Panxiety

Today I’d like to introduce Lorraine of My Frilly Freudian Slip.  Lorraine is a good friend of mine and the author of beautiful poetry and prose.  You will find her writings at myfrillyfreudianslip.wordpress.com.

Lorraine is fighting Bipolar I and severe anxiety.  They can’t find medications that work for her.  Following you will read a first hand account of what it is like to live with “Panxiety”.

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photo by Lorraine of My Frilly Freudian Slip

“Pounding heart. Constricted throat. Knotted stomach. Dread washes over me. A panxiety attack.

Coming, unbidden, from some where inside my mind; spilling into my consciousness and flooding my body with anxiousness.

Breathe in through nose to count of ten, fill lungs, feel belly lift. Hold. Breath out slowly to ten.

Drift – visualize place of calm. Walking on beach, tide tickling toes. Finding beach treasures: sea glass, sand dollar. Smell sea tang. Feel breeze against skin.

But the panxiety is stronger – can’t focus; can’t concentrate. Pace. Half finished tasks lay scattered around the house – stopped in mid-flow. Forgotten. Pace.

Distract. Words on page, coloured pencil on paper. But, hands and mind shake.”

Daily, I deal with panxiety – a panicky anxiety attack – lasting minutes or hours. Sometimes the dread follows, flows all day. Few solutions to the foreboding; apprehension. Becomes so hard to concentrate that writing, my usual distraction from mental and physical pain, is almost impossible. I lose words; sentences fly off into the ether.

There are times I can force myself to lay still. To tell myself one of my “head stories.” Perhaps to drift off to sleep for awhile. This doesn’t mean I stay under long, nor that I wake calm. But when I can “nap,” my emotional and physical self gets a break from the relentless panxiety.

I have to confess turning to medication more than meditation when the attacks are furious and frequent. Always haunted by anxiety, these spells have increased in number and severity. Linked to a series of traumas, mental collapse and going untreated for several years afterwards.

I am on the bipolar 2 spectrum with chronic depression, rapid cycling, and bouts of hypo-mania manifesting in over indulgence and obsession. My bipolar isn’t responding well to medication; I am mostly teetering on the edge of instability, often falling all the way in.

Depression is my background music. Even when the volume is turned up, I can become agitated and anxious. As my depression can not be treated with anti-depressants (they don’t work), it is hard to level my mood. These swings are often accompanied by panxiety.

My anxiety has never been fully addressed. The medication I am given is not in a sufficient dose to stop the attack completely. And, I take nothing that addresses it on a daily, 24 hours basis. I seek to gain control of these attacks by other means than Ativan or Klonopin. However, often panxiety, like depression, wins. Doesn’t mean I stop fighting – I just have to do battle harder and stronger the next time.

Seeing a therapist has given me an outlet; a safe space to talk about how I feel. A person who helps me explore my mental health issues including honouring and acknowledging the traumas underlying the escalation in my panxiety attacks. Therapy can be the life-line that grounds me while I do battle. A reprieve to polish my armour.

Lorraine  myfrillyfreudianslip.wordpress.com

Mindfulness Monday – Anxiety

Bike

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life,
live in the moment,
live in the breath.”

~Amit Ray

 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

~ Victor Frankl

 

Note:  Severe anxiety takes a lot more than a couple of quotes to make it better.  These are just thoughts one can try to keep in mind.

All artwork on Picnic With Ants are created by Wendy Holcombe unless otherwise noted.

 

 

Meniere’s and Psychological Distress

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When I was first diagnosed with bilateral Ménière’s disease by my doctor at Duke he told me two things that will always stick with me, “Ménière’s is one of the worst disease you can have that won’t kill you.” and its “a disease of random punishment.”  He compared Ménière’s attacks to living in a war zone, you know that you will be under fire at some point you just don’t know when.

Having a disease that makes you feel as if you could be attacked at any moment causes a lot of psychological distress.  A study conducted by Dr Kirby and Professor Yardley at the University of South Hampton found that those with Ménière’s Disease have a much higher incidence of post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), health anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty to distress than non-sufferers.

Nearly one in eight people with Ménière’s were found to meet the criteria for full PTSD, compared to the general population where just one in sixty has PTSD. The high levels found in Ménière’s sufferers are comparable with those found among people who have suffered a stroke, heart attack or heart surgery.

I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD.  I’ve known this for a while but it has never been as apparent as it has been the past month.  For the past month I’ve had very little vertigo.  The vertigo I have had has been minor and only lasted for a very short period of time.  Most days I’ve been vertigo free, but I haven’t been able to enjoy these days.  I am constantly expecting an attack at any moment.  I’m on edge, jumpy, irritable, anxious, argumentative….  I try so hard to enjoy the good days I have and put the bad days in the past, but that doesn’t seem to be working recently.  I have been taking advantage of this good spell a little but I’m on guard all the time, waiting for the ax to fall.  Waiting for that next vertigo attack.  Sometimes I deal with this much better than other times.  Right now, I’m a nervous wreck.

I found a test on line that ask many of the same questions my doctor asked me to get my diagnosis.  If you feel you might have PTSD you might want to take this test and then take your findings to your doctor to discuss it.  PTSD Test

additional reading and helpful sites:

Stress should be a 4 letter word

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Stress is widely known to cause the chronically ill to get sicker, to have flares, to generally feel worse…  Stress is an ugly word that I hate to hear my doctors say. “This is being made worse because of stress.”, “You need to get your stress under control.”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this.

The amount of stress I’ve been under the last few months would make the healthiest person feel bad, for someone who is chronically ill, with both physical and mental illnesses this has been a very trying time.  I’m sure you are wondering, “What has been going on in Wendy’s life?”  Well let me tell ya!

This may not be in order, I’m just going to get it all out.  We moved, we had a friend move in with us, I was having vertigo a lot for a while, I’m constantly afraid I will have a vertigo attack, I’ve been having migraines daily for months, my father passed away, I went through all the stress building up to my father’s death, the stress of the funeral….I feel like it has been non-stop.

I’m wondering if my migraines are worse because of the stress?  My chronic daily headache now has a base line of a 4-5 where it used to be 2-3, on a 0 – 10 scale. The pain in my neck and upper back due to degenerative discs has greatly increased, I’m in physical therapy for that now.  (going to PT is another stress, as Stuart has to take time away from work to take me to my appointments, this time has to be made up, that’s hard on both of us; and some PT sessions seem to make things worse, that’s a stressor too.)  I can’t take pain relievers which causes a certain amount of stress too because I never have any relief. My tinnitus has been very loud.  Some days my balance is worse than usual.  My emotional state is not well.  I’ve been depressed. (yes I know I have reasons to be sad, but this is more than that).  My anxiety is very high.  I am extremely irritable (I’m shocked at how much Stuart and I have been arguing, and bickering, normally we rarely argue)  I’m restless, yet tired, excessively worried, feeling like I’m trembling inside, very sad, my appetite is out of control, I am extremely self-conscious, I have very little self-esteem and I keep beating myself up for things I have no control over.  I can’t relax; I can’t give myself a break; I’m not being kind to myself.  I’m just a mess.

I’ve been having a very rough time.  This is upsetting because I’m at the best place I’ve been with my vertigo than I’ve been in a couple of years.  I haven’t had a bad attack in almost 2 months.  This is surprising because it normally gets worse when I’m under a lot of stress.  However, It is often much better during the summer.  I know I would be feeling even worse if I was having vertigo as often as I normally do.  But I can’t stop having profound fear that it will get worse any moment.  I’m having a hard time enjoying this break because I’m so terrified I’ll have an attack at any moment.

I was trying to take better care of myself, but I have to admit in the last few weeks most of that has gone out of the window.

When we are under stress it is imperative that we practice self-care.

Things I plan to do to increase my self-care:

  • Be sure to see my therapist and be open and honest during appointments.
  • Give myself a break.  This is more easily said than done, but I need to really make a conscious effort to do so.  When I have negative thoughts or feelings I want to start being more gentle with myself.
  • Meditate more.
  • Take more baths.
  • Watch funnier TV shows and/or movies.
  • Read funny or inspirational books.
  • Cuddle with my hubby.
  • Cuddle with Max (the cat) and Kiki (the little dog).
  • Eat healthier.
  • Do as much as my health will allow that makes me happy.
  • Be creative.
  • Stay in touch with those who love and nurture me.
  • Try to get outside more.
  • Keep up a gratitude list every day.
  • Laugh
  • Sing Silly Songs
  • Dance
  • Give my body 10 minutes of mindful attention.
  • Take a nap.
  • Take Deep Breaths
  • Get Positive Feedback (ask 3 friends what they love about me)
  • Write out my thoughts (for 15 minutes free write what ever I’m feeling, I can tear it up after, just get it out.)
  • Drink water (I’ve been drinking soda recently, something I haven’t done in years)

 

How do you take care of yourself?  Any self-care suggestions?  I’d love to hear them!

 

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The Future is Scary, with a side of Hope.

It seems appropriate that I’m writing this on the eve of a new year, what better time to look toward the future?

For me, contemplating the future is more than a little scary…. let’s just say my anxiety about it has been more than I ever thought was possible.

After my illnesses changed my life, I learned about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), it struck me how it has helped many people in many aspects of life, but mostly I was struck by how much it often helped people who are ill.  I had already learned of mindfulness during my studies in Buddhism, and while practicing yoga, but I admit I didn’t practice it regularly.

Over the last few years I’ve learned more and more about mindfulness, as I continued to studied Buddhism and MBSR, I’ve worked hard to live my life in the moment.  I don’t dwell in the past, (all of that is gone)…. I don’t worry about the future, (that hasn’t been written yet)…I try hard to live in this very moment, because that is all we truly have.

Yes, at times I still have moments when I get upset that I can’t do what I used to, and get upset about what might happen…but I don’t dwell on it.

Then we started making plans… how we are going to try to make things better for me….decisions about this unknown future, decisions that I have to make. Suddenly, I HAVE to look at the future. I HAVE to think about it.  And it really scares me.  Suddenly, I’m scared about being like thbe mindful of the futureis forever.  I thought I had accepted that and was okay with it.  Not that I was giving up, just that I accepted things if they didn’t change.  At least that’s what I thought, but actually, I thought I was going to be like this forever, I had come to terms with it, and now, that may change.  Now, I suddenly have options….plans.  I am having a very hard time not being anxious about the future.  I’m even thinking about things from the past. I keep thinking about all that I can’t do now, and how much my life has changed, and I keep wondering, could I get some of that back?  The main thing I know is that, I don’t want to lose myself in this quest to get better.  I don’t want to be afraid.  If I don’t get better, I need to know that’s not the end of the world.  I don’t want to start having to accept all of this all over again.

Each day I have begun to get more and more upset about things I simply can’t do.  As usual, most days all I can do is go from the bed to the chair in the living room.  But I tried hard not to let this get to me before.  I tried hard to make the most out of every moment…no matter what.  I’m trying now….but I am not doing as well as I have been.  Then I hear the voice in my head….Be Gentle With Yourself.  and I Breathe.  I am doing the best I can.  Yes, I’m a bit overwhelmed right now.  Everything is changing, all of a sudden, it’s going to take me a minute to keep up with it….deep breath….and I must remember, it still has to happen one moment at a time.

Okay, let’s move on from this and let’s talk about what the plan for my future is right now.

I was going to write a post right after my visit with the new ear doctor here in town, but I decided to wait until after the tests and the results.  I was supposed to get those yesterday, but I had to reschedule my appointment,  guess who was too sick to go?  Surprised?  I’m not….I have cancelled so many appointments because of vertigo, you just can’t imagine.

So, I’ll give you a break down of what is going on as of now…..

I saw the new ear doctor here.  So far he seems pretty good, I was impressed with his knowledge about Meniere’s, and he is very willing to work with the doctor from John Hopkins.  He suggested I start taking a low dose of Valium twice a day to try to keep my vestibular system calm.  He wants me to keep track of how much Sodium I’m eating.  (Okay, I laughed at that.  I know I don’t intake much sodium but since I haven’t been keeping a record he was not convinced.  I have been eating a low sodium diet for years, I know how much sodium is in almost everything, I don’t eat processed foods, and if I eat out I order everything without seasoning….yes I know that is boring, but it is safe with all of my food issues.  So I tracked my food since I saw him, I admit I was curious too, the results?  I normally consume just under 1000mg a day, I haven’t been over 15o0mg in any given day.  They say a low sodium diet is 2000mg a day.  I don’t think I have a problem there.)   I’m starting vestibular therapy on January 12th, we’re going to start training my eyes and body to balance without my ears.  I am to continue working with my headache specialist to get my migraines under control.  We will talk more about killing off the balance center after doing all of this and seeing if it helps.   Also after seeing the results of the vestibular testing I went through, we want to see if one of my ears is close to being dead already, if so we may go ahead and kill that one off, it may be causing much more trouble than the other.

(just let me say, I’ve been through these tests before and it wasn’t so very bad the first time, this time, it was absolute torture.  I cried.  I am not that kind of person.  If my husband hadn’t been back there with me, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it.  The person giving the tests told my husband she thought I was suppressing, because some things that should bother everyone I was not showing too much of a response on.  I thought that was strange.  I didn’t feel like I was suppressing, but after I’ve been going through this for so long, I’m sure I automatically try to not have vertigo when it is coming on.  I didn’t throw up, I almost did, I had cramps like dry heaves were coming, but no vomit.  Yay!  it really takes a lot to make me throw up now.  I rarely throw up during an attack now.  I get really nauseous, but I rarely throw up.  I always thought it was the meds.  Heck it’s already ruined my teeth and caused burns in my esophagus, I’m very happy it stopped.  Anyway….I’m very interested to find out the results of the tests, and upset I didn’t get to go yesterday.)

He does think my Meniere’s is definitely autoimmune.  Not that I want an autoimmune disease, but it does explain a lot.  Most of my doctors have felt I have symptoms that lead to one, but haven’t been able to put their finger on it.  I just have so much going on, and everything gets worse with stress, and gets better with steroids.  I often run a fever and no one can find a reason.  I have a marker for an auto-immune disease, but the one I have a marker for I do not test positive for….however, that is a red flag that I could have another.  They believe they simply do not have a test for the autoimmune disease I have, or I don’t test positive for it.  Like a friend of mine, has rheumatoid arthritis, but he always tests negative for it.  It is visible on all scans and he responds to treatment, but the test for it comes back negative.  So, in other words, we can’t prove it, but it is thought that it is an autoimmune disease, at least in my case.

So, there is the plan for now.  I don’t know what will happen.  How it will change.  Or anything right now.

I feel that there will be a lot of change around the corner.

The future is scary, but it holds promise, and hope…..something I haven’t had in a long time.