Red Alert, Shields Up!

USS Enterprise

 

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

Tiger & Turtle  Magic Mountain - Duisburg - Deutschland

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.

 

 

 

 

 

To the Victor Go the Spoils

Satran

Today I broke free from your clutches; from your relentless desire to consume my sanity.

I have been a prisoner in my home and in my mind for far too long.

Today I walked out the door,
and I did not look back.
I drove my car.
Fast.
Dangerously fast.
It was exhilarating.

The windows were down and the bass of the music was soothing to my soul.

I have taken back control.

Oh, you tried to trick me a few times, but I persevered.
There was nothing you could do to stop me today.

It is a sign that your strength is weakening.  Your grip is faltering, your power wavering. You won’t have a hold much longer.  I can feel the victory rushing through my veins.  A taste of the other side.  A taste of what is to come.

For I reign over my mind and body.  Not you, Anxiety.  You are not welcome to do as you wish, you are not welcome to force yourself upon me.  Your intimidation will not prevail. I refuse to give in to your mind games; to your feeble attempts to manipulate me.

Today, I overcame your power.

To the victor go the spoils.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

The Great Outdoors

girl outside winter with cup of hot drink

Get outdoors.

I don’t care if all you do is throw on your bathrobe and slippers and stand outside your front door for five minutes.

Do it.

Do it now.

Think about this for a minute.  When do you feel your best?

It occurred to me today that lately, I feel my best when I am either (a) busy and accomplishing something or (b) when I am outdoors.

Fresh air and sunshine can truly have an immediate impact on your mood; your outlook; your self esteem; your thoughts.

Breathe it in.  Do you feel that?

Fresh, crisp air.

Look around you.

Take it all in.

What do you see?

The trees.  The sunshine. The clouds.  People running errands.  Children playing in the snow.

What do you smell?

The crisp air of winter.  A burning fire.  Maybe someone is baking cookies for an after school treat.

What do you hear?

Children laughing.  Birds singing. The snow quietly falling upon the glistening ground.

Give your brain a rest from the worry; the anxiety; the panic; the constant state of heightened awareness and catastrophic arousal.

For even just a few minutes, stand outside or go for a walk and try to tune out all of the exhausting thoughts.  Try to focus on the little things around you that usually go unnoticed.

Even in your bathrobe.

Even for just a few minutes.

Your mind will thank you.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

Mondays, *%^#ing Mondays

I Hate Mondays placard with bokeh background

Mondays are the worst day of the week.

My weekends have a sort of normalcy to them, although I use that term loosely.

I am safe because people are home and around me.  Of course, that is logically a falsity. It does not guarantee my safety, it just gives me comfort and security knowing someone is with me.

Someone is there to call an ambulance if my panic turns out to be more than just panic; if my racing heart is more than just sinus tachycardia; if my stomach ache is more than just a stomach ache;  if my dizziness actually makes me pass out (even though that has never happened).

Monday is when my husband returns to the office, my children go to school, my friends and support network resume work responsibilities.

And I am left here alone.

Alone with my thoughts.

Alone with my what-ifs.

Alone with my catastrophic thinking.

Alone with my insecurities.

Alone with my panic.

Mind you, Mondays don’t always start off bad.  Today, did start off bad, but then it got a bit better, but then it got really bad.

I woke up around five o’clock this morning from a terrifying nightmare. Pulled myself together and went back to sleep.

I woke up again around eight o’clock and relaxed in my comfy bed thinking about what I might try to do today;  so full of intention. Perhaps I would try driving around the neighbourhood, secure in the knowledge that I am close to home if I need to feel safe (driving alone is currently a struggle for me). Maybe I will go to the local shop to pick up the items my daughter needs for her upcoming dance competition (false eyelashes, hair nets, make up).

Wishful thinking.

Just as I was starting to think this might be a good day, BAM! A rush of heat came over me, my heart started racing and I was so dizzy I was sure I was going to pass out. It continued, as it always does.  Wave after wave after wave of nausea, dizziness, searing heat, racing heart, anxious thoughts…something catastrophic was about to happen…sheer panic was gripping my every fibre.

Well, there went my plans for a good day.

Sigh…

I am alone with all of these physical sensations that logically, I know can sometimes be normal but unfortunately, I am not currently ruled by logical thought.

I am ruled by illogical, irrational, catastrophic, terrifying thought.

So here I sit.

Scared and anxious.  Beyond anxious.  I am in sheer panic.

In my attempt to distract myself, I am typing away and trying to hold myself together. What I really want to do is curl up into my bed and close my eyes;  shut out the world and just have a good cry.

That five second tool…yah, it’s not working all that well right now.

Mondays, *%#@’g Mondays.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

The Tangibility of the Intangible

shutterstock_268013267

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

shutterstock_274284761

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.