Hi guys! I’ve been a bit in the shadows recently. Turns out there’s some mental health stuff going on, so I wanted to talk about that but also open up the space for anyone else who needs it!

TLDR: I’m going on Cipralex/Lexapro! Any experiences? The doctor was super brief and I’m not quite sure what to expect or look out for.

So last semester was a little overwhelming and rough for me. Applying for phds on top of my MA coursework, TAing, and working a part time job in my field was just too much. Lots of anxiety and thought so of giving up. But I got through it! This semester is only the part time job and one course, plus beginning work on my thesis. Totally manageable! I have free time again!

And at first it was ok, but I’ve started just completely falling apart. Panic attacks once a day or more, racing heart, tearing up or even full on sobbing for no reason, constant feelings of general and unspecified dread/panic/worthlessness. Basic tasks would make me freeze up and avoid them, I felt so guilty for not responding to friends that I wouldn’t respond at all and then feel more isolated. My partner is so loving and supportive and has made it abundantly clear he’s here for me while I get through this, but feeling panic spirals into feelings of more panic about how my anxiety makes me a shitty girlfriend and unworthy of love and he’d be better off without me. (I try to vocalize as little of this as possible because I know from being on the other end of it how shitty being subjected to those feelings can be, but I know he can sense some of it when I try to apologize for a panic attack, which of course feeds into the spiral.) It’s felt really physiological and intense and none of my normal grounding strategies, attempts at positive self talk, long walks, etc help.

It sort of rapidly escalated into crisis this past week. Luckily I’m a graduate student so I can get some mental health care covered here in my part of Canada through the grad society’s supplemental insurance, but....guys, it’s still so hard to access. Got in to make an appointment (one set of paperwork) with the intake person (another set) who would meet with me to try to push me towards online or group counseling (not for me At All for very specific reasons), finally got referred to a real counselor and lucked out - they had a rare opening this week! So I went, filled out another set of extensive paperwork, and...she gave me a packet of anxiety strategies that we both acknowledged I already know and said she can’t really help because her next available follow up appointment is in mid March. That was one of my six covered appointments. I’m in the process of getting paired with one of the non-university affiliated therapists who are covered for a few sessions, but that of course will also take a couple of weeks. I don’t have the money to pay someone out of pocket, although my partner has offered to help me pay of it comes to that..

So! I try setting up an appointment with a mental health focused doctor (not a psychiatrist, something else I think?) and the wait for an appointment to talk about mental health was 3-6 weeks at the student clinic and a couple of other places I called. Which is just. Not feasible. (I learned this after showing up to the clinic because the first receptionist said someone could probably squeeze me in that day....but that was wrong.) And I’m terrified of going to a walk in clinic and being labeled a drug seeker and then never getting medication ever again? Which is maybe a bit of anxiety speaking?

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But I go yesterday to a walk in clinic that can squeeze me in and spill my guts to this super young male doctor who by the grace of the goddess actually believes me (including taking my word for my past medication history in the US) and agrees that the mental health system is untenable- even though I have more resources than someone who isn’t a student. He only has ten minutes with me, but prescribed me Cipralex and a small script for klonazapam until the other med can build up in my system and I can have a few therapy appointments. We also have a follow up appointment in two weeks.

Which is great! I think? I’ve never gone on an anti-depressant before and am a little scared as I’ve seen plenty of people really struggle with them. But I took a klonopin last night and oh my god it felt like I could actually breathe again for the first time in weeks. Wow.

Also...weird kind of embarrassing question? Apparently when I get super anxious/have a panic attack, my breath changes to have a kind of...fermented/bad smell? That smells differently from normal bad breath? Anyone know what this could be related to? I’m glad my boyfriend told me (as kindly as possible) as it’s important medical info to know but now I’m super self conscious about it and the internet and doctor have not been helpful in figuring it out.

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Wow ok that was a novel! If you’re still reading, thank you. Please share how you’re doing, too, if you want to!