The Beginning Journey

by sue

I do want to share my story, even though I'm just at the beginning of it. Although at the beginning of what I hope will be a recovery, I have had a long confusing history that I think might be important for other women to know.
This is my 60th year, a year that I had planned to be a great and wonderful year. While I've had a certain amount of anxiety and depression all my life, I always attributed it to inherited factors, genes or whatever, and that's possibly all it was. After menopause, I was able to take a very small amount of an antidepressant and function just fine.
However, 5 years ago, my mom died, then 2 years after that my brother died in October, and my youngest brother had a serious heart attack on Christmas Eve. I had been long-distance caretaker for my mom and brother. During that period of 2 years or so, I also lost 3 good friends and 3 of my beloved pets, and two of my other siblings had very serious illnesses and surgeries, where I was again long-distance caretaker.
Around the time of Mom's death, and then moreso after my brother's death, I began to have physical symptoms I could not understand. Within 6 months after my brother's death, I began to feel "different," but couldn't make sense of my feelings. That summer, 9 months after his death, I was out of state, on a fun weekend with my girlfriends, when I was overtaken by panic attacks and weakness. Over the following months, I had symptoms of an imminent heart attack (heart problems run in my family) and I proceeded to go thru every heart test available, including undergoing a heart cath! Turns out my heart is in great shape.
Over the next year, while the "heart" symptoms went away, I then developed more and different symptoms, which I thought were probably Lyme disease, since I fit that profile perfectly, or it could have been Lupus or fibromyalgia, or any number of other "modern" diseases so many of us women are getting. All my medical tests came back negative, meaning I was quite healthy, no doctor anywhere was able to diagnose me and I became more and more frustrated with the medical system, and more ill as time went on. I was functioning, but tired and somewhat anxious all the time, along with the other symptoms I had.
I have never been able to do pap smears without tears and sobbing and for the past 3 years, couldn't do them at all. By October of last year, I was barely functioning anymore, so went to a psychiatrist too because I didn't know where else to turn. After a couple of visits I had what I suppose was a "flashback" of some sort and my psychiatrist began to tell me that my illness was all being caused by repressed memories of something traumatic in my childhood, possibly sexual abuse. He said that all the stress of the deaths of my mom, brother, and friends, and the family illnesses, had "triggered" me back to a place in my life where I felt very unsafe, and that feeling was being "re-enacted" in my life now.
I could not "hear" that from him, and I became so physically ill after that that I could not go to his office anymore. I thought I was "just sick" and could not connect my illness with what he was telling me.
January thru April of this year, I did several months of herbal treatments and acupuncture. Nothing helped. After awhile, most of my physical symptoms went away though and turned into anxiety and depression, which I now think was the real problem all had just taken other forms of expression.
After 4 months of "through-the-roof" anxiety which no medication could help, I went to my gynecologist to speak with her. She told me with no hesitation that this is all happening because of repressed memories of sexual abuse somewhere in my childhood. Currently, I'm seeing the psychiatrist for abuse counseling, but have no memories of any abuse and find it very hard to believe that this is what I'm dealing with. I've always had "suspicions" of abuse, have carried a vague "memory" of some sort of uncomfortable situation that "seemed" sexual in some way, and have always had 2 dreams about one of my brothers behaving in a sexual way toward me. But this is all I have to go on and am trying now to recover anything I can that will help me.
I still wake up every day trembling inside and going thru my days in either an anxious or depressed state, mostly anxiety. My life is not mine anymore, I feel like I've lost my life to whatever this is until I can solve the puzzle. My psychiatrist tells me that I will get thru this but I'm not sure what to believe about all this.
I hope my story will help someone else out there who may be going thru confusing physical symptoms and getting no diagnosis. Not to say that the problem is abuse, but might be worth trying to connect some dots you may not have been aware of, like me. I have loved this website and am so thankful to have found it, as it's helped me to understand so much better. If I live thru this experience---and many days I have my doubts that I will---I will write on here again the outcome of my journey. Good luck to any of you on a similar have all my prayers and compassion.

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