Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Return of the anxiety

It's been a rough couple of days.

I've struggled on and off with anxiety for years. Last year my anxiety came back and it was bad. Along with it came a host of health problems that were also bad. I went to therapy, the anxiety improved and the health problems went away.

One of the health issues I had last year were heart palpitations. Really, super, terrible, awful, uncontrollable heart palpitations. Not little ones that come and go occasionally, but super, really terrible, awful ones that feel like I'm having a heart attack 900 times a day. I went to the doctor, had an EKG, went to the cardiologist, wore a 24 hour heart monitor, and both doctors shrugged their shoulders and said "I dunno, must be anxiety." and sent me on my way.

Well yes, at the time I was going through terrible anxiety, but of course I was, I thought I was having a heart attack 900 times a day. They weren't panic attacks, I've had those and they're different, they were just all day crazy heart palpitations. My heart would skip beats, beat too fast, flip flop and thump weird all day and all night. That would make anyone anxious. It was a chicken or the egg situation. Was the anxiety causing the heart palpitations or were the heart palpitations causing the anxiety? I still don't know and the doctors did nothing but shrug their shoulders and pat me on my anxiety riddled head.

I tried everything. Different vitamins, cutting out certain foods, I went to therapy, I did Yoga and nothing really helped. And then one day...they stopped. I woke up one morning and said "hmm...that's weird, my heart isn't beating all crazy." And that was that. I have no idea what caused them and I have no idea what made them go away, but the day they went away was the happiest day of my life.

And now, as quickly as they went away, they have returned. I started feeling them off and on a few weeks ago and in the past few days they've been horrible, which has triggered my anxiety, which makes the palpitations worse and it's a whole downward spiral of feeling like crap and being paralyzed by it.

This is what happened last year. That wasn't the only issue I had going on last year, but it was a big one for a while. Feeling like my heart was going to explode at any moment was so scary for me when it first started happening that I was afraid to do anything or leave the house. I was afraid that anything that raised my heart rate was going to cause a heart attack or something. The thing is, my blood pressure is perfectly normal, my cholesterol is awesome, the EKG they did last year was normal, the halter monitor showed nothing weird besides palpitations, heart problems don't run in my family so I'm not at a high risk for them and my doctor insists that I'm perfectly fine. But when your heart is freaking out, it doesn't FEEL fine. There's nothing more aggravating for someone with anxiety than to be told that they're fine when they clearly don't feel fine. The palpitations are real, the doctor has heard them, even Shawn can hear them when he puts his ear to my chest. Basically some people just have heart palpitations and you just have to learn to live with them.

For someone without anxiety, maybe learning to live with them isn't a big deal. For someone with anxiety (and my biggest trigger is anything medical), that's easier said than done. People can tell me that I'm fine all day long, but when my heart is flipping and flopping all over the place, I'm pretty convinced that it's going to kill me. That's just what it's like to live with anxiety. I can go about my day and do what I have to do if I force myself, but on the inside I'm all sorts of freaking out. There's nothing more enjoyable than going through life convinced that everything is going to kill you, lol.

For a while last year my solution was to medicate myself and sit in my house. I let the anxiety take over and it was miserable. But over the past year I've learned coping skills and my anxiety has been a lot better. For the most part lately I've been totally fine. I got off all the medication I was on and decided that I was going to live my life, no matter what. The year of adventure project has been a way to get me out of the house and moving again and the bike hobby has helped a ton. I've been feeling like my old self again lately and it's been really really nice.

And then the palpitations came back and all the coping skills went out the window for a few days. The crappy thing is that it's the exercise that has been making me feel so much better but when I'm back to being convinced that I'm going to have a heart attack it makes me scared to exercise and without the exercise I'm going to spiral back down to where I was again, and I'm not going back there. I'm just not.

So yesterday morning I fought the urge to stay home and I rode my bike. Not only did I ride my bike but I went for six miles, even though I was sure I was going to have a heart attack in the middle of it. I called that giving my heart palpitations the middle finger, lol. Then last night I walked on the treadmill for 25 minutes (that has to be a record for me. Someone write that down.) and after that I did yoga and a guided meditation.

This morning I rode five miles and then went shopping. It is really really hard for me to function normally when my heart is thumping in my chest and my anxiety is through the roof but I'm forcing myself to ignore it and push on. That's really hard for me. I want to give into it and put my pj's back on and crawl back into bed. Last year, that's probably what I would have done. Not doing that requires all the willpower and energy I have, but I'm doing it.

So if you want the honest truth, I feel like crap. My heart is beating all crazy and it's freaking me out. But on the outside I'm pushing through it and living my life with a smile on my face. I'm going to fake it until I make it and the anxiety isn't going win this time.

I've come to accept over the past year that this anxiety is just part of who I am. For anyone who has never experienced it, it's really hard to understand. Every time it gets a little better I think it's gone for good and every time it comes back it's crushing. It's frustrating and exhausting and pushing through it is hard. I have to make the decision every day not to give into it and not to let it control my life and that's not always easy.

But I'm stronger now than I was before and I'm getting through it. The heart palpitations really aren't going to kill me, even if I'm convinced that they are. They went away before and I have a feeling that they'll go away again. I just have to put up with them for a while. The anxiety may be a part of my life forever, but I just keep reminding myself that there are worse problems in the world and I refuse to waste my life letting it control me.

So that's where I am right now. I'm pushing through. I'm forcing myself to get through the rest of the week and looking forward to next week because Shawn has the whole week off. He scheduled next week off because we were originally planning to go on a vacation but we changed our minds (more on that later) and he decided to keep the time off anyway and we're going to take a staycation instead. :) We'll find some fun things to do with the kids all week and we'll get some projects done around the house, which will be nice. I'm looking forward to him being home. Life is always more fun when he's home! :)


Aly said...

Wendy-I love how open and honest you are. I admire you for pushing through how you're feeling and being the awesome mom/wife you are. You'll get through this!

Dustin, Darci, Britton, Benjamin, & Caden said...

My therapist had me read a book called "Feel the Fear and do it Anyway." It was pretty good. It helped me when I wasn't functional due to anxiety. Well, that medication and therapy...Having anxiety come back is the worst! It will go away again and hopefully for a much longer time!