Something Was Wrong, It Was Me

High Anxiety

High Anxiety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It arrived every evening like a suspicious stranger, its presence like black fog slipping under the door. It was deceiving at first, mist, started slowly and then it changed in a split second and attacked me. I felt like I was being stabbed with an ice pick, repeatedly, the chill of cold anxiety running up and down my spine. The goal apparently was to shock me and knock me totally off-balance. It won, I didn’t stand a chance.  I don’t know why it came. I certainly didn’t invite it nor could I prevent it and its malicious presence only showed itself to me after dark.

I don’t know why it happened and I never completely understood it but the displeasure was here, every single night. I tried every trick I knew: deep breathing and meditation, but I did not stand a chance, it felt like I had been swept up by a tornado. Actually, I  lived in the eye of that tornado, I felt helpless, yes, out of control, out of control, out of control…

In past years during this same time period I felt sad, weepy. In the past eleven years I have known grief and a feeling of longing but not anxiety. Major life events happened, I felt loss , my dad was deceased but fear? This year without the regular Thanksgiving plans, control escaped me and anxiety with its octopus legs strapped me in and squeezed me so tight I could not breathe properly. Maybe Thanksgiving, without check lists and red lines crossed off made me feel undone. Would it be five people or nine? Last minute? I used to be so flexible, what happened to me? I missed feeling in charge, in control. I was alone in the world, it put me off-center, dizzy with fright.

I had trouble sleeping and eating and with my chronic pain disorder, Fibromyalgia, I questioned if this could have been a flare-up? Very possibly but I don’t know. The physical pain is the same but the IBS and the anxiety are on over drive.  Anxiety rolls in my stomach like one of those slippery aqua blue water park slides that I hate, wet,  flying down way too fast. I went on one of those once when my children were little and pleaded me to go on one of the rides with them. Trying to be a good mother and show them that fear should not stand in one’s way I relented, seeing their shiny little faces. Big mistake. I laid on my back and flew down the twisting spiral of hell screaming all the way down only to see them at the bottom, laughing. “Why did you lie on your back, Mom, didn’t you know that is the fastest way to go down?” OF COURSE NOT!!!

I felt like I have been on that water slide for at least two weeks except in my head and my body. I’m in my own zone of panic. Nothing worked, nothing helped, my last resort was to try to listen to music which has helped in the past. No luck. Maybe I’m just so excited that tomorrow I will be seeing my children, home for the holiday? Maybe I am feeling out of control not knowing if we will be five or nine people? Or maybe the last four, stressful weeks have finally caught up to me: my husband got laid off, I had to have painful uterine biopsies and on the way to my doctor’s appointment I had a flat tire. I found out my friend and her husband both needed surgery, I took on my friend’s problems too.

Maybe I’m anxious now because I couldn’t allow myself to be anxious before. The food lists are really not important, there will be plenty of food, no matter who comes. My friends will be fine. My husband will eventually find a job and we are not living out on the streets. My tests results came out perfectly. AAA apologized for dropping my call, twice and they paid for the private road side assistance. I’m taking a deep breath, it feels good. All of a sudden, I feel like listening to music and I’m getting a little tired. That’s got to be a good sign. I hope.

Advertisements

Diagnosis: Anxiety

Anxiety Always

Anxiety Always (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know that feeling in your stomach that makes your muscles clench but you don’t have a real stomach ache from eating too much and you don’t have a virus? That’s where anxiety starts for me. I’m literally writing this blog while having an anxiety attack and honestly, it’s not that easy to remain focused. Part of me thinks about throwing up but I’m trying to be calm, trying to breathe until I can’t do this any longer. I know you guys understand. That’s why I love blogging, for the people who read my blog. If you can’t relate to anxiety, I’m sure you can relate to other things I write about, humor, Pop Cop, my love of Food, Chocolate, Pizza (fine, with jam but only if the pizza is too dry) some of the ailments: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and having the energy of a dying tick. Actually, an ailing tick may have more energy than I do. I forgot a few other ailments like Imbalalnce and such but it’s pathetic enough as it is, I won’t bore you with more details. I bore myself as it is.

My husband and I are (and I hate these words) “empty nesters.” We’re also in the “sandwich generation” another over popular phrase that is used ad nauseum. Basically we are a married couple, we just celebrated twenty-five years of marriage and both our adult children are in college. I have my mom who is still alive and my husband has both parents alive and they still play tennis. Amazing.

Like many people my husband just got laid off from his job a few days ago. That’s stress provoking, people. He works doing computer stuff which is what I basically call it but it’s something like Software Product Development Management. I know nothing about it but if you do or know someone who might be able to help can you please have them get in touch with me?  I’ll send it to him and it would really be an act of incredible kindness, no matter where you live. In any case, I can’t change things, I try not to worry about them and in the end, things will turn out the way they are supposed to turn out.

About a week ago I had the mother of all anxiety attacks when my son turned 21, my husband lost his job and my mother, who was a little sad because all her friends were moving, decided that maybe she should consider moving too. It was a long day and a tough weekend.  We all know I’m not very good at change especially three changes in one day but after 24 hours I was much better. Breathe in, breathe out. Maybe that meditation class was worth the money after all.

I’m trying to do the best that I can, even writing this all down has helped me become last anxious. Having my dog Lexi, literally lying on my legs so I can’t move, her face close to me, makes me happy. From a crazy, wild puppy she has become an affectionate, loving girl dog. She knows that I need to lie down a lot and when I am home, she jumps up on the bed and cuddles with me.

The anxiety has lessened. I know there will be moments of panic but from now on, we have to take it step by step. I give thanks for what we still have. I will try to keep reminding myself of that, whatever happens will happen. Worrying about it won’t do me or anyone else any good. There’s a reason for everything and now we wait.

Haiku Heights: Late

NYC Taxi

NYC Taxi (Photo credit: Philippe Boivin)

City,  jump, run, rush

unsettled life, noise, street rats

stall, honk, taxi, late.

*************************

Happy-Sad, Anxious,

Infertility shots, tears

Gasp! Yes, I’m Pregnant!

B for Beautiful

B for Beautiful (Photo credit: peggyhr)

*************************

Enhanced by Zemanta
all photographs/prints are owned by the photographers.

Finally, I Am So “IN” Repost

anxiety

anxiety (Photo credit: FlickrJunkie)

For the first time in my life I’m in fashion and not following a trend that started four years ago. I am cutting edge; I am “IN ” because I get ANXIOUS.  I’m not talking about buying Uggs (I did buy those 4 years after they came out)  but I still wear them year after snowy year because they keep my feet toasty warm. Apparently, talking about anxiety is now fashionable and trendy. I’ve been popular for this newly accepted diagnosis all my life, I just never knew it. I could be President of this club, and CEO if not founder and major stock holder. The stock market is practically riding on my shoulders, okay the world.

There always seems to be a flavor of the month diagnosis, last year it seemed it was Bipolar and in the last few months, the newest and most focused on illness seemed to be Bipolar 2, (I can imagine a Bipolar 3 diagnosis soon). No disease is funny but when you start putting numbers after the diagnosis it feels like an  iPhone upgrade, with each upgrade things are a little bit different but you still need to buy new headphones or a different speaker.

My friend, Jenny the Bloggess always talks about her bouts with panic attacks and how, on the road, to plug her new book people have stopped to offer her Xanax. Last night while watching an HBO show called Newsroom a character had to go outside because of her anxiety and she didn’t have her Xanax with her. Look fellow anxiety sufferers, we’re even on television, HBO no less!

I’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed at the fact that I get anxious at times. I told my children about it when they were old enough to understand,  just as if I was a diabetic that had to take medicine. Some people are anxious, some are not. I would say my anxiety definitely started in my early childhood when I constantly had to be reassured, each night before bed, by my very nurturing father who would answer a list of questions that I had, same questions every night (I have OCD Worrying) I guess back then, in the old days, people didn’t send their kids to a doctor for an evaluation or to a psychiatrist, it was “just one of those things;” I was always “too sensitive or over-sensitive. I suffered with anxiety until I was in my early fifties when I finally got diagnosed and received medicine to help prevent anxiety attacks and medicine if I have an anxiety attack. I have what is commonly known as “Anticipatory Anxiety” and I’m one of many, many people who suffer with this.

There is NOTHING to be ashamed about worrying or being anxious. You worry because you care and you feel scared. You are fearful of bad things happening to you or to your loved ones or scared about planes, or elevators OR like one of my ex-friends, scared about everything, which is tragic. Unfortunately, she was even scared to go to the doctor and scared of taking medicine so her phobias piled up on her every year like a bloody car crash. There is so much help available if you are suffering, but you must consult a specialist.  My life turned for the better when I stopped worrying obsessively. So, we’re now out of the closet (not that I was ever in) we’re human, everyone deals with life in a different way. It can get better, trust me.

Keep your *Xanax or Valium or whatever you take with you but only use it as needed. Sometimes, the thought of having an anxiety med in my handbag is enough to deep breathe the scary thoughts away. Sometimes.

* I am in no way encouraging people to take medicine, without being under a physician’s care.*

*Obviously I am not a doctor and I am not dispensing advice, I’m an anxiety sufferer who wants to help others.

*I am not getting paid for this (I wish).

Calling Myself A Complete Idiot Would Be A Supreme Compliment

Stir Crazy 3

Stir Crazy 3 (Photo credit: The Michael)

A few weeks ago I posted a very disturbing blog post that scared me and some of my friends and readers. It was called “Worried Sick: One Crazy Ass Blog” and people I didn’t even know got worried about me. Days later and a tears shed, it prompted me to write a gushing thank you post and sincere apology.

That said, I now believe I am a stupid and utter asshole, although I can’t say for sure. However, I realized today that I think I did something totally silly and possibly quite dangerous. In my “fibro-haze/know it all “frame of mind, I realized that I had stopped taking one of my Fibromyalgia drugs, Topomax (used also for epilepsy and a variety of other illnesses) cold turkey. What makes it even more insane is that I had checked this out once before and knew to taper it. My excuse? I forgot. Reason? Fibro Fog Forgetfulness. We just can’t win, can we?

I researched it today and found out that yes, stopping the medicine without tapering it can produce some significant and intolerable symptoms including severe anxiety, discomfort AND tingling of the hands and feet etc. I’m just lucky I didn’t end up in the Emergency Room (although that was listed too.) However, I was curled up in the fetal position in bed feeling a bit suicidal.

I won’t ever be that cavalier again. I think what happens with those of us with chronic pain is that we take so many different medications (none that seem to help us at all) that we figure stopping one won’t make a bit of difference. Wrong.

I was totally out of my mind to have not thought it through in my search to lower the amount of pills I was taking. Again, when they say “consult your physician” as much as we may hate to, understandably so, at least we should call our local pharmacist. Besides, at least we know their number by heart.

Carry On Tuesday: When As A Child I Laughed And Wept

Little Girl Feet

Little Girl Feet (Photo credit: mtsofan)

As a child I laughed and wept, but nobody heard me. I lived in my own world of stuffed animals and dolls and they were my friends. Once, when I was about five years old, my mother, from another room, asked me who I was talking to, I replied ” my friend.” There was not another child in the house.

My mother said I “could always occupy myself” unlike my older sister who always had to be entertained. “Play with me” she would whine to our mother and so my mother would play with her. Was it out of default that I didn’t even try or was I really happy in my own little world? I can’t say for sure but I think it was a combination of both. I’d wager a guess that I was never big on competing,  sure I would fail. My confidence level was always low; a loving gift from my mother. I knew she never meant to give me low expectations but her fear and worry overwhelmed her and so she thought she was protecting me when in fact she was holding me back, making stress and anxiety my constant companions.

At night, every night, my father would sit at my bedside and I would ask him the same series of questions. Would anyone go to the hospital? Would there be a fire? Would the birds come? (We had bats once) Will the boys come (My sister once had rowdy boys come on Halloween, banging on the door relentlessly and I was terrified) and a few more I don’t remember anymore. It was a ritual, a scared girl, needing momentary comfort every night, while the orange light from the hall beamed.

When I was told that my mother had to go to the hospital for a hysterectomy I remember sobbing that night when I asked my father the questions. I told him that the answer to the hospital question would be “yes” and I was inconsolable. The order of the routine was changed, the answer to one of the danger questions was wrong and I was filled with fear and doubt.

I never wanted to try anything new, I was scared and I always made excuses to get out of doing new things, fear held me in it’s vise-like grip until I could only choke-out syllables of lies. It was a long time before I could be honest and the first time I was honest was with my sister, on the telephone and it was such a relief. She told me step by step what to do and how to get to her house by subway and I got there, for the first time in many years feeling brave. What gave me the strength to tell her then, with my mother on the other line, I have no idea. Maybe I was just sick of being sick and holding all my fear inside me.

Eventually, I became more and more honest with people, telling them my fears or my utter lack of sense of direction. I felt safer in the world by becoming stronger as a person. It was okay to have shortcomings because apparently everybody did; I wasn’t the only person that was weak, everyone was weak in some way, I just didn’t know it. Now, I consider myself a very strong person, realizing my strengths way before my weaknesses and yet having weaknesses made me sensitive to others and to how they feel. I can read someone’s feelings just by looking at their face, I can see what someone is feeling instinctively, whether they are ready to acknowledge it or not.

I get messages from the deceased, I have a sixth sense, I knew that when I was in third grade, learning it as I walked down a street in my home town. My parents always called me “over-sensitive” as if I were to blame for feeling hurt, the truth of the matter was yes, I was sensitive, but looking back, they were not.

Rx: Anxiety

Anxious

Image by Brian Auer via Flickr

Arthritic, gnarled witch fingers

crawl into my bloated stomach

weaving in and out, with fire lit thunder bolts

pounding their way through my blood engorged arteries.

I want to scream for it to stop and I do

but no words come out.

I hear the words perfectly pegged with accuracy but no one else can,

as they lean into me, their black eyes engorged, their breath hot on my face.

I am living in the deep, dark labyrinth where there is

no beginning and no end just twisted corners turned around.

The veins on my hands pop up aqua blue

against milky white skin that is painfully translucent.

Breathing in labored breaths,

I swing my torso around and tuck it into my body cave, fatty, yellow globules mixed together.

Tonight, there are no answers, just questions and mind numbing

sadness with extraordinary swells of sweating fear.

It’s Time To Skip, Again

My 2 children spontaneously hold hands and joy...

Fear: I know your name and how you make me feel. My fingers are deep in the inner pocket of my blue fleece jacket rubbing my thumb and forefinger over the soft texture again and again. It is part of my life and everyone’s life at some point. It takes a long time to get over it but eventually you have to and you do. It is like a lazy turtle hiding in its thick green shell and only slowly, with caution, it sticks it’s leery head out and barely looks left and right. It retreats, yes, we all do but we do come out again. Maybe it’s a little easier the next time.

Life is like that, everyone can be terrified at some point and it took me years to accept that it wasn’t just me. I am still cautious, I still get those annoying, tight anxiety strings that pull and tug until they think they can wear me down. I try to push back but sometimes I fail and that is alright. There are solutions because we cannot handle everything ourselves. We need other people or we need medicine or we need to write down our fears or do a collage to rid ourselves of the scary lion, in our minds, attacking its innocent prey. Sometimes, we need to force ourselves to jump or to take a baby step or to skip like when we were innocent children. Remember the feeling of skipping down the street with your best friend? Pure joy and innocence and no fear whatsoever. Maybe we can still be that person once in a while.

It is alright to make mistakes and to make them all over again. Some lessons are hard to learn but not impossible. I know that I feel that too. Some people hide it better than others, some quake, some sweat, some can’t speak for a moment but eventually you find your OWN path. Don’t think it’s just you because it isn’t. I promise. Think of someone who you think has absolutely no fear and then think again. Everyone feels frightened some time in their life. There are some of us that wear our hearts on our sleeves, like me. You can notice my feelings on my face ten feet away, at least some people can; others, don’t notice a thing.

Sometimes I have to play a game. You can play it too. Plaster a great big fake smile on your face and pretend you are absolutely confident. Once my college teacher called it “the confidence game” and I needed it as much as anyone else. It takes time to master it but give it a chance. You might be happily surprised.

“What if I fail?” asks the nervous me. “What if I made a really big mistake?”  I wept to one of my son’s teachers when he was in first grade, “Stand in line, she said “do you think you’re the first one to make a mistake?”  To me it seemed colossal and I did fret with worry but it made me think. My son is now eighteen and I still think of her words, I can picture the teacher’s red hair and the tears on my face streaming down like a small but steady waterfall. When I finally stopped weeping and gave her a hug, I left feeling a tiny bit better. As years went by I always remembered that and now I give other people the same advice I was given. It is okay to make mistakes, everyone does.

If I had any failures in my life most of them were because I was “scared to try.”  I look back at my life and think it might have been really healthy to have been fired once or twice, or scolded and reprimanded instead of TRYING to be the perfect me. My one badge of pride is that I did not pass on my own fears to my children. For this, and this alone, I have succeeded in a spectacular way. I have also forgiven myself for the mistakes I have made, because the decisions I made at the time seemed right. Now, knowing more and being older if I try really hard, I can make different choices. Not always, but sometimes and that’s perfectly good enough.

Fibro Frights And Fatal Fantasies

 

anxiety

Image by FlickrJunkie via Flickr

 

I messed up and didn’t realize that the PFAM’s ( Patients For A Moment) blog carnival deadline was by midnight tonight. The subject was fear. I’m wondering if deep inside I just didn’t feel up to writing, competing, finishing or if I was dissassocating myself from the project. I was going to talk about the web of anxiety and how it feels when it starts to swell in my stomach. It always starts in my stomach beginning with a slight twinge, quickly advancing to panic and anxiety. My arms and legs feel tingly and somehow not connected to my body, I am alternately hot and cold or both together.

The first time that queasy sensation started was the summer before my freshmen year at college.  I was eating dinner with my family in a fancy Italian restaurant in Queens, NY.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak, it was the first time I had ever felt anxious and I remember calling it “cold dread.” How could I explain this new, horrible feeling when I had never experienced it before? How do you name something you do not know?

Those fearful sensations in my body became like a close cousin to me. We lived as if we were conjoined; I could not separate reality from frightful fantasies. It was something that I have learned to live with and deal with.  I started with a tiny germ of truth and blew it up out of proportion. There was no stopping my obsessive worrying, nothing helped: warm milk, hot baths, reading a book, distraction.  I remember a time when I was sitting in the trolley in Boston and thought what I had whispered to my friend was overheard by someone else and I became overwhelmed and frightened. What if? What if? It became a wakeful nightmare for me.  I did a lot of catastrophizing back then and even now, once in a while, it still tries to creep into my brain. I need to forcefully push it away, as if an intruder was about to enter and I had to slam the door hard, with brute force.  Sometimes that is enough, sometimes it isn’t.

My cousin’s stomach ache could be pancreatic cancer,  my sister’s low throaty voice could mean she was manic, my narrow-angled glaucoma could make me blind in a second.  I worked with a hot-headed, explosive employee that I thought, for sure, would bring a gun to a grievance meeting and shoot us all. I remember strategically seating myself closest to the door, just in case. I lived in a world of tragedy, of horrendous outcomes, death, madness, cancer, stroke, coma, terrorist attacks, murder, mayhem and more. “Health and welfare” is what I worry about as I tried to succinctly wrap it up like an adorned Christmas present, perfect silver wrapping with a tight red bow.

The truth of the matter is that now we DO live in a fearful world and something COULD happen.  Fear perpetuates fear and even while  I am writing this down I feel the first fingers of anxiety like a gray mouse with darting eyes. I take deep cleansing breathes. I ask myself questions: “what are the odds of that happening?” The media doesn’t help: “Don’t go to public places when you are traveling in Europe” What? Of course we would go to public  places if we were in Europe. Is too much information just too much?  I refuse to watch the news on TV before I go to sleep.  The only thing we can do is try to push the worry aside and live as normally as we can; even if it takes enormous strength and effort. Carpe Diem as they said at Boston College where I worked: Seize The Day, as best as you can.

The Tin Man Known As Me

The Wizard of Oz - March 17, 2008 - Act I_180

Image by Brian Negin via Flickr

I am in a world by myself  of chronic pain, fibromyalgia and thyroid disease, yet I coexist with many friends. Friends that have similar ailments, some have the same, others that defy diagnoses but the symptoms define them. I have learned we are more than the sum of our symptoms but I have not yet learned exactly how to deal with it emotionally.

There don’t seem to be medications that  I can take (or haven’t been told about) by the myriad of doctors that I go to help relieve my pain.  First stop, the Rheumatologist for my autoimmune thyroid disease known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and for Fibromyalgia. After that, to the Endocrinologist for thyroid levels. My Internist, the Pulmonologist, the Opthamologist to check for narrow-angled glaucoma. I have seen more “ologists” than a healthy eighty-five year old person and I am not complaining for a second; these are the facts.

If people ask me how I feel, I am at a loss to describe the symptoms. The latest comparison I can make is The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, without the oil can. I am stiff, I hurt, I move at a slow pace. It is very hard for me to get in a car and get out, these are not smooth actions, often I am holding on and heaving myself up; sometimes once is not enough.  I have balance issues too. I keep trying new medications but haven’t taken one yet that truly works. These are immunosuppressant drugs that are supposed to help relieve the muscle pain and aches I feel all the time, the operative words are “supposed to.” They also take eight long weeks before they kick in…..I wait a lot.

Tomorrow, to “get me back on track” before starting the newest of medications that I don’t even have yet, I am supposed to take Prednisone, 3 days of 30 mg, 3 days of 20 mg, 3 days of 10 mg. I have been on Prednisone before and I have mixed feelings about it. While I had no bad side effects before, there is always that risk. The emotional risk, to me, is even harder. I felt SO GOOD on Prednisone when I needed it last year that when I started lowering the dosage, I actually broke down and cried. In a previous blog I referred to it as if I was in the old movie “Cocoon” where older people feel young again from a miracle and then suddenly a short time later they are themselves again, old, aching, and hurting badly.

Tonight I feel anxious, tired, discouraged and down. I think once I am able to sleep, I will sleep deeply. It is always a game: whether to nap or work through it. Today, I was determined to stay awake. I am  deeply worried about a friend who is very, very sick with cancer. I was too upset to nap so I decided to push through the pain and get busy.  I got myself out of the bedroom and went to the kitchen to bake home-made banana bread for my family. Mushy bananas, a little vanilla, some chocolate chips, some raisins and the basics, to occupy my mind, my hands, and most importantly, my heart.