Friday, August 23, 2013

faith vs fear

Wednesday I wrote a blog post about my journey to the doctor and also my journey in faith. But I ended up not posting it - thinking it wasn't "figured out" enough.

I will say that for the past couple of years, while still believing in God, I have told myself that I don't need to do anything to stay close to His heart. After all, church people can be some of the meanest-hearted people you'll ever meet. So not much church-going here, nor Bible-reading, nor praying, nor any of the things you are told to do as a Christian. And guess what? I wasn't a worse person for it.

However, the past couple of weeks, my anxiety/fear has had me in turmoil. I've been almost debilitated by thoughts of something happening to my child or my family or me. As a hospice nurse and a nurse at a long term care facility for children, I am no stranger to death and dying. But lately, I hear something in passing about an accident or something on the news, and I completely spiral into a very creative hypothetical situation that I assure myself would be the end of my rope. The thought of dying really scared me. Not just dying, but not knowing how I'm going to die. Basically fear of the unknown.

But Wednesday I prayed. I prayed to feel God's presence and peace. I prayed for strength and wisdom. I prayed for comfort for a family that has weighed heavy on my mind - their oldest child has been battling cancer for 9 years and it looked as though they had run out of options.

I don't know a lot of things about God. But I do believe that though we may not see God do physical miracles, healings, and works - I believe He helps to heal hearts.

Today I learned that the boy I have been praying for died last night. I can't imagine what the family is feeling, but again I prayed for God's peace and comfort for them. And I had the strangest thing happen. Instead of spiraling into "what if's" about my child and my family going through the same situation, I pictured this boy restored in Heaven and I smiled.

Do I still fear the unknown? Yes. But I am so glad I can gain peace and comfort in praying to a God who helps heal hearts. Peace that passes all understanding - that's what I want so badly.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Baby Steps

My 3-day weekend ends tomorrow. I'm pretty positive that is a good thing. I've had nothing but time to let thoughts spiral. It's still been a positive weekend, because I've learned a lot about how to go forward. I've been trying to make proactive decisions, not just avoiding things. Last night on a whim, Steven and I took Davie to a citywide family-friendly gathering at the park. I don't do a lot of things in groups without planning, so this was a good step for me. We had a great time.

I slept well last night and set my alarm for 8am. I got right up, got dressed, and the family went on a long walk in the neighborhood. I tried to schedule in little doable events throughout the day. Yes, one of those events was to lay in the hammock. But another one was to take a yoga class at the YMCA. Davie and I went to the grocery store. I played guitar and did puzzles with Davie in between.

I haven't been eating much this weekend, and I confirmed at the gym what I suspected - weight loss, fairly significant for such a short span of time. So I've also been trying to eat little bits throughout the day.

Today I haven't had any panic attack symptoms. I know I shouldn't be keeping score of that. I have had  some mild-moderate symptoms of anxiety - a near-constant chest tightness/lump in throat/pounding heart thing. Everything checks out with my nurse gadgets - blood pressure and heart rate are normal, so I'm not that worried about it. I just tell myself "Isn't it interesting how in tune you are with the normal functions of your body right now? Your heart always beats at this rate, but you can feel it right now because your senses are heightened in anxiety. Your chest feels tense when you are carrying anxiety. It's interesting how that lump in your throat doesn't keep you from breathing normally and efficiently or swallowing food and drink." And when I say these things to myself, those things start to subside a bit more.

So all in all, I'm looking forward to my work week. I'm also looking forward to setting up an appointment with my doctor to fill him in. I'm not currently on a routine anti-anxiety med - I just have Xanax to use when I need it. I try not to use it unless it really feels like an emergency. For example, I haven't used even one this whole weekend. I've probably used one in the past 4 weeks. I'm not against medication. I'm just against side effects and withdrawal symptoms. I might also ask him if he can check my thyroid levels. There's still a little part of me that would like to be able to say, "OH! It was only an overactive thyroid. That explains everything!" But I know what I've been learning this weekend can help me in any situation, and that if this is just truly anxiety, I can overcome.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Paper Tiger

Face. Accept. Float. Let time pass. 

If you do this, you will recover. 

 -from Hope and Help for your Nerves by Dr. Claire Weekes

I went to sleep later than usual last night, but with some help from my local pharmacist, I slept peacefully. I laid in bed for a long time this morning. I had nothing more to do, so I just laid in bed and read and thought and . . . brooded. I was actually reading a chapter that was telling me to NOT lay in bed in the morning. Emotionally/mentally, I had a rough start to the day. Again, I felt like I was on the verge of an all-out panic attack - like if I just let my mind wander to the wrong subject, it would be over.

Then I read an excerpt that said - yes, rest is important, but equally so is occupying yourself. NOT brooding. This is a hard thing to reconcile for me, being an introvert. I really like to be by myself and to be sitting still, but apparently it sometimes makes anxiety worse. So instead of wallowing in bed, I went with the family on a short bike ride and then to the bookstore. By the time we got back, I was feeling physically worn out, but mentally/emotionally stable.

Today I tried to follow the 4 instructions from the book. When I felt a weird physical symptom that sometimes accompanies a panic attack, instead of distracting myself or fleeing the situation and instead of worrying about what came next and next after that, I FACED it. I told myself, "Your left foot feels cold and prickly. This is because of the adrenalin in your system. Isn't that interesting? Nothing bad is going to happen because your foot is tingly. If you wait a little while longer it will go back to normal." And guess what? It did! None of the other symptoms that usually follow even got started. Those physical symptoms were just paper tigers.

Now, I must remind myself, if for some reason in the next day, week, month, or year, that symptom leads to another symptom - that it is okay. I will still face it. I will accept it. I will float through the process and let time pass, until it is over. Then my body will be less and less sensitive to those physical symptoms.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fight or Flight?

Last summer, I came home one morning from working the night shift, to someone robbing my house. My husband was out of state, and my daughter was staying with my sister.

I am an enigma. I can be so irrationally anxious about silly things, but then when a car is backed into my driveway - I automatically assume they are just waiting for a neighbor. I almost made it into the house, when Burglar A honked the horn to alert Burglar B of my arrival. Long story short, when it came down to it, my body went Fight instead of Flight.

Looking back, it was a comical scene. Me reaching through the open window of their getaway car, and shaking this man's shoulder yelling "HEY! What are you doing?!?!" over and over again - and him slapfighting my hand away like a middle school girl. Me diving at his horn and honking it incessantly trying to alert my neighbors, and him peeling out of my driveway nearly taking me with him.

All this to say, I've got my modes flipped. That situation would have been better fitted to Flight. Run back to my car, call the cops, be safe. But my body didn't do that for some reason, and it could've cost me a lot more than a sore arm.

Then there are situations like this morning, riding in the back of my own car with my own little family to take my daughter to her first day of kindergarten. Something about the situation caused me anxiety. Maybe it was that we HAD to take her to kindergarten - meaning it wouldn't have been okay for me to not go, or to have a panic attack in the backseat. Apparently the only necessary ingredient for panic attacks, is a situation/environment where it would be really inconvenient to have one. Boom- you got yourself a panic attack.

At that point, I felt like the only thing that could make the terror subside, would be to get out of the car, run through a field, or to turn around and go home. Flight.

I don't think Fight is the answer either though. I think I'm supposed to Float. When I feel those symptoms starting up, I'm supposed to acknowledge it and Float until it's over (a VERY difficult thing to do), and then congratulate myself when it's over.

I've been reading a book over this whole subject. The book said this may get worse before it gets better, because of the amount of focus put on the problem as you are reading and trying to work through it. I didn't realize to what extent. I didn't realize I wouldn't be able to take a nap on a day when I have literally nothing to do, because I snap awake after 30 seconds with my heart racing.

Part of me really wants to go back to what I was doing. Making all my decisions based on avoidance. I was a happy little introvert who said "no" to almost all social engagements. Maybe if I were an extrovert, I would be more motivated to work through these issues. But I've convinced myself that I don't like to do certain things . . . when it may be that I am just afraid. But the part of me that loves my husband and daughter says I have to keep trying.