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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Thinking and praying for those injured in Boston

I had the television on and the news broke in. My first thought is always of the day–9/11–and where I was and how it came over the television. These days, it’s usually local political news that cuts in, but not today.

Two explosions at the finish line for the Boston Marathon. People are injured, probably dead. It’s a trigger…probably for a lot of Americans. My heart is with those people. I don’t have the words. I hope those who will need the help mentally in the aftermath are cared for properly.

Also, I send my hopes that the First Responders are cared for appropriately as well.

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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in anxiety, support, tragedy, triggers

 

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Puke and get it over with

Early Tuesday morning I got a phone call from my father. His sister, my aunt, was staying with them for a week or so, and apparently she had some kind of episode. He called the paramedics and they were getting her into an ambulance and taking her to the emergency room.

It kind of became my job to be the liaison between my parents and my siblings and extended family, keeping everyone up-to-date on what my aunt’s status was. I became the “information officer,” communicating with one sibling by instant message, another by phone, a third by text message…and the extended family by phone and email.

My aunt is elderly–83 years old–and has multiple health problems. This is no surprise for an 83 year old woman, but it means the “emergency” was more complicated. I kept up, took notes, passed information, asked questions, repeated answers…on and on. My aunt was in the ER for many hours, then moved to ICU, then moved to a less urgent room. Yesterday, day three, I could feel the buzzing of anxiety coursing through me. I was trying very hard to stay calm, to keep myself level so I could be involved with everything. I couldn’t go visit her in the hospital because I’ve got a cold coming on (and so does the hub), and I don’t want to pass it around. So I’m home, mostly alone (other than the dog) and staying in touch with everyone. And the buzz was getting worse.

I tried distraction (which rarely works well for me), I tried activity, I tried other techniques I’d learned with my therapist(s). Not much helped, so I broke down and emailed my therapist to see if she had any other suggestions. And I told her, it’s like when you’re nauseous and you know that if you just puke and get it over with, you’ll feel better. Fortunately for me, my therapist is well aware of my sense of humor and she gets me pretty well. She pretty much responded, saying I probably should just puke and get it over with.

Find a safe way to let it go, let the feelings come, accept them, feel them. Let the fear, the anxiety, the stress all in and do what I needed to do to get through them. I thanked her, like a good client, and told her I would try, but I was afraid. I was afraid to let go because what if I couldn’t stop it? What if I couldn’t come out of “it” on my own?

In the end, I did “puke and get it over with” in my own way. I can’t say I let it go 100%, but I let myself worry and I let myself cry a bit. I focused on dealing with the anxiety sitting in my stomach…and then I tried to move on to the next thing I needed to do. I am lucky that I was also able to talk to my husband about “puking” and that he understood.

I am thankful for the people around me who are there to help me and support me. I hope you have people like that in your lives, too.

 

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More of me 2

In my first post about me, I wrote at length about my medical history. Now it’s time for the rest of me!

My husband and I are from pretty large families. I have three older siblings and my parents are still together after almost 50 years. My grandparents were together for over 60 years before my grandfather passed away. Two of my siblings are married, the third is still single.

I grew up as the only girl in the family, the youngest of the siblings. I was definitely attached to my mother and I cried very easily. My brothers were pretty mean to me for the most part, but I suspect that is really pretty normal for siblings. I had few friends, and I spent most of my time alone either reading or writing. I was the kid that got picked on in school and I had my share of bullies. I can’t say it was a perfect childhood, but somehow I don’t think it was too much different from what most kids were living at that time. I don’t recall much major trauma growing up, but I was a “stuffer.” I stuffed down my feelings and hid everything. I think it came from being the youngest and only girl, I felt like an outsider much of the time.

At fourteen, I got my first job and my first taste of independence. I was hooked, and from there on, I had a job. I even figured out how to adjust my schedule at school as a junior so that I was only in school part of the day and at work the rest of the day. In college, I worked part-time at a few computer jobs while I was in school full-time. And only two years into college, I flip-flopped and began working full-time and going to school part-time. The point behind this part of my history is that I worked as soon as I was legally able, so when I got sick it was the first time in 15 years (half my life!) that I no longer had a job. It was terrifying for me, because I was accustomed to being in control of my life and my finances for so long…and then it was gone. And so was my health suddenly gone.

My husband and I married in 1999 after knowing each other for 8 years. In 2002, we adopted our first dog, at a time when I was still not working outside the home. Our first dog had…issues. But we loved her to no end for 9 1/2 years, until she got sick (without potential for recovery), and we had to let her go to the Bridge. Shortly after that, my husband and I moved into a brand new house closer to family. At the end of 2011, we adopted our current dog, who has her own weird issues! But as with the first, we love her very much.

In 2001, I published my first book. Over the last 12 years, I’ve had the opportunity to publish ten more. I had always been involved in writing in different ways–poetry, short stories, books–but didn’t set myself to publishing until I was released from my job due to my prolonged illness. Writing was not only a distraction, it was a world for me. It was a whole new life separate from my original computer-related career, and it kept me sane during the long hours of being ensconced in illness.

There it is, highlights of me. At least for now.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in about me, anxiety, history

 

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Discuss amongst yourselves

It’s odd to me that family will often talk about physical health history like heart disease, cancer, hypertension, gout, and the like. But mental health? It’s still under the rug. Why?

When I was first diagnosed with migraine associated vertigo, the doctor I was seeing asked about migraine history in my family. At the time, my answer was “nope, not a one!” But later, I found out that wasn’t true. For some reason, no one had talked about migraines in our family. We came to realize that my grandfather probably suffered, though at the time they called it “hay fever”. Then I found out after chatting with a cousin that she, too, suffered, and so did her father (my uncle). And in recent years, we’ve come to understand that my mother suffers from them, though her trigger is certain foods.

So has been the same with depression and anxiety and panic. I was speaking to my aunt and when I was telling her my experience with the panic attacks, she immediate began telling me her experiences with them. Hers were the result of medication, but if I hadn’t talked about mine, she would never have spoken about hers. Why? Why do we not talk to our families? Who else would understand better than the people who love us? We can say how high our cholesterol is, or the blood pressure medication we are on, but we can’t talk about our mental health issues, or the pills we might have to take to help us cope?

In a similar vein, I have a friend I’ve known for over 30 years–since childhood–and I told her about some of what I’d been experiencing, and she responded in kind. We’ve been friends forever and talked about so much–illegal drug use, family/parental issues, sibling issues–but never about our depression or other mental health issues. I know her almost as well as I know myself, but not when it came to our mental health. Why not? What were we hiding from each other? We love each other no matter what, but we never brought the subject up.

If someone loves you, they love all of you. Talk to the people who love you…I suspect you will be surprised at how they respond. Some may understand better than you think, and others who don’t will likely be confused (or ignorant) but will want to support you the best they know how.

 

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Went to the doctor

Yeah, don’t get all excited. I went into the past weekend (sorry, this is posting later than it was written) with a sebaceous cyst acting up. I’ve had three that I recall in my lifetime. The first one scared the crap out of me because it grew pretty fast and was incredibly painful. It was under one arm and in a pretty lousy place. I went to the doctor (same doctor as today btw, even though I don’t love her) who sent me home saying the cyst hadn’t gotten infected enough yet. WTF. She told me to go home and come back when it was big and ugly and gross, and had a head on it. W.T.F. But like an idiot, I did. And when I went back to her, she gave me a local and cut the fucker open. It was so bad she had to pack it with gauze and I had to go back multiple times to have it cleaned and re-packed. Not a pleasant experience, all-in-all. Because I did it in her office, she said she couldn’t get the “pit” of it out, and it would likely recur. It hasn’t as of yet, but I have a little hole in my skin from the “surgery.” Fortunately, hub doesn’t care and neither do I.

The second cyst was on my back kind of up toward my shoulder. I don’t recall what happened with it, but I think it came to a head without being painful. I, uh, drained that one on my own. It was a painful, uncomfortable, bizarre procedure both because it was GROSS and it was in a weird location. It was difficult to reach and required a lot of pressure and a lot of time. I suspect this happened during a period of time where my anxiety wasn’t that bad, otherwise I would have not done it at home without considering that I could have gotten it infected. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the “pit” out of that one either because there’s a little bump that remains. It, also, has remained dormant.

Now I’m on sebaceous cyst number three. This one has been around and quiet for multiple years. I don’t even know how long. But over the weekend it started getting painful, and now is both red and painful. But apparently not red and painful enough for Le Doctore. She poked around and pronounced it “not ready.” Zuh. She wants me to go on anti-biotics to hopefully kill the infection, then consider having it surgically removed at a later date. She doesn’t do it anymore at all, she says. But her preference for ABs was Bactrim. Said I should be feeling better by Monday (it’s Friday IRL). If not, then it’s referral to surgeon time.

As I have said before, not only am I incredibly sensitive to medication, but I also have anxiety. ANXIETY. Over health and medications and food (mostly food reactions/sensitivities). And thanks to Prilosec I am incredibly paranoid about taking any drugs. My go-to for ABs when absolutely required is a Z-pack, because I know my response to it. At least, I think I do. But she said Bactrim was broader based, better for those nasty “super-bugs” (OMG did you just say that to a health-anxiety ridden person?), and less likely to cause side effects. So like a doormat, I said, “Okay.” I did ask her about Z-pack, but she said Bactrim would be better.

Hub brought me home from the doctor (RX sent directly from dr office to pharmacy) and said he’d pick up the RX after work. Meanwhile, my throat has started to ache. Hub has been sick for over ten days…a nasty one. That has meant no hugs, no kisses, no sharing hand towels, lots of hand-washing… So I’m not sure if the throat is because I had a swollen gum and it’s just extended to the throat, or if I’m starting with allergies that I’ve never had before but am susceptible to…or if I’m getting sick. So I’m thinking, okay, Bactrim will zap that cyst infection AND knock out whatever might be boiling in my throat. And I tell hub on the way home from the doctor that I’m going to struggle not to look up Bactrim on Google. It’s not good for me, it really isn’t. And I’ve done pretty well over the past couple of months.

But listen people, I’m human, you know? And I feel the paranoia creeping over me, so I do it. I type “Bactrim side effects” into the damn Google search engine. And I don’t even have to click on a page because I see it all in the search results….anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, racing heart, palpitations. ZOMG. So I type in “Bactrim anxiety” and I open one page. And it’s ALL OVER FOLKS. People telling me they’re not feeling recovered from the anxiety and paranoia and panic even after months off the medication. I know, I know, I’m a bad girl. But the thing is, if there’s a side effect, I’m likely to get it. And I’m already fucking prone to anxiety and panic, I do not want to do it to myself, on purpose, with full knowledge of the potential.

Did I mention my therapist is on vacation at the beach? Ye-ah.

So after hemming and hawing, I call the doctor’s office and tell them to send in a prescription for z-pack. I haven’t decided if I’ll take it (by now I either did or didn’t) or not, but I did do some research on the sebaceous cyst. People have suggested Castor Oil to draw out the head on the cyst, and to help it drain. I figure I’ll try that and see what happens. Of course, that doesn’t address the throat thing, but I have dealt with that in the past by gargling (and drinking) apple cider vinegar and honey mixed in warm water. It’s gross, but it does work for me most of the time. I already started that regimen, so hopefully that’ll help me without the ABs.

Good news, my blood pressure was disgustingly normal. That’s pretty unusual for me at the doctor’s office. And my pulse was a very nice number…also not usual for me in the doctor’s office. I get white-coat syndrome, and should have had it full force considering I really thought Le Doctore was going to slice and dice that cyst right there in the office using lidocaine and epinephrine (of which I also fear–the epinephrine, not the lidocaine). So that was strange for me. I am starting to suspect the blood pressure deal is because I’ve lost a good amount of weight over the last three years (don’t get all happy for me, it’s mostly been because of diet restriction because of illness–although it’s not like I’m wasting way over here). So hey, good blood pressure and pulse, go me. This is the third time I’ve registered so nicely in some not-so-nice situations, so I’m almost starting to believe that it’s a real number for me. Almost.

We’ll see how this all turns out. Either the cyst will be alleviated without ABs or with. Either I’ll take the ABs or not. Either the throat will hurt or it won’t

Funny, my nutritionist called so we could discuss the anti-biotics. Normally she’s against them because they fuck with your “gut” and that’s what we’ve been trying to heal because my tummy’s all in trouble. And when my tummy is all in trouble, it affects every other damn system in my body. ANYWAY, she said if I (and Le Doctore) feel I should be on the ABs, to go ahead and do it. But I get to anti-whammy it by upping my intake of probiotics. And as I’m on with my nutritionist (who is also a nurse), hub messages me to say my RX for z-pack ain’t in yet, and might not be until tomorrow. *sigh* Hey, at least I’ll get to try to castor oil without feeling guilty that I didn’t start the ABs.**

Wow, this wandered around, didn’t it? If I remember, I’ll come back and drop an update as to what happened. Although, maybe I will have already blogged about it. Gotta love the scheduler on wordpress…blog one day, publish two days–or weeks–later. Fun!

(I feel like I sound chipper, but the truth is, I’m annoyed and frustrated. I hate feeling sick, no matter what kind of “sick” it might be. I feel like I’ve spent way too much of my adult life feeling “sick” in some way. Grrr.)

**Sad to report castor oil didn’t work…did absolutely nothing but make my skin feel softer. Actually kind of felt like it burned a little, but that really could have been the rubbing of the gauze pad against the sensitive skin of the cyst. Meanwhile, due to miscommunication, doctor didn’t put in my RX for z-pack until Monday morning. Hub picked it up after work and I submit to it tonight after dinner…when hub is here and can sit and stare at me to make me comfortable taking pills. I hate taking pills, I always worry about having a reaction because I had a bad reaction to an anti-depressent thirteen years ago given to me for pain relief. I never take a new medication unless hub is home with me and can sit with me for at least an hour. It sucks. I do have experience with the z-pack in previous years, but it makes no difference…I cannot be alone to start a new course of medication.

 

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My second major attack

It was almost thirteen years in between my two major panic attacks. The first attack I had was a classic one, you can read about it here. But my second attack was different, which I believe because it was more chemical in nature. I believe it was partly induced by my adverse reaction to Prilosec. Even so, it was a panic attack.

This panic attack started differently, as I don’t recall feeling poorly. I had been sitting in bed and I was probably on the computer. I felt almost like I couldn’t hold my head up properly, like the muscles in my neck were too weak. And I remember that I started feeling twitchy. My head twitched, my arms were twitchy, my body twitched. Then I started trembling, like I was getting a rush of adrenaline through my body. I tried to tell my husband what was happening, and the words coming out of my mouth were trembly, like I didn’t have enough air to get the words out. But while I felt like I couldn’t talk normally, I felt like I was having a normal conversation. I stood up, I felt weak like I couldn’t stand, so I sat down on the chair near my bed. My husband asked if I wanted to go to the ER, but I couldn’t decide. I knew my in-laws were downstairs eating dinner, and I was loathe to walk by them in the condition I was in.I was laying in bed, wailing and moaning, telling my mother that my brain was broken. That I didn’t want to BE this way, that I didn’t want to live like this. I didn’t want to be broken like this.

My husband suggested that maybe the local walk-in clinic would be better than the ER, as I would be seen faster than the ER, which is notoriously slow. But I couldn’t make a decision, I felt like my brain was frozen in place, like I had no ability to come to a conclusion on anything. So my husband said we should just go to the clinic and get a prescription for Ativan so it would calm me down. Since I couldn’t make a decision on my own, I agreed. As I lumbered around trying to find clothes to put on to go out, I felt like I was floating overtop of myself, disconnected from my body, even while I felt the trembling in my body. I had trouble putting pants on, I could barely get my trembling leg into one pant leg hole.

When I was finally dressed, I asked my husband to go have his in-laws go into a room and close the door, so they didn’t see me. I was now sobbing and shaking so hard I could barely stand. I cried and shook as my Mom tried to help me down the hall and downstairs. My husband helped me out to the car and my Mom got in the backseat. She kept rubbing my shoulders and all I could do was sob and shake. The drive to the clinic was about fifteen minutes, and by the time I got there, the trembling had slowed somewhat. I tried to compose myself enough to answer the questions for the intake, though I did cry through that, too. The guy doing the intake was actually very nice and didn’t make a big deal out of the situation.

On the other hand, the doctor I saw was pretty awful. He treated me pretty shitty and acted very pompous, basically told me I needed to get help. I told him I was already seeking help, but I couldn’t get to anyone that time of night or on that day (a holiday). That I really hated medication, but I needed to get a few pills to help me down off the cliff I was on at the moment. I don’t recall all the conversation, but my mother and husband agreed with me that the doctor was awfully crappy to me in the moment. I told the doctor I could only take Ativan, since it was something I was familiar with, but he blew me off and told me Xanex is the same thing. If you’ve ever taken either, you know that isn’t true. But he refused to order Ativan and only gave me a prescription for Xanex.

When we tried to get the prescription filled in the clinic, it was then that they told me they didn’t keep that kind of medication on site. So we had to rush off to a 24-hour CVS to get the prescription filled. By the time we were in the parking lot for the CVS, I had calmed down. When we finally got home, I was exhausted, but no longer crying or shaking.

Like I said, it felt totally different from my first panic attack, but in retrospect, it was very similar to a previous (and more recent) attack I had. It was more minor, and we did go to the emergency room. Somehow I was able to come down more quickly from that attack, before it progressed quite as far. That smaller panic attack happened while I was on the Prilosec as well.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in anxiety, panic attacks

 

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More of me

You can read my profile page here. That’s a short and shorty about me. But I wanted to introduce myself a little more.

I’m in my early 40s, and I’ve been married to my husband since 1999. We have been together since 1992. I spent the beginning of my career as a computer network administrator, then when I first got sick in 2000, I started my career as an author.

In late 2000, I began feeling sick and run down. My job was pretty high stress at the time, so I originally thought that I was “burned out” from working in a high-stress, fast-paced job. I suffered from walking pneumonia during this period of time, which kind of started out my illnesses. I became unable to work, so I took short-term leave from my job to try to recover. Unfortunately, my health continued to go downhill and my employer could not hold my job open.

I began making the rounds to every specialty doctor you can think of, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I suffered from extreme fatigue, body pain, stomach pains, muscle pain, headaches, jaw aches, and of course, anxiety over all of it. At the time, fibromyalgia was barely coming to light, and many doctors didn’t believe it even existed. We weren’t sure if it was what I had, but the symptoms seemed to match. After going everywhere else, including a neurologist (who sometimes diagnoses fibromyalgia), I found a local neurologist who specialized in Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. He didn’t take insurance, but by this time I was desperate to find out what was wrong with me.

The neurologist told me I did not have fibro or chronic fatigue syndrome, but instead could be categorized under the heading of “myofascial pain syndrome”, now called chronic myofascial pain. It has some similarities to fibro, but is inherently different. Fibro has tender points and generally the pain is all over the body. Myofacial pain syndrome has trigger points, and it tends to be more localized to certain areas. The neurologist coudn’t be sure, but it’s possible I had a virus that weakened my immune system, and then my body wasn’t absorbing b12 or iron, so those stores were impossibly low in my body. Without those two essential vitamins and nutrients, my muscles could not repair themselves, and so I got weaker and weaker, and the myofascial pain got worse and worse. The treatment was iron and b12 supplementation, plus physical therapy to help rehabilitate my muscles. I was on that treatment schedule for over 9 months. Since then I’ve been on and off both supplementation and PT in order to keep up with my myofascial pain syndrome issues.

The neuro also found that I had TMJ, and sent me to a dentist who specialized in TMJ. She was able to help me a lot with the headaches and jaw pain by fitting me with a mouth guard to sleep in. I chewed the hell out of that first mouth guard, but after that was never able to get one that fit the same, unfortunately.

In 2003, I got sick again. I began to get dizzy spells and my anxiety peaked again. I couldn’t get out of bed without feeling like I was falling over. Even in bed, I was dizzy and unbalanced. There were times I worried I would fall out of bed when I was laying down! We began the rounds to doctors yet again, trying to discover what was wrong with me this time. Most of them had no answers, just like the first time around. After a lot of my own research and a final visit to a specialized neurologist whose work with vertigo was fairly renowned, they diagnosed me with migraine associated vertigo. Most people who have migraines get visual auras where they see spots or light, or have some other visual disturbance. Many people who get migraines have pain in their heads somewhere. For me, my “aura” was vertigo and imbalance, and I had no pain (silent migraine). The only treatment was medication, and since I was not interested in that, they gave me some balance exercises and told me that it was possible my brain would compensate for my new “normal”…the imbalance I was living with. And truthfully, that has happened to a point. Over the 10 years I’ve lived with this issue, we’ve come to realize that some of my “migraines” are triggered by food and some are triggered by seasons (potentially, seasonal allergies). More recently I’ve been dealing with bouts of positional vertigo, but they have so far been minor and I can manage them.

In 2010, I began dealing with a new issue, where I was having extreme facial flushing to the point that I needed ice packs and my ears would turn bright purple. I also felt agitated and highly anxious…jittery. It took quite some time to realize that it was only happening after eating, so I began to suspect a food allergy. At the time I was eating a lot of couscous, which is a pasta product made from semolina wheat, and I began to narrow down the “reaction” to wheat. I decided to go gluten free, which was the easiest way to avoid wheat at the time. Now I know it’s a wheat allergy and what I was feeling was as close to a histamine reaction as you can get. If I go out and accidentally have wheat in my food, I know it within 10 minutes. It’s so strange, but after searching the internet again, I’ve found other people who have similar reactions to wheat and/or gluten.

More recently I’ve found that I am carbohydrate sensitive, so I try to keep an eye on how many carbs are in my meals, without really “restricting” myself. It’s so much fun trying to figure out what I can and can’t eat! I am lucky, though, that my food-related issues are not severe and do not result in emergency situations. However, the thought that it might progress to that is a source of “food” for my anxiety.

 

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