My Surgery & The Anxiety, Depression & Severe Panic Disorder That Followed
There is no one size fits all when it comes to any disorder, emotion or feeling. Absolutely everyone acts and reacts differently due to so many complexities of the mind. I can only speak about my experiences and difficulties from my own perspective.
By opening about my journey, I hope to encourage others to never give up and to always fight – Everybody deserves peace of their own mind & body
Don’t wish to read my journey? No worries! Just skip to the bottom of the article where I list all the key recovery tools that helped me on my journey to recovery ❤
This is quite a long reading, it entails quite personal feelings and emotions of when I was in a dark place, it is honest and deep, thus the reason for writing it the way I have is to stay true and maybe relatable to some in the hopes of helping others. Thinking back if I could have read something that I related to, I could trust understand and trust that person and no longer feel alone, I hope by giving honest options for recovery from personal experience I can help even just one person reach out of their dark place and see the light.
The long story begins here – I had a nasty motorbike accident and fractured my skull, my hearing was dramatically affected I was partially deaf and needed an Ossicular chain reconstruction. However, before I could think about repairing – I needed to wait a year for my injuries to heal – due to swelling of the brain, infection risks etc. I am talking lightly…So, I waited, grateful to be alive and kicking life was great I didn’t mind being on a waiting list because it meant I could concentrate on being 100% again. A few months after my initial consultation I got a call from RPH advising me there was an opening, due to a cancellation – I was stoked! this soon? the lady explained the appointment was for the following day – It was now or never so I agreed to start the pre-op tests the next day. I was excited to get my hearing back; the tinnitus was driving me mad! So, I rocked up to RPH and did the pre-op tests it consisted of counselling from a surgeon about the risks of the surgery, tests on my body to see if it was ready to handle the surgery. After a long day, I got the all clear – it was a Wednesday and I remember it like it was yesterday. After I had signed my life away on the hospital documents I was slightly excited/scared/confused so I decided to call my rock – my mum, I asked her what she thought about the risks and complications etc., being the supportive mother she is she told me she’d be there for me no matter what my decision was and always be there if anything were to happen.
The risks of the surgery included; losing muscle control to half the side of my face, becoming permanently deaf and the surgery not improving my hearing at all, confident in my surgeon I decided to take the risk
A risk that would end up changing my world – for better or for worse I’m yet to figure out.
My mother got on the first flight to WA, even though I told her she didn’t have to.. she later arrived that night – forever by my side even though I live so far away from my family – Thank you mum <3.
Thursday – today was the day – I checked in for the surgery waited a few hours and I was in! Excited and brave I pretended like I wasn’t scared and it didn’t bother me, when really, I was about to faint from low blood pressure I couldn’t walk properly I was freaking out on the inside to say the least.
The tedious 6 hours under the knife apparently went well, I woke up in big spirits everything looked like it was going swimmingly, the only issue was that my ears kept oozing blood, I couldn’t walk and I was dizzy 24/7 – I stayed like this for a few days in hospital. The surgeons did some CT scans, got a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th opinion and no one could figure out why I wasn’t recovering even the slightest. Medically speaking they didn’t want to put me to sleep again unless they had to, so the choice was made to give me high doses of steroids in the hope it might fix whatever was going on inside.
This part is extremely difficult for me to re-live, explain, and picture so I’m going to keep it as short as I can, the steroids they were giving me were sending me wild, it was like an episode from a loony bin movie, you know the ones where they strap people down and you can hear them wailing uncontrollably – well that was me, I would go blind as soon as they injected the drugs into me, I would scream uncontrollably – cry for my mum – it was like I was in hell I would yell “put me down, just put me down” like a dog hoping to die, I’ve never wanted to die – until that happened to me, It gives me shivers up my spine even trying to explain the feeling. When the effects wore off I was so embarrassed and I would apologise to my mum and the staff and explained I couldn’t help it. I was humiliated beyond words. Beyond belief. And I couldn’t do anything about it
This happened to me over and over and each one lasted about 20 minutes, I would cry and tell my mum I don’t want the drugs anymore I just couldn’t do it – the nurses told my mum I was just scared and nervous – She knew better but they wouldn’t listen, little did they know they were putting me into steroid psychosis, medically induced psychotic episodes. Go Figure. My poor mother having to witness it and just pat my head and tell me it was going to be all okay. I’ve honestly never been so embarrassed in my life
After 3 days and nights of these horrible episodes and mum spending every waking hour in hospital by my side, I ended up refusing all medications until I saw a specialist or doctor (of which I had requested to see 3 days prior but they were busy) The specialist advised if I stop taking steroids, they couldn’t help me get better and they can’t let me the hospital until I could walk and was better – I realistically had no choice, I agreed to a different steroid on a much lower dose. My body was now traumatised and petrified to have anything injected or swallowed – in fear of what it would do to my mind. The visions and feelings I had would torment me for the rest of my life.
Two weeks of bed rest was on the cards according to the ENT (ear nose & throat surgeon) after my 2-week stint in hospital, no lifting or exercise was allowed, I was given some paddle pop sticks to help with my vertigo and some eye exercises. This was all well and good if I hadn’t of just bought a house and picked up the keys the day I got home to move in. I was so lucky for my partner he moved pretty much the whole house by himself! Thanks babe.
After a few weeks I tried to go to uni, the same week I started a new job and it was my first day, I knew I had to take it easy but I was excited and wanted to do well, I got there on time and was feeling good. My new start as a city slicker, but for some strange reason I started sweating a lot and seeing stars, the doctor had said if I had anything like this to go straight to emergency – But I brushed it off, it was my first day at work I couldn’t leave, My boss took me to the board room and went over some things, It started again it was such a bizarre feeling I couldn’t see properly and I felt like I was about to pass out then the sweats came and everything was blurry – he asked if I was okay and I told him I was fine, I wasn’t I had no idea what was happening – I made it through the day and slept all afternoon. Was probably dehydrated I thought to myself
Day 2 – the exact same thing happened, but worse I couldn’t hold a pen, see straight, I was shaking and I was so hot I felt like my head was going to burst. Honestly, I thought I was going to lose my job if I didn’t shake it – So I kept working and tried to sleep it off on a lunch break. Yet another day passed, this time it was time for me to go to uni, driving there I could hardly drive, and once I started walking in I could hardly see, and people all around me made me feel so uncomfortable. what on earth was happening to me? I put it down to doing too much too soon, but I had a mortgage I had to work, and I had a degree I needed to finish.
It got worse over the week – when I showered I would overheat and almost pass out, when I was in bed same feelings, when I woke up same feelings – This horrid feeling of the unknown was 24/7 I started to freak out. What was going on with my body? Hyperventilating I called the medical helpline and asked for help, was I to get an ambulance? was I dying? Dramatic I know but it was how I felt. I was told to go and see a GP because it was a Sunday and no specialists were working – Calling around I ended up getting one 25 minutes away, I began to drive straight away, my vision blurred I started shaking I could hardly breathe I felt like I was having a heart attack. Once I got to the clinic I could barely see, I was lucky I didn’t crash my car on the way, I got in and burst into hyperventilation/crying, I couldn’t speak or breathe and I was overheating – I have never been so scared of my own body and what might happen, the doctor just sat there told me it was okay, to not try to speak, and kindly just gave me a bag to breathe in and out of and it took a good 15 minutes to get into some sort of ‘calm’ state. He was so patient and I will be forever grateful for that – He explained I was having a panic attack and needed to see a psychiatrist ASAP due to my condition. He gave me a prescription to Valium – I was so scared I wasn’t going to make it home, but he assured me I would be okay after I took it. My trust in doctors was a bit low after what had happened but he was right, I wouldn’t say I was okay, but I was calmer – and that was a start.
I thought panic attacks, anxiety & depression were all just simple fixes of attitudes or mind frames – how I was so incredibly wrong
I saw my psychiatrist a few days later – it was the longest three days of my life. Ross was his name, he’s about 60-70 and an incredible man, I trusted his knowledge more than anyone else, told me how this kind of thing happens a lot in hospitals, he personally see’s someone once every few weeks about it
Hearing this made me furious – how is there is no accountability for the effects of what drugs can do to a person’s life? Why did they not evaluate me better? This is NOT OKAY! They didn’t offer me counselling after – I could have jumped off a bridge and no one would know why, all because of what happened to me whilst I was in the care of the hospital. I have never been so furious in my life! I understand things go wrong and hospital staff do the best they can, but this being a regular occurrence is NOT OKAY!!!!!
After my rage I settled down, he begun to explain that what I had was classified as severe panic disorder, he prescribed me to XANAX three times a day – everyday. He told me to stop taking the Valium and assured me I would be okay in a few months’ time and could ween off the drug eventually. I trusted him, but everybody reacts differently, for me I wish it was only 3 months, it’s been almost 12 now and I’m still recovering, but can proudly say I can function day to day without having any attacks.
Confused yet on what the hell I’m talking about? It’s hard to explain panic disorders as every person experiences it differently I personally never had the stock standard affects but to give you an idea – on the web it explains;
Panic disorder is different from the normal fear and anxiety reactions to stressful events. Panic disorder is a serious condition that strikes without reason or warning. Symptoms of panic disorder include sudden attacks of fear, as well as physical symptoms such as choking sensations, numbness, sweating and a racing heart/palpitations. During a panic attack, the fear response is out of proportion for the situation, which often is not threatening. Over time, a person with panic disorder develops a constant fear of having another panic attack, which can affect daily functioning and general quality of life.
Panic disorder often occurs along with other serious conditions, such as depression, alcoholism, or drug abuse.
For me my panic disorder was my body reacting to simple things in life – all general, however the difference was me not having any control over any of it whatsoever. If I was in the shower and started to have an attack – in my head I knew it is so irrational but I could never seem to control the hyperventilation and other effects it had on my body. It’s simply bizarre – it was like half my body belonged to someone else, and the other half of me was confused as to why the other half is acting the way it is. I would know what I was doing was a simple task but for some strange reason by body thought I had a gun pointed to my head and I was about to die. That’s probably a better explanation, imagine being on the top of the tallest building on a plank and someone has a gun to your head, do you jump or try fight back? That Adrenalin and fear is what was happening to my body randomly when I was doing simple tasks, like showering, or walking in the sun.
I used to have attacks whenever my body felt different, when I got hot, had spicy food, got nervous, so many emotions I know in my head as normal but part of my subconscious my mind was confused and scared and panicked. I used to have panic attacks from just being outside, I couldn’t walk down the street – to my letter box, I couldn’t shower, sleep with the doona on without having one.
Trying to rationalise the situation I figured it was simply because when I was injected with the steroids at the hospital I could feel my body changing – so everything that changed my body put me into a state of panic. I remember saying to myself Monique you’ve got this you can be outside it’s fine! Than BAM heart palpitations, dizziness, numbness – I thought I was having a heart attack all over again or choke from hyperventilating. Alone in the house I would cry and cry to my mum on the phone
“What if i can never be normal again mum? What is happening to me? Why is this happening to me? ”
The reality in my mind was that I had no one here to help me, my partner was away for weeks at a time, i hadn’t seen him at all – My family was across the country, I had no one and I genuinely didn’t want to be alive – and that was the scariest part about it all – thinking to myself what use was I to the world if I couldn’t function, always debilitated? My best friend gave me the one tool I’ll never underestimate HOPE – Hope that I could get better, hope that I would get better, I just needed help. But where to start? I didn’t know how? It was so foreign to my being I didn’t have to tools, or understanding to get better. How do you fix something that you have no idea about? I tried to learn, I slowly researched – some days were better than others but I felt worthless – I don’t know a lot about depression but I assume one would say I was in a state of depression, one disorder to another – I had been warned it was easy to flick between them, Panic disorder to depression, depression to an eating disorder, an eating disorder combines with depression and panics to drug and alcohol abuse, it had to end but how?
I remember sitting on my floor wishing to god that I would wake up and it would all be a bad dream, but it wasn’t and the only person that could fix it was me. I was alone and I had to pick myself up and not let it define me as a person. Gather all the strength I had left in me – I was determined to get better. I decided to fly home to QLD to be with my family for rehabilitation, unfortunately it wasn’t on the cards as I was restricted to fly due to the nature of the surgery and my condition. This was the first set back – I was on my own and that’s just the way it was. Fortunately, I had my mum and dad for support and they helped me as much as they could, my partner and my best friend there to encourage me too. Jacqui had experienced similar disorders and she was my one hope that kept me going – if she could live the way she did for years and get better – so could I. My dad had experience with support due to his father being hospitalised before, he gave me some crucial tools to keep me improving without drugs – and my mum supported me by embedding into my mind just how strong I was. With my partner by my side as much as he could, working FIFO he tried his best – It must have been so hard for him to hear just how much I was struggling not be able to physically hold me and tell me it was going to be okay. But it was going to be okay, I just didn’t know it at the time.
The key to any disorder in my opinion is baby steps, little tiny ones every day – and medication when required. I had so many people give me their two cents about taking Xanax everyday
– “it’s so bad for me” – “I’ll get addicted” – “I’ll become reliant” -” I’ll become a zombie”
Yes, I could do any number of those things, but I had a choice not to be like that and I didn’t. Who are they to tell me what is good for my body? They had no idea what I was going through they were not a specialist. I can happily say that Xanax in combination with mindful exercises saved my life, the drugs allowed me to function and gain hope and trust in my own body again which improved my confidence more than you could ever imagine. The mindful activities helped me open my mind to other means of recovery. I was a new woman after a few weeks – I could have a shower without fear, I could walk to the shops in less fear, I could be at work and not be debilitated. What an improvement with just a few tools to help me do it! I was on my medications for about 7 months in conjunction with my mindful exercises – they really helped me ween off drugs and get better naturally because I still had a tool to help me be calm and relaxed, like what the drug could do. One thing to note with panic attacks, I found I could only control them when I was able to fully rationalize the situation and adjust the emotions and physical symptoms, I believe it’s the unknown that you fear the most, if you can rationalize the situation it reduces the intensity and longevity of attacks incredibly as it gives you some control in your mind and body.
Another thing to note is that I am not encouraging anyone to go and take Xanax or Valium or other prescribed drugs, however if you have been counselled by a professional who has issued them to you and you believe it is going to help you on the road to recovery than there is nothing wrong with taking drugs to help you get better. If you’re not abusing them, you shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed or be made to feel bad by other people, you are the only person who can decide what is and isn’t good for your body. If possible, try not to rely solely on drugs to get better, try your best in other methods as well – most the time focus on mindful exercises so when you are off the drugs you can cope.
Be proud of your baby steps – It took me about 3 months to be able to be in public, another few months to be in crowded spaces, and another few months to be out and about in bars and things, I couldn’t drink as that would set my panics off, my at least I could leave the house, and be somewhat okay. I was so grateful to the world as the simple tasks that I took for granted were now do-able again and it was unimaginable only just a few months back. I was so proud and so I should be, everyone takes their own time to heal, some people it may take years, some months/days. Track your progress and be proud of the small things you accomplish!
How is my recovery going? Well it’s been almost a year and I’m still not 100% myself, but I no longer have attacks, i’m not afraid anymore and i can do just about everything but drink alcohol – I’m not sure you’re ever the same person after something traumatic, however if you’re the best version of you that you can expel that’s all that matters – you’ve grown.
No disorder should define you as a person, No you don’t have to live with it for the rest of your life JUST NO – You control your own mind, you control your life, you can re-learn and re-teach your brain, it just takes a lot of effort but it is up to you to want it, it is your choice – Make you the priority in your life to live the life you want to live!
There is always hope and a light at the end of the road. Please if you are in a struggle try as much as you can to get help, use the tools below as a guide, not everything works for everyone, but you never know unless you try ❤
I didn’t get these tools on my own, I didn’t get these tools from any kind of specialist either – I want to thank David Beveridge, Jacqui Hunt, Diane Beveridge and Jordan Begg for helping me find these tools, without them I wouldn’t be where I am now so thanking you from the bottom of my heart ❤
Remember – You are the only person who can change the way you think, act and behave – If you can control your thoughts you can control almost any action/reaction! Get to know your mind and body and i promise you, you can overcome anything standing in your way! You just need to have hope and never give up!