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Monday, July 7, 2014

Panic attacks and anxiety with thyroid problems.

When you aren't feeling well you should always entrust in your doctors for advice and treatment.  At least that's what I thought.  At the end of this month it will have been a year since my total thyroidectomy and I am still left to wonder if it was the right thing to do.

Should I still be having problems a year later?  Sure the surgery helped me with my Graves' Disease but now I feel like there's a never ending battle with hypothyroidism, or hyperthyroidism if I'm getting too much medication.  None of my other hormones were ever checked until after the surgery, 6 months later, and on my 3rd endocrinologist.  Could it initially have been an adrenal or pituitary gland problem?  Was there something else causing my thyroid to go haywire?  I may never know.

I posted previously that the last time my numbers were checked they all came back in the "normal" range. Thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, sex hormones... everything.  Even though I still feel anything but normal.  Lately, every morning I wake up at 6am and I'm shaking.  I take my medication and fall back asleep for another hour or so and then the shakes are (usually) gone by the time I am ready to get up.  Another odd thing I had yet to mention was that sometimes, right after I wake I get the sensation my vision is pulsating.  Reading up on all of this it could be the physical form of my anxiety coming out.

So this brings me to what I initially wanted to write about which are panic attacks.

I did have a terrible panic attack a few days ago.  I think I have mentioned before I am currently taking 5mg of Lexapro.  I was on 10mg but I was feeling worse on the higher dose and having regular panic attacks at that level.  Those of you who are familiar with medications like this may laugh considering 10mg is really a starter dose.  I've been on and off so many different types of these medications and I can say they have helped me remain calm when I was in stressful situations, but they have not helped me at all with the anxiety and depression caused by my thyroid condition.

Before I even knew I was having issues with my thyroid I started having panic attacks.  There was a lot of stress in my life between me being ill, my job, and my family.  Then one day they started.  Immense, immobilizing pain that would radiate throughout my upper chest and arms, almost like a burning and crushing sensation.  Then nausea, headaches, neck and arm pain usually followed along with a crash.  After the pain was over and done with my body becomes extremely exhausted and I could sleep for hours because the fatigue was so great. The attacks would last from minutes, to hours, and the worst of them lasted a few days.

When I 1st started getting them it was after my gallbladder surgery and after I had returned to work.  Like clockwork, a few hours after I would get into work they would start.  One a day, around the same time every day.  "Was it because of the surgery or what I was eating for breakfast?" I wondered.  I went to my primary doctor and gallbladder surgeon, was told me to see a GI doctor, was prescribed amitriptyline, had a endoscopy done and was told I had general dyspepsia.  Though when describing the pain, my GI doctor had even noted that where I was describing that the pain was and how it traveled, it didn't seem to be a GI issue.  The attacks got worse and worse and the medication was upped and upped and upped.  A few times they got so bad and lasted so long I went to the ER, only to be told that I'm absolutely fine.  All I could think of was, "No, I'm most definitely NOT!"  I stopped the medication and stopped seeing the GI doctor.

People joke about looking up stuff on the internet about your health.  If you're a hypochondriac I could understand as every symptom you have seems to lead to some sort of cancer, especially on the WebMD symptom checker.  Though I remember my primary doctor had mentioned something about anxiety a while back.  I searched pain with anxiety and this article came up.  I read it and thought, "OMG, this is EXACTLY what I am going through!"

I started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist.  Medication after medication after medication I tried.  Terrible side effects of the medications along with the panic attacks persisting.  It caused me to believe that maybe I wasn't having panic attacks and something even more terrible was wrong with me.  Who would have known that I was partially correct?

Another year later & I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease.  The 1st endocrinologist I saw was not very helpful when I had questions and was one of those, "I'm the professional.  Don't question what I say and just do as told," type of doctors.  Now that I knew I had a life threatening thyroid condition and was most likely going to need treatment for the rest of my life, I had a million questions that I wanted answers to.  So I started seeking out others online who were going through what I was.  Graves' Disease & Thyroid Foundation has a forum where I spoke with many people going through what I was, learned a lot about my condition, and found resources to help me along my journey to recovery.  I also learned, from the help of others, that anxiety and panic disorders can go hand in hand with thyroid conditions.

So when that endocrinologist told me that my anxiety had nothing to do with the thyroid condition or medication I was on, and that I just needed to be thrown on an anti-anxiety medication, he lost my business.  Onto the new endocrinologist who agreed with me it could have to do with the condition, but suggested the medication may just help.

My thoughts on this were, if they didn't help before, how could they help now?  I want to fix the main problem 1st and refused additional medication.  I still had painful panic attacks up until the day of the thyroidectomy.  Then immediately after the surgery, the panic attacks disappeared.

I still had ongoing anxiety issues because of the healing process after.  Being extremely hypothyroid, the complications with the meds and blood levels because of that, gaining weight, having forms being filled out every month for disability and having doctors telling me, "Let's give it another month," month after month before they would release me back to work.  Then when I was ready to go back to work I was anxious about having to go through training process again and starting a new shift.  This is when I started the Lexapro to help with the anxiety I was feeling.  After starting that, the panic attacks started again, though mildly, when my thyroid levels were on the hyperthyroid side.

Please doctor, tell me again how these don't go hand in hand?  I can also tell you, with my medical history, I NEVER had issues with anxiety nor any panic attacks until 1-2 years before being diagnosed with thyroid issues.  Again, please doctor, tell me again how these don't go hand in hand?

I will see my endocrinologist tomorrow morning.  I can already anticipate how the conversation will go.  Him saying, "You are fine," and me saying, "No, not completely.  Let me show you a list of my current problems."

I also mentioned the terrible sore throat I had last month.  Well, my sore throat is back in a mild form so the gargling of salt water helped a little this morning.  I feel feverish though my temp was at 98.1.  I'll write a whole other post sometime about the terrible brain fog I have been having lately.  How can I be fine if my body feels like it's shutting down?  Maybe I'll have some answers tomorrow and maybe not.  I will get through this, though it's a bitch trying to.

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