Saturday, November 9, 2013

One Year

Today marks one year since I started this blog.  One year since I started taking my first ever long-term prescription medication.  One year since I decided that the side effects were worth an attempt to get out of the deep hole I was finding myself stuck in, unable to escape on my own despite my desperate attempts to do so.

One year since Cipralex changed my life.

It has been an up and down year for me.  The side effects at the beginning were nasty.  It was hard to keep going through those first months, but I felt like I didn't have any other choice.  I had to give it an honest try.  I had to do it for my kids, for my hubby.  And it was hard.  One of the hardest things I have ever done.  But it ended up being worth it in the end, as hard things often are, and I've come to realize that likely, I will take Cipralex for the rest of my life.  As I look back over my entire life and think of all the thousands of times I had nervous butterflies over trivial things, and all the times that I teared up over things that didn't deserve tears...well, I realize that my anxiety started a lot earlier than I was willing to acknowledge.  I've had it my whole life; I just called it "shy" and "embarrassed" for over 30 years.

Something that I want to point out here, because I know it comes up in anxiety conversations, is that my panic and then anxiety came out of nowhere; not from worrying or stress or tough times.  While I am a perfectionist, and I do have high expectations for myself and my family, my anxiety and panic has never come from worry.  I'm not a worrier.  I do think that the start of my panic attacks was my body's response to starvation; something to get my attention, and get it good, and let me know that I had to do something.  Right. Now.

And I did do something, and it worked.  I unfortunately had a bit of a relapse recently and I know that it is because I'm not taking the best care of myself anymore.  In the paraphrased words of my seven year old son, "my brain knows there is nothing to be anxious about, but my body remembers the fear".  First my supplements slipped, then my water consumption, next the rigid schedule of protein intake, the adequate calories, the exercise...  Yesterday as I was sitting in the gym at the kids' school, waiting for the Remembrance Day assembly to start, I felt the start of cold tingling extremities and intestinal unhappiness.  I actually thought to myself, "Are you kidding me?!??"  My first panic attack ever took place in that gymnasium, three and a half years ago.

Anyway, here I am again, a year from my rock bottom, starting over at a better place than my first starting point, but starting again nonetheless.  I'm proud of how far I've come, all that I've learned about panic, anxiety and myself, and I'm super proud that when doctors gave up on me, I didn't give up on myself.  I fought.

My intention for this blog was (and is) to bring light to mental illness.  I want to reassure people that they aren't alone, and to encourage them to seek help if they need it, and to try medication if they have tried everything else to no avail.  Don't lose hope!  I don't think anxiety needs to be hidden nor do I think it is something to be ashamed of.  Talking about it brings a special bit of relief, and lightens the load a lot.  If anyone needs to chat, I'm here.  xo

Friday, November 1, 2013

My first panic attack ER visit.

I've heard and read that lots of people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks find themselves in the local emergency room at some point, usually at the start of their illness; most often with the first panic attack.  They go, believing they are having a heart attack and need help immediately, only to find out that it was "just" a panic attack and they are perfectly fine.

Well, since I had my first panic attack over 4 years ago now, and then suffered my intense panic and anxiety starting a year ago, I figured I was well past the 'go to the hospital thinking you are having a heart attack' stage.

Wrong.

The day after my last post, I did, indeed, go to emergency fearing that my heart was failing.  I went early in the morning, let them know about my back/chest pain that was sharp, then dull and lingering.  I let them know about the racing heart and shallow breathing that woke me up the night before I went.  I let them know that I had experienced panic attacks in the past and that this was nothing like them.  I let them know I am taking anti-anxiety medication. 

My feelings were hurt a little when I noticed the nurse wrote in my file that I over exerted myself at my gym class two days before.  I told her that my chest hurt a little then, but that I routinely go to the gym and get my heart rate way up almost every single day.

I had the ECG.  I had the bloodwork and chest x-ray.  I sat for two hours waiting for test results.  I was at the hospital for a total of five hours.

Everything came back looking fine and dandy. 

I know I should be thankful.  I AM thankful.  But part of me is disappointed.  Disappointed because I wasted time sitting there.  Disappointed because I misjudged my body.  Disappointed because this happens EVERY time I think my life is in jeopardy.  Nothing really is.  I mean, I lost 25 lbs very very quickly and as a result I got really sick - mentally and physically.  And my bloodwork did not show a thing.  My gastroscopy, breathing tests, chest x-rays...nothing.  How does this happen?

I am a week and a day past the ER visit and just today my chest pain is finally slowly subsiding.  I've taken this time off working out, and that makes me sad too.  I just don't feel like myself anymore.  Three weeks ago I felt fabulous!  Healthy, energetic, strong and proud of my body and mind and recovery.  Excited about leading a busy and full life again without feeling sick and tired and anxious.  Today not so much.  I just feel...disappointed.

Monday I plan to start back at the gym, and I hope that it will be a new season of health, energy, and strength for me.