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About this blog

I've been a life-long anxiety sufferer with primary issues of panic disorder, agoraphobia, emetophobia and hypochondria. I'm trying really hard to recover with willpower, anxiety books and a little bit of medication.

Entries in this blog

 

"I've been feeling sick all week."

It's five days before Christmas and that has always been my biggest trigger as far as holidays are concerned. I did not do particularly well at Thanksgiving this year and I am struggling through a bout of depression right now, so I'm not really at peak coping skills right now. I think I need to re-read and take notes on some passages in the Panic Attacks Workbook. I'm too tired of fighting the depression and anxiety this week to say anything else - just that it's there, I know it's a lie, and I'm having a hard time remembering that in the moment. I just want to go back to bed until the holidays are over, or shut everyone out of my life so that no one ever expects me to leave the house and I can just stay in my safe little bubble.

SavPierce

SavPierce

 

"Stop changing things!"

I'm frustrated with my husband again today - don't they say that it's the ones you're closest to that you're the hardest on? He really doesn't ask a lot from me when it comes to leaving the house and doing things (his job is exhausting and his commute is long, which makes him more than happy to watch TV most nights and probably enables me to be a home-body, too). When he does ask me to do things with him, it's easier for me to say, "No, I don't feel like it," than it is to do that with other people because we're married and I know he's not going anywhere. I was upset the other day when he was going to come to brunch and then said he wasn't, then changed his mind and said he was. Today I'm upset because we made plans to cut a Christmas tree on Thursday, then he changed his mind and said he needed to tackle the leaves that day, and now the weather forecast changed and he says we're back to Plan A, tree cutting day. My first response was my typical anxiety response - "No, I can't do that." I don't do well with a medium-level spontaneity. It's fine if we decide to do something in the spur of the moment (and I don't have time to panic), or it's fine if we decide to do something next week (and I have time to prepare for it mentally). But spontaneously changing plans with less than 24 hours of lead time? That's a guaranteed recipe for anxiety. There's absolutely no reason why I could successfully cut a tree tomorrow because it was agreed upon it last week, but I should be incapable of cutting that same tree on the same day because it was only agreed upon 24 hours in advance. It's a totally irrational mentality and it depends largely on the equally irrational concern that I am a "spoonie" who needs to conserve her energy and her health. The fact that I'm working at Panera with my dad today has absolutely NO bearing on my health, energy levels or abilities tomorrow because I have anxiety, not an energy or health-limiting illness. We are cutting a damn tree tomorrow and it's going to be fun.

SavPierce

SavPierce

 

"This time it's real because ___ symptom."

I've been doing pretty well for my last couple of "adventures," didn't even need a blog entry about them. I finished the Panic Attacks Workbook and implemented an exposure therapy plan, although I have to admit that it's still pretty daunting and I keep thinking ahead - instead of, "I can handle a 5-minute car ride around the block," my mind is automatically jumping to, "A 30-minute car ride with no Dramamine would definitely cause me to vomit. I can't do that." Earlier this week, I agreed to go to brunch about 30 minutes away (driving myself there) with my dad, aunt and cousin tomorrow - the fact that I agreed and didn't make up an excuse about why I can't go is a triumph in itself, but the closer the date comes, the more anxious I'm getting. That's pretty much par for the course. The thing that's bothering me this time is that I've been having waves of nausea for the last couple of days. I can pretty much put it down to either too much screen time or PMS symptoms (I'm due for those soon and I always spend a day or two feeling nauseated each month, so it makes sense). I also know that when you get a stomach virus, it doesn't tease you for 3-4 days before it hits - you just get sick. But I keep having anxious thoughts - the most common in a situation like this is, "The symptoms start off mild and get worse, so the longer you're not full-blown sick makes it more and more likely that you'll become full-blown sick while driving or at the restaurant." That's nonsensical "logic" and I know that, but I'm still sitting at about a 50% urge to cancel right now. Another stressing factor is the fact that my husband is off work tomorrow so he wants to come - I love my husband and I don't want him to feel like he's not welcome anywhere, but if I get sick in the middle of the meal and he's still eating, I'll feel trapped so anxiety tells me it's "better" to go alone.

SavPierce

SavPierce

 

"Just because you left the house once doesn't mean you can do it again."

I've got an appointment at the Apple Store this morning in about 2 hours to get my laptop repaired and I think it's time for another episode of Adventures in Leaving the House. These seem to be helping. I've had panic attacks at the Apple Store before because of how crowded it is and how much waiting is involved, plus it's just far enough away from my house to be outside my comfort zone. The last two times I went (back in August), I stayed and successfully worked through my panic, so I'm sure today will be the same - plus, the Apple Store is in the mall and I never found a bag I liked for my Chromebook so I want to do some shopping while I'm there. Last night, my anxiety level was pretty low and I was feeling good - I'm still riding high on my success at the ballet (a significantly bigger deal, in my mind, than the Apple Store) and wasn't expecting to have any problems. Then I woke up this morning and I'm feeling dizzy (I know full well this is an anxiety symptom) and I've got a headache (maybe a real headache, maybe a lack of caffeine, or maybe tension from anxiety - either way, it can't hurt me). So on top of the symptoms, I'm feeling frustrated with myself because of the irrational idea that I overcame my fear of the ballet, therefore I'm "cured" or somehow insulated from further panic for the time being. I'd still say that my anxiety today is only about a 3 or 4, when in the recent past it's been more like a 7, but this will be an excellent opportunity to put what I've been learning into practice and work with my anxiety rather than trying to hide from it. I actually feel pretty good right now, which is a weird way to feel even as I am experiencing anxiety. The game plan: I already ate breakfast so I wouldn't feel sick from hunger. I'm drinking a cup of coffee now to combat the headache. I've been practicing breathing from my stomach to fix the dizziness and calm myself.

SavPierce

SavPierce

 

"You're not ready to go to the ballet."

It helped the other day when I talked through my fear of going to Best Buy, so I'm going to try it again for today's outing. A little background: I have panic disorder and I regularly avoid situations in which I feel trapped. Any type of theater or audience situation - from a movie theater to a classroom to live theater - triggers that sensation for me, and I've been at varying degrees of anticipatory panic for about a week, ever since my mother-in-law bought me a ticket to see the ballet with her and my niece without asking me first. I feel very petty, self-absorbed and ungrateful to be upset that she wanted to include me (especially after I found out the tickets are $40 each), but my brain keeps saying, "This is too big an event for the stage of recovery you're currently in. You are going to panic, this is going to be bad, and you are not going to get through this." Every time I have that thought, a wave of panic washes over me and my bowels begin to cramp at the idea of being in that theater. I start to think of every little step that has to occur in order to get through the ballet and every point at which it would be easy to panic or be trapped, and it begins to feel insurmountable:  I have to drive there and I don't know what traffic will be like. I'm not familiar with the parking situation or how easy it will be to get my car back on the road when I'm ready to leave. I don't know where the restrooms are or how many stalls are available. I don't know where our seats are, how close to the aisle and exits I'll be, or how hot the auditorium will be. I don't know the exact run time of the play. These things always begin a little late, so I'll have to wait in the lobby, and then again at my seat. Intermission always takes too long and I'll have to wait again then, plus the bathroom lines will be long. Everyone will leave at the same time, creating traffic jams. Even thinking about all of those things right now is making me feel sick and I probably shouldn't have listed them all out like that, especially so close to the event (I need to leave the house in two hours). So right now, I'm thinking, "This is enough time to bow out and excuse myself from the event. It's still rude to not show up and it's a waste of my mother-in-law's money since I haven't given her enough lead time to find someone to give my ticket to, but maybe she can take one of the younger nieces who will enjoy the ballet more than my nervous ass will. Maybe in a few months, I'll be recovered enough to do something like this." I woke up with a stomach ache and general anxiety this morning. I ate a bowl of cereal because I could tell that I was going to have nausea as a result of low blood sugar problems if I tried to starve myself, and I also know that not eating makes me feel worse, not safer. I also had a cup of coffee because I'm pretty dependent on caffeine, but only one because I didn't want to get shaky, have to go to the bathroom repeatedly, or feel sick on account of the coffee.  I've gone to the bathroom twice so far, which is a trigger for the anxious thought, "See? You are sick and if you go to the ballet, you're going to have diarrhea." I'm also feeling warm, but that's an anxiety symptom and it could also have to do with the fact that I'm still wearing my robe, which is too warm to sit around in all day. And I'm experiencing intermittent periods of dizziness, which is absolutely an anxiety symptom and nothing more - I've been tested for vertigo and any other conditions that might make me dizzy and been cleared by a doctor. I'm just not breathing well because I'm anxious. Furthermore, I'm feeling a little hungry again (how could I be sick while I'm hungry?) and all my symptoms magically go away if I distract myself with television, setting up my planner for next week, or briefly telling myself that I can cop out of going to the ballet. If I were really sick, my symptoms wouldn't go away every time I stopped thinking about the ballet. So here's my game plan: I'm going to take a shower and get dressed up because resisting the urge to be a slob always makes me feel more in control. I'm going to use my car time to dictate a couple thousand words of my current novel - and I'm going to be grateful for the distraction from work that the ballet provides because if it weren't for that, I'd be trudging through my rough draft all day. I'm going to bring a pair of headphones in my purse so I can sneakily listen to calming music or an audiobook if I really need to during the play, and I'm also going to bring my fidget cube to use as a distraction. My mantra for the day is, "It's just a temporary panic, and panic isn't dangerous," which I will repeat as necessary to keep myself from fighting the anxiety - I'll call on my meditation knowledge to let it wash over me rather than dam up behind me, and I'll practice staying present in the moment. When it's over, I'm going to reward myself with a trip to Kohl's to buy a purse that my new Chromebook fits into so I can carry it with me always. A few other things I like to remind myself of, which may or may not be in line with Carbonell's methods but which seem to help: If I stayed at home, I definitely wouldn't get sick so there's no reason to expect sickness in this situation, either. The whole event, round trip, will be about three hours, and the ballet will be roughly the length of a movie - I sit through two hours' worth of Netflix every single night and nothing bad ever happens, so this will be more of the same. I'm driving separately so if I genuinely need to leave, I can. If I were to actually get sick, I'd feel the same at home as I would in the theater so it doesn't matter where I vomit. If my symptoms mean I have a cold or flu, again, I'd feel the same at home as I would having a cold or flu at the theater, and I never vomit from those problems so I may as well stay put - people go out when they're sick all the time and it's okay. I still feel strongly in favor of cancelling, but I'm determined to do this because I know the way I feel has nothing to do with real illness and everything to do with anxiety. If I cancel today, it'll only be kicking this problem further down the road and making it harder to deal with later. Half the time when I get this worked up, I don't even end up having a panic attack, and the other half of the time, I do have a panic attack but I survive because there's nothing dangerous about a panic attack. So I'm setting my intention right now. I need to leave the house at 1:30pm and I will return to my house again by 4:30pm. Even if I don't make it to the theater, I will force myself to be away from home during those hours, so I might as well go and hold up my end of a promise I made.

SavPierce

SavPierce

 

"You've already been outside too many times today - it's not safe."

For the last couple of years, I've been screaming my anxiety fears into the Tumblr void and it's not helping anyone - talking to myself just makes me feel more alone and broadcasting my darkest fears only makes them seem bigger. So I thought I'd try writing here instead, and making sure to frame my thoughts in a positive, recovery-centered way. I just started working through the Panic Attack Workbook by David Carbonell because I found his website and was blown away by how much I felt like he was writing about me specifically. I thought, "This is a man who can help me with my exact problems," and I'm optimistic that will be the case. But I'm only up to chapter five so that means I'm in the knows just enough to be dangerous phase of working through recovery. My problem at this exact moment in time is that there's a Chromebook waiting for me to pick it up at Best Buy 15 minutes away, but: It's Black Friday and I know the trip will take at least twice as long as usual because of the lines. I can't stop thinking about an event I'm going to on Sunday that's causing anxiety, and I think if I don't "stay home and rest" now, I'll be too sick and anxious to go. There's a strange aching behind my right ear, my throat's a little scratchy, I'm mildly dizzy, I've got a mild headache behind my eyes, and my stomach is rumbling - clearly a sign that I'm about to be imminently and catastrophically sick and not a result of having skipped lunch and dinner. I've already been to this Best Buy once today in search of the same Chromebook. I left because the lines were long, but that was a function of impatience, not anxiety. I have very good reasons for going and picking it up today and not tomorrow, but the fact that I've already been there once today is making me think irrationally that it's risky to go again because I'm "pushing my luck". Here's what I know when I strip away the anxiety response: I've already 'scouted' the location so I know exactly how it will go - only it'll be better this time because I've pre-paid and it's later in the day. I'm going to have a lot of fun setting up my new Chromebook tonight once I get it home. How I feel today has absolutely no bearing on how I will feel on Sunday, and I have anxiety, not a physical condition, so I am not a "spoonie" as I sometimes think. All of the physical symptoms I have can be easily explained away by a lack of food, a day spent looking at my computer screen, and the anxiety itself. Even if I were to be sick in some manner during my trip, I could be home and "safe" in no more than two hours round trip - and that's being generous. So I'm going to fill my water bottle to stave off the hunger symptoms a little longer, listen to some calming music on the way to the store, and pick up my new toy. Not today, anxiety!

SavPierce

SavPierce

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