By Guest Blogger Amie Havens

I am a 45 year old woman, residing in Winston-Salem, with an amazing husband, and two wonderful stepchildren. Starting around September of last year, my life would take a dramatic turn for the worse. Little did I know at the time for the next nine months I would endure one of the toughest challenges of my life, the fight to stay alive and love life again.

I remember things starting to change around October of last year. I had left my job of the past 13 years to try something new. I wanted a new challenge and thought this job was the perfect fit.  Soon after starting the new job, my anxiety rose to levels I had never experienced before. To try and help with the anxiety, I went to see a local doctor.

Over the next 6 months, I was prescribed a series of different medications to help control my anxiety and resulting depression. Shortly after taking the new medication, I began experiencing debilitating and torturous side effects which included a subjective feeling of inner restlessness that did not allow me to sit still. I spent the next six months sleeping 1-2 hours day, and when awake, walking and pacing around my house constantly day and night. I lost 20 lbs., my speech was slurred, my skin was pale, and my hair was breaking off and falling out. I was unable to handle a simple task like paying a bill, fixing a meal, or going to the grocery store. I went from being an independent woman with a successful career, vibrant social life, and a loving relationship to not being able to work, socialize with my friends and family or engage with my husband. I was now housebound and dependent on others for everything. I knew something was drastically wrong. The cure I was being prescribed to combat anxiety was worse than the initial anxiety that caused me to see a doctor.

For the next 4-5 months I began to consult with various doctors and describe what I was experiencing. I told them I felt very strongly that these medicines were causing these side effects, but unfortunately, they did not agree. The advice was to increase my dose and stay on the current medicines. I continued to take the medicine as prescribed and things continued to get worse. I felt defeated and couldn’t continue to live like this. I contemplated taking my own life.

And then finally there was some hope. After many months of research, my sister was able to shed some light on what may be wrong with me. She had discovered online a condition called Akathisia. Akathisia causes a feeling of muscle quivering, restlessness, and the inability to sit still, and is caused by a reaction to certain medicines used to treat anxiety, depression, and bi-polar disorder. Other symptoms include crossing and uncrossing the legs, fidgeting, foot or finger tapping, marching in place, pacing, rocking, shifting weight from one leg to another. It often goes unrecognized and is associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts. Bruce Springsteen, of rock-n-roll fame, had Akathisia and describes it perfectly in this article.

Armed with this new information, I began to search for a new doctor that was willing to listen to me and understood this condition. She was able to put me on a series of medicines to that began to reverse the Akathisia. After about 3-4 months, I began to see an improvement. A year later the Akathisia is completely gone, and I am back to normal. I love life again!

Since this condition often goes undiagnosed, I decided to share my story to bring awareness to Akathisia. If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms talk to your doctor. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

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