Helpful tip: Don’t go to the Emergency Room on St. Patrick’s Day. Also? Don’t try to be your own pharmacist.

So there I was, shortly after midnight Thursday, in the emergency room, eight or nine wires connecting my arms, legs and torso to an EKG machine so that the triage nurse could make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. I was pretty sure I wasn’t, but, you know … there was all this really expensive shit right there that could definitively say whether or not I was, so I figured I might as well go with it.

I wasn’t having a heart attack.

What I was having, however, was a lengthy, at times mild, at times not so mild, panic/anxiety attack — my first one ever! AWESOME!

I’m not quite sure what I was panicking about — zombies, probably — but whatever it was, it must have been bad, because it caused me to sleep rather poorly Tuesday night, and spend most of Wednesday feeling like the world was about to end, a sense of dread accompanied by the sensation that someone was trying to shove my heart and lungs up into my throat, which made it feel like my heart was racing and I couldn’t quite catch my breath, and my skin was tingling and I could basically feel my whole body pulsating with each heartbeat. And, yes, I know that all sounds sexy, but I assure you, it wasn’t.

When you are medication-free and you begin to take Wellbutrin, you can’t just start up at the regular maintenance dosage of 150mg twice per day, and I hadn’t. No, all those years in pharmaceutical school served me well as I used my pill cutter and guesstimated the right way to taper myself back up to the full dosage. Except, I never went to pharmaceutical school.

So, after taking a quarter of a dose for a couple days, and a half a dose for a couple days, and a three-fourths dose for a couple days, I shelved the pill cutter and started going with the whole enchilada on Monday. And two days later, here come the fucking zombies, and there I am, driving myself to the ER in the middle of the night.

But lemme back up a little bit.

Seeing as how I was exhausted from not sleeping well on Tuesday night, I hit the hay early Wednesday night and discovered I couldn’t get to sleep again; every time I started to drift off, I’d startle awake and get that little rush of adrenaline that makes your heart start racing, and then I’d lay there for a bit, and sweat a little, and start drifting off, and startle awake again, and after a couple of hours, I decided fuck that.

Like any fake pharmacist worth his salt, I had Googled “Wellbutrin side effects” earlier that day, and discovered that anxiety/panic attacks are among the things that can happen when you’re acclimating to the medicine. Also, you can’t go off it cold turkey, because that could fuck you up, too.

So it’s 11:30 Wednesday night, and I’m clearly having an ongoing, Wellbutrin-induced anxiety attack, and I’m supposed to take my next dose at 7 a.m. Thursday, but I’m afraid of further pushing myself into the bizzaro universe by taking what apparently is too strong a dosage, and I’m afraid to not take it, because then the zombies win.

“Honey,” I said as I gently stirred Wonder Woman. “I’m really sorry to do this, but I’m going to drive myself over to the emergency room so I can get this straightened out. I still don’t feel well, and I know it’s because of the medication. I’m not going to have any time to go to the doctor tomorrow, and I’m sure it’ll be empty over there right now, so I’m just going to go take care of it while I can.”

Obviously, she would have preferred to go with me, but we didn’t want to leave the kids home alone in bed again, like when we go out drinking, and I knew I could get myself there, so off I went.

After getting lost for a bit — which, by the way, really helped my anxiety level — I eventually found the hospital, parked and walked into the ER … which looked like mini-Woodstock. Apparently, hospitals are busy on St. Patrick’s Day, which I’ve now noted on my calendar, and you can be sure that when I have my next Wellbutrin-and-zombies-induced anxiety attack, it won’t be on the same night that everyone pretends they’re Irish and drinks themselves to the point of needing medical attention.

And I’d have given up and gone home, except I was still as amped up and jittery as a hummingbird on cocaine, so since sleep was out of the question anyway, I sucked it up and spent, no shit, FIVE HOURS waiting to see a doctor.

Finally, I explained the situation to the kindly doc (who I think was younger than me, and boy, is that weird), and once he finished giving me a psychological evaluation (I wisely neglected to mention the zombies), he agreed that the medication had caused the anxiety attack, prescribed me an anti-anxiety med to take the edge off, and also prescribed a lower dose of Wellbutrin.

I didn’t get back home till around 6 o’clock in the morning, and climbed into bed moments before Wonder Woman had to get up with the kids. (She earned the Scratches Family MVP Of The Week Award for letting me stay in bed while she took my place as chaperone on Zan’s field trip that morning, and I can’t tell you what a gift that was … for me, and for Zan’s entire class … because Sleep-Deprived Anxiety-Attack Man would have been SO not the person to put in charge of a bunch of 6- and 7-year-old kids that morning.)

I only got a couple hours of sleep, however, so, around 8 o’clock last night, I popped me one of my new Lorazepam tablets, climbed into bed and slept like dead people for about 10 hours. THANK GAWD.

Today, I still felt a bit out of whack, but mostly back to normal. I even believe I saw signs of the Wellbutrin working the way it’s supposed to — you know, by making me feel more even-keeled as opposed to making me feel like Zombie Armageddon is coming.


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  1. Jessica
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Goodness gracious. Glad you got it all worked out. Now I know why you call her Wonder Woman 🙂

  2. Beth
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Your description of the way a panic attack feels is vividly accurate. May you never have another! If it does happen again, please don’t try to tough it out. Take the lorazepam–it should make everything better within 10-15 minutes. Clonazepam was what I was prescribed and it was very helpful. FYI, my anxiety symptoms worsened when I didn’t get enough sleep.

    I had a horrible time starting Cymbalta a few years ago. It was the first antidepressant I’d ever tried. My doctor wisely had me start at half the lowest dosage, but it still made me feel extremely sick. It also made my head feel funny. After about 2 days, the nausea and weird feeling in my head went away. After reaching the full dosage, I felt like myself for the first time in over a year. I hope you’ll feel normal again once you’re up to the therapeutic dose of Wellbutrin.

    As long as I’m commenting, I should let you know that your blog is great! Keep on being real.

  3. Jessica
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    I just have to write this. I don’t pay any attention to what number commenter I am when I am commenting on a blog post but after I posted and I saw that I was number 1 I decided I had to comment again. I see on blogs all the time where people write…..OMG am I first????? Honestly, what is the big deal? Maybe I am missing something but it seems like something a 2nd grader would say when they got in line first and then they would rub it in their friends faces that they would get their lunch first. Well, I will now step down off the soap box.

    Sorry about that….I really do enjoy your blog!! 🙂

  4. Posted March 19, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I live in Oklahoma. Here the apparent line of thought is that if you die in the ER, that’s one less patient they have to see. I have waited eight (8), yes eight hours JUST TO SEE THE DOCTOR. No major drinking holiday involved.
    .-= A&EMom´s last blog ..Little A Turns Two! =-.

  5. Posted March 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    I am glad things worked out for you. It is good to know you are doing better. But if you still have worries about the incoming Zombie Apocalypse there is a FACEBOOK group. I know you’re shocked. It is called Zombie Attack: A Toddler’s Advice and Hannah’s Mom Types her words of wisdom for us to follow. I think she can make you feel better about Zombies. She makes me feel better
    .-= Ferngoddess´s last blog ..I promise. Yes, Again! =-.

  6. Posted March 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh Mate,Try and enjoy some more sleep.
    Trying to stay even keeled ain’t for the faint hearted.

  7. Posted March 20, 2010 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I’m all too familiar with the scariness of that first panic attack. I had mine as I was sitting at my sewing machine so when my heart started going crazy and I instantly lost my breath, it scared the heck out of me! It felt like I had just ran 3 miles. I was absolutely certain that I was a goner. I once had a panic attack that lasted THREE DAYS, I kids you not. That one did send me to the ER but they didn’t give me any meds and now I’m kind of resentful about that ;).

    I’ve since overcome them by a restricted diet, exercise and learning to combat them when I feel them creeping on. It’s a terrifying feeling so I’m really glad you know what caused them and are able to feel better!
    .-= Americas Next Top Mommy´s last blog ..Candy Land =-.

  8. Gullible
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Hang in there, DS. What are you going to take when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come after you for writing that you leave the kids in bed alone when you and WW go out drinking? You get yourself in trouble so easily, don’t you?

  9. Irene
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Ain’t that lorazepam just a great little pill?! So teeny-tiny, and yet so dang helpful! So glad you got through that one. Perfect for that going-to-bed-can’t-calm-down-heart-racing thing.

    Don’t hate your ER. Ours here in CT is COMPLETELY unpredictable–a.m., p.m., snowstorm, heatwave, weekend, weekday, you can never tell–it’ll be totally empty–or totally packed! Bring a good book and some snacks. 🙂

  10. Posted March 20, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Yipes, that sounds terrifying. I’ve never had a full-blown panic attack before but I’ve definitely come close during a particularly rough patch in my undergraduate career right before graduation. Not fun.

    Take care of yourself!
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..On being a therapist =-.

  11. Posted March 20, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    dude. maybe you should lay off the pills all together. seeing as though you (and me too, so no judgement here) are already quite mental, wacky pills don’t do your body much better. it only does the drug companies and doctors more better…hehe, like that ?? just learn to breathe. seriously…
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..Flickr =-.

  12. Janet
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Poor thing….hang in there. I hope things continue to improve for you now that (hopefully) your meds are straight. Good thoughts are heading your way… 🙂

  13. Posted March 20, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    5 hours! What a drag, but at least you weren’t there with a kid or something. Glad your feeling back to normal. Hope you get to enjoy your Sunday.
    .-= Dcan´s last blog ..You Capture – Reaching =-.

  14. Posted March 21, 2010 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    At least when you’re going through this type of cruddy–eh-HEM–“colorful”– experience, it gives you fodder for your next post. =)

  15. Posted March 21, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I’ve never had an anxiety attack and after reading your post, I know I could NOT have handled it as well as you did! Glad you’re feeling better 🙂

  16. Posted March 21, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink


    Seriously, glad all was well in the end.

    I went to the ER with my dad last summer (after his prostate cancer surgery) and we had just about thrown in the towel thinking no one was ever going to see him when the urologist finally showed. His surgeon had told us to pop in the ER if we had any issues at all, but still.

    I’m glad I don’t have to deal with US health care on a regular basis. Not meaning to get all political or anything. I’m just saying: I’ve seen better.

  17. Posted March 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Lack of sleep can cause those issues, too. And, as a fellow Welbutrin taker, I had a few rough days in the beginning. Now I’m right as rain with nooooooooo plans on stopping.

  18. Posted March 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    –>I’m glad you got your “vitamin” situation under control.

  19. awakebutasleep
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    My husband tried Wellbutrin for a while and also thought he was having a heart attack. Tried to outlast the side effects, but his already high anxiety turned into outright dread and he just couldn’t do it. Good luck finding the right mix for you … gotta say your tweets lately have been a little more edgy — irratic? — than usual, so maybe there’s still work to be done? 😉

  20. Posted March 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    As someone on antidepressant I feel your pain. Why is it a medication makes you feel like what you are trying to avoid until you acclimate.
    Anxiety sucks.. good luck

  21. Paula B
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Long time stalker, er, reader….Having enjoyed panic disorder for a good, oh, 20 years, I feel you.

    I loved your previous post, especially because you summed up what I have felt many years-at some point, you have to be able to function. All the haters can read me the entire Pharmacopeia about why my particular drug is terrible, and all the people that have had problems and grew a second head or a third nipple, but this drug makes it so that I DON’T GO SCREAMING THRU THE GROCERY STORE THAT SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE! or curl up in a ball and steal my kids binky NOT YOURS BECAUSE MOMMY NEEDS IT NOW!

    Grats for taking care of yourself, and giving the “Child Free and Proud of it” contingent another reason to label us insane and irresponsible. Cuz, you know, taking care of yourself so you can take care of your children is like, totally irresponsible. =)

  22. Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    You and I must be from the same gene pool. I hate panic attacks – just started getting them recently too… from meds. Fun stuff. Still you are my hero for getting to go to the ER on St. Patty’s day.

  23. Melissa
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I am a long term sufferer of panic disorder, you described it perfectly. As for Angela, some people need meds to function. It isnt a drug company conspiracy. So stop the judging.

  24. Posted March 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    yep. thanks for reading my post clearly Melissa.

    No judgement here big Daddy. I actually tried the stuff myself. With Wellbutrin, my choices where take the stuff-get panic attacks, don’t take the stuff-go ballistic on random person at the office. I chose to have the random person bear the brunt. Then someone suggested that I take a long walk down a short pier. I took the long walk…down an even longer sidewalk, then kept walking. Turns out, exercising and breathing cured my depression. Good luck to you Daddy. Lucky for you Melissa, I’m gonna keep on walking.

  25. Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    My husband gently stirred me in the middle of the night and had me call an ambulance on what turned out to be a “panic attack”. Here’s the deal: never drink Red Bull if you’re on blood pressure meds. They should put that on the can & save people $2000 bucks in medical bills.

  26. Posted March 24, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Oh man, panic attacks are the WORST. Especially when you’re already a total hypochondriac, and then your left arm starts getting all tingly and you remember that heart disease is so underdiagnosed in women that it’s the #1 killer (right in front of the cancer you probably already have), and then the chest pains start and OHMYGOD YOU’RE DYING.

    And then you get to the ER and they tell you it’s all in your head and you feel like maybe you should just walk up to the psych floor and save everyone the trouble next time.

    Yep, the best. Glad you’re feeling better!

  27. Posted March 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    My first panic attack also landed me in an emergency room. But it had nothing to do with medication, I’m just really good at stressing out, and being dehydrated.

  28. Posted March 25, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    well, the zombie armageddon is still coming, but it has nothing to do with what happened to you.

    gah daddy, take care of yourself, and make sure those meds get regulated.