Anxiety Is Not Who I Am

Goodness, is it hot in here? Sweat is pouring down my face. I frantically turn the car thermostat down to 60. I’m still sweating; my scarf comes off, and I throw it into the passenger seat. 

My heart is beating out of my chest. Am I having a heart attack? Do I feel any pain?

I take a long deep breath in; no pain, but boy, it’s hard to get air in. It’s almost like I’m having an asthma attack. But I haven’t had asthma since middle school. I start breathing quickly, trying to get as much air in as I can.

Maybe I’m having blood sugar issues. I’ve always been so concerned that I would develop diabetes due to heredity. I eat a pretzel. My mouth is so dry, I can’t even chew the pretzel. I spit it out all over my car.

I take a huge gulp of water. Now I feel nauseous.

My mind is racing-is this a heart attack? a diabetic reaction? low blood pressure?

Now my fingers and toes are going numb. I think I need to pull over and call 911. 

This is my new reality. 

Let me give you a little back information. I’ve always been a “high stress/high-strung” person. I like things done a certain way, and I have a hard time accepting when they cannot be done in my way. Now, I’m not a whiner and a complainer, and yes, I can work well on a team, BUT you best make sure that all the lights are off and the kitchen cupboard doors are closed, or you’re going to have some issues. This is normal, right?! 

However, over the years, my high-strung personality has intensified.

I wore the fob out on my car because I would lock the doors so frequently. I’d forget if I actually did it, so I’d run outside and lock them again. Pretty soon, after 6 months, the fob was dead.

I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic that the doors are unlocked and someone is going to break into our house. At that exact moment, I force my groggy husband {bless his heart} out of bed to check ALL of the doors. If he doesn’t, I will fret all night long. 

If I shower while no one else is home, I’m constantly peeking out the shower curtain expecting to find a masked man standing there. One day, I just know he’s going to show up…

If the volume on the TV or car radio is set to an odd number, I cannot stop obsessing over it. Even numbers make me happy. Don’t get me started on setting the thermostat…

But this is just me. It’s who I am. 

This is how I felt for the longest time; that is,until these thoughts began consuming my entire day to day life.

The scenario at the beginning? That was the first time I had a panic attack while driving to work one morning. It was a wakeup call like no other. If you’re wondering the ending to the story-I safely made it to work, messaged my provider, and made an appointment to be seen. This wasn’t normal anymore. 

After I made my appointment, I had three more days full of panic attacks. Three days of having zero control of my thoughts, my body, and my life. 

Finally, on that third day, I met with my provider. After filling out surveys and doing a lot of talking, my provider said the words I knew were coming-anxiety, panic disorder, and depression. One thing that makes my provider the best, is the way she explains everything in such great detail. She lays out every single option and works with me as long as it takes to pick the best one.

I chose to begin a daily anxiety medication and then to start Cognitive Behavior Therapy as soon as they could get me in. These symptoms were so extreme and intense, I needed an extreme and intense solution. 

I left feeling empowered. I left feeling like we were going to get this under control, and life as I knew it would return! 

Unfortunately, that was not my happy ending. 

Day 1 on my new med: I was SO exhausted. I was falling asleep making meals for my boys. My husband was at work, and I was concerned that I couldn’t care for the boys. The bathroom and I also spent a lot of time together. I made it through the day, but I just wasn’t feeling well. They said this could be a side-effect for the first week. I ate just a few bites of food through the entire day and drank lots of water. The couch and I became best friends on day 1. 

Day 2 on my new med: I was physically feeling a bit better (no more stomach issues). I was still tired beyond belief. Around 7:30pm, I was making cupcakes for my son Charlie’s birthday {he turned 4 the next day}, and a full-blown panic attack began. My mind was racing, so I sat down, did some deep breathing, and tried to calm myself. Usually they last between 20-45 minutes, so I was going to wait it out. 

Lavender oil, warm bath, chewing gum, drinking water, deep breathing, walking around, going outside…. 

NOTHING WORKED! 

By 3 p.m. the next day (now 19 hours after it began), my fingers and toes were completely frozen, immobile.  My husband took me straight to the ER. 

After two doses of Ativan, my body started relaxing. The panic attack was slowly dissipating. Along with relaxing, I was totally drugged up. I missed singing happy birthday to my sweet 4 year old. I was there, but I have zero recollection. 

I met with my provider the following day who prescribed me a medication to take during a panic attack, and she decided the root cause of the horrific attack was a reaction to the daily med they started me on. We wanted to flush that out of my system, and try a new medication. 

The new medication was MUCH better. I was able to function. But the panic attacks continued…

My family and I took a wonderful, and much needed, vacation to Wisconsin Dells in the middle of all of this. I realized I had not been relaxing at all. My life was one big ball of stress. This vacation helped me to slow down and spend some much needed time regrouping and being with my boys. 

Where am I now? 

I’m about a month into this new diagnosis. Panic attacks are a part of my daily routine now. I can sense one before it begins, and I’m able to take my medication before it becomes a full-blown attack. 

I’ve been researching for ways to naturally help my anxiety/panic attacks: reduce stress, learn to say no, change your diet, exercise, essential oils, journal, be outside…and the list continues. 

What’s working? 

So the list is long about ways to naturally help anxiety, but what has actually been working for me? 

  • Leaning on my family and friends for support. My husband has been simply amazing through this entire process, and friends-boy, did God bless me with such supportive friends. Visits, cookies on my doorstep, a stack of funny reading material…
  • I totally eliminated caffeine from my diet. This is HUGE for me, since coffee has become my newest obsession, and Diet Coke was my oldest obsession. 
  • I started saying no. I DO NOT have to do everything for everybody at work. It’s okay to take care of myself and simply do my own job. 
  • I started the Whole 30 lifestyle. I’ve eliminated gluten, dairy, added sugars and alcohol from my diet. I have had a few little splurges, but they’ve been very minor (a drink here, a handful of popcorn there…)
  • Essential oils are my go to for relaxation. I’ve been experimenting with different combinations that work to help during a panic attack. 

I’m a work in progress. 

This is my life right now, but it isn’t me. Anxiety is not who I am; it’s something that I have. My hope is, if you’re someone who has experienced some or all of what I’ve been through, you reach out to your provider or someone you trust. My life is finally getting back on track, but it wouldn’t be if I hadn’t taken that first step. 

Being a mom is my most important job. Taking care of me needs to be my top priority, so I can be there for my boys. 

 

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10 Responses to Anxiety Is Not Who I Am

  1. Matt smidt May 2, 2017 at 6:30 am #

    It takes strength to admit a problem, as “we” don’t have problem and issues in life. Anyone on the planet will live life in denial for a period of time till it consumes oneself or that person chooses to improve life. Tricia as one of your biggest fans in life, I am so proud that you have made these improvements and sharing it. My Hope is that you may have touched someone with this article and they can find help as well.

    • Tricia
      Tricia May 2, 2017 at 8:20 am #

      Thank you Matthew!

  2. Becky May 2, 2017 at 6:42 am #

    That was beautifully written❤️

    • Tricia
      Tricia May 2, 2017 at 8:19 am #

      Thank you Becky! And thank you for always being there for me!

  3. Kelly May 2, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Well said my friend! Take care of you!

    • Tricia
      Tricia May 2, 2017 at 9:48 am #

      Thank you, Kelly! You’ve been such a wonderful support!

  4. Kristine - Mom to twin boys May 2, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been there and it’s no fun. Occasionally it rears it’s ugly head but not often any more. Medication, cognitive behavior therapy, and some huge ah ha moments have all been a part of my life. Because of some huge life changes that were out of my control it’s been put to rest for the most part. I still feel those attacks starting but I use my life long skills to regroup and refresh.

    Know that I’m only a block away if you need anything. Friends help friends on any way we can, it takes a village dear lady.

    • Tricia
      Tricia May 3, 2017 at 7:19 am #

      Thank you Kris! It’s assuring to know I’m not alone!

  5. Shaunte May 3, 2017 at 6:17 am #

    Thank you for sharing. ♥️

  6. Kim May 7, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    I felt as though I was reading my own life! Written beautifully! I should add that I am a pharmacist and a long long time anxiety, depression sufferer. The one thing I have added to my regimen, that I didn’t expect to help at all is a probiotic. There is new evidence out to support it, and it’s definitely worth a shot! Hoping for the best for you!