Jul 2, 2012
Suffering from anxiety my entire life, starting at age sixteen when my grandmother’s cures could no longer stem my nervousness and anxiety, I was just given pills by a doctor at Groote Schuur hospital for my ‘nerves’. Why I got the anxiety was never investigated and while my mother tried her best to help me, I was on two pills a day, not knowing what I was taking, but just swallowing two pills a day. The pills worked and I had less anxiety, and even though I quit taking the pills some months later, this started a pattern in my life. I was in high school and I was taking an anti depressant not even knowing that I was setting myself up for a fall.
I was afraid of the dark, I was afraid of death – too many deaths in the family during a single week – I was also afraid that the identification card that my mother obtained illegally for me as a white person so I could enter a college for girls on Strand Street would be discovered and I would be put in jail. A few years later working as a legal secretary in town I got a call at the office from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) who requested that I come and see them. I called them immediately and then called my mother about the call. She told me to get my father. My father came with a lawyer. We were told that I had been called down to their offices because I had committed a crime. I had sat in the white section of the train, someone had reported me, and I had broken the law.
The fear that this evoked was beyond reasoning. I couldn’t swallow and breathe properly. In the end my father and the lawyer negotiated with the two detectives and asked what crime did I really commit? The lawyer said that I had a good job as a legal secretary and was just trying to be part of society. They learned in this conversation that I had applied for citizenship in Canada and that the visas had arrived for my sister and I. The problem was that I had changed my mind about leaving and did not want to go. The detectives decided not to prosecute me if I left. It was either go to Canada, or be prosecuted. I was back on anti depressants and became thin as a rake.
Again, I got off the medication as I started work in a new country, and had a round panic attacks over the years; once landing in hospital. I was afraid to go out. I had two young children that I was responsible for. I was unhappy and wanted a divorce and to return to my own country. My panic attacks stopped for a few years when I was back in South Africa. And then my anxiety escalated again and I was now under the care of a psychiatrist in Rylands who prescribed Cipralex. I can’t blame the psychiatrist for my woes, but my anxiety was so severe now that if I did not take medication I feared falling on escalators and was afraid to leave my house.
And then six months ago my psychiatrist on a regular visit noticed my right hand shaking. She immediately brought in the neurologist in the next office and one, two, three, without warning I learned that I had Parkinson’s. I write this in the hope that people suffering from anxiety try everything from stress management to yoga, meditation, massages, and other natural methods before taking a pill. Treatment must include a psychiatrist who is a good listener and where you can talk and unravel the cause of your anxiety. I was told by my late grandfather that I used to throw myself to the ground and turn blue when I heard I had to come home from my Christmas holidays at my grandfather’s place. It started from the age of two and was never unearthed as people did not place much value on nervous children and I only learned this when I was married in Canada. As I write this, I am investigating Azilect, as not only is it a drug I know nothing about, but I refuse to be ignorant any longer of what I put in my body for a quick fix.