I’ve seen the same doctor for as long as I can remember. I guess I started seeing him because my mother has seen him for years and years. He’s a very nice person, and I always trusted him – I never had any reason not to.
There’s just one problem – he’s an MD. Now before I expand on that point, let me be clear: I see no problem with medical doctors in general, and my intention here is not to offend. Just to share my story.
The problem I have with seeing a regular MD is that they are trained to fix the problem with medications. I believe that in my case, swallowing pills is just a bandaid for a bigger issue.
Let’s rewind a bit. When I was 19 years old, my anxiety peaked. I was a total wreck – I couldn’t leave the house, I was having panic attacks on a regular basis, I quit college, quit my job. Naturally, my mother insisted I seek help and see my doctor. Naturally, as is the job of an MD, he prescribed me Xanax, and some other daily anti-depressant. The first one I tried only made things worse, if you can believe it. After trying a few, I found one that seemed to help. As I started taking it regularly, my symptoms slowly subsided.
But I hated it. If you know me, you know am a very extreme individual, and I pride myself on that. But the drugs took away everything good. Sure, I wasn’t having panic attacks. Sure, I could leave the house. But I literally didn’t give two shits about anything. It took away all my lows, but it also took away all my highs. I wasn’t happy, I was just functioning. I was barely existing. I moved through life in a daze – a real life zombie.
After a few years, I decided I was stable enough to give it a go without the drugs. As instructed by my doctor, I weened myself off the medication, and was able to really FEEL again. And for a while, it was good.
Last year, after experiencing very heavy stress with my high pressure sales job, the downward spiral of a relationship, the pressures of a new apartment and adult bills, and the overwhelming feeling of not being good enough, I started to fall again. After non-stop coaxing from my loved ones, I decided I needed to find out what could be causing my anxiety to be so crippling…so unlivable.
I went back to the doctor requesting blood tests. After waiting over an hour, my doctor stepped into the room, and after I admitted to being unable to go to work, and having extremely dark thoughts, he quickly jumped up, scurried from the room and returned with two pieces of paper. On the papers, there were photocopied quizzes. One for depression, and one for bipolar. I looked up at him, eyes swollen from tears, and he urged me to respond honestly. So I did.
As I was reading through the questions, I couldn’t help but think “these questions are so broad, literally anyone can answer yes to this.” After completing the quiz, he read over my answers, and decided I was the cookie cutter example of severely depressed and, you guessed it, BIPOLAR. I was speechless. He scurried from the room again, this time returning with samples of pills. My voice wavered but I tried to maintain…”I will not take any pills.”
He said “But Keven, you need this. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” All I could do was shake my head. I left the office, eyes blurry from smeared mascara, a purse full of anti-psychotics. I called my mother from the parking lot and just cried. Bipolar. Bipolar. Bipolar.
Once the initial shock wore off, and I finished my shift for the day, I went home to do some research. I googled the drug he gave me – the name of it has since slipped my mind. Anti-psychotics. People with schizophrenia take anti-psychotics. I have never shown any sign of bipolar disorder in my life, surely this couldn’t be real.
After seeking advice from my family, and some close friends, I decided I wasn’t going to try this drug. I didn’t want to live in a fog. My loved ones didn’t seem to think there was a need for me to be on such a heavy drug, and I decided to seek out an alternative route.
In my research, I discovered that MDs are not the only doctors out there. With the advice of a close friend, I looked into seeing a naturopathic doctor, to see if we could find the root of the problem instead of putting a bandaid over the symptoms.
I found an ND in Chandler. An ND is, in fact, a “real doctor.” An ND just uses natural healing agents. After dragging my feet a bit in my own self pity, I scheduled an appointment to see her. She spent an hour and a half (as compared to the measly 15 minutes spent with my MD) asking me questions – about things that should have been asked before.
My MD apparently didn’t seem to think it was odd that I had a period mayyyybe every 6 months. My MD never thought to run blood tests. My MD had probably spent 4 hours total with me the entire time I’d seen him. And in this first appointment, she knew more than he ever did. And she had answers. She took my blood, and got back to me within the week.
Turns out, I suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrom (PCOS), which can be distinguished by hormone imbalances. To give you a quick rundown, basically I have high testosterone. In women, testosterone is supposed to turn into estrogen – which is the body’s “natural Xanax.” Because my body was not doing this, I was suffering from heightened anxiety.
She had me on a new meal plan to deal with another side effect from the PCOS, insulin resistance (I’ll touch more on this in a later post). She gave me all kinds of vitamins, to help regulate my cycle, and make sure my body was healthy again, which would cause my anxiety levels to decrease. I saw the effects almost immediately. I could feel the tension lift as my diet and vitamins kicked in.
The healing process has been a long road, and still going. I still have my low days, and over the past 10 months, I’ve had to develop better coping skills. This journey has made me stronger, and I’ve been able to confront my anxiety without being medicated. I’m nowhere close to “normal.” And while there are low days, I’m still able to experience the highs, and that is what’s important.