after the last people had left I literally raced (in my state) to my room, frantically took my medication and huddled in my bed full of fear in a fetal position praying that the cliff would not claim me and knowing that it just might.