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My Turn

DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

Not my turn to have cancer, but my turn to be the one that everyone is worried about. I'm throwing in the towel and going to see my doctor today about a bucket of symptoms I'm now starting to think are all part of menopause. Hot flashes, I could live with (don't get those anyway) - ditto the hairy chin, the weight gain, and the cold flashes (I'm the only one I know who gets those). However, the anxiety attacks in the middle of the night and a rapidly decreasing ability to deal with stress are getting old. I think I started this all about 3 years ago, but didn't recognize it, as there was always something happening that I had to focus on.

For a while, I thought it was just the increased stress of taking care of someone with cancer, but (for now) that's just a bad memory. And I can't keep blaming it on PTSD. And I can't keep self-medicating - that's just treating the symptoms.

I expect I'll come back and post how frustrated I am, either because my doctor doesn't agree with me that there's a problem, or that he agrees but doesn't think there's much he can do. But I feel like I have to at least try - I'm doing everything non-medical that I can; been eating right and exercising regularly for a good 6 months, and I've been doing my best to use planning and routine to avoid stress. But my mood swings seem mostly to go from mildly anxious to a state of abject terror and not much else - I'm really tired of this.

DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

I'm always recommending them to everyone else and refusing to take them myself. My doctor observed my state, heard how I've been exercising, eating right, talking to my very supportive family, doing yoga and meditation for the worst times, and self-medicating for the unbearable times and said, "time for drugs - nothing else is working." He agrees it's hormonal and but it is also partially genetic (my mother AND my daughter both had panic disorders) so, no matter how willing I am to take risks, hormone supplements are not the answer.

Dang. Sure hope it works (Zoloft) and I sure hope I don't get the libido-killing side effect (my sex life is sometimes the only good part of my day). However, I want to enjoy my husband's current good health, and also be ready for when/if we have to do battle with the beast again.

Anyway - anyone else taking antidepressants? Advice is welcome. Stories of how Zoloft turned you from a quaking pile of fearful uselessness into superwoman are really welcome.

karenbeth's picture
Posts: 194
Joined: Sep 2010

Sorry to hear you are feeling so awful. I take Prozac, which is similar to Zoloft, have taken it on and off for years, and I find it really helps not just with depression, but with anxiety. I didn't even realize how anxious I was all the time until I calmed down! I had stopped taking it for a while, but last year I went back on after having an anxiety attack shortly after my partner was diagnosed with lung cancer. I've never had any side effects. I also do yoga and run, and try to eat healthy. I don't like to take, or recommend, medication, but sometimes it's what you need. I'm not exactly superwoman, but I am doing ok! Good luck to you...

Posts: 306
Joined: Jan 2010

You have been through so much, and your narrative has helped me as I travel this CC road supporting my wife.

So do what you need to do, and know that there is a cheering section for you!


Tina Blondek's picture
Tina Blondek
Posts: 1566
Joined: Nov 2009

Hi Dr Mary
Thanks for your update! Sorry to hear you are going through a rough time. As a woman, life is a B *** at times! I am on an antidepressant/anitanxiety medication called Effexor. I have heard of Zoloft, but have not taken it. I was on Paxil and Welbrutrin which both had nasty no sex drive side effects. Stopped taking them right away. Look at the Zoloft side effects, see if lack of libido are mentioned. If so...go for Effexor..not sexual side effect. Hope this helps! Keep us posted.
Tina in Va

mswijiknyc's picture
Posts: 421
Joined: Oct 2010

Hey Lady - glad to hear you're getting the help that you need. I wasn't too thrilled about my doc putting me on Zoloft either, but it's made me feel more like myself (if that makes any sense whatsoever). I get the gas, the "leaky pipes" (taking vitamin B complex for that - it helps), and I have a reduced libido. I have an interesting observation about that so PM me or hit me up on FB.

Have fun with your Mom :)


KLScoville's picture
Posts: 161
Joined: Mar 2011

Hi Dr. Mary,

I was diagnosed with PTSD after a few major tragedies happened in my life at the beginning of the century. The shrink put me on Zoloft and I completely snapped out of it. Not saying it is a wonder drug and works for everyone but it helped me tremendously! Unfortunately he also put me on Buspar which made me mean and he immediately took me off that one. But as far as Zoloft is concerned, I came from being a bag of panic to a level headed, focused, determined, independent woman. Not superwoman but I got my head straight. I took it for approximately 2 years then was weened off since I had my head together from that incentive. I finally had a positive outlook on life as opposed to being a basket case.

Hope this helps!

Barbara53's picture
Posts: 658
Joined: Aug 2009

Menopause is so much fun! The hot flashes, the night sweats, the insomnia. Gotta dress in layers so you can take off clothes when the hot flashes come, then suit up again because you're clammy and cold with sweat. Those were some days, but they do pass.

My daughter has panic attacks, too, and much success with antidepressants and a stand-by supply of low dose valium for acute events. Better living through chemistry.

arndog64's picture
Posts: 537
Joined: Mar 2011

Once my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I would cry everyday. My stress level was through the roof. My doctor put me on (first time ever) Xanax ane Lexapro. I tell you what, they really work. I am not a big fan of meds to make you feel better. But, I take them daily and can deal with just about anything. I ran out the other day and did not have the funds to get my prescription refilled and let me tell you, I was angry at the world last night and the simplest things brought me to tears. The thought of knowing that without the meds made me a wreck just made matters worse. I am also worried about my husbands 3 month pet scan is coming up and we are broke all came tumbling down on me last night and it was rough. Good news, I am getting my prescript filled after work today. So, my feelings toward meds has changed a great deal. I hope with time I can find peace with this beast called cancer and get back to life with no meds.

Posts: 1154
Joined: Jun 2010

I am so sorry. If this was cancer and the doc didn't agree we'd be telling you to get a second opinion.Hmmmmmmm

Posts: 39
Joined: May 2011

I also have PTSD, (and my original trigger is Brain Tumors, oddly enough) so, at least that far, I can understand how hard it is. I also get you on going through refeeding...that's where we are right now, so i'm not sure if it helps, but you are NOT alone. My mood has always (since the age of 4) swung from anxiety to terror, and lately abject depression has been thrown in just to add to the "fun". Ativan helps me, but it's not safe for me to drive on, and with as unstable as things are right now, lacking the ability to drive really isn't an option. I will say that the only sexual side effects from Ativan are positive though...at least in my case.
I've thought about self-medicating, but I'm too big of a coward (PTSD) and am afraid if I'm altered at all and something happens to Ric, I wouldn't be able to respond adequitely. I've self-medicated in the past with reasonable success (not strictly legal, but few side effects and low risk of physiological addiction I'll leave the exact substance to your imagination), but I could never forgive myself if I weren't fully aware of every change in my husband.
I don't know if I've told you, but you give me hope. Even with all the nasty PTSD/Cancer crap you've gone through, I can see a will to fight and survive in you that I greatly admire.
Also, FWIW, I get hot and cold flashes with my PTSD...something to do with the misfiring of my adrenals causing mild hyperthyroid symptoms, so if your doc hasn't done a TSH test, you might want to look into it, especially with the Menopause overlaying it, thyroid/adrenal issues are easy to overlook.
Keeping you in my prayers.

Posts: 1104
Joined: Jan 2011

So glad that you have been to the doctor. I so appreciate your posts over the last year. You have so much to share but you also need to take care of yourself. I hope the meds are helping. I hope that this new school year is going well for you. I know that you will be a blessing to both the students and staff. Big hugs to you and yours (and daughter going off to college).

DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

I'm feeling better already - partly just because I know I'm doing something to end the panic attacks and partly because the Zoloft seems to be working fairly quickly (it's supposed to take a few weeks to be full-effect, but I can't imagine feeling better than I am now).

I'm getting a fair amount of nausea, gas and dry mouth and I still feel better than I have in months - I had no idea how awful I felt before. Still, I'm not sure I would have been ready before now.

Thanks for the kinds words - I'm in the middle of moving my 92-year-old mother from CT to MD to be near us, and it was nice to take a break and get uplifted.

NayPaul's picture
Posts: 230
Joined: Oct 2010

Well, I'm not going through menopause, but.... when my mom got real sick I found myself "on the wheel" as I call it. I've always had add ( self diagnosed) but could not keep my mind from driifting away from the task at hand. I started taking zoloft...... it really worked. I've changed doses, when up, cut back even stopped. six weeks after mom died, my wife was dx with stage iv lung cancer. We have 4 small children. I was back on thd wheel. Started the zoloft again. Have steadily upped the dose and experimented with times of day to take it. Not perfect, but ithelps me focus on the varied tasks that I need to accomplish. I take xanax sometimes to help me sleep or ambien. All these things originally scared me as I am intelligent, make good money and am generally happy I am usually good about handling crisis situations. But I found myself shutting down. While it may not be for everyone, I see no shame in taking these. I also eat well, exercise etc. But when u have a headache u take aspirin.... when u have stress, taking somthing may help. I am not a zombie or feel anyway drugged out. I do feel fairly normal again.

DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

It's funny - I pushed drugs on my husband to keep him from suffering during his treatment, but wouldn't take them myself. I really didn't know how bad off I was until I started the Zoloft. The major changes: I sleep really well, I've stopped biting my nails, I've almost entirely stopped drinking (that was a real wake-up call, actually - I realized I was drinking a lot to self-medicate and then had real difficulty cutting back. . . once I started the Zoloft, the need was gone).

I stopped having the break-through bleeding, nausea is gone. I still get very sleepy at times during the day, and sex, while still a great pleasure, takes a lot longer - I'm hoping that one changes.

But no panic attacks, despite a fair amount of stress in the last month. I wish I'd tried this sooner. . . .

Thanks for the encouragement and sharing your own experiences, folks - it helped.

mr steve
Posts: 286
Joined: Sep 2009

Check with your Doc, diffrent anti-depressents work diffrently on diff people. I was hoping to get to stop mine, I started on CPAP for sleep apna and started to jog again, but life has had a another road for me to go down now with my wife's Dad getting weaker from chemo. and she's not had much of a chance to strengthen up due to her chemo. and it really keep me from breaking down.
I just need a little cheese to go with my whine... or could some one call me a waaaaabulance

palmyrafan's picture
Posts: 397
Joined: Mar 2011

I am glad to hear that you have found what works for you. I was on Prozac and Xanax in the late '90's and neither one worked for me. Glad to hear that new meds have come out that work well for those that need them.

I also read something interesting the other day about medication and if you run out. The article stated that if you run out and you can't get another prescription (over the weekend) many pharmacists will "float" you enough for 3 days until the doctor of record can be contacted about your prescription. The pharmacies and pharmacists don't advertise that they do this, but the article stated that many will help you out, short term. Nice to remember.

Anywho, I always enjoy reading your posts. You are a source of inspiration to me and I really appreciate the time you take to help me and others like myself.


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