The Worst Days

I was 19 when my anxiety was in full spin, it was when I was first diagnosed and I thought I was going crazy. I didn’t know anyone else with anxiety and it seemed as though others around me saw it just something that was just in my head. At the time my Nan had lung cancer and here I was imitating the boy who cried wolf constantly telling people I couldn’t breathe and asking to be taken to the emergency room.

Every day I would wake up and thank God that I’d made it through the night and was still alive. I’m not an overly religious person but during this stage of my life I would find myself laying in bed in the midst of panic saying in my head ‘please God let me live’ and promising things like ‘I swear I’ll be a better person, I’ll give to charities I’ll help others if I can just not die.’ I don’t know if it was the help of God, or the fact that I was 19 and relatively fit and healthy but I survived.

When I first started having panic attacks I would seek reassurance from my Mum and Sister whom I lived with. They would basically both tell me the same thing ‘you’re not dying, if you couldn’t breathe you’d be dead by now.’ It was frustrating for them because I was clearly physically ok and equally as frustrating for me because I legitimately felt like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. When I’d exhausted my family I moved onto seeking reassurance from my best friend. Her husband is a nurse in the emergency department so I would pester her until they would come and pick me up, take me for a drive and he would put my mind at ease by checking my obs and giving me a medical explanation about why I wasn’t dying. I became addicted to this, the feeling of relief that someone who is medically trained told me I was going to be ok was just enough to get me through the night and have a decent sleep. My friend eventually put her foot down when it came to the late night drives to calm me down (my anxiety is always worse right before bed) so I had to find another way to get that dose of relief. In come my doctors appointments.

I would visit the doctor 1-2 times a week. Mostly always to report that I couldn’t breathe and I had chest pains which my doctor would reassure me these were just symptoms of anxiety. It would annoy me that she was so quick to brush it off as anxiety, I had actual pains in my chest why wasn’t she taking me seriously? But the logical part of my brain was usually satisfied that a medical professional had deemed me ok and I was going to live to see another day, thus I could sleep that night.

After the chest pains came dizziness, shaking/trembling hands, headaches, sweating and random pains in random parts of my body. My mind was so convinced that the doctors were missing something and there just HAD to be something wrong with me. When the high of visiting the doctor wore off I moved onto going to the emergency department. I figured the emergency department is in a hospital with surgeons and specialists and they can definitely save me if there’s something wrong with me. The first time I went was because I couldn’t breathe properly. I was rushed in straight away and had an ECG done and tests ran. I was fine, there was nothing wrong with me. I felt so betrayed by my body that it could make me feel these things and cause me so much stress and discomfort all for nothing.

When things were at their worst I feared everything. Mainly sleeping and showering. Crazy right? Literally two of the most satisfying things. Sleeping obviously because it’s a timeframe of 8 unsupervised hours where anything could happen to me and it would be hours before anyone would notice and come to save me, and showering for basically the same reason. It was 15-20 minutes where I would be completely alone without anyone to notice if I spontaneously combusted.

The second time I visited the emergency department I’d convinced myself my throat was closing in on itself and I was going to suffocate to death. It was during a weekend away with my sister’s, we were to attend a music festival and I’d been anxious the whole time consumed by the thought that I was moments away from dying. My sister’s got really cranky that time, of course there was nothing wrong with me as confirmed by a doctor and I decided that the thrill of attending the emergency room wasn’t worth the scalding from my older siblings.

I was prescribed Zoloft shortly after by my regular GP. The poor woman probably needed some herself after entertaining me for the past few months. My anxiety was so bad that I was reluctant to take the Zoloft not because I have an anti meds stance but because I stupidly read the information booklet from front to back including the side effects section. For someone easily convinced they’re about to die this wasn’t my best idea. Eventually I ballsed up and started them, and boy what a difference. Between that and seeing a psych once a week I was able to take control of my life again. However I was only on the meds for a few months because I didn’t want to have to depend on them to live a normal life.

Honestly I don’t know how long all of this went on for. When I think of my anxiety I think of it in bouts and this bout was certainly the worst. Obviously seeing the psych helped a little (I’m lazy and probably didn’t commit to the exercises as much as I could have) and the Zoloft definitely played its role, however in the end of this bout I feel like my mind was just so mentally exhausted it couldn’t be bothered to make up scenarios anymore to convince me I was dying. It just seemed to get better without me noticing and then before I knew it I was basically my normal self again. I’d still have a moment of panic every now and then but it didn’t come in the tidal waves I’d be used to for what felt like months and months on end.

I feel like once you get past the first bout of anxiety you find it easier to deal with the next ones – at least I did anyway. You soon notice that the breathing difficulties are just a physical symptom of your anxiety and put in place practices to deal with them. You ignore the headaches, the hot sweats are less intense and you don’t think twice about the shaking hands when they happen. Growing up and entering ‘the real world’ sucks, it’s boring and there’s bills to pay however with work and other adult commitments sometimes I find myself so busy I just don’t have time for anxiety. My brain is too preoccupied that it doesn’t have the capacity to make up terminal illnesses. Maybe that’s how I got better, maybe I just got too busy and found ways to keep my mind occupied but somehow I did find a way to climb out of the dark hole I felt like I was going to be trapped in forever. I absolutely still suffer from anxiety however it’s wayyyy less intense and thank God, has never been as bad as it was during this bout years ago.

The Early Days

I was around 7 or 8 when my Great Grandmother passed away, and my Mum gave me the option to attend her funeral. I didn’t really understand the concept of death or what went on at funerals but as a child I knew the whole family would be gathering and I didn’t want to miss out on anything exciting.

When I saw the coffin lowered into the grave I came to the realisation that’s where my Grandma would stay and that she’d be trapped under the earth forever. Forever. That’s a really long time, is this what happens when everyone dies? Is this what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to die? And there we have it, that’s when my fear of death began, the main fear that I still hold onto now nearly two decades later.

I wasn’t quite sure how you died, my Grandmother was 90 so I wasn’t sure if it was something I needed to worry about until much later in life. Obviously though as I started to get older I discovered that there are many ways to go. ‘Will I die?’ became a common phrase of mine, if I fell over, if I grazed my knee and started to bleed, if I bumped my head. A huge faze of mine was when I learned that food could go out of date. Before I ate anything I would ask if the food was in date because I was convinced I’d die if it wasn’t. I’d ask any responsible adult I could to ensure that my meal was safe and I wasn’t going to perish. That faze died out after a while but still to this day I’ll call my mother every so often to ask things like ‘is this cheese still good?’ And ‘how long does salami last?’ Fun story, one New Years Eve I actually did eat off salami unintentionally and was violently ill vomiting etc. I survived! What a relief! I wasn’t likely to die from food which freed my mind to worry about something else.

Nowadays I’ve graduated from death by food poisoning to things like leaving the gas on throughout the night and gassing myself to sleep (income my OCD, I’m a checker but more on that another time.) Headaches that I worry might actually be an aneurism – not likely, I have sinus which causes my headaches but you know, what if?! And all the rest, what if all the double cheeseburgers catch up and I have a heart attack? Yes it’s silly I know, when I die I wont even know so why worry? It’s inevitable right so why not just enjoy the time I have on earth instead of wasting my time being anxious? Wouldn’t that be nice! On average 1 in 4 people suffer from anxiety so it can’t be that easy.

I think it’s that I. Just. Don’t. Want. To Die.

Ever.

Maybe it’s FOMO, I mean what if I die and then the next day something exciting happens? Also I kinda wanna know who’s going to show up to my funeral.

So what’s the best way to deal with the ‘what if there is no afterlife and when I die I just lay there forever?’ If I find out I’ll let you know, and trust me I plan to. I’ve tried the psychologist and medication path, and they both have their merits, currently now I’m on a very low dose of Lexapro. But like I said, it’s only a low dose and doesn’t always cut it. I plan on trying everything under the sun from diet and exercise to hobbies and selfless acts like giving back to others. So follow me on my journey while I stumble along trying to make sense of what’s going on inside my imaginative yet sometimes bloody disruptive brain.

 

Welcome


I currently have pins and needles in my feet, harmless right? Not according to my brain, it must be something awful and most likely terminal. Sound familiar? Classic anxiety.

There are so many forums, websites, yahoo answers topics about anxiety; ‘Am I dying?’ ‘have I lost the plot?’ ‘I feel like I can’t breathe!’ and I’ve sat up until all hours of the morning pouring through these sites reading as I breathe a sigh of relief and think thank God it’s not just me! So here I am, dedicating a whole blog to sharing stories about my anxiety and how it effects (sometimes controls – am I right?) my life, how I manage it and hopefully to give others that feeling of relief that they’re not going crazy like I too, in the early days I thought I was.

I will never forget my first panic attack, I was sitting on the couch watching tv when suddenly I couldn’t breathe. The panic was instant and I was sure I was going to die because I felt like no air was getting in my lungs. I come from a family of  the ‘harden up, it’s just in your head’ kind of mentality so I was promptly told to stop being ridiculous because if I couldn’t breathe I would have passed out already. I stayed up all night convinced that I should call an ambulance but didn’t because I knew if I did my mother would have probably killed me anyway haha! – I don’t know where you’re reading this from but in Australia the cost for an ambulance is bloody expensive!

From there came the chest pains, the feeling of constriction around my throat and not being able to swallow properly. I used to shake so much that I made my GP check if I had early onset Parkinson’s Disease (I was 19 at the time.) I went to the emergency department twice, once because I couldn’t breathe and the other because I was convinced my throat was closing up – is that even a thing? I remember being so frustrated when doctors would tell me the chest pains were just in my head, how could they? It was real, I could feel it! I felt like I was having a heart attack and would sleep with a wheat pack on my chest every night. I stopped drinking tea, soft drink and cut away lollies from my diet because I thought the sugar/caffeine was going to hurt me and eventually I was prescribed Zoloft which I was scared to take because I stupidly read the side effects and was convinced they’d all happen to me.

Eventually my doctor gave me a cartoon illustrated book which finally shed some light on my situation and made me think, maybe these chest pains etc really ARE just physical symptoms of anxiety. What a difference that made! But still, it wasn’t easy. Your mind is so strong and loves to make you think ‘butttt what if this time it really is a heart attack?’ if only it put that kind of effort in to convince me to go to the gym!

Years later here I am, my anxiety is more controlled and I haven’t had a decent panic attack worth mentioning in months. Let me tell you, it does get better! Sometimes my anxiety will go away for months and I wont have a second thought when I get a headache, or a funny feeling in my stomach, sometimes I see psych’s, other times my brain gets so exhausted from the anxiousness that I swear it tires itself out of the anxiety for a while, and other times I need a small dose of meds (as prescribed by my doctor of course.) Basically though, I’m here to tell you it WILL get better. Whether you’re at a particular point right now where you think it never will, it does. Struggle through one step at a time and follow me on my own personal journey navigating through this crazy world accompanied by my equally as crazy thoughts!