Coming Clean

Well, I never did have that procedure last week; nor am I going to the one they [they being the operative word] rescheduled for me this coming week. I wouldn’t call it a newfound rebellion, maybe, just not listening to everything one of my doctors tells me. I’m usually a good patient. I take my medication as directed, I heed their advice, go to all my appointments/follow ups, and go to the referrals they ship me off to. I rarely ignore medical advice given to me by my team of doctors. Where’s my biscuit for being so good over the years? Seriously, there hasn’t been much reason for defiance when it comes to my health. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some idiots in my time and trusted my gut never to go back. Overall, my PCP and my specialists are wonderful and do their best within their scope of practice to try and ‘fix’ whatever damage my MCTD has caused. Now, with all that being said, I have a confession to make. I’ve been harboring a “secret” or rather, an event that took place that I purposefully “forgot” to share. Since I’m pretty much an open book and can, at times, overshare, it’s odd even to me, that I would skip over a significant situation. A big part of it is shame on my part and feeling…stupid.

The end of January/beginning of February (I have no clue the exact date), there was a day that I was feeling exceptionally horrible. I didn’t get much sleep the night before and anyone who knows me knows, if I don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, I will wake up sick as a dog. This has happened a bunch of times over the years, so I knew what my day was going to be like and frankly, my PCS has made falling and staying asleep, a lot harder. Nothing like insomnia on top of insomnia! So, naturally, I woke up feeling exceptionally horrible. When I say I woke up sick, I’m talking about, raging headache, cold sweats, nauseous, panic attacks, irregular heartbeat…the works. I figured if I could sleep while Ava napped, I would feel better. Thankfully, the stars were aligned, and Ava took an unusually log nap which allowed me to get more time to energize. After I woke up, I did feel better. I was able to eat a little bit of lunch with mini me and waited until Dan got home from work, so I could get some reprieve. By mid to late afternoon, I was feeling worse than when I woke up. At this point, I knew something wasn’t right. I’ve never felt THIS bad before just because I got little to no sleep. So, I went and Googled my symptoms thinking it would give me some b.s. “diagnosis” and I was freaking out over nothing. I was not expecting what I found…

What I’ve not mentioned to you all thus far, was that at the time I had not had any [of my prescribed] Ativan in about 36 hours. I failed to mention it because, it didn’t really mean anything. I have gone that long, and maybe a bit longer without it before so, two and two didn’t go together. That was until my symptoms matched those of someone going through Benzodiazepine withdrawal. I must have gone through 6 pages of results and reworded searches before it dawned on me that this was happening. I was freaked out but thought, OK, just go upstairs and take two so that it stops. EXCEPT my prescription had run out and I was shit out of luck. I called my PCP (who had taken over my PTSD/Anxiety medications since my Psychiatrist retired), spoke to her NP about what was going on, and was told that they would get a new prescription ready. She did exactly that, Dan went over, picked up the prescription, and took it to our pharmacy. I was sort of relaxed at this point knowing that everything would be fixed soon. If only it was that simple. One of the pharmacists that I rarely deal with, called me, and had the audacity to tell me that unless my doctor called her, she wasn’t going to fill my prescription. Fine, call my PCP up, told her what happened, she says she’ll call the pharmacy, done. Well, an hour goes by, then two, then the pharmacy closes. No phone calls. No medication. To say that I flipped out is the understatement of the century.

By now, I’m scrambling around trying to figure out what to do. So, I go back to my research about Benzo withdrawals and think that I can get through the night; until I saw one of the symptoms, seizures. And it nice big, bold letters, it tells you that you have any type of head trauma or history of seizures that you need to be under medical supervision. Well, of course I would have gotten a concussion in my accident last year and OF COURSE I would have lasting effects of said concussion. I was terrified. I knew that if I did nothing, there was a very real chance that I could have a seizure at some point during the night and god knows how that could have ended. I made the decision to go to the hospital while my mom took Ava for the night. Thankfully it was early enough in the evening that the deviation in routine wasn’t so much that she was anxious about leaving on short notice.

I decide to take a shower before going to the hospital because I had no idea how long I was going to be there or what was going to happen. As I’m in the shower, I start to space out [not uncommon for me] and I start thinking about what the nurses and doctors were going to think. Would they think I was some junkie looking for a fix? Would they help me? If they would help me, what are they going to do? Do I tell them the truth and face looking like a druggie or lie and save face? Another panic attack ensued. And then the revelation came; I was physically addicted to Ativan. I just started crying. How could I have let this happen? I have always been so careful about the types of medication I take. Addiction runs heavily on one side of my family and even as a teenager, I had to avoid temptation to hard drugs because I swore to myself that I would NEVER allow myself to be like my family members. I’ve only ever had narcotic pain medication after surgery on two occasions. I don’t and never have taken narcotic medication for my MCTD, nor have I ever taken any type of street drug, or even taken my prescribed benzos incorrectly. I mean, I’ve always been very aware and careful because I know how real the possibility of becoming a full-blown addict [of various, god knows what, substances]. I felt so stupid. How could I not know that I was physically addicted?

The car ride to the hospital was nerve racking. I still didn’t know what I was going to say to these people. Once we get to the Emergency Department, Dan says he’s going to have a cigarette, so I go in alone. Thankfully, it was dead. I told the intake person a few symptoms but was vague. I get triaged quickly and decided that I needed to be honest if I was going to get the help that I really needed. So, I told the nurse all my symptoms, the calls with my doctor and the c u next Tuesday from my pharmacy. They order an EKG right away because of my irregular heartbeat and once that’s done, my nurse came in and went over the information the triage nurse input. I had to choke back the tears as I nodded yes at the information. I knew she could tell I was really upset and she the sweetest woman and the exact person I needed at that moment. Shortly after, the doctor comes in and I went over the short version of what happened. I must have apologized ten times and kept saying how stupid I felt and that I should have known better than to let this happen. He was the exact doctor I needed at that moment. He reassured me that he knew I wasn’t a junkie or someone trying to get drugs to sell, and that I was someone who he knew was genuine in their words and intentions. It felt like a huge weight was lifted. They gave me an Ativan injection and a prescription to get me through the following afternoon when my PCP would return to work.

Once I began to physically feel better (full recovery took two days), I became angry. Partly at myself for being so focused on other things that I failed to realize that I could be potentially hurting myself. I was mostly angry at my now retired Psychiatrist. The woman I saw once a week for 3 years. My confidant. The woman I felt comfortable talking to about any and everything. She was the one who gave me my voice and reassured me that I didn’t have to deal with the abuse I was suffering at the hands of others. She had fifty plus years of experience, worked at John Hopkins for over thirty years, and was well known within the mental health community. I had ZERO reason to question why she began giving me Ativan for my PTSD/Anxiety. I never questioned why she never told me that the medication shouldn’t be taken long term and that addiction to it can set in within a week. She knew my family history, she knew my history, so, why question her actions? She’s the doctor. She has the PhD and decades of experience. I was just a patient. For the last year that I was her patient, she was giving me 280 2mg tablets A MONTH. I never used that many, so I assumed she was looking out for me. Making sure I didn’t have to worry about being anxious on top of everything else I was dealing with.

I wish I had asked those questions. I wish I took a minute to think more about my mental health than my other issues. The one person I trusted more than anyone, got me addicted to Ativan. She’s retired and is who knows where. I wonder if she did the same thing to other people. Sometimes I want to sue her for malpractice. Sometimes I just want answers. But mostly, I’m grateful that I found this out, even if it was the hard way. A few days after my ordeal at the hospital, I made an appointment with my PCP, and told her I wanted to be weaned off Ativan. We made a treatment plan to slowly tapper me off the medication and if all goes as planned, I should be completely off in a few more months.

Why did I decide to share this? Because I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I have the utmost respect and faith in the medical community, and I still believe in treatment through medication for most things. If not for my doctors and medications I take daily and weekly, I would most likely be dead by now. I will continue to listen to them and (mostly) do as advised, only now, I take the time to think about what’s best for me, despite the information being presented.


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