An Update of Sorts

by Sandra

Hello? Is anyone still reading this blog? I know it’s been a while since I last wrote, and I also promised my friend Stephen a review of his new book, Trickster Stories (which you should totally spend the $2.99 for), which I have yet to get to, and maybe it’s all just an excuse, but these last few months have turned life completely on its head.

Since I last wrote, I experienced a few more weeks of feeling panicky and having a dread that death was just around the corner, that something, be it a heart attack or a stroke or brain tumor, was looming on the horizon. After a particularly bad evening, my doctor offered to prescribe me some short-term anti-anxiety pills. Blood tests were done and I was deemed healthy, at least from a physical perspective. My bad cholesterol was 109, and my blood pressure 140/90—elevated, but not dangerously so. My cardiologist referral was even denied, a piece of news that should have scared me but left me feeling like, hey maybe I don’t need to see one.

Instead, I started to see a therapist, and together we are being to piece together why I feel so scared and anxious all the time.

In the midst of all this, I have good days and I have bad days. Some days I am afraid to exercise and other days  I relish the release of adrenaline from my system. Some days I am overcome with dread and that life will never be back to “normal,” and others when I feel hopeful and that I can walk confidently through this process. Some days the physical symptoms of anxiety grip me tightly, especially dizziness and heart palpitations, that do not seem to abate no matter what. Some days I am so focused at my tasks at hand that I feel as if these last few months have ever happened.

There are parts of this that baffle me. Like the physical symptoms of anxiety. The jitters, the lightheadedness, the chest pains, the hand pains, the hard, rhythmic beating of my heart that I can hear and feel throughout my body. These come on even when I am not palpably scared, but when I’m sitting at my desk, trying to work. It’s like they are a constant reminder that there is something wrong with me. Something awful, something looming, and the fear that’s associated with it is like a dark, smotherey blanket.

Therapy doesn’t make much sense, either. It’s effective, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but if baffles me. It’s just talking. I just sit and talk for 50 minutes, sometimes I cry, and then when I leave I feel better. There’s some sort of magic that happens and I’m not sure what it is.

I tried tapering off my anxiety meds once, but the irrational fears returned in full force, so I’m back up to my full dose and am going to try a slower taper. Longer-term meds are still an option, and I am in the process of seeking out a psychiatrist’s evaluation. I have not been formally diagnosed with anything, but most likely I have generalized anxiety disorder, mixed with some panic.

And where did all this come from, anyway? And is it a true diagnosis, or one doctors give when they can’t figure out what else is wrong with you? I know that I am someone who does not process stress very well, and someone whose inner monologue is usually running at 100mph, and usually negative. I’ve always been an anxious person, and for me I always that was normal. Why it’s all decided to now explode, Vesuvius-like, is beyond me. But it’s here and I have to deal with it.

It’s still been very hard to accept that there is still not something else very wrong with my body, even though I am 30-year-old, have decent vitals, and have lost over 100 pounds in the past nine years. My risk for heart disease or cancer are very, very low. However, this past Monday I feel like I turned something of a corner. I got home from work and was waiting for dinner to cook that in dawned on me that I’m just so tired of being afraid, and I’m tired of trying so hard to fight against this disease and that I’m ready to just accept what comes, as counter intuitive as it sounds. So much Christian vernacular is very warrior-based, and taking captive every thought, but as an elder at my church who deals with similar issues said, you can’t control this. I can’t control this. Sure, I think that God has given me everything I need to be able to trust him, but like any discipline, it needs to be practiced and built up over time.

And that’s been the biggest sticking point for me. Throughout this process, I’ve been very afraid that if I ask God to help me trust him in this situation, that he was going to cause the bottom to drop out of the situation (i.e., death), so that kept me from really asking him that. It’s as if I needed to muscle my way through this alone. This has been a pattern with these types of “increase my faith” type prayers, and each time, something that I deemed very awful at the time happened. Yet a couple of weeks ago, it came to me that maybe trusting God with this situation meant believing that not only was he interested in doing what was best for me, that it did not mean meeting some catastrophic end, and that he did indeed have me on the right path with the correct diagnosis, etc.

So I looked back on the whole process and see how he’s provided. The fact that the word “anxiety” was introduced quite quickly into the equation, especially knowing that some who suffer from this disorder have to wait years before a doctor can see what it is. Or the therapist I got, or all of the people who have lived through similar experiences who have come alongside and said, “you can get through this, really,” and the crazy financial provision. Frankly, it seemed a lot like God was providing me with things even before I knew I needed them.

I’m learning to rest in that trust, and to stop struggling and worrying and expecting the worst.

Which is not to say every day is peaches and cream and puppy dogs and rainbows. Far from. But this is the first time that I feel confident that not only does God want to provide these things for me, but he wants to be involved in all parts of my life, like really, really, wants to be involved, and that kind if intimacy is a little scary for me, but slowly, I am opening up to the idea that this being, this creator of the universe, wants to actually have this relationship with me and it’s kind of scary but also it’s what I want. Despite the scariness, and the letting go of control. And letting my shackles fall and not wanting to run back in and slip them on again if what goes on outside the cell gets a bit too daunting.

Again, I know this is all a process. And what took 30 years to come to a head is not going to be resolved in three months, though I have been gaining headway in terms of therapy and relaxation exercises and just recently I discovered a real correlation between my food consumption and my physical symptoms, finding that they are relieved by avoiding sugar, caffeine, alcohol (all the fun stuff) as well as refined carbs. Eating smaller meals without these ingredients, at a higher frequency throughout the day definitely makes me feel better, almost as much if not more than the anti-anxiety meds. I am scheduled for a glucose tolerance test this Saturday to see if there is any hypoglycemia going on. In the meantime, I have lost seven pounds since the beginning of April and my blood pressure is down to 130/70, which is still a little high, but not awful.

Anyway, for whatever comes next, I will plow ahead.