Posted 12/14/2015 4:17 PM (GMT -6)
I've read some threads on this forum that were very helpful to me, but I wanted to share my story.
I work in a mental health facility and help patients with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, ptsd. I've worked there for 2 years, having direct contact with the patients and often helping de-escalate them or get through crisis situations. Last summer was particularly stressful for me, but I got through it.
I've been on a new unit for a year now and it's been pretty smooth sailing. However, mid-October, I started gagging uncontrollably at work. Working with ED patients, you cannot gag around them, it's triggering. So I was sent home by my nurses. I recovered immediately and went back the next day. A week or so later, a gagging attack happened again, out of no where, at work. Again, I was sent home. I decided to call my GP who saw me the next day.
GP checked me out and did not find an obvious physical reason for the gagging. He asked if I felt it in the moment, and I said that it was more of a tightness, a choking feeling. We chatted about my work, and my level of stress. I told him my job is stressful, you never know when a patient might code (assault, run, try to harm self), but I've been on a calmer unit for the last year. He put me on Zoloft, a very low dose (50 mg) and told me to follow up in 6 weeks. I took it as prescribed.
The tightness persisted and only occasionally gagged me. I watched it carefully, and found the night before work and on the way, and at work, was when it was the absolute worst. I remember trying to write my clinical notes but feeling so choked that my eyes were popping out. It was horrific. I called my GP in a panic one day, after 2 weeks of this feeling with no relief. He did not want to see me, but instead referred me to an ENT specialist.
All along I've been seeing a therapist, mostly to talk about self care from working in mental health. I told her, however, about the throat issue and how I was unable to focus or feel comfortable or get any sense of relief. She suggested meditation, exercise, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. Above all, she told me to see a psychiatrist. For some reason both the referrals to specialists (ENT and psychiatrist) went unheard by me. I thought I needed to give the Zoloft more time, but why was I getting no relief?
I never got used to it, but I went on, working, trying to self care, taking my zoloft. One day at work, we had a lot of line-of-sight patients (meaning they were unsafe and we had to watch them closely). We were also short staffed that day, and had a lot of groups scheduled for the patients off the unit. I was the lead that day, and I was responsible for figuring out staffing and getting everyone to groups and keeping an eye on the line-of-sighters. I panicked. I went to talk to my nurse about getting extra help from them and I started to see stars, hear alarms in my ears, felt weak and fell to my knees. When she was trying to help me, her face was garbled, I couldn't make sense of her features. I felt totally out of my body yet trapped at the same time?
When I came to (so to speak), I realized I had to run a group. Miraculously, I did, I ran the group. However it felt like it wasn't me...how could I have done it after suffering such a panic attack? After the group, my supervisor found me and took me to her office. She heard I freaked out and patients potentially witnessed it. She told me I had to go home. I broke down crying, telling her about my throat, feeling out of control, etc. She told me I should take some FMLA for a while.
Went back to my GP who upped my dose to 100mg of Zoloft, but saw the psychiatrist the next day, who wanted me on Effexor and to wean off of the Zoloft. I told him about my throat and he laughed and said "you should know, that's a textbook symptom of anxiety." I was floored! I never really thought myself of as anxious! But he talked with me, and we discovered that I had other symptoms and I never put the pieces together. We also talked about depression and discovered I'm depressed as well. I felt a great sense of relief, but still today the throat persists.
I see the ENT tomorrow, and see the psychiatrist again on Friday. Hopefully I'll get my FMLA forms in by the 15 day period, but who knows. Someone has already taken my spot at work and I might end up being dropped to registry (as needed) work... Or perhaps I'll resign and take care of myself, and possibly find a less stressful job.
I'm trying to exercise more, taking the dog for a walk at least once a day is where I'm at. I have a treadmill in my home but I don't like to run...I drink tea and cuddle with my pets as self care, and I'm cutting down on alcohol and caffeine. But mostly all day I'm on the couch or in bed, mind racing, thoughts turning dark and hopeless. My journey is relatively new, but I just wanted to share to people who would understand.
Has anyone found relief from either Zoloft or Effexor? Muscle relaxation does nothing for me, nor does meditation and I've given both a fair shot. Any other ideas? Any tricks specifically to target the throat tightness?