Mother’s Little Helper

What a drag, it is getting old. Over the last several weeks, my smile slipped. Scratch that, it expatriated to a foreign shore with no return date. I realized I needed help when the anxiety overran my life and I had full blown panic attacks.

Not this, not now. Since medical cannabis isn’t legal in my state (and forbidden for transplant hopefuls even in legal states) it was time to talk prescription pills.

At an appointment last week my nephrology team wanted my primary to take lead on the anxiety meds. My primary wanted me to come in for an office visit. Sigh. That makes three doctor visits in one week, six in two weeks. They each have $30 copays and take at least 1.5 hours with drive time figured in. Illness and injury ain’t quick or cheap.

At the primary’s office, the nurse practitioner asked why I came in. I spit out the truth. “I need help. The anxiety is taking over my life.” It felt both humbling and liberating to sit there and spill it.

Regular life is stressful, but I can usually roll with it. Injury is stressful, but most of the time it passes. The last month, particularly the last two weeks, completely unnerved me. I’ve found costly mistakes in the bills providers sent to my insurance company and spent a good chunk of time calling and emailing to try to resolve them. Several house repairs popped up, but I could not physically check on them or get a repair man out in a reasonable timeframe. The gravity of my health problems compounded with the suck-a-versary. I have to arrange some tests for my yearly transplant evaluation. I couldn’t work or exercise for eight weeks or drive for six weeks. Everything took four times as long to accomplish on one leg, from showers to cooking dinner. You get the drift. It was a front row week long all access pass to Poopa-Palooza 2018.

Anxiety led to insomnia. Insomnia led to depression. Depression led to anxiety over how awful things felt. Perception isn’t reality, but in a funk it feels real. It’s a viscous cycle I needed to stop early, before things spiraled completely out of control and I went full on yellow wallpaper. Days with an hour or less of sleep can quickly derail an already struggling mama.

The NP blinked at me when I mentioned the low dose Xanax my nephrologist’s NP suggested I could try. She reminded me that it was a controlled substance with the potential for addiction. The thought of boarding the Benzo Bus did not exactly thrill me.

I’m no stranger to anxiety. I took klonopin for several years, but slowly weaned myself off over a two month period when my husband and I were trying to conceive. Let me tell you, weaning off the K-train SUCKED. Therapy, meditation, and other coping mechanisms kept things at bay for awhile. I added buspar last year, taking a small dose on occasion. Last month I went up to the full dose prescribed, but it wasn’t enough.

I told the NP I was completely overwhelmed and outlined my woes. (This wasn’t a 50 minute therapy session.) I explained how my usual coping mechanisms weren’t cutting it and asked for a “reset” button to break the cycle.

She left the exam room, conferred with a doctor, and came back with a paper script for ten days of Xanax, 0.25 mg, with instructions I could take one up to three times a day.

I have mixed feelings about going on a mother’s little helper. On one hand, I’m supremely grateful and relieved I have something to righten the boat. On the other hand, it’s a heavy duty drug. I questioned myself even on the drive to the pharmacy: did I really want to be another middle aged suburban mom on a little pill to chill the eff out?

Want to? No. Need to? HELL YES.

After several days on it (1/2 at night, 1/8 on rare occasion during the day) I can tell a massive difference. I sleep almost all the way through the night now and actually dream (kinda forgot how that feels.) I’m not physically shaking and can take full, deep breaths, not the shallow hyperventilating pant I experience during a bad spell. I can function in the morning instead of having the 1 hour sleep hangover that ruins the whole day. I’m PRODUCTIVE.

Chemical formula for alprazolam, generic for Xanax.

More importantly, I’m a better mother and I like myself again.

I’m not sure how long I’ll have to take it. Hopefully I can step down to a less severe medication after I stabilize a bit more.

There’s no shame in asking for help. I wish I’d understood this concept earlier in my life, instead of trying to tough it out. That only led to unnecessary suffering.

Why was I so hesitant to get medication? Stubbornness. Even as much as I preach to others on the necessity of reaching out for help, it’s damned difficult to admit the hard core mammer jammer image I try to project isn’t fully accurate. I used to think self care looked like pedicures and bubble baths, and I had time for neither.

Was I ever wrong.

Fake it til you make it was never meant to be a full time ride, but rather an all terrain vehicle to get you over the rough patches.

What happens when the road is in shambles and you break down and need help? You call AAA.

If you’re in a similar situation, PLEASE know it’s absolutely okay to get help, whether it’s in talk or tablet form. No judgment, no shame. Sometimes self care comes in a little bottle from the pharmacy. This week, mine did.


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