Eat Me

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TRIGGER WARNING: This post may contain triggers that some people may want to avoid. These triggers relate to anxiety, panic, health anxiety and potential side effects of anti-depressants. If this is something that may trigger your own anxiety or panic or unwell feelings, you may want to skip this post.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a medical professional. I am simply documenting my experience with anxiety and panic. The tools and/or medications I have tried/used are not recommended for others nor are they endorsements.  You should speak to your family doctor about your own health and the options that are best for you.

I have gone down another rabbit hole.

I am in the land of prescription drugs; anti-depressants. Zoloft to be precise.

It is not a trip I wanted to take. I tried everything to avoid anti-depressants. Yoga, meditation, breathing, therapy, books and a visit to the hormone doctor.

Some of these things helped a bit. Others, not so much. Nothing helped entirely.

I went to my family doctor on Wednesday (last week) which was a feat in and of itself. Leaving my house has become very stressful (almost impossible) and usually involves Ativan. I think I realized a couple of weeks ago that this was not working. It has been five months and I am really no better off than I was in December. My anxiety is debilitating. My panic is off the charts. My mind races with obsessive thoughts thanks to my health anxiety. Fun times.

I received the prescription for Zoloft (25 mg) on Wednesday but I wouldn’t start it until there was someone here with me. I know that sounds completely ridiculous but the last time I was on anti-depressants in December, they made my heart race (you can read about that here).

If there are any doctors or healthcare professionals reading this, do humanity a favour: Do not plant seeds in people’s brains who are susceptible to psychosomatic thoughts and feelings. I told my doctor not to plant seeds in my head. So you know what she did? She planted a forest! I kid you not.

Are you suicidal? Are you seeing or hearing things that other people are not?

Thankfully, no and no.

You may experience diarrhea, upset stomach, insomnia and some other side effects.

Great, thanks for setting me up for failure.

Are you manic?

I don’t know what that is.

She explained that manic is when you don’t sleep for three days and have a ton of energy and might do something dramatic like hop on a plane at the last minute to go on an adventure.

Um, no. I can’t go to the grocery store down the street so I don’t see how I’m going to decide on a last minute plane trip to Portugal. Now that you have planted that seed, I will be sure to obsess over whether I am manic or not. Thanks doc.

I started taking Zoloft on Friday, in the morning. My parents came to babysit me.

Now that I am on the pills, I am waiting to have suicidal thoughts or to hallucinate. Why are doctors so dumb sometimes? Why plant seeds? Especially when I told her not to plant any seeds?! I am thinking my doctor is book smart but is really lacking common sense.

Apart from waiting for the worst to happen, here is what the experience has been like thus far.

Day One/Friday:  I had an upset stomach all day. I didn’t really have an appetite. I was nauseous. On a scale of 1 to 10, the nausea was probably a 4. Not bad. However, I spent a lot of time in the washroom with soft stools (sorry, TMI!). As expected, I spent the day obsessing about whether I was going to have suicidal thoughts and/or hallucinate unicorns and leprechauns (thanks so much doc!).

Day Two/Saturday: Talk about crazy dreams! Wow! I was woken up around 4am with the craziest dreams. I couldn’t get back to sleep until around 5:30am. When I woke up again around 8am, I was hot and my heart rate was a bit fast (around 106 BPM). I got up and showered and sat on my bed to look at Facebook. I was relaxed. I wasn’t anxious or panicky and I hadn’t even had my second pill yet. I stood up from the bed and I felt my heart rate soar!  I took my heart rate and it was 124 BPM. I started to freak out a bit. I laid down in bed, ate some breakfast and took my second pill. The rest of the day, my heart rate was fine. I had two visits to the washroom with loose stool but my stomach was fine the remainder of the day.  I wasn’t nauseous but my stomach was gurgling really loud all day and night. I ate breakfast and snacked throughout the day. I had a full dinner. I spent a lot of the afternoon waiting to hallucinate or have suicidal thoughts (again, thanks doctor!).

Day Three/Sunday (Today):  Thankfully, I didn’t have any crazy dreams but I did wake up at 4am again. Sigh. That sucks, but I guess it could be worse. I fell back to sleep around 5:30am again and slept until 8. I got a total of 8 1/2 hours sleep which is great. When I woke up at 8am, I was really hot and my heart rate was slightly elevated (in the high 90’s). I tried to ignore it. I got up and showered and took my third pill.  It is 11am now here and I am hopeful the rest of the day will be good. I am super scared for tomorrow because I will be home alone. Kids will be at school and my husband will be at work. The perfect storm for high anxiety. I am scared I will spend the day in my bed obsessing over the potential side effects.

As an aside, my eyes have been burning but that could be sinus problems (the weather in Ontario, Canada has been up and down and has caused me to have sinus headaches).

Also, I have a really bad taste in my mouth. I am thinking that is the pill but it isn’t a big deal at all.

As for my anxiety and panic, I have not had a panic attack since starting the pill but I am only on day three. Placebo effect? Maybe. I will take it, thanks very much! I definitely feel more relaxed, my heart rate overall has decreased slightly. I didn’t leave the house this weekend and have no interest in doing so just yet. Hopefully that will come.

So there you have it.

If I could just get a handle on my obsessive thinking, I would say that so far, this drug doesn’t have bad side effects at all (for me and my body).  A little upset stomach is nothing to complain about if it will take away my anxiety and panic. I’m a bit tired but I don’t know if that is the medicine or the anxiety or the stress of starting the new pill. I’m not lethargic so that’s good.

I will continue to update as the week progresses.  If you have a positive Zoloft story, I would love to hear it.  Please do not post any negative comments or experiences about Zoloft as I am too open to suggestion and need only positive support right now.

© The Flip of the Switch, April 2016.

 

 

Red Alert, Shields Up!

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Do you check your pulse?

I do.

All. The. Time.

Suffice it to say, I have health anxiety. Full out, freak out, stress out health anxiety.

I describe it as,

An irrational fear of illness and/or death due to the inability to logically explain certain physical sensations during a specific period of time whereby the anxiety and panic are relieved once the physical sensations(s) subside.

Case in point:

Today, I was sitting on the couch. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and I was enjoying a cup of tea. A picture postcard morning.

All of a sudden, out of no where, I felt like I was being smothered, I couldn’t take a deep breath and my stomach started hurting. Ah, the infamous stomach ache. How I despise thee. Commence the racing heart, sweating and thoughts of sheer terror and I had officially entered the domain of a psychiatric war zone. Having said that however, when it happens, you don’t know that it’s “all in your head” and that you aren’t actually in any “real” danger. You just think you are about to die and that your poor children will come home from school and see you lying in a pile of your own vomit on the bathroom floor with your pants pulled down to your ankles.

Seriously.

It’s pretty fucked up, eh?!

I raced to the washroom where I proceeded to do what one does in the washroom. But, what I am quite sure is the anomaly, I panicked. Over a stomach ache. A naturally occurring, quite necessary, physical action that all humans experience. Why, why, why?

The logical side of me will explain.

I am in a constant, heightened sense of reality. I am on the alert to recognize any physical sensation that is out of the “norm” or which I cannot logically explain. Once discovered, within a millisecond, I irrationally decide whether to ignore it or whether I should sound the alarm and proceed down the spiralling abyss into the psychiatric war zone.

Nine times out of ten I choose the spiralling abyss to hell.

It is so easy to sit here now, without a stomach ache, and logically explain what happens during an attack of this magnitude. While it is occurring however, there is no logic. The logical part of your brain shuts down and you enter a realm of disillusion, confusion and terror.

There could be no rational explanation for my stomach ache. It was something that was threatening my existence and as a result, I entered fight or flight mode. A logical outsider with the same experience would think, “Oh, I have to poo”.

Not me.

I think “Holy shit, something terrible is happening.  Red alert!  Shields up!  Set phasers to stun and ready photon torpedoes!

Seriously.

This is my life with a stomach ache.
With health anxiety.
With a raging hormonal imbalance.
With panic.

It’s not just stomach aches that can now set me in to a state of sheer panic. Any unexplained physical sensation can send me into the brink of instability and down the path of panic. It can be my racing heart, a hot flash, a pulled muscle or a urinary tract infection.

It has been about five months now since the switch was flipped and I jumped down this rabbit hole of anxiety. I have tried an SSRI (I had a bad reaction so I came off it), yoga, therapy and vitamins. I have not tried the bio-identical hormones yet as my family doctor is concerned there may be an increased risk given my strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer. I think it might be time to try a different anti-depressant. I feel like I have exhausted the natural remedies and I just don’t want to feel like this all of the time. I want to be able to have a normal stomach ache. Like a normal person.

Yah, yah, I hate the word normal too. But I long to be normal.

So there you have it. My day in a nut shell. It went from calm and relaxing to intensely horrifying in the blink of an eye.

Damn you anxiety.

Damn you panic.

Damn you hormonal roller coaster.

Do you experience anything similar? Do you have health anxiety? Do you struggle with finding logic and rational thought during a panic attack? What tools do you use to help your anxiety and/or panic? Are you on an anti-depressant? Please share your story. Your experience, tips, tools and knowledge will help me and others.

Yours in panic,
The Flip

© The Flip of the Switch, March 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Hormonal Roller Coaster

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This blog post discusses women’s health issues and other things that would make my husband squirm, gag and possibly vomit. You’ve been warned.

I met with a new family doctor who specializes in women’s health and more specifically, hormonal balance.

Amen.

Up in the great, white north (a.k.a. Canada) our health care is provided by the province and is funded, for the most part, by our taxes.  We do not usually pay to go to a family doctor or the hospital.  Nor do we usually pay for X-rays, vaccinations and the like.

Having said that, we can access certain medical tests and practitioners quicker and easier if we choose to go private and pay for these services.  This new doctor that I met is just that.  She is a family doctor but, she has chosen to open a private clinic that is not funded by the provincial government as it is outside the realm of their financial responsibility.  Apparently, hormonal balance just isn’t a provincial priority.

I opted to try the private route because I cannot continue to live in this perpetual state of chaos.  A constant state of panic, anxiety and the general sense that I am losing my fucking mind.

I scheduled an appointment a while back and it was for this week.  Leading up to my appointment, I had twelve vials of blood sucked out of me which were mostly covered under our provincial health plan. Phew!

In a nutshell, I am estrogen dominant.

This is exactly what I told my other family doctor back in November when I first started having symptoms of perimenopause.  I told her I thought this was all hormonal and she said, “It can’t be, you’re too young”.

I have gone through three and a half months of hell because my family doctor didn’t believe this could all be hormones and I didn’t believe myself.  I should have believed in myself but I didn’t.  Sigh.

This new doctor went through my family history (which is a complete gene swamp), my symptoms (good lord, it was a long conversation) and then she went over my blood test results.

Estrogen dominance.

Part of me wanted to stand up and scream “Eureka!”.

I should have.

But I didn’t.

A lost opportunity.  Oh well.

It turns out, during one’s luteal phase (the last two weeks of your cycle), estradiol should be below 790 pmol/L.

Mine was over 1,000 pmol/L.

Boom!  There it is!

Estrogen dominance.

On top of that, I have low progesterone;  I don’t have enough progesterone to balance out (lower) the estradiol.

Eureka!

I’m not losing my fucking mind after all!

Well I am, but at least we know the cause!

In addition, I have very little vitamin D (which affects mood) and also need to supplement with B Complex and magnesium (which will apparently help my anxiety).

Say it with me…

Eureka!

To balance out the estrogen, I am starting bio-identical progesterone cream.  I am starting on the lowest dose and it is a cream I will rub into my forearms the last two weeks of my cycle.

There could be side effects such as bloating and increased anxiety (God help me!), but we are talking about my quality of life and right now, it sucks so I am willing to try the progesterone cream to see what happens.

Oh, and I have a urinary tract infection. Everything else just wasn’t enough. Peeing blood is the icing on the cake.  Why not freak out the anxious, panicky girl by making her pee blood!  Someone up there is having a good laugh!  Seriously.  Please pass the antibiotics and someone fetch me a martini. Fun times.

So there you have it.

I am indeed losing my mind, but thankfully we have identified the cause.  My hormones are riding a roller coaster through hell.

When will this chaotic, nauseating, heart palpitating, panic filled ride end?

They say perimenopause can last years.

YEARS!

I said it before and I’ll say it again.

In my next life I’m coming back as a sexy man.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Brain F*#k’d

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Humans can be disappointing.

They have the power to build you up,

or tear you down.

They can support you, give you hope and care for you,

or they can rip out your heart and try to take away all of your self esteem and confidence.

Funny enough, it is usually those closest to us that brain fuck us the hardest.

They are the ones who make empty promises to ease their own guilt;

so they can sleep at night.

They are the ones who stick their head in the sand;

pretending everything is fine.

They are the ones who don rose coloured glasses;

living in a world of delusion.

But it doesn’t matter.

You don’t need them.

You might want them.

But you don’t need them.

You need you.

Because even though they brain fucked you, you will rise;  you will prevail;  you are strong;  you are confident; and you don’t need insecure, selfish people in your life.

You need you.

So wake up, get out of bed and put on your big girl panties.

You have a life to live girlfriend.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

The Disillusion of Compassion

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How is it that we think we know someone, really know someone, but they turn out to be nothing you thought they were.

It is interesting that when one is going through a rough patch; a rocky road; a tumultuous time, that the people we think will support us, be there for us and comfort us are in fact, some of the biggest contributors to our stress.  They further perpetuate the feeling of instability and vulnerability.

I have someone in my life that fits this bill.

It makes me sad.  I am overwhelmed with grief.  It makes me feel physically ill.  I am disappointed.

This person increases my stress level, increases my anxiety, increases my panic and they make me angry.

Angry they just couldn’t be the person I thought they would be.  Disappointed they do not possess the character I thought they did.  Irate that they continue to put their head in the sand and pretend like nothing is wrong;  they are oblivious to my reality;  to their reality.

I am angry at myself for thinking they held such regal character;  for thinking they were compassionate, loving, caring, considerate and supportive.  How did I miss this?  Was it an illusion?  Did this person ever truly possess the character traits that I hold dearest to me?  That we value as a society?

I am truly fortunate to have a vast network of support.  My family and friends are everything to me.  They are always there; willing to help any way they can.  I am blessed.

But you.  You.  I am disappointed in you.  I expected you to be my pillar of strength.  My knight in shining armour.  My safety net.  My best friend.  You have let me down.  You are either a supporter or a stressor;  you cannot be both. And you.  You.  You are a stressor.  You have made your choice.

No matter what you do, whatever choices you make, I cannot control you.

Indeed, you are not the person I thought you were.  Thought you could be. Thought you would be. But there is nothing I can do about that.  I cannot change you.  I cannot mould you into something you are not.  You won’t change.  Even when I beg and cry for support.  Call out to you in an effort to lean on you; you are not there.

You are everywhere, yet nowhere.

The disillusion of compassion.

Compassion for oneself, compassion for others.

You do not possess compassion and I don’t know who I feel more sorry for;  me or you.

You.  I feel sorry for you.  For I am strong and I will fight my way through this.  I am important and I have goals to reach and dreams to catch.  But you.  What do you have?

Your relationships are in shambles.  Almost all of them.  You have family ties that are complicated, poisonous, bitter and full of heartache.  You care for no one, yet argue that you care for everyone.  You have tried to convince yourself for so long that you possess this illustrious character.  That you are a role model for others to emulate.

You are wrong.

Disillusion of self.

Disillusion of reality.

Yes, it is you I feel sorry for.

In the end, I will get through this.  I will prevail.

I live life with compassion, love, kindness and consideration.  I help others, try to ease any burden they are shouldering.  I care deeply about people’s happiness and well being, including my own.

I don’t need you.

I just need me.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

In Pursuit of a Hobby

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In an effort to continue down the path of exploring meaning and gratitude, here is another thought provoking question, courtesy of my illustrious therapist.

List five hobbies you have or you think you might like to have.  After each hobby, list the most positive aspects (meanings) the hobby holds for you.

Photography & Scrapbooking

Hands down, my favourite pastime.  My husband tells me I take too many photos and not only that, but I take too many of the same photo (which I do because I know that someone is going to blink or cause a blur!).

It can be something as natural and serene as a ladybug sitting upon a delicate leaf, to my children making funny faces!  A moment frozen in time. That single moment;  that single expression, will never happen again.  But, I can preserve it in a photo.  Sear it into my memory with a photo.  Cherish it forever in a photo.

Once preserved, I move to scrapbooking.  By scrapbooking, I mean both digital and traditional.  I am a hands on, visual person so the old school, paper scrapbooking is my preference.  But, it is time consuming.  Really, really time consuming.  Add my perfectionism to the mix and a one page scrapbook layout can literally take me hours. So, I usually resort to digital scrapbooking.  Nothing too fancy.  I prefer solid black backgrounds with little embellishment (opposite of my taste in paper scrapbooking – not sure why that is).

Photography gives meaning to my life because it preserves my dearest memories.

One day, hopefully a long, long time from now, my mind will fail me.

I won’t remember the details of that vacation to Disneyworld or last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I won’t remember what my children looked like with no front teeth or the look on my son’s face when his team won gold at a hockey tournament.

I won’t remember the baby birds in the nest on our eavestrough or the double rainbow after a spring storm swept through our town.

Photography gives meaning to my life because it tells a story.  My story.

Reading

I could open a bookstore.  Truly.  In fact, I just ordered a bunch of new books online this morning. More and more books!  My husband is going to have a complete meltdown.  I pray he is at work when the delivery arrives! Ha!

My husband believes that in this digital age of ours there is no longer a need for paper books.  For anything made of paper.  Ever.  Okay, maybe toilet paper.  But that’s it!

He, of course, is wrong (about the books, not the toilet paper).

To feel a book in your hands and smell its pages is a piece of heaven.  I have an e-reader and it is not the same.  Not even close.

I read everything:  Fiction, youth fiction, non-fiction, self help, cookbooks, magazines and literary classics. You name it, I read it.

Reading takes you to another world.  It is an escape.

Reading means making time for yourself.  To recharge. Set your worries aside. To visit a world outside of this realm and get to know an old friend, a queen or a vampire.

It also provides an opportunity to spend time with your children.  To cuddle up in bed and enter a fantasy world.  Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz.  All great adventures that are even better when they are shared with those you love.

Physical Health

What does physical health look like?

Ya, I’m not really sure.  I don’t do anything physical. Walking up a flight of stairs is about as physical as I get.  I know.  That’s terrible.  Which is why it is on my list of hobbies “you think you might like”.

I have tried yoga before and loved it.  Really loved it. But it was far.  Door to door, the whole experience would take about three hours a day (and I tried to go three times a week).  That’s a lot of time.  The good news is a yoga studio opened up much closer to home and I am hoping to start going next week!

What does that mean to me?  Well, physical exercise, as we all know, is beneficial to your body.  More specifically, yoga can help many ailments including anxiety. It also means that I am going to take an interest in making choices that are good for my body and thus, good for my mind.

Namaste.

Quilting

I kept a large selection of my children’s baby clothes so that one day, I could make them quilts.  Great idea right?  It is, except for the fact that I can’t sew!

As a first step, I need to find a person who can teach me to sew and then have them teach me to quilt. Well, that doesn’t sound too difficult, right?!

Once I find the talented individual who is going to teach me, I will be off to the races; creating magical quilts full of my love.  Full of memories of when my children were babies.  Telling a story of their infancy and toddlerhood;  of their trip home from the hospital, their first giggles and first steps.  These quilts will be priceless.  I can only hope that my children will wrap themselves in them and know how much I love them. Every stage, every age.  I love them with all of my being.

Traditional Artistic Expression

Lastly, I want to explore traditional artistic expression.  I loved studying art in high school (many moons ago) and I especially loved pencils and oils.  I think a trip to my local art supply store is in order.

The meaning is simple.  Expression of yourself and your surroundings.  Visual expression of your worldview; of your emotions; your thoughts.  When they say get it down on paper, it doesn’t mean you are confined to lined paper and a ballpoint pen. Experiment using canvas and oils or a 6B pencil and archival quality paper.  Markers, chalk, pencil crayons, pastels or good ol’ Crayolas.  Journalling doesn’t just take form in the written word, your story can be told through visual art.

So go ahead, tell your story.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

Delighting the Senses

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Reflection.

It is important that we take time to reflect on the choices that have brought us to where we are today.

The decisions that have helped form us into the person we have become.

The values that we hold dear to us and help shape our worldview.

This idea is not a new one and is certainly not mine.  My therapist, who I thankfully speak with twice a week, created a list of questions for her patient’s to contemplate in an effort to identify the meaning in their lives. Not only does this practice serve to help you identify meaning, it also serves to highlight the things in your life that you are grateful for; the day to day thoughts, interactions and experiences that may go by, seemingly unnoticed.

Being grateful for what you have, both in the tangible sense and more importantly in the spiritual and emotional sense, is sometimes difficult to do. There is so much in our lives that is taken for granted.  With that in mind, I am looking forward to formally detailing the meaning and gratitude in my life.

My therapist provided me with a plethora of questions to consider.  I was immediately drawn to this one;

List one of your favourite experiences for each of your five senses. Describe the underlying values you associate with each of these experiences.

Sight – Nature

Watching clouds float across a blue sky;

Capturing a crimson sunset on a cool day;

Seeing the colours of autumn, brightly displayed upon giant trees;

Watching baby birds being fed in a nest high upon my eavestrough;

Being mesmerized by the waves rolling in and rolling out.

Nature is beautiful.  It provides an opportunity for me to stop and take notice of the beauty all around me.  It makes me smile.  It makes me happy. It is serene. A calmness comes over me;  I am still.

Sound – Laughter

My children’s laughter.

Just the other day, I stood at the top of our stairs, leaning against the wall, listening to my son laugh and laugh and laugh.  His friends were over and they were having a great time.  Hearing his laugh,  hearing the happiness in his voice, was magical and overwhelming.  I could listen to my children laugh all day.

A child’s laughter is the purest form of innocence and youth, and a reminder that in a blink, they will be grown and they won’t need you the same way. They won’t need your cuddles, your kisses on boo boos, or snuggles in your bed when they have a nightmare.   Cherish these times with your little ones. Cherish their innocence and remember you are never too old to laugh.  Even at yourself.

Smell – Fresh Balsam Candle

You probably thought I would have noted something more maternal;  the smell of my children when they were babies perhaps.  But no, I love the smell of this candle.  It is the Bath & Body Works Fresh Balsam candle.*  It. Is. Heavenly.  I could smell it all day.  The crisp, clean smell of winter evergreens. It reminds me of nature and of Christmas.  The smell of family, togetherness and tradition.  It reminds me of home.

Taste – Chocolate

I love chocolate.  Milk, dark, white, semi-sweet, bitter.  You name it, I love it. I value the people who harvest the cocoa beans and the brilliant bakers who transform the cocoa beans into velvety, rich chocolate. I cherish how it makes me feel;  calm and happy.  It is like a drug.

Touch – Hugs From My Children

There is nothing better in this world than hugs from my little ones.  Their warmth;  their unconditional love;  the type of hug that only a mother and a child can share.  Nothing can compare to it.  Love in its purest form.  The love between a mother and her child is unparalleled.  To hold their hands, brush their hair, snuggle, cuddle and hug.  It reminds me that I am loved.  I am important to someone.  I mean something to them.  They love me, unconditionally.  Just as I love them.

 

This was such an interesting exercise, one that should be done every single day to ensure that you never lose sight of the love and kindness that is all around you.  Perhaps I will start a gratitude journal where I can write one or two things every day that I am grateful for;  nature, laughter, candles, chocolate and my children.  I am truly blessed.

 

*I have no affiliation with Bath & Body Works nor have I received commissions for mentioning their product.  I just love their Fresh Balsam candle.  There.  That’s it.  My legal disclaimer.

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.