Just Five Seconds

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I watched two episodes of Lost last night; the first two episodes. Jack said something that was truly thought provoking.

When Jack was a medical resident, his first solo surgery was a spinal surgery. Just as he was closing, he cut a section of nerves in the lower spine of his patient; a sixteen year old girl. He froze. Panic and fear set in. It was at that moment he had a choice to make. He could freeze and risk this young girl’s life or he could find the strength to carry on.

He chose to allow himself to panic for five seconds.

Just five seconds.

He counted to five in his head and then pushed the fear out of the way and completed the surgery.  Everything went fine and the young girl was perfectly healthy (everything always ends so well in Hollywood!).

This idea of only allowing yourself to feel fear for five seconds resonated so deeply with me;  it was eye opening; a revelation.

Is it possible that I may be able to adopt this strategy when my heart races; when I have anxious thoughts; when I panic?

Could this be a tool for my toolbox that is unlike any of the others?  One that puts the other tools to shame?

This sounds so logical to me.  I will feel the fear for five seconds.

Just five seconds.

I am grounded in logic and rational thought.  My life is dictated by right and wrong; black and white.  There is no gray.  Could something so simple, so logical, have a lasting impact on how I perceive and act on fearful thinking and physical sensations in my body?

It may not.  But it is worth a try.  A new tool for my toolbox, courtesy of Jack Shephard.

Five

Four

Three

Two

One

Just five seconds.

 

© 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.

 

 

The Tangibility of the Intangible

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I was woken up this morning by a stomach ache.  So accordingly, I started to panic.

That’s what anxiety does to you.  Well, to me.

It wakes you up and forces you to pay attention to intangible things that most people pay no attention to.

By intangible I mean that anxiety doesn’t truly exist.  You can’t touch it.  You can’t see it. It survives solely because we allow it to. We perpetuate it.  Our thoughts create our anxiety.  Our anxiety creates more anxiety.

But wait, how is that possible?  My anxiety is first and foremost triggered by physical sensations. Tangible sensations.  My heart racing.  A stomach ache. Unexplainable jaw pain.  Oh health anxiety; fun times.  But my anxiety is rooted in the physical sensation occurring first, followed by the anxiety and/or panic. Isn’t the physical sensation, by definition, tangible?  So perhaps we are talking more so about the tangibility of the intangible.

I have always been someone who feels, I mean really feels, everything.  I am conscious of the saliva in my mouth, of food entering my stomach.  I can feel the food moving around in my intestines.  I can feel gas preparing for its decent down my colon.  I can feel a virus before it rears its ugly head.  I can feel my blood pressure going up and down. I know when there is a burp being formed in my chest. I can feel when my heart beats fast or skips a beat. I know when Tylenol starts to work because I can smell it (super bizarre!).  I know exactly when I ovulate.  I am in tune with my body and it is a curse.

I wish I was more like my husband who has literally had chest pain for two years and doesn’t think much of it.  The doctor gave it a name (some chronic muscular issue) and he accepted it and moved on. Every single day he has chest pain and he does not care in the least.  I have a girlfriend who cannot find her pulse.  She has no idea where it is and never feels her heart beating.  She is oblivious to everything going on in her body.  She just doesn’t care.  And if a physical ailment or sensation does bother her, she just starts taking oodles of different medications to make the feeling disappear.

I want that.  That feeling of nonchalance.  The disregard of physical sensations.  I want to be a non-alarmist. I desperately want to be a non-alarmist.

But, that’s not me.  At least, not right now.  It used to be me up until November. Now, I have this whole new me to get to know (and frankly, I do not like her! I want the old me back!).

I am an alarmist who is currently being reigned by an intangible enemy;  my anxiety.

Right now, my brain and my body are on high alert.  Monitoring and scanning every single sensation in my body.  And when they find something, anything, they sound the alarm.

Danger!  Danger!  Danger!  Sound the alarm.  Imminent danger!

The logical side of me responds: Where?

The illogical, anxiety demon screams:  Everywhere!  You better start to panic!

So I do.  Because I don’t have the mental strength to fight this demon off, to tell him to calm down and wait a minute.  I listen to him, even though he is wrong.  I know he is wrong but I can’t do anything about it.  It’s like watching a train wreck…in slow motion…over and over and over again.

All triggered by hormones and stress.  At least, that’s what I believe.

So where do I go from here?

Well, I started this blog yesterday and it was cathartic.  Not entirely, but there is definitely benefit to writing down your thoughts.  It allows you to think about them not just as intangible bubbles floating around inside your head, but as concrete evidence of your experience and your emotions.  It serves as an architectural blueprint detailing where we started and where we are hoping to end up.  I am at the beginning stages. The foundation.  And as unstable as the foundation is right now, I am going to fill in the cracks to stabilize it.  One crack at a time.

At the same time, I will figure out how to take down this anxiety demon.  He needs to fall from his reign and free me from his grips.

The only person who can make that happen is me.

I have the power to turn off the anxiety.  To stop the perpetuation of alarmist thinking.

Me.

I am the solution.

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

The Switch Was Flipped

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It all started in November 2015.  I remember I was sitting at home in the afternoon when a burning surge came over me;  radiating from my chest and travelling at lightening speed down my arms.  This wasn’t like anything I had felt before.  It was searing. Convinced I was about to spontaneously combust, I sat down. My heart rate soaring. My breathing laboured. My body hot. But I wasn’t sweating. Was this a panic attack? Heart attack? What was happening? Scared. Anxious. Confused. It passed. Maybe five or ten minutes later.  The anxiety however, lasted much longer.  In fact, I am still battling daily anxiety and panic attacks that are rooted in the events of that November day.

The switch had been flipped.

One day I was fine.  Leading a strong, independent life.  Managing our home and family. Carting our children off to all of their extra curriculars (and there are many extra curriculars).  Attending school performances.  Cheering my children on from the bleachers. Volunteering in the community daily.  Running errands.  Caring for others.  I was strong.  I was a force to be reckoned with.  I was a pillar of strength and dependability.

The next day, I was not fine.  The switch had been flipped.

That was the beginning of my battle with this…this what?  What do I call this?  No one knows for sure.  Although, the logical side of me, the side that used to reign supreme but is now hidden in the shadows of my anxiety, truly believes it is hormonal.

Since that first power surge in November, I have visited the doctor more times than I care to admit.  Not being one to abuse the healthcare system, it is embarrassing to admit that I have likely been to my family doctor’s office at least six times and have spoken to her on the phone countless others.  I have sought the services of a therapist who I speak with twice a week.  I have seen a cardiologist.  I have called an ambulance.  I have been to the emergency department of our local hospital.

Why?  No one knows for sure.

But the logical side of me is screaming “It’s your hormones!”.  Listen up!  Wake up!  This is all hormones!

But the illogical side of me…the side riddled with “what if” thinking and excessive fear, reminds me that my family doctor immediately said that it couldn’t be hormones.  That I am much too young for it to be perimenopause (I am in my early forties).  The worst part is that I believed her.  I doubted myself.  I trusted our medical professionals and it caused deep rooted self doubt and rocked my self esteem and confidence.

Why do I believe it is hormones?

Let me give you all of the details.

After that single episode at the beginning of November, they started happening more frequently.  Not right away.  Little by little, things started to escalate.

A couple of weeks went by.  Life was good.  Life was normal (I despise that word!).  I got my period (sorry boys, but we are going there).  Now, my period has always been regular.  28 days.  But in November, I got my period on day 24.  Not only that, but it was 6 days in length and heavy.  Not normal for me.  A few days later, I had another episode. Burning surge starting in my chest and speeding down my arms. Racing heart. Panic? I don’t think so. I have struggled with anxiety throughout my life.  I am your typical type A personality.  I thrive in stressful environments, love a good challenge and a good confrontation, and never take the easy way out. High stress, tight deadlines, and a full plate is what I need to thrive. So naturally, anxiety has been something that creeps into my life now and then, reminding me to slow down and look after myself.  So, I know this wasn’t panic.  This wasn’t anxiety.  This was something else.  A switch had been flipped somewhere in my mind; in my body.

A few days later, another episode.  This one started off the same.  A burning surge in my chest.  A feeling that I was certainly going to become a statistic, adding to the list of people around the world who had spontaneously combusted.  The difference with this episode is that it actually resulted in a panic attack.  The room was spinning.  My thoughts were racing.  My heart was beating so hard.  This, I knew, was a panic attack.

Well, that panic attack set the stage for the next couple of months.  It only takes one panic attack to shake you to your core.  To make you question your sanity.  To make you doubt every fibre of your being;  doubt every thought that enters your mind. That was the turning point.  Up until then, even though the switch had been flipped, I had held it together.  I was still functioning;  still managing.  Not anymore.  Down the rabbit hole I went.

I made an appointment with my family doctor and she reiterated this was anxiety and panic and I needed an anti depressant.  Okay!  I give.  I surrender.  Hook me up!  Just make this go away.  I was so elated there was a “quick fix” for this.  Give me some medicine and send me on my way.  I couldn’t wait to get back to normal.

I should note that my doctor did send me for blood work.  The usual suspects;  thyroid, CBC, hemoglobin, fasting blood sugar.  I also had my blood tested on the third day of my period to check my hormone levels.  Guess what, everything came back normal (insert diabolical laugh!).

I started the anti depressant at the end of November.  My parents moved in to support me and help look after our children.  My husband is in a high stress career that has him working long days and nights and he travels quite a bit.  I needed help and I am so fortunate to have unparalleled support;  a network of friends and family that I can depend on.  I am truly blessed when it comes to my family and friends.

After being on the meds for 3 days, I had another episode.  I was wrapping Christmas presents with my mom (trying to distract myself) and I had another burning surge.  My mom said she could see the redness starting in my chest and moving up to the top of my head.  My heart was racing.  We called an ambulance.

The ambulance attendants were so great.  My heart rate was 160 beats per minute and my blood pressure was high (I think it was about 180 over 120).  They said my heart was fine and that it was likely a panic attack.  They didn’t think I needed to go to the hospital (but would take me if I wanted to go, of course) and they encouraged me to see my family doctor and perhaps increase my medication.  Worked for me.

We increased my dose and I had three consecutive days of burning surges.  Then I started to feel a bit better and I regained my appetite.  Then the burning returned, along with major anxiety.  And low and behold, I got my period…early again.  Day 25.  It lasted four days and was light.

The burning surges continued along with night sweats (where I would wake up soaking wet and then be freezing cold because I was soaking wet!).  I wasn’t feeling better.  The anxiety had gripped me fiercely and would not let go.  It was around this time that my well meaning sister in law, who is a doctor, mentioned that I needed to rule out a specific tumour (which I won’t get into because I don’t want to plant seeds and inflict undue anxiety upon you).  I was not functioning.  I was lethargic.  I didn’t eat. I was sitting on the couch watching Netflix all day.  I didn’t leave the house for fear of a power surge, racing heart, panic attack;  for fear of any of these physical sensations taking over in public.  I needed the safety of my home.

We called my doctor and she said I needed to increase the dose again.  So we did.  And that is what set my heart racing.  Racing is an understatement.  I would get out of bed to brush my teeth, which is literally ten feet from my bed, and my heart would escalate to 140 bpm. I was out of breath. I had no energy.  I didn’t want to move for fear that my heart would race away until it stopped altogether.

That Saturday, in mid December, I went to the cardiologist.  I had an ECG, and echocardiogram and was given a 48 hour holter monitor.  Right away, the technician said to stop the anti depressant because it was likely the cause of my racing heart.  Now, I need to state that I am not a medical professional and have no knowledge or training in the medical field.  If you are experiencing any health issues, you need to see your own doctor. Now that we have that cleared up, let me continue.  The technician said just to stop it and call my doctor on Monday.  So, I stopped.

I did not take an anti depressant on the Sunday.  By Sunday night, I was good.  Okay, I wasn’t good, but I felt so much better.  I cleaned my house.  I made dinner.  I wasn’t lethargic on the couch.  I felt good.  That week, I went Christmas shopping at the mall with my aunt (although I needed to take an Ativan to get me through it – shopping during Christmas can be overwhelming to say the least).  My doctor called me back on the Wednesday and could not believe how much better I sounded.  She apologized profusely for putting me on the anti depressant and continuing to increase my dose.

Now, I won’t tell you what anti depressant I was put on because I don’t want to plant any seeds in your heads.  Anti depressants have a place in medicine and work for many people.  I have also been told that you should never just stop an anti depressant because you can have serious side effects.  You are supposed to wean yourself off of them. So please speak with your doctor and do not make any decisions on your own about the medicine you are taking or the dosage.

Christmas went by with a few bumps and struggles.  My anxiety was still high.  I didn’t really want to leave the house all that much.  This was my safe haven.  My husband was home for the holidays so I had someone here, which eased some of my anxiety.

New Year’s Day I was laying in bed watching Netflix because I had caught a really bad sinus cold (because hormonal imbalance, anxiety and panic just wasn’t enough!).  All of a sudden, my heart spiked to 130 bpm.  I know this because my thoughtful husband had bought me an exercise/heart monitor for my birthday in the summer.  Worst gift ever (sorry honey, but you should have stuck with diamonds!).  It stayed elevated for about an hour.  I was not anxious at all.  I was not panicking at all.  I asked my husband to take me to the hospital so they could do an ECG and define what it was that was happening to my heart.

Four and a half hours later, the emergency room doctor said I had sinus tachycardia. My heart is fine, it just beats fast. I was fine (again, insert diabolical laugh). Sure, it could be hormones. But there was nothing they could really do and I was fine.

The next day, I got my period.  Day 26. It last 2 1/2 days.  Shortest. Period. Ever.

I should note that the last power surge of incinerating heat was in the middle of December. My anxiety was still high and my heart was still racing.  But, no episodes of possible spontaneous combustion.

I had an appointment with my cardiologist on January 7th.  My husband was travelling for work so my sister came with me.  I was a disaster.  My anxiety was through the roof.  I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.  I had to do a stress test.  Walking in the door of the cardiologist, my heart rate was already 117.  Wasn’t that stressed out enough!?  After I (barely) survived the stress test, we met with the cardiologist.  He asked his questions, I provided too much information in response.  He said my heart was fine.  Yes, it was beating fast.  Yes, I had sinus tachycardia.  But, there wasn’t anything he would recommend and it wasn’t going to hurt me or my heart.  Normally, someone would be happy to hear that news right?  I guess I was happy, but I was left with so many questions that no one could answer.  He wanted me to wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitor as my blood pressure was high, but he was pretty sure it was because of the stress that the visit was inflicting upon me.  I do not have the results of the blood pressure monitor as yet.

So where does that leave me?  You have been brought up to date on the ins and outs of my life these days.  My anxiety is excessively high.  I am hyper alert to every single sensation I feel in my body.  Brace yourself;  you’re about to be given too much information!  Intestinal gas can result in a panic attack.  Jaw pain equates to heightened anxiety.  Burping can cause my heart to skip a beat that can send me into panic.  I have always had a very sensitive stomach (irritable bowel syndrome).  Now, an IBS flare can send me into incomparable despair and panic.

More and more, I know this is hormones.

The racing heart.  The power surges.  The night sweats.  The changes in my menstrual cycle.

But I don’t trust myself.  My confidence is gone.

I should have also mentioned that after I had my first child ten years ago, I started suffering from migratory joint pain.  I would say that at least four days a week, I would have joint pain.  Debilitating joint pain.  Can’t do up your own pants, kind of joint pain. One day in my neck, the next my wrist, the next my knee.  I saw my family doctor and a rheumatologist;  had all sorts of tests run.  And, of course, I was fine.  The reason this is important is that on the day that the switch was flipped in November and I had that first power surge, all of my joint pain disappeared.  I went 71 days without joint pain for the first time in ten years (up until yesterday when my joint pain seemed to return…another switch being flipped perhaps).  One switch was flipped on and one switch was flipped off.  I mentioned that to my doctor a few times and she didn’t bat an eye;  said it was unrelated.  This is another reason I believe it has to be hormones.  My joints didn’t start hurting until after the birth of my first child. Furthermore, after the births of both of my children, I was diagnosed with premature ventricular contractions (PVC’s).  For about a year after each birth, my heart skipped beats.  All the time.  It was scary.  But, as quickly as they started, with the flip of a switch, one day they just stopped.  Well, for about a year prior to that November  2015 power surge day, my heart was skipping away almost daily.  I wore a holter monitor around November 2014 and was again diagnosed with benign PVC’s.  I told myself it was hormones then, just like it was before.  When that first burning surge episode happened at the beginning of November 2015, my skipped heart beats stopped and they were replaced with a racing heart rate.  Another switch was turned off, while another one was turned on.

Switch, switch, switch.

Hormones.

It is the only thing that makes sense.

So this brings us to today.

Today I woke up with my heart racing for no reason.  I opened my eyes and felt it racing away like a hamster on a wheel.  Running, running, running.  Faster, faster, faster.

And, because the idea of hormones was dismissed; and because no one really believed me;  I am left with no confidence; no self esteem; no ability to leave my house.  I am trapped in here with my own thoughts.  Some days are good (not good enough to leave the house alone, but good enough).  Some days are bad.  Today is bad.  Today I am having a pity party.  I feel depressed.  I feel anxious.  I am not motivated.  I feel hyper alert to everything going on in my body.  I wish someone had said, yes this is hormones. You are right.  You’re not crazy!  But they didn’t.  They didn’t listen.  They dismissed my views and beliefs.  Don’t let anyone do that to you.  It has sent me down a rabbit hole of despair that I don’t think I would be in if I had someone who had listened to me and reassured me that yes, this is likely hormones (even if we did have to rule out some other stuff first).  The anxiety and panic didn’t come first.  The physical symptoms came first.  The switch that was flipped was physical.  The anxiety and panic was a result of not having answers, of not being reassured, and of being put on a medication that made my heart race faster and made me lethargic.  So now, instead of just battling one demon (hormones/perimenopause/physical symptoms), I am battling two.  I now have to wake up every day and figure out how I am going to tame this anxiety and lead my life.  Every. Single. Day.

My aunt called this morning. She is battling her own demons.  She is battling a recurrence of ovarian cancer.  She called to ask about me. To see how I am doing.  So selfless.  So loving.  I broke down into a blubbering mess (which, of course, made me feel guilty for sharing my worries and problems with her when she is struggling with a serious health issue).  She was so supportive, I am so blessed.  She suggested I try journalling.  Try to get everything out of my mind.  Clean out the files.  Clean out all of the cobwebs and bad thoughts and get it down on paper.  That’s when we thought of a blog.  No one may ever read this, but I do feel that it has been somewhat cathartic.  A place where I can share my thoughts; my experience;  my journey.  Maybe someone will read this.  Maybe someone who is on a similar road, a similar path, a similar journey.  If you are reading this, and you are on a similar path, I wish you peace and strength and clarity of thought and I encourage you to share your story.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.