Monday, January 4, 2010

Do you ever get that feeling?

For years I didn't know what to call it.

It has manifested itself in so many different ways. Stomach aches, dizziness, a sense of dread or panic...sometimes for no reason.

Anyone guessed what I'm talking about yet?

Yup, anxiety.

If you had asked me four years ago if I had a problem with anxiety, I would have told you no....I was just a worry wart.

I thought it was normal to fixate on all the bad things that could happen when my mom let me go look at the toys on my own in a store, or I was home alone for an hour after school before my mom got home, or someone I loved was going on a trip and I was sure to never see them again, or my daughter may not make it through her heart surgery, or this current bought of pnuemonia...or.....or.....or.....

You get my point.

For me, it became much more pronounced after my daughter was born. Along with a brand new baby on my hands; I had a one month old that came out of the NICU and home to us with one simple instruction: "Do not let her cry".

This is a true statement. I had a child, whose entire job was to cry to let me know when she needed something (food, a diaper change, a blanket, a nap) but she couldn't, because that could have killed her.

Now I can go into all the details of why, but I won't. Trust me, you would fall asleep with all the medical speak. Suffice it to say it would stop all blood flow in her body and she could/would die.

My job became being proactive enough to supply her every need BEFORE she knew she needed it. And I did.

It was work. Lots of work. I was exhausted. Very exhausted. When I look back now, I have no idea how I did it. I had two other children, a 5 year old and a three year old; and a husband who worked at least 60 hours a week. But by the grace of God I did it....for two very long months.

If that doesn't give someone anxiety, I don't know what would.

I thought for sure that after her surgery; when the doctor came out of the OR nine hours later and gave me the glorious news that my daughter was now allowed to cry (the nurses all thought I was crazy after that because I would ask them to let her cry before picking her up just so I could hear her!), that the fear, the anxiousness would be gone.

But it wasn't.

It was four days after we had come home from the hospital, just over a month after the surgery, that I had my first real attack. I remember it so clearly. I was walking out of the bathroom. Nothing was wrong, nothing was causing me to fear, but my heart began to race and I couldn't catch my breath. I thought for sure I was going to drop right there on the floor and that began to scare me... Which of course, led to my heart pounding even harder and my breath becoming even shorter.

I sat down and prayed for it to go away. And it did...for the time being.

But it was always there, right behind a thin veil. That thing that made me want to jump out of my skin at the most inopportune times.

Sometimes I feel it coming, sometimes I can pinpoint exactly why I feel the way I do, and sometimes it has no rhyme or reason...and that's what I hate the most.

You are probably asking why I haven't done anything, medically, about this. Well, I have tried actually. I spoke with my doctor a few times about it, sure that I needed some sort of tranquilizer or something to "make me right". He was very kind and explained to me that given my circumstances, he was not surprised to hear my symptoms. After lots of discussion we both decided that I would try to treat it on my own, using a few different methods before we would treat with a medication.

Mostly, I just try to physically calm myself down by slowing my breathing. I do something soothing or something quiet that I enjoy. I also find that when I exercise this happens much less, and also when I increase my water intake it happens less.

Sometimes I recline and read a favorite book or listen to some soothing songs on my MP3 player. Sometimes talking it out helps too; often I find myself praying during an episode.

If you struggle with anxiety, and can relate to anything I've said here, I encourage you to give some of these things a try sometime.

So today I've been anxious...

My daughter is going back to school tomorrow for the first time in two months and I'm worried. I'm worried about her health mostly. And yes, I realize that to most people that is silly, but the majority of my fears and anxiety stems from germs at the present time, so these fears are "real" to me.

I knew this would happen, so today I've been proactive. Here's what I did for myself today:

...I drank LOTS of water today. At this point, I'm pretty sure I'm over my 64 oz. daily goal so that was good!

...I took some quiet time to read a book that I'm really enjoying right now.

...I spoke with my daughter's teacher this afternoon about ways that we can all help her to stay healthy in the class room. (Sometimes being "proactive" for me is a help, thankfully, her teacher understands that).

....I worked out, using my Wii Fit for an hour tonight. It felt great and I finished it off with a nice hot shower after.

Anxiety is something I will probably live with for the rest of my life. I'm beginning to see it as a part of who I am. My hope, is that this year I will learn better how to manage it just as I manage a schedule or anything else that comes along.

If anyone reading this also deals with anxiety, I would love to hear your comments. How do you cope when it pops up in your life. Do you have triggers? Do you try to avoid them or do you just take it as it comes?

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts!



  1. What's interesting about that is that's how it happened with me. When I had my first knee surgery, everyone was asking me if I was scared. Nooooo I'm totally fine. And the day I came home from the hospital...AFTER everything was done and over and fine...WHAM panic attack. It was the strangest thing...but then my mom said I was hiding it...burying it deep down and it had to come out eventually--once I knew everything was ok.
    I don't have an answer for you unfortunately. I still get panic attacks though they are much more rare. And less severe. I haven't found a way to control them unfortunately. They just run their course.

  2. Well, here's another reason we are "twins". I'm always anxious. I constantly worry about what could go wrong. I deal with it ok I guess, but I know it could be better.

  3. I struggled with severe anxiety (and depression) several years ago, which prompted me to do a lot of research. Since I, like you, like going a natural route, that is where my research was focused. Major stress (emotional or physical) can result in chronic hormone imbalance--this involves reproductive hormones (for women), adrenal hormones, blood sugar regulation--the whole endocrine system gets disrupted. The hormone imbalance is a result of excessive demands on the endocrine system placed on it by the stress, but conversely, the hormone imbalances tend to create more stress--so you end up with a nasty cycle.

    This is more common than you'd think, and hormone balance is usually overlooked in addressing anxiety.

    For me taking a holistic approach--whole lifestyle--was important. In addition to cutting back on excessive responsibilities, talking about my feelings with my husband, and keeping a healthy lifestyle, I needed to be strategic in supporting healthy hormone levels in other ways.

    Here are some of the things I did:

    Avoid sugar like the plague--the rise and fall of blood sugar that happens after you eat refined sugar and foods (think white flour, chips, etc...), causes your insulin levels to go very high in order to bring your blood sugar back down--but it plummets too far down (you know that crash after the high). This causes a reaction from your adrenal glands (low blood sugar constitutes a minor internal emergency) to dump excessive adrenal into your system. Adrenalin is the fight or flight hormone...a panic attack can get triggered this way.

    Keep your blood sugar as level as possible--eat plenty of quality protein, fat, and stay away from refined foods and sugar. Don't go too long between meals--be sure to eat a healthy snack (one that contains protein and fat as well as complex carbs is best) if you feel at all hungry.

    Fish oil is very helpful for brain chemistry and has been proven to work as well or better than meds for mild to moderate depression. A minimum of 1000 mg. should be taken by everyone daily.

    Consider getting your hormone levels tested by a naturopath or Dr. who specializes in natural hormone balance. If an imbalance is detected, they can prescribe bio-identical (non-synthetic, natural) hormone supplementation, formulated specifically for you by a compound pharmacy.

    You might like the book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Syndrome (search for it on amazon--I can't remember the author at the moment).

    For me, natural progesterone cream was very helpful. There were times I could feel a noticeable calming effect within 30 minutes of applying it.

    There are lots of chinese herbs that are helpful for anxiety. Try researching some out. Some of the herbs are stimulating, while others are calming (or help give "calm" energy). Avoid ginseng, which can be too stimulating if you tend towards anxiety. Check out just for the information.

    As miserable as it was, some of the richest time I've had with the Lord has been during those difficult years. It drove me to the Word in a big way, and made my roots go much deeper.