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. Prior to the diagnosis, I was becoming more and more dysfunctional and unable to complete normal daily activities, such as driving or even leaving the house at times, which made attending college classes, three cities away from home, very difficult.
Once I was diagnosed, my psychiatrist quickly started working with me to find the right combination of medications to control my symptoms. What eventually worked was a low-dose SSRI anti-depressant along with a benzodiazepine to quickly stop a panic attack once it starts. My symptoms have been fairly well controlled for many years with these medications, without ever changing the dosage, until now.
Over the past few weeks, my anxiety has been steadily increasing and the panic attacks have returned. I can only assume that this is a direct result of living in chronic pain, watching my husband suffer with intractable, undertreated pain, and all of the stress that inevitably comes along with all of this.
Additionally, at my place of employment, we have experienced some very sad, emotional, and tragic losses with the death of two co-workers and a few others who are seriously ill. The number of fatalities which have taken place during my eleven year career is very disturbing to me and seems almost unreal. Each time it happens, it is a harsh reminder of our own mortality, especially because many of the deceased were relatively young, and my heart aches for their families, friends, and loved ones left behind.
I am constantly terrified of something going wrong which could compromise our financial situation even further, of our chronic illness/pain getting worse, of some new illness developing (worst case scenario, something terminal), or losing access to the medical treatments which keep me functional and able to work and which keep my husband alive.
There is a real possibility that one of those fears may soon become a reality. I don’t feel comfortable explaining why because it is a very complicated situation, with no certainty as of yet, but the mere thought of what could possibly happen is making me physically ill. The uncontrollable terror is something that I can’t control and don’t know how to handle.
I have finally realized how much my anxiety negatively affects my ability to cope with chronic illness and pain. I wish this realization helped in some way but it really doesn’t. It just makes me aware of another issue that I could benefit from treating further but have no ability to do so due to our non-existent financial resources.
Hopefully I can come up with some self-help tools to provide some sort of coping strategies. I know of a free yoga class that I used to attend on Monday evenings but have abandoned as of late due to increasing pain and fatigue levels. A local church also offers free Qigong classes every week night, which might really offer some beneficial relaxation techniques.
I don’t want this anxiety and terror to control me so I know I need to help myself in whatever ways that I can. I really want to give these classes a try, if I can control my pain and fatigue levels enough to participate. Unfortunately that is a BIG “if.”
There are really no words to fully describe how much this is affecting me, on top of everything else. I don’t think I could even if I tried to fully illustrate it, and if I did, I might appear even crazier than I already do, so I will leave it at this.
Wish me luck with the yoga and Qigong classes. I will update on my progress and let you all know if I would recommend those practices to my readers who are suffering with similar issues.
Wishing you all a low pain level or pain free day! ❤