Anxiety: In order to understand…

I have been going to therapy off and on since I was 16.  By this time, I was living with my mom, (grandmother) and we lived behind a hospital. Attached to the hospital was a counseling center. I think it was probably for drugs and alcohol. In those days, one could smoke inside the office. I trotted up to the office after school one day and asked to see a counselor. I was in high school and working at a local fast food restaurant, and did not make much money, so was not charged much. I went to counseling every Tuesday and Thursday after school, by choice. My counselor was great. She was an older lady, with wild looking hair and smoked cigarettes with a long holder. She was hilarious. I swear, she chained smoked when seeing me. I only saw her for about an hour. As I began to tell her about my first 16 years of life, I think she probably needed a counselor. She was amazed at how level headed I really was, after years of abuse, of all kinds and by being shuffled around the relative circle. After about a month, she stopped taking notes; I am sure she threw out her note pad. It was just too much. She helped me talk through things, but really could not do much in the way of helping me. It was nice to talk to an adult without fear, and without worry. I worried all the time, for as long as I can remember.  As a kid, I worried that I would get in trouble if I didn’t eat all of my food, (I did get spanked). I worried the other kids wouldn’t like me, (they did anyway which is a mystery to me). I worried that people were mad at me all the time, (they weren’t). I worried I would be an alcoholic (I am not)….the list goes on and on. This funny lady was the beginning of licensed counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and the like. I stopped therapy about ten years ago for two reasons:  money and I really don’t think I can be helped. My last psychologist was 83. He saw me for over eight years. We had become friends, and he was the one I was looking for all my life. He really did help me, by helping me change my behavior.  However, it was my  medical doctor that finally drilled it into my brain that I have a real problem with anxiety. I do it to myself. I still can not really wrap my head around it. I was on medication at the age of 38. I started off on a light dose and due to many tragic events within 18 months, was on a very high dose. With all of the stress I am under now, I am weaning off, hopefully to taking nothing. I can not tell you why because I do not know why., other than, the medications can sometimes make you feel like a zombie which means you feel nothing. I have to be alert for my son. Also, I just think I have been on it too long and it is not helping. In later posts, I will tell you what my last shrink thinks that started the entire Journey of My Life with Anxiety.

There is a good kind of anxiety, like when you are going up a roller coaster, sitting at the top, tummy churning, hands sweating, and then howling in glee as you start your descent.

The bad kind is when you are walking in the ocean, enjoying the water, the breeze and sun, the dolphins in the distance, and the bottom of the ocean suddenly….drops. That’s how anxiety feels; like you are going to drown..constantly…until it leaves you alone for a while and bothers someone else. After of course,  you are scared to death.

Then there is the bad kind of anxiety which gives you, ‘panic attacks’ and you leave a full cart of groceries in the grocery store (guilty). I began having panic attacks at the age of 27, and refused to believe my doctor when he said it was anxiety. I laughed my head off when he said it was in my head. I dropped him, and kept on seeing more doctors. I had heart tests, MRIs of the brain, all kinds of crazy things. I was convinced I had a horrible disease, possibly MS, (see former posts, birth mother had it) there was no way I was doing this to myself.  I was psychoanalyzed, once by a court order, during a custody battle of my eldest daughter, and was sure that I was crazy. Nope. Normal. No mental condition at all, just nasty ‘ole anxiety.

It has unfortunately gotten worse in many ways as I have aged. For example, now I have, ‘anxiety events’. I get all churned up inside, lay in bed, cry buckets, feel like bugs are crawling all over by body, and it can last for days, weeks, months. During these times, I do not cook much, do not clean, do as little laundry as possible,  go the store as little as possible, do not go anywhere unless I have to… and try to think positive thoughts. Right. Does Not Work. Sometimes I really do have to make myself DO something.  It almost physically hurts. Many of the things I used to do for my ‘anxiety events’ do not give me pleasure any longer. I used to love to read and lose myself in stories. I can’t concentrate. I am too upset. I used to take walks and enjoy nature. Now I might see someone who sets me off, or maybe someone I know that I will Have To Talk To. Nope. Not happening.  Luckily I am self employed so I can arrange my schedule around my ridiculous ‘events’. I do have much guilt during and after these times.

One small example is that I have not seen my new grandson at his house in five months. What kind of a grandmother am I ??  He lives about two hours away. My daughter has brought him here, twice by herself, which makes me feel guilty. NO I am NOT Catholic. (Catholic guilt joke) This latest event started when I found out my 18 year old had HCM heart disease, towards the end of September 2015. I was afraid to leave the house, in case something happened to him. I was afraid I could not get back to him in time.  One day led to another, and of course there were doctor’s appointments and tests and more tests and waiting…..I then took my youngest son to a cardiologist because he was spending a lot of time working out, and HCM patients are not supposed to do heavy exercise. (the youngest at 15 is fine)  Every drive to the doctor, every phone call to come, each time I had to wait I became worse and worse. Finally in December of 2015, my doctor said that if I did not calm down, she was going to put me in the hospital. My blood pressure was running 180/120. I had to go in every three weeks and no change. No joke. She added a blood pressure pill to the one I was taking and it slowly started to bring my blood pressure down. I spent many days laying in bed, and taking sedatives and sleeping. Awful. However, I could not and can not control my anxiety. It grabs me and shakes me up until I feel like I just to want to run away. But that would cause more anxiety so it’s just a horrible vicious circle. The holidays came and went and my lovely daughter in law hosted Thanksgiving. I put on a smile and was truly grateful that I didn’t have to deal with THAT, but I was not really thankful for much of anything. I always believed that my blessings may not have been financial but that my kids were okay. Christmas came and went quickly, thank goodness, and we found out we had to move by the end of March 2016 so that really gave me a fit of anxiety. We lost our house in 2008 (another story) and the rents are so high and we did not have the money to move and blah blah blah…..as I said, in little bits and pieces, it’s not that bad, but put the puzzle together, and it really is much stress, too much for me.

I also have an elderly aunt living with me that drives me literally up the wall (another post another time on care giving) and that was my own doing…more anxiety to add to my anxiety.

According to the docs, my neurons are not firing right, my serotonin is low, blah blah blah…there’s no definitive test, so that’s why I always thought there must be something wrong with me….like being crazy. According to the shrinks, my birth parents’ abuse, my birth mother having MS and the nightmare I lived, all have something to do with it..

Another example is, I can not stay in big box stores for any length of time. The lighting bothers me, and their floors are always light or white. I feel dizzy and nauseous, and like I am going to  faint. I literally walk really fast to my car. I can not grocery shop around crowds. I prefer to go late at night or early in the morning, although my schedule does not always allow that. My kids think I am a hypochondriac. My husband used to think I was too until he watched a documentary years ago on anxiety and realized it’s a ‘real thing’.

Menopause does not help. For one thing, you lose estrogen which is like a security blanket for your entire body so you whack out anyway. For another, some women get extremely angry, or extremely sensitive and cry. I am of course the one that cries all the time. For example, when younger, if someone ticked me off, I usually shook them off ( up yours!!) or did not even care about what they thought. Now someone can say something, anything really, and I will start crying. That’s the Menopause component. Menopause also causes it’s own unique anxiety which I have not quite figured out yet. Add that to my regular anxiety, and you will understand why I carry tissues everywhere and go through a couple boxes every three days or so. Seriously. I do.

I think writing probably helps me, as does reading when I feel like it. I also color. Alot. I have always colored, starting as a child, and continued with my kids and grand daughter. She is now 14 and is no longer interested, but we really did have good times, just coloring and talking or watching television together. We must have watched, ‘The Parent Trap’ at least 500 times.

So anxiety is my constant companion these days. My son has a doctor’s appointment coming up and I can feel my tummy dropping to my toes. I started getting jittery the beginning of this month, knowing his appointment is the 23rd of this month. My eldest daughter graciously suggested I come on that day, as my son does not want me to go (he says I irritate him) and my husband of course agrees (sometimes I hate him)…she said she could really use the help and of course the baby will be a wonderful distraction. I thought she was so sweet. Then I start to worry:  What if my son gets a bad report and I am two hours away? What if they admit him to the hospital and I am trying to get to him but I am so far away…he might come home afterward with no one here but my aunt (oh boy) and his younger brother, and no one to talk to or comfort him, and he might be scared (he would never in a million years admit that; he is so brave) and what if I start to cry around the baby or my daughter’s husband, and my daughter has never seen me like this, and she does not need this stress, she works so hard as a teacher, and around her home, and take such good care of the baby, and what if I scare her, or maybe I will faint….Thank You Anxiety.

The doctors have ruled out crazy so anxiety it is. I really hate it. I can encourage others, and truly mean it. I pray for them and truly believe that my prayers are being heard by God, but for some reason, I feel like I can not climb this mountain. I have run to the church, trying to settle myself. Nope. Made a complete fool of myself a few weeks ago, crying and crying and crying. I am so full of sorrow, which of course leads to thinking, which of course leads to anxiety.

The first attack was at the age of 27, while driving. I was having a good day, a busy day, but a good day. Out of nowhere, my heart started pounding, I was terrified for no reason, I was jittery like someone on some kind of hyper drug….I went straight to the emergency room. The doc said I had anxiety. I thought he was really stupid. He probably was a resident, did not know anything. Went to many more doctors, they all said the same thing. I refused to believe that my BRAIN neurons or whatever were not right, okay prove it, sorry we can’t, therefore something is WRONG with me, and of course that led to more anxiety…

Sometimes the anxiety attacks, which are different from just anxiety, come out of nowhere. I took my kids out for lunch as a treat a few years ago. They were happy, I was happy, it was a beautiful day. Out of nowhere, my heart starts pounding, skipping beats, I start sweating, thinking, oh my goodness, I am going to faint on the floor, and my kids are going to be scared, and someone is going to have to call an ambulance, and it will be such an inconvenience, and what is going to happen to the children; no one can drive, and maybe I really do have something wrong with me, bugs are crawling all over me (that’s how it feels), and my tummy is dropping to my toes and my mouth feels numb and I can not get any air,  and on and on and on. These are the thoughts one has. I abruptly told them we had to go, I made up some dumb excuse, and out of the restaurant we went. Of course I did not let them know that I could hardly breathe, that I had to get out of there, and they probably hated me for ruining their day, and then I felt guilty, and so it goes…..the hamster that has anxiety running on it’s wheel…..getting nowhere. Yep. That’s me….

More later on my closest companion, Anxiety

 

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