Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In Praise of Modern Medicine

Let me just say from the start - I don't think Tom Cruise and I will ever become BFF's (best friends forever). I used to be a person who felt like medicines were unnecessary. Tylenol or Advil were for the weak of heart. And, the stigma I used to have against anti-depressants - well, that was for people who were REALLY depressed and messed up. If only they prayed a little harder.....

Then, I had my son, and several things happened. First of all - I realized the power of an INTRATHECAL - I was hoping to go drug free in delivery - but after 12 hours of writhing in pain - it was time to surrender to the power of drugs. I've previously discussed the deliriously wonderful difference it made in my life - and having experienced the "ring of fire" with a 12 inch head - I can only imagine what it must have felt like with an additional 3 inches......yes, drugs were good.

Following Brayden's delivery, my body began to stage a revolt. Mastitis - three or four times (ouchie!!!) and, then, there was his weight. He may be a small kid now, but he was a big baby - and that did a number on my neck and muscles. It was then that my headaches began.

Finally, there was the overwhelming feeling that the rest of my body was literally falling apart as well - muscle weakness, tingling in my extremities (result of neck issues..., but didn't know that at the time) joint pain, extreme fatigue, I was eventually tested for leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis. In those days of waiting for results, my increased anxiety had me absolutely believing my days were limited..... It was AWFUL. I remember coming back from Bend the days following New Years 2000 feeling absolutely empty. I had no "purpose" for my life, save caring for a child that didn't yet communicate (which intellectually I knew was my most important job, but didn't feel "important"). If I had had a job more demanding than that, I wouldn't have had the energy to conduct it - And, the worry and anxiety I felt every day - particularly over the frightening health symptoms I mysteriously had, it was miserable.

Fast forward a few more weeks and Brayden experienced his stroke (a whole other story). It seemed that kicked me over the edge of obsessing about myself (much bigger problems) and steadily, things improved - until about 9 months after Mikayla was born. The delayed post-partum/body failure seems like a consistent thing for me after giving birth. I saw it coming, so it was better - but, this time, I began listening to my friend who was a pharmaceutical representative for SSRI's (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors - I think....) - aka a special kind of anti-depressant - much more carefully. I listened to the science behind it (where Tom Cruise and I drastically disagree) and started thinking....hmmm..... But, pride still got in the way. Finally, at the time of Brayden's 4th birthday, I found myself in such a terrible mess. My heartrate would accelerate for no reason at all - it would also "somersault" - beating irregularly and thumping so hard, there was no reason to test for my pulse - I could feel it. I remember getting out of the shower and having it hit 120 - what was going on with me? Add to that some severe "heartburn" like tightness in the chest and I was sure I was dealing with some sort of heart failure. I came into my new doctor (I'd only met her once before) on the edge of tears and with a sky-rocketed blood pressure. It was a terrible time of life.

That was a huge turning point day. My new, WONDERFUL, doctor discussed, once again, the science behind these SSRI's - and that my body had some very physical reactions to anxiety. I could breathe into a paper bag to help my heartrate, but what I really needed was the ability to get these seratonin chemicals to reach my brain and kick in! Also - ultrasound showed I had a gallstone - so that explained all of the chest tightness. Just having answers - and a hope for improvement, I can't even tell you the difference.

So, now, Michele likes to suggest anytime I don't stress about situations I used to - we can all praise Lexapro. I now know, that even if my mind doesn't feel anxious, but my body is feeling extra stress (like during the busy-ness of the holiday season or when I'm getting sick) I don't need to worry about my heart kicking into "disco fever" - it's just what happens to me. I also don't automatically think cancer, MS, or brain tumors are the reason for any obscure symptom - (not that it doesn't cross my mind - I can't expect to be completely cured of anxiety until I am in Heaven!).

So, am I suggesting that SSRI's are a cure-all drug for anyone who is down or slightly paranoid? No, not by any means. It's a big decision to make - But, what I AM saying, is that, I, for one, am thankful for the achievements scientists have made to help fill the gaps that our "failed bodies" have - and that I became educated enough to overcome the pride and prejudice I had against them. It's made such a difference in my life.

And, to end this post with what I was originally going to write about - I also thank God for Midrin. It's a migraine/tension headache medicine I started 2 months ago. Huge improvements. Oh, the joy of NOT having to end every day with an icepack, vicodin, and a bed (at 6pm!). Modern medicine - it's a beautiful thing.


HollieHobbie said...

Wow, Steph, thanks for sharing that. That was a great post!

JustMe said...

I know what you mean about antidepressants. Last week in my Sunday School we were talking about forgiveness and the subject came up about whether people who commit suicide automatically go to hell because they've rejected Christ. The only two people who didn't think it was a black/white issue were the two of us who've been suicidal at some point. It's so hard to go through tough times, but God in his wisdom knows that we often need to experience something in order to feel empathy for others ~ and oftentimes I believe that is the purpose of our suffering. I too often feel like my body is falling to pieces; I have plantar fasciitis and I'm still trying to accept that I may never jog (or even walk much) again. But those headaches of yours - how debilitating.

Growin' with it! said...

oh boy do we have to talk! wait til you read my post tomorrow. i've been thru several "drugs" and haven't quite figured everything out yet. but i am so very hopeful. and thankful that i'm out of a pit.

and the whole spiritual side of it has been a big experience for me. getting past the reality that sometimes its just these pitiful imperfect bodies we have. and that God gives us help thru meds. hard, so very hard to admit to, but life is only "better" for me because of them.

you don't know how much it means to hear someone else share their "closet". thank you steph!

btw...and poor brayden. i'd love to hear your journey someday!