Friday, June 04, 2010

Dealing With Anxiety Disorder

There’s nothing worse than the feeling of anxiety. Whether you’re familiar experiencing anxiety attacks or not, each person has their “own” anxiety that can manifest in different ways. For instance, I experience the “typical symptoms”---shortness of breath, racing heart, and the scariest one, heart palpitations. I get irrational thoughts as though ‘this is it and I’m dying’ type of thinking. I find myself in the emergency room more times than I’d like to admit. “You’re okay, Deb. All the tests were fine.” I get sent home, feeling relieved, and magically, my anxiety, or “thought to be” heart attack subsides. For others, anxiety can be stress headaches, fatigue, tightness in chest and even allergy symptoms. I always thought my partner never got anxiety attacks. How can she not have anxiety working in a high paced male-dominated and competitive environment? Her anxiety outlets are migraines and stomach problems. Although she seems “calm”, her anxiety is a bit different than mine.

My friend Heather inspired this post for today. She had written a piece about her own anxiety and panic attacks on her blog. We both experience the same symptoms and it helps to talk it out with her because she can totally relate. We were discussing that when a very strong panic attack occurs, the very next day the person usually is so fatigued from it, that they can barely lift their arms. Sometimes it can last for a couple of days. The worst thing someone can ask when a person is experiencing an anxiety attack is: “What’s making you so anxious?” We don’t know. It can happen at the least expected moment. Some people have anxiety disorder, where they truly don't know what’s causing their anxiety attacks, and other people sometimes manifest a known stressful situation into an attack. Underlining and root causes in the subconscious mind can also trigger these attacks. And of course, some have both: anxiety disorder (without reason) and triggers. Heather and I are both lucky enough to have such amazing partners, who help us emotionally and who are always there and willing to help when we are experiencing these attacks at home.

The other morning I woke up to find myself experiencing very intense heart palpitations. They were more frequent than I've ever had them-- maybe five in less than a half an hour for the entire day. I had to try to ignore them, but some of them literally took my breath away. Going to the ER is pointless in my opinion, because I’m just gonna get the same report: “You’re okay, Deb. Tests were fine.” However, that actually relieves me and takes away my palps, but medical bills from all of the tests are outrageous. I know it’s anxiety, but my irrational mind says: “HEART ATTACK!” Having said that, it’s sometimes challenging to even step out of my own apartment because I’m afraid that these palpitations will start up again. Then the agoraphobia kicks in. The thing that frustrates me the most is that I have been on this exercising routine every single day for the past few months. I have been walking 2-5 miles a day. Now, I’m scared to death to even walk down the street. I tried exercising, and the palpitations came on within the first five minutes of walking -light walking mind you. “Exercising is great for anxiety” they say. Not when you’re having one palpitation after the other. So now that this has been happening for the past couple of days, I’m feeling a bit depressed because I’m frustrated over my fear to exercise and the fear of getting these palpitations again in a public place, no less my own home.

I’m totally against any antidepressants because I have come across so many pill pushers who don’t give a rat’s ass about side effects or how these chemicals alter our brain. Years ago, I went through severe convulsions with one medication from abruptly stopping it, due to the sedative effects. I want to go natural instead, even if it means dipping into the “grape” or “potato” juice from time to time. I think most of the psychiatric care is all a business. Some are there to truly help others, while most of them are there to see you for fifteen minutes, write you a script (so they get kickbacks) and throw you out the door and wish you “luck” with your new meds. Having been in therapy since I was sixteen years old from experiencing anxiety attacks, I have come across only one genuine psychologist who truly helped me. He taught me how to breathe properly, and thoroughly CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). With both the relaxation techniques and CBT, within months, I was back to my old self working a full time job and enjoying my life again without fear. Unfortunately his office moved upstate and I was up shit’s creek without a paddle...or a shrink.

Right now, since I am experiencing waves of anxiety, I can’t really give advice since I’m looking for some myself, but I do know that when I pray, meditate, relax, listen to soft music or indulge in a hobby like playing my guitar, it does seem to give me some relief. The rest is all fear-driven and irrational thoughts of the inevitable “what ifs”. It’s very difficult for other people that don’t have anxiety, to understand those who do experience them. I’ve heard way too many times, “I know you have anxiety, but . . .” The only thing I hear is, “I don’t care that you have anxiety . . . period.” I tend to stay away from people who are very confrontational or high strung and sensitive. I can’t be around those who get offended easily, nor those whom offend easily. You get my drift. I’m extremely selective with who I spend time with. I can't have conflicts, arguments and senseless fighting that leads into hurtful words. That in itself gives me great anxiety. I tend to avoid people who are intentionally hurtful, or who are known to speak their minds like someone with Tourettes Syndrome. I welcome all of my friends and family into my life, however I am also a very private person, even though I’m a very open and outgoing. I’ve come a long way these past couple of years by conquering many fears, like driving into the city, grocery shopping (since agoraphobia is a real buzz kill) and driving to more distant places. But now, with this setback, I’m trying my best to not let this crush all that I have worked so hard for. There’s nothing worse than the feeling and fear of anxiety.