Updated: Jul 14, 2019
Do you ever feel like you are in a toxic relationship with your own mind? Have you ever experienced an unfamiliar sensation in your body and turned to the trusted Google MD., only to convince yourself you have less than 2 months to live? Well, I sure have. I would like to think this is something even rational people do. No?
Anxiety became a part of my life in 2016, when I was first diagnosed with Chiari Malformation. Numbness in my arms whenever Id look down was the first of my symptoms. After a week of convincing myself I had every disease possible and even creating my last will and testament, I went in for my first of many doctor visits. I began to experience even greater neurological issues over the course of several months. These symptoms resulted in increased feelings of anxiety as there was really no explanation for any of it, other than I was not okay. I went through every possible diagnosis in my mind; cancer, ruptured disc, heart attack, stroke... you name it, I was convinced I had it. Days later when I was given the official diagnosis of Chiari the emotional and anxiety provoking ride of my life began, and here I am still no end in sight.
I'll never forget my first panic attack. My heart was racing, and I couldn't catch my breath. I recall lying on the couch and practicing 4-7-8 breathing. This is where you inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and then blow out through your mouth for 8 seconds. My chest had this painful sensation that I believed at that time to be a heart attack, not to mention Dr. Google said it was. I laid in bed for hours contemplating whether I should take myself to the emergency room. My anxiety won that argument. I slapped on some war paint, you know, just in case, and at 2 am, I drove myself to the hospital. Not smart, I know. At this point in time it was probably my 3rd visit in 3 months. I joked with the staff that I should just have my own room waiting for me. How embarrassing. I felt like such a hypochondriac. I recall continuously telling myself, "It's better to be wrong than dead."
Over the years I have learned how to struggle through each day. I don’t say manage, because this was and still is not managing. Managing to me means you have some control over how you handle things. I have no control; I am a prisoner to my anxiety; almost as if we are in this domestic violence relationship that I can't break free from.
I became pretty good at plastering a fake smile on my face and showing up. Yep, that’s what I do, I show up. I would show up to work and family events, but once back home the charade would end, and I’d often fall apart. Home became my fortress, but my anxious thoughts could find me even there. I’m sad to say that I missed out on countless opportunities with my children where I physically couldn’t show up for them because my anxiety just wouldn’t allow it. Concerts, field trips, events that years prior you would not be able to pull me away from. I became afraid to drive, I stopped doing things I once enjoyed. I felt like a stranger even to myself, a shell of who I was before all of this.
In May of 2018, I underwent a hysterectomy which I will tell you about in another blog post. I will share this though, anxiety, menopause and Chiari, now that’s a recipe for disaster! Following my surgery, I spent two days in the hospital and went home on a Sunday. I was so happy to be back in my own bed. Maybe a little too happy. By Wednesday that same week I was back in the hospital with what I had thought was another anxiety attack. This was and is the only time I am grateful anxiety and I had met. I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism as a result of my surgery and too many hours of Netflix. A blood clot formed in my leg, broke off and traveled to my lung where it intended to sit and go unnoticed until it would have inevitably ended my life. Seriously?!?!
This is how my relationship with anxiety began. This is the reason I google every ache and pain and why I lie in bed at night overthinking everything and anything. This is how I have earned the title of hypochondriac and drama queen among family and friends. This is me. My anxiety does not define who I am, but it has shaped me into the person I have become. Good, bad or indifferent. For now I will keep showing up and hopefully one day I can end this relationship and find ways to heal. Until that day comes, I’m going to continue to rock this whole being "Fabulous and Flawed" thing.