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.

 

 

 

 

 

Someone Was Here

Inukshuk on the coast in Eastern Passage, Canada

Where were you?

Ah yes, selfishly tucked away somewhere trying to bury the guilt wrestling your soul. Too dependent to leave, not strong enough to stay.

The ultimate battle.

It wasn’t that I asked for help, it wasn’t that I told you I needed you.  That would have been a different story.  In fact, it was you that announced you were coming to help me, wanted to be here for me, support me, love me.  It was you who made phone calls to ensure people knew you were compassionate, caring and ready to take action.

All to save your own face.

The guilt wasn’t that you weren’t here to help me. The guilt was that you were worried people were judging you, questioning your decisions, your loyalty.

The reality, of course, is that you should have been here.

You should have been the one to lead me through the darkness, help me redefine myself and help me to function within the confines of anxiety and panic.

Yes, it should have been you.

But it wasn’t.

It was a select few of my dearest friends and family who guided me through this storm, wiped my tears and gave me the strength to persevere.  It was this small group of warriors who came together to check on me every day, offer their time and calm me in a panic.

Someone was here, but it wasn’t you.

Each day that passes, my mindset improves, my confidence grows.

I should have known you wouldn’t be here. I suppose that’s why I didn’t ask.

Your actions were driven by your need to look good to others; so terribly selfish and yet, not surprising.

Your insecurity is difficult to hide, dependency unparalleled.

As I write this, I can’t help but think what will happen if you read it.

It suddenly occurs to me that I don’t care.

I can sleep at night with the choices I have made.

Can you?

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

1980

Mystic Keyhole

1980.  That was the year of change. That is when you left.  Too self absorbed to fathom the chaotic impact you had on me.  Too taken aback by lust to understand that you had stolen my heart and damaged it beyond repair.  At the time, I was blind to the repercussions your actions would have on my life.  I was naive to think that you would ever be able to put me first, love me as a father should.  As a little girl, control was not something I possessed and my childish thoughts and dreams were in fact, unattainable fantasies.  As I recall my early childhood, I am reminded of what once was.  But I know now, it was all an illusion.  A child learns to repress the negative at an early age, to foster resiliency; emotional survival.  But alas, my attempts at regression have failed. My reality has caught up with me, my childhood illusions have become unravelled.  As I look through the keyhole to my soul, I know that you changed me, your actions caused irreparable damage to my heart and to my mind. Damage that has poisoned my adult life.  Here I sit, reminiscent of all the decisions you made; all of your poor choices.  The ripple effect is unparalleled, you hurt so many people, impacted the destiny of so many lives.  All consciously. You had choices to make and you consistently chose wrong.  You looked into my eyes and lied; filled me with hope and dreams and quashed them like no other. How do I come to peace with that?  As a grown woman, I am angry and furiously disappointed. I must however, realize those were not my choices and I had no control over you.  I must let go of my resentment so that I can thrive and live a happier life.  I am taking control now and I refuse to be dictated by my childhood fears and disenchanted dreams. For while you were once everything, now you are nothing.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

Spinning

To turn as squirrel in wheel

My mind is full of panic. Spinning on the wheel of chaos. The anxiety is suffocating, I can’t breathe. Triggered by the physical sensations occurring throughout my body. My stomach hurts. My thoughts are racing. My heart is beating hard and fast. I’m shaky. Wait, am I starting to sweat? Why is it so hot in here? There must be something very wrong for me to feel shaky, hot and sweaty. It couldn’t be that I just changed over the laundry and walked up a flight of stairs. No, there’s no room for logic here. Only irrational thoughts are allowed to take up residence in my mind. The stomach ache. Oh, it won’t go away. I hate IBS. I’m going to die in the washroom like Elvis Presley. Seriously. These are the thoughts I have. These are the completely irrational, illogical, false thoughts I have all the time. Health anxiety. You bitch. There is no escape. Sigh. Pull yourself together. It is just a stomach ache. Not a big deal. Sit down. Give it a minute. But I’m shaky. Yah, you haven’t eaten breakfast yet. It’s so bloody hot and I’m sweating.It is just from doing laundry and walking up the stairs. My heart. Oh my god, my heart is beating fast. Yes, you just walked up the stairs. You don’t exercise, you are out of shape. Anyone’s heart would beat a little faster walking up the stairs. It is normal. It happens to everyone.

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4…Exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Oh logic, how I have missed thee. Where the hell were you? Don’t ever leave me again! I’m calming down.  I’m not as hot. My heart is returning to its happy place. Writing it down helps.  It almost forces me to look at the logical side instead of just letting my mind spin on the wheel of chaotic thought! The spinning is hard to stop. How much time has passed? Maybe fifteen minutes, maybe longer. I’m not sure. I lost track of time. The minutes blurred together.

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4…Exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

The spinning has stopped. Time to move on with my day. Try to forget this happened. Logic, you better stay strong, I have a lot to accomplish today.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

2016 Reading List

libro antico aperto

Take me to your world.  Let me whisper among the fairies, sleep upon the moss and fall in love with a prince.  Let me fight aboard a pirate ship, soar above the clouds and rest in the arms of a gallant knight. Take me to your world.  Let me escape mine, but for a moment.
The Flip of the Switch, 2016.

In my effort to hold myself accountable, I have added a page to my website to document the books I have read in 2016.  I would very much like to read at least one book a week. I am trying to minimize my excessive binge watching of Netflix and stimulate my mind through books instead.  Quite a novel idea.

Here is the link to my 2016 Reading List.  I would love to hear your recommendations.  I am always looking for a good book to get lost in.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

 

Wild & Untethered

fog in the morning

When I was a child, there were no seat belts, car seats or power windows.
When I was a child, our family spent Sundays driving along dirt roads listening to the eight track, pulling over occassionally to pick up fallen acorns.
When I was a child, I drank from a beer bottle and stayed up late playing cards with the neighbours.
When I was a child, we jumped from rooftops, ran free through the neighbourhood and soared off swings.
When I was a child, twilight was my curfew and the village raised me.
When I was a child, I ran outside in my socks and swam in ditches during a good rainstorm.
When I was a child, I spent weekends at the drive in, swung from a tire and ate mud pies.
When I was a child, toxicity was everywhere;  we breathed deep, licked the walls and survived to talk about it.
When I was a child, raw hot dogs and cookie dough were staples in my diet.
When I was a child, I got my vitamin C from Tang and everything else from a Flinstone vitamin.
When I was a child, I was free from societal confines and ludicrous expectations.

I was a free spirit, wild and untethered.

It is unfortunate that many of today’s children will never experience such a liberating childhood. They are too busy being strapped down securely in their car seats, frying their brains on electronics and eating organic food out of BPA free Tupperware. One day they will long for excitement and danger. I hope they wear a helmet.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.