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What Is Wrong With Me, Doc?

Question:

I am 32yrs old and a mother of a 14 month old boy. My story starts in 2007 (I guess I was able to handle myself mostly prior to that). I got married in May 2007 (second marriage; my first ended after a year of marriage). I was always doing long hours at work (14-17 hrs) and since this was one of the reasons that led to my first marraige breaking up, I decided to ease up a bit on the work front and switched to a regular 9 hour work day just before I got married the second time. Just about when I settled into marriage and my new job, I started experiencing various scattered physical symptoms such as neck and shoulder ache, chest ache, achiness or tingling in arms, anxiety etc. The aches and pains were all never severe but I started getting really worried that something was wrong with me. I believe I’ve even had a panic attack or two. I would always feel that something serious was wrong with me. Various GPs said all was well and then a neuro-spinal specialist did two x-rays and said that i had early spondylosis and I felt relieved since I at least knew what was going on. At this point I also tested high for blood cholesterol (total 262). A month later, I conceived, quit my job and the pregnancy flew by with occasional mood swings, depressions, anxiety etc. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes towards the end of the pregnancy and this eventually led to an early delivery (c-section) of my baby. The first 3 months post partum were busy and exhausting. However soon I started feeling the same symptoms that I felt a year earlier – neck and shoulder would hurt, head would hurt in different places on different days, hands would pain, I would feel lightheaded, ear would hurt, I would experience facial pain – like before but none of the symptoms were severe but they were there for sure. This time around I visited a GP, a neurologist, an ENT specialist and they all said that I was ok physically but I may have Post Partum Depression. The neurologist even prescribed 9 months worth of medication but I ran away scared of anti-depressants. Have been managing since then sometimes scared when I get these symptoms, sometimes able to handle myself. Since the last 2-3 months along with all the afore-mentioned symptoms I have started experiencing some back pain too, along with that my hands ache with carrying the slightest weight, I get pins and needles in my hands more frequently. I have also observed that a lot of times when I am feeling these vague symptoms I feel relieved if I pass motion. I have also just found out that I am pregnant again. I am fed up with worrying about my health and cry often. I feel overwhelmed and like its all too much for me to take. What is wrong with me? Is it physical, mental or both? Is this PPD? Is this Panic, anxiety or something serious? Please help me. This often affects my relationship with my husband as he is unable to understand what happens to me periodically. Please help.

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Answer:

Hi,

It always amazes me that even now, after medical doctors have been exhorted to refer patients who complain about your types of symptoms to psychotherapy, they continue to ignore what you are saying or prescribe medication for depression and do nothing else.

I can only guess from the symptoms you describe above that you have been experiencing depression for quite some time. The fact that you have gone to many medical doctors, have been tested and found to be in basically good health, points to depression, anxiety and stress as the causitive factors for your struggles.

You body is letting you know what you are unable to verbally express or be fully conscious of. That is that you are very troubled about many things in your life. This is why the type of thing you are experiencing is sometimes referred to as a “conversion disorder.” The inner and outer conflicts with which you are struggling are being expressed through all of these physical symptoms. Your body is speaking for you. By the way, your physical symptoms are very real. Also, watch out for diabetes in your future.

Of course, having a baby and a new one on the way is enough to upset, worry and challenge most of us. We can feel these things and be excited about another child, all at the same time.

I stongly recommend that you enter psychotherapy. There are two types that I would recommend for you and you can choose. One of them is psychodaynamic psychotherapy, also known as the “talking cure.” I recommend this because I sense or intuit that there are a lot of issues that you have not had the chance to really talk about and resolve. I suggest that you look for someone who has an excellent reputation and who is really skilled in using psychodynamics, including issues of transference in the real relationship with the therapist.

The second type of psychotherapy that I can recommend is cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. This is usually recommended for two reasons: It is time limited and more acceptable to many insurance carriers and has been shown to be effective in dealing with depression.

I think they are both good types of therapy and the same principle applies to both: find someone who is really skilled. It is just that my hunch is that a really good psychodynamic therapist might be good for you.

In either case, by choosing someone good, meaning skilled and human, you cannot go wrong.

Best of Luck

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