One Patient’s Experience with Racing Thoughts and Getting Expert Help
The following article was written by a LifeStance Health patient who wishes to remain anonymous.
I’m no stranger to anxiety. I had early signs of anxiety as young as four years old, and I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and major depression in my first year of college. When, years later, I struggled with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression, it was upsetting but not at all surprising to anyone.
In the four years since, my panic attacks, the constant sense of dread, and other symptoms had been mostly under control thanks to medication that my primary doctor prescribed. However, when COVID-19 came roaring into all our lives, I experienced symptoms that were mostly new to me.
New (To Me) Symptoms of Anxiety
Suddenly my thoughts raced and I was unable to organize them. As more and more nervous thoughts joined the chorus, it was all just noise. Three kids needing things. My work inbox dinging. The music in the background. My husband trying to connect. The cats meowing. The texts from loved ones beeping. And more and more sounds until it would become too much.
Inevitably, these noises would crescendo in my head until I had to yell to get them out. I wasn’t even necessarily yelling at anyone or about anything in particular.
“It was like the thoughts built pressure in my head and the only way to release it was to scream it out.”
While it was unlike my anxiety symptoms in the past, I was fortunate enough to recognize my irritability as a symptom of anxiety and a sign that I needed help.
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When I recognized there was a problem, I called my primary care doctor as soon as possible. We both agreed that the pandemic was likely causing an increase in anxiety symptoms. She added generic Prozac to my prescription regimen, and I took it every day for a few months.
While I did not have any panic attacks during that time, the racing thoughts never stopped. With the regularity of clockwork, I would completely meltdown about once per day. I couldn’t figure it out. Even with all my experience with anxiety and depression, this felt like an impossible challenge.
“As I was encouraging a friend to see a specialist for an issue she was having, it dawned on me: maybe it’s time to see a specialist for my mental health.”
I had spent my entire adult life seeing therapists and primary care doctors for help with my mental health concerns. But I had never seen a medical practitioner who specialized in psychiatric medicine. Therapy was always helpful when I was working through something and the medication my doctors had prescribed over the years certainly helped. However, it felt like time to see a psychiatrist or mental health nurse practitioner.
Booking an Online Psychiatric Appointment
I went to the LifeStance website, clicked “Find Services,” and then selected my state. Although the providers in my state were a few hours away, I was able to book a telehealth appointment with a nurse practitioner online. I chose her because she specialized in the areas I had concerns over, she seemed kind in her pictures, and her biography resonated with me.
I had to wait just a few days for my appointment. Being the anxious person I am, I worried about the appointment during this time.
“What if she thinks I’m just seeking medicine to abuse?” I worried. “What if she thinks I’m just crazy and there’s no helping someone like me? What if she’s just mean?” I pushed these fears aside as I filled out my pre-appointment paperwork on my phone.
How the Telehealth Psychiatric Consultation Went
Not only did none of my worries come true, but my nurse practitioner was a genuinely pleasant person. Right away, she greeted me with a smile and a kind voice.
“It was immediately clear that she was here to listen and help–not judge.”
In the appointment, I told her my history with mental health conditions, my medication history, and all about the racing thoughts. She listened carefully and asked for clarification when needed. Once she had all of this information from me, she began to explain what she thought the issue was.
She explained how each of my current medications affected my neurotransmitters and mood. Then, she helped me understand that the issues I was having had more to do with a different neurotransmitter. We talked about different medication options and decided to switch from generic Prozac to generic Wellbutrin. Understanding how my brain interacts with these medications helped me realize that this problem would not last forever. There is a solution.
Once we made that decision, she went over my prescription instructions in great detail. She even let me know what to do if the side effects were too much for me at first. She sent the prescription to my pharmacy, scheduled my follow-up appointment, and sent me on my way.
“Immediately following the telehealth appointment, I felt a wave of relief. Even before the prescription was filled, I felt better knowing that help was on the way and I had an expert in my corner.”
Today, I’m still adjusting to the new medication, but I feel hopeful. It works exactly as my mental health nurse practitioner believed that it would, though it will take more time to work up to the optimal dose. I am so glad that I worked up the courage to ask for the expert help I needed.