Terrified

For the past several weeks, my anxiety has been spiraling out of control.  I have suffered from severe anxiety for most of my life; even as a child but back then I didn’t understand what it was, how to describe it, or that it wasn’t “normal.”

It was in my early twenties that I began suffering from debilitating panic attacks, which often landed me in urgent care clinics in fear that I was having a heart attack or worse.

After many doctor visits and a cardiology work-up, it was determined that my heart and lungs were basically healthy with the exception of trace mitral regurgitation (an early/mild form of mitral valve prolapse, where some of the blood that is supposed to pump out of the heart actually goes back in through the “exit”) which often causes sinus tachycardia.  Those things are part of the medical component which predisposed me to anxiety and panic attacks.

When I could not tolerate the beta blockers prescribed by my cardiologist to control my incredibly high heart rate, I started to do some research on my own and discovered some literature about panic disorder.  The symptoms include intense uncontrollable/unexplainable fear, a sense of impending doom, high heart/pulse rate, difficulty breathing, sweating, feeling as if you might faint or in some cases actually fainting, chest pain, hyperventilation, among other various symptoms.

I immediately knew that I had this condition and within a few weeks I was diagnosed with it. Continue reading

Pain In The Neck

I had planned on posting about another topic this week; something useful that I have discovered to help make the work day a little easier, but something happened that has left me basically incapacitated today so I have been in too much pain to spend much time at the keyboard or concentrate long enough to finish the post. This one will probably be short and sweet.  Hopefully I can finish my originally scheduled post sometime later in the week.

When I was getting ready for bed last night I was caught completely off guard by this terrible neck pain that radiated into my shoulder, back, and all the way down my left arm. It was a sharp piercing pain unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  It is similar to the pain that you get with a “crick” in your neck, when you can’t move it a certain direction.  I actually have that too and can’t turn my neck to the left.  I have experienced that part many times before, but the radiating pain into other areas is something completely new to me.  When I woke up today, not only was it still there but it is now affecting my right arm too but the radiating pain in my right arm doesn’t go down as far as it does on the left side.  Continue reading

Working with an Invisible Illness & Chronic Pain

If someone asked me what my greatest challenge was, with regard to living with an invisible illness and chronic pain, I wouldn’t even have to think twice before I answered “working.”  The reasons are likely obvious to anyone who has a chronic illness and/or lives with chronic pain and those reasons are MANY.

We never know how we are going to feel from one minute to the next, let alone one day to the next.  For me, something ALWAYS hurts.  Not just a little annoying pain, but severe, debilitating pain.  Luckily my brain seems to process primarily one pathway of pain signals at a time.  This means that the most severe source of pain is what I feel at any given moment.  Sometimes that is facial pain due to Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia or Atypical Facial Pain (the doctors keep switching back and forth between these diagnoses) and TMJ/TMD, which feels like someone has placed a needle into my upper right teeth without ever taking it out.  That pain radiates into my cheek, temple, head, and neck.  Sometimes it starts in my neck and radiates outward from there.  My other source of chronic, invisible pain is in the abdominal region due to Endometriosis, PCOS, Endosalpingiosis, and abdominal adhesions.  I usually just refer to it all as “Endo” for the sake of simplicity.  This is often the most debilitating pain of all because it is peritoneal quality pain, which has a tendency to affect a large portion of the body (stomach, abdomen, pelvis, lower back, and upper legs/thighs).  Sometimes it is only a dull ache (my facial pain is usually more severe during those times), but other times it causes severe stabbing, cramping, ripping, crushing, and tearing pain which can bring me to my knees, cause nausea, severe GI symptoms, make it hard to breathe, and even cause me to pass out.  Many compare Endo flare-ups to acute appendicitis or even labor contractions.  It leaves the body in a constant state of inflammation and causes my abdomen to swell to the point of looking pregnant at times.  All of this also causes a debilitating fatigue, which research has shown often reaches a level experienced by those with end-stage cancer.  When that happens, it feels like my arms, legs, and other body parts are carrying around 100 pound weights (which is more than my total body weight).  These are just some of the physical symptoms.  The psychological and emotional symptoms are another monster all their own.  Imagine trying to concentrate on work, completing complex or even mundane daily tasks, dealing with co-workers, attending meetings, managing stress, and meeting deadlines while feeling this way.  Sound tough?  It is.  This is the best way that I know how to describe it but even these words don’t do it justice.  Continue reading

Depression & Our Anniversary

I know the title of this blog post may seem strange.  There is really no connection between the two words except that they are both present and on my mind.

Today is our 6th wedding anniversary.  Billy and I have been together for 11 years now and our love is strong.  We have been through challenges that would be hard to imagine and many that no one knows about except for us.  Things that would test and destroy the most solid relationship but somehow our love has always pulled us through and prevailed.  I am so thankful for my husband and the unconditional love that we share.

This should be a joyous day but I cried all the way to work.  Yesterday and the day before, I cried all the way home.  Last night I sat and cried on the couch but I don’t think Billy noticed.  He has his own overwhelming struggles to deal with and I tried not to make it obvious.  Throughout my years of participation in online chronic pain, Trigeminal Neuralgia/Facial Pain, Endometriosis, and PCOS support groups, I have read and been acclimated to the very real link between chronic pain and depression.  I knew it could happen and the likelihood that it would is very high.  I have watched my husband struggle with it for years, even before the wreck and his botched surgery, but so much more afterwards.  It has been ripping him apart for what seems like forever and it appears to finally be taking hold of me.  Continue reading

Medication Increase

Here we go again … I’m back on the medication roller-coaster and I really hate this ride.  About three hours ago, I started an increased dosage of my strongest long-acting medication.  I can already feel the side-effects, so I know this isn’t going to be fun.  This isn’t like one of those medications that you can take a partial dose of to see how it affects you and then not take it again if you don’t react well.  This is a 3 day commitment to the new dosage and there is no going back.  I shouldn’t drive during this time and I’m scared to sleep so I will just sit here.  Maybe watch some TV and work on my blog, unless I start feeling too sick to do those things.  I’m one of those people who is always cold.  I keep the thermostat set on 75 degrees or higher most days.  Not now though.  This medication makes me hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable.   I keep turning the A/C down more and more but it makes no difference.  The heat isn’t coming from the air around me, it’s some sort of weird side effect from the higher dosage of medication.  I know this well because when it comes to side effects, I get them all.  I have a heightened sensitivity to my body and I notice even the most subtle changes.  I’ve been through this before.  Hell, I should be a professional by now but it’s hard to get used to living like this.  Knowing that I rely on so many medications to get me through each day and help me cling to whatever thread of normalcy is left in my life.  It’s hard but it’s also necessary because I am a fighter and I will not give up;  I can’t.  Will it be like this forever?  I don’t know.  It very well could unless I encounter remission or a cure.   Continue reading

Happy Labor Day

One of the many things I’m thankful for in life is holiday weekends.  I am thankful for each one and what it represents (i.e. the “true” meaning of the holiday) but as someone with chronic pain, I am also VERY thankful for the extra day off work.  Every day of every week (primarily Monday through Friday) I can feel my body getting weaker and more taxed, from the daily grind along with work-related and personal life stress which inevitably equals higher pain and fatigue levels which become more and more difficult to control as the week progresses.  Normal weekends really don’t cut it in my world because it takes at least one full day to recuperate from the prior week’s damage to my body (and mind) and then after that it’s Sunday and time to start getting ready to do it all over again.  A three day weekend is seriously priceless for me.  Continue reading