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Anxiety: Part 2

“In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy” – Bob Ferrin

So here I am writing about panic attacks and anxiety because despite my best belief I haven’t recovered overnight from anxiety like I thought I would. I did go to the doctor the day after after my second last panic attack which was quite sever; so much so I couldn’t envisage myself being able to handle another. I thought it would break me. The doctor prescribed me Xanax for five days to calm me which at that point I needed. He also gave me an extra supply in case of another frightening panic attack which helped ease my mind. He didn’t want me to stay on the medication long-term and I made it clear to him that that is not what I wanted either. After four days I went off them and began reading books on anxiety. They helped a little but the thing was I was anxious not about an object or situation I was anxious about a sensation (pounding heart) and the very idea of a panic attack happening again which I could never predict. That made it that bit harder. Palpations that have increased in frequency due to my anxiousness have no helped much either even though I know my heart is fine, they are very unsettling sensations.

Everything with my heart and blood tests checked out perfectly fine which put me somewhat at ease. The problem is with anxiety and more so health anxiety, if it not my heart a little twinge or pain in my stomach signals something else to worry about. Health anxiety is hard to overcome as you are constantly thinking “what if I have this and don’t know it?” “Does this pain mean something more serious?”. I am still battling with not looking up symptoms on he internet. I like to think it puts my mind at ease if I look up a condition and discover I don’t have enough symptoms for it to be that but then I’m looking up other conditions to see if I can relate it to anything. It’s debilitating and only furthers my anxiousness.

Worse still anxiety itself triggers all sorts of unsettling reactions from your vagus nerve as it’s thrown out of whack. When I got my second last attack I was left with pretty unpleasant after-effects. A knotting and upset stomach, bloating and feeling short of breath. The first few days after the attack I found myself forcing food down my throat. Even though I was hungry, my discomfort made the prospect of eating something I wanted to avoid. Those symptoms have gradually decreased, though I do find anxious thoughts or even thinking about my anxious bodily symptoms can make my stomach knot.

Lately though just as these symptoms have lessened another symptom has taken its place. Dizziness and light-headiness. The other day I began to feel a vertigo-like sensations on two occasions. Again, I thought there was something more  serious at work but when I looked it up (I know, I know) I discovered anxiety was the cause. (Prior to that I had looked up brain haemorrhage and stroke (I know it can’t be any little health issue with me haha). I had been worrying about work the following day so I feel that this is what triggered it. I still have that light headed/pressure in the head feeling now as I’m writing this. Sometimes it is hard to recognise that it is all just anxiety. I had no idea the body could response so strongly to stress.

The interesting thing with my first panic attack was that although unpleasant, I had no after-effects. I think what has really caused my other symptoms was the fact that I had had the other two panic attacks so close together. The first one was a minor one but I tried to deal with it on my own whereas the other time I had woken my parents. I think it was a bad idea to try and deal with it on my own as I really wasn’t in the frame of mind to evaluate it sensibly. Then the next panic attack happened and I was completely thrown, even when I did wake my parents it took hours for me to really calm down and the next day I was quite tense. Maybe too knowing that I have medication to calm me if I do react badly is a comfort. The week after I came back from the doctor I put the extra Xanax into my bag, purse, coat jacket etc. just in case because I was so scared about having another. The books I read naturally advised against this, suggesting that it’s something that was feeding the anxiety instead of helping it. I can understand that, but it was the only thing keeping me calm and I never actually took them. It calmed me to think that if I really felt I couldn’t handle a panic attack in the future I had something to take so that I wouldn’t have the situation of the last panic attack where it took me hours to calm down and left me with unpleasant after-effects.

However, I was never a person to like taking pills to solve the problems. When I suffered from OCD (Are we seeing a pattern here? 🙂 ), I read the only way to fix it was medication or therapy. Now, I am not bashing anyone who seeks medication to deal with something like anxiety or OCD, people have their way of dealing with these things and some people have much more severe OCD/anxiety. I wanted to try the OCD and solve it myself without medication and give it a go before going for therapy. And I did solve it. I found out what triggered it and I successfully cured it. Occasionally, very very very occasionally it rears it head for a second but I quickly deal with it. I’ve never had panic attacks or worries that caused such reactions as racing/pounding heartbeat or dizziness and sweating until now.

I’ve had to re-evaluate my life a bit too. Working has taken my mind off it a bit for I’ve actively been trying to stay out of my head and pursuing more activities, which I have to say I’ve slacked on the last couple weeks and must get back to doing. 🙂

My panic attacks are triggered at night and so far seem to be connected with bad dreams. My second last panic attack I had an unpleasant dream and then thought “Don’t have a panic attack, don’t have a panic attack” and that of course triggered one just as you’d say “Don’t picture a yellow balloon”.

Yesterday night was similar and yet different. I was going to sleep when I suddenly got a cold feeling across the back of my neck. I knew then what it most likely was. However, I refused to run. I wouldn’t let this own me by getting out of bed and panicking further (as I felt getting out of bed would only feed into the body’s idea that there was something to run away from). Instead I stayed in bed. I repeated to myself that I was fine and even, I had heard an expert suggest this, I egged the panic attack on. The minute you fear it and try to stop it, it just gets worse. And it worked. I managed to calm my heart rate and pounding and actually fell asleep very shortly afterwards without even realising! I woke up a little while later only to realise I’d fallen asleep. Part of me thinks too that having the medication near by helped me somewhat, but really even though I was a frightened I had decided that only if it got really, really bad would I consider taking anything for it. And really that would still take time to kick in so I’d be dealing with it anyway for some amount of time.

So yeah, that’s my experience so far. It will get better, no mights about it. I do not want my twenties to be ruled by anxiousness. I want to experience life I don’t want to be constantly worried about non-existent health issues when I am a healthy 22 year old girl. I do not want to worry about being the rare ‘one’ who gets health scares. Why do I think that might be me? Fear should not stop me. Being concerned about health is like my fear of flying. I think I’m going to be that one whose involved in a plane crash or health issue while thousands or more planes land safely everyday and young people who look after their health don’t smoke, rarely drink, exercise are already ensuring they are not the 1 per cent. SideNote: I have such an annoying headache and despite taking paracetamol it has returned. Could be just a headache or else I’m getting anxious about the headache and it’s coming back. I had sharp pains earlier in my stomach that made me anxious even though I’ve had them before (it’s just trapped gas hahaha).  As much as I try not to worry it means something else, I do. It’s so confusing and exhausting. It amazing now that since I’ve had these attacks I’ve been hearing so much more about other people talking about anxiety and realising just how common and frequent it is. 🙂 The more people that share their stories, like everything else, the less others feel alone thinking they are the only ones or that it is a topic too embarrassing to talk about.

It’s a hard thing to shake. But I’m trying for it. 🙂

-Mínseach

 

 

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