To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I'm (Not) Fine: A Candid Chat About Anxiety and Stress


Good Thursday to you all! 

Today's blog post is going to be a little something out of the ordinary...not happy looking photos of me wearing my newest creations...but rather, I'm going to be very transparent in this one about my almost life long battle with stress and anxiety.




Source:  I'm Fine


After listening to so many women (all within the past 2 months) share about their struggles with stress and anxiety, or share that their children are having issues with them, I decided that now was the time to talk about this.  Especially after this past month and a half when my beloved Colton (he is my photographer for my blog) opened up to us about his mental issues about stress, anxiety, self loathing among other very serious things (he has given me permission to share this), I strongly feel that talking about these things, being open and transparent about what we are dealing with and going through, not being ashamed or embarrassed over something we have no control over, is a HUGE step in the healing process.

I had started this post on Sunday night at around 10:45 and it stressed me out so much that I closed my computer and am just now opening it up again.  I wanted it to be all flowery filled with anecdotes and links to websites that would offer up wonderful information that has helped me in my journey and my thoughts on why we feel we need to put our shiniest faces forward on social media.  But, the very thought of having to do all the research just defeated me. (It usually takes me hours to write my blog posts as I want them to be a good read, funny, with pretty pictures and good research...this time it is going to be raw and off the cuff like we are having a conversation...) So, I am simply going to share with you my story and maybe that will help someone with what they are going through. 

I have always struggled with stress and anxiety.  Well, at least as long as I can remember.  Being a first born and a wee bit OCD hasn't helped one bit.  I remember stressing out about my brother and sister getting hurt or doing something naughty (hello!!  Not the mama and the daddy!!!)  I would get sick and not be able to eat breakfast before I left for school in the morning.  I was always afraid that I would get in trouble for something/anything and was always in a heightened state of awareness.  This seems so weird as I had the best childhood ever, my parents were loving and FABULOUS, I loved Jesus with all my heart!! So, where did this all this crazy, crippling anxiety and not dealing with stress come from?






Well, it was 5 or 6 years ago at the end of summer, I remember this because I was canning peaches, when one morning I awoke with the greatest pressure on my chest.  I laid in bed and took stock of my stress levels.  Over the years I have learned that when there is pressure in my chest that I am in the grip of an anxiety attack.  Well, this time around was different.  There was nothing going on in my life that would warrant this reaction.  Life was good, no issues with anything whatsoever!!  So, why was a 10 ton elephant sitting on my chest?  I took my shower and began boiling the water to start peeling the peaches and I could feel my blood pressure rising, like really rising.  I stopped what I was doing and went to the fire station down the road so they could take my blood pressure.  The fireman that was taking it turned white and his eyeballs bunged out of his head!  He said, you need to go home and rest for an hour then go to the Paramedic station and have them check it again.  I can't remember what my blood pressure was, but it seriously high, enough to suggest I was probably having a heart attack, or would have one presently. Wooooooow.  That's awesome.  So I did as directed.  Well, my blood pressure hadn't gone down, but rather had gotten worse, even though I thought the whole thing ridiculous because I knew nothing was wrong.  So, the paramedic suggested they transport me to the ER and have an EKG which I did. 

 Happily the doctor on call was a cardiologist.  She informed me that I wasn't having a heart attack (thank you Lord!!!) but an anxiety attack.  Well, that was weird to me because nothing major was going on at the time.  So, she asked me what had  been going on.  Well, that summer my brother-in-law had many, many brain surgeries (between June and Thanksgiving weekend he had 10) and many of them were emergency ones.  The stress from being in that frightened state, over his life, my sister's life, the children, etc had taken it's tole.  She said, "No wonder you are having an anxiety attack!"  She decided to do blood work and check the levels of the naturally occurring anti-anxiety and anti-stress hormones and it was determined that my Serotonin levels were very low as I was using up more than my body could make.  (after much consideration, I am surmising that I have probably had low serotonin levels my whole life).  Anyway, she also shared this little tid bit with me. 

"What you feel physically in your body when you are having an anxiety attack is only 10% of what is going on in the whole of your body."

Whoa.  In other words, the panicky feeling I was getting, the pressure in my chest, that was only a little bit of what my body was dealing with.  The major organs are affected by stress and anxiety, the blood vessels, your ability to breathe, your digestive system...It's ALL affected when we are in the throes of anxiety.  And that is not good.  

I was put on Citalopram to help me deal with the stress and boy did it help!  After about a year I decided to go off of it and for a while it was ok.  





For me, anytime any sort of stress enters my life, whether it be good or bad, my anxiety levels shoot up and that stupid pressure comes back.  Well recently, the ugly anxiety monster has made its way back into my life.  It all started before the election this year.  The horrible and ugly things being said on both sides of the political fence really started to take their tole on my mental health (I am what people call a sensitive and so get literally physically ill when I read ugly words over and over again on social media) so I took myself off of Facebook for a time.  Then as things always seem to do in my life, events started to snowball.  If any one of these particular events would have happened one at a time, I could have totally handled it.  But Nooooooooooooo!!!!  We must gang up on Gina!!  Things got so bad with so many things in my personal life and the lives of my loved ones (like some of my sweet Mama's physical issues and my sweet son's battle with his own stress, anxiety and self loathing) that my level of anxiety was the worst it's ever been.  

I started getting what I have dubbed "Anxiety Blooms".  It's when something sets you off and it feels like your chest, starting in the center and blooming outwards, is being having a killer adrenaline rush.  I was getting them up to 15 times daily.  Anytime a text would chime on my phone.  Anytime a loud noise was made in the house.  Anytime the dogs barked.  I took my blood pressure during one of these Blooms and it was 170/118.  Wow!  Awesome.  

I started really self medicating myself (in the past I would do this about once every other month) by drinking a whole bottle of champagne.  It has less alcohol than wine and it would give me a lovely buzzed feeling which I wanted to feel good even for a little bit, and it totally took my anxiety away.  Well, this time around, the champagne wasn't working.  Like not at all.  It didn't take away the pressure in my chest and I didn't even feel good with the buzzed feeling.  Even blasting worship music wasn't working.

It was after acknowledging I didn't want to ruin my liver and after admitting that all other non medicine avenues weren't working, that Greg and I decided that I needed "bigger" help in dealing with this crap.  Not only was I having anxiety blooms and high blood pressure, I was sleeping in until 10:30 after going to sleep at 11.  I lost all interest in the things I loved to do, namely sewing and antique shopping, I wasn't myself (I am so very full of joy and happiness most of the time), food didn't taste good yet I was shoving it down my throat (I have gained over 7 pounds back), I had no interest in life, I couldn't make words form when I was in conversation, living was just hard and I felt on a minute to minute basis that I was drowning in quick sand and I could feel myself curling in on myself.  

I took a test at the Dr's. office and it showed that not only was I in a full blown state of anxiety, but I was also depressed.  I thought this odd because I didn't feel depressed.  But she let me know that anxiety, stress and depression are very close bed fellows and we decided to put me once again on Citalopram.  Now while this is not what I want for myself as I really would rather do it in a more homeopathic sort of bent, this is what is needed for me right now.  I do not want to have a heart attack or stroke.  I do not want to ruin my internal organs.  I want to be around for a long time.  I want to get healthy again.  So, for now, until this season of crap storm that life is throwing my way has past, I will stay on the Citalopram.  Then when I am healthy, and life has leveled out, I will look into nutrition and exercise and learning how to deal with stress and worship music and prayer and all the other good things to get me back to being me!






So, if you don't see me on Facebook or notice that I haven't been keeping up on my blog, this is why.  It takes great energy, even with the medication which is greatly helping, to do more that the basic wife, mom, living things.

Some of the things I have experienced with anxiety over the years are:

-loss of appetite
-too much appetite
-food not tasting good
-too much sleeping
-not sleeping well
-feeling like just sitting on the couch and not doing anything
-feeling like just staying in bed and not doing anything
-exhaustion, both physically and emotionally
-loss of interest in things I love doing
-struggling to do the basics like make the bed, clean the house and make dinner for my family
-crying at the smallest things and at the worst times
-getting lost in my neighborhood (like I had NO IDEA WHERE I WAS!!!)
-feeling like I'm drowning in quick sand
-feeling like I'm curling up on myself
-feeling like I'm worthless
-feeling guilty for feeling this way
-feeling like I can't get a satisfying deep breath
-wanting to hibernate
-avoiding calling people or returning phone calls
-panicking when someone asks to go out for lunch or dinner
-feeling like my head is stuffed with cotton


I could go on, but I won't.  But, I would like to leave you with some hopeful thoughts.

-If you have to talk about your feelings, talk about them until you don't have to talk about them anymore. Sometimes we just have to hear our voice outside of our heads to help us process and heal.

-Please don't feel guilty for this!  You didn't wake up one morning and decide, "Hey!  Being stressed out sounds like all sorts of fun!  Let's freak out and have stupid high blood pressure!!"  This is not something you chose.

-Be gentle and kind to yourself.  We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to things like this. Remember, this was not of your choosing, so stop blaming yourself and start loving yourself again.

-Get good rest and if you can, don't over exert yourself.  You don't need to take on new projects, it will only add to your stress.

-Learn to feel comfortable saying no.  Sometimes, the stress of having to go out and "perform" doesn't help one bit.  It's ok, one day you will want to get out once again!

-For this season, do what you need to do for you.  If you need to go on a medication and you would rather not, please don't feel defeated in doing so.  There are seasons in life and hopefully this will be a very short one.  If you would rather go the naturalistic way, do that. Remember, you are answerable only to yourself and in my case to God.  When it comes to your health, do what you need to do to get you healthy.

-Even thought this is hard and I need to take my own advise here, reach out to your friends and let them know what you are going through.  They can pray with and for you, listen to you talk about what you are feeling, just be "there" with you and maybe not even have to have a conversation.

-Take things moment by moment, not day by day.  

-Don't apologize for the state you are in.  Again, you didn't choose this.

I hope this will help someone who reads this. Remember, you are not alone in this battle!  

I hope you all have a  wonderfully blessed rest of your week!  I'm now off to shove potato chips down my throat and watch Sherlock Holmes!

g




 Source:  Parent Pretty

25 comments:

  1. Oh Gina, I had no idea. You poor love. Thank you SO much for feeling that you could share and putting this out there - I know myself how hard it is to do. I wish that I could just lean across the pond and give you a big hug!!

    Wishing you and Colton all the very best. I'll be thinking of you both.

    Love

    Elaine
    xxx

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    Replies
    1. Dear Elaine,

      Thank you so much for your loving words of encouragement and thank you for sharing with me as well! And for your hug! Sorry that I am just getting back to you...I suffered another anxiety attack almost right after I wrote this blog and just couldn't get back on the computer, but please know that your words greatly touched me!
      Thank you also for including Colton in this!
      Blessings!
      g

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    1. Dear Lindsey,

      Thank you so much for writing! And you are welcome!
      Blessings!
      g

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  3. Have you ever had a full thyroid panel blood test including antibodies done? Many of the symptoms you described are signs of autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto's). It is often misdiagnosed as anxiety and the cause is missed for many years. Lots of doctors are not very familiar with it, but a thyroid-savvy doctor can make a huge difference. Natural dessicated thyroid medication, an autoimmune protocol/paleo diet (or at the least gluten and dairy free), and low dose naltrexone can make a huge difference if this turns out to be a part of your health issues. Dr. Izabella Wentz has a wealth of information at her website.

    I wish you the best.

    Dee

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    1. Dear Dee,

      Thank you so much for writing! After I get over this latest mountain and I feel that I can get off the meds, I plan on doing a lot of testing. I will keep your suggestion of antibodies in mind! I did go paleo for a while and that did nothing... I don't eat sugar so that isn't the cause either. And for your next message I will have the thyroid checked as well. I also have a wonderful chiropractor who will help me with the more homeopathic way of dealing with this.
      Thank you again!
      Blessings!
      g

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  4. I came back because I forgot to say that some Hashimoto's patients never have positive antibody tests. It may be well worth the time to find a really thyroid-savvy doctor who can interpret the other blood tests correctly, and possibly order other tests, like a thyroid ultrasound to help get a proper diagnosis. If you aren't able to do that (I wasn't able to for many years) you can try changing diet on your own to see if there is any improvement. Eliminating foods that you are sensitive to for a couple of months can sometimes help anxiety even if it isn't thyroid-related.

    Best wishes for your health.

    Dee

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  5. My thoughts are with you. Although I don't myself suffer from anxiety, I do have friends and loved ones who do. My support is to try to understand and be there if they need me. Sending you strength from Arizona. <3

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting Amy and for your friends who suffer from this, I thank your for supporting them! They really and truly need it!
      Blessings!
      g

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  6. Many hugs Gina. I hope you are able to find the rest you need in every way.

    Best,
    Quinn

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    1. Thank you so much Quinn for your comments and your hugs! I truly appreciate them!
      Blessings!
      g

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  7. Dear Gina,

    My heart just absolutely breaks for you. If I was any better with words, I would love to express how deeply your brave words, struggles and message to carry on have resonated. You and the family will be in our daily thoughts and prayers.

    Best and warmest wishes from across the country,
    Anneliese :)

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    Replies
    1. Dear Anneliese,

      Thank you so much for your lovely words of encouragement and love! They truly have helped during this latest anxiety attack I have been suffering. Thank you also for your prayers and thoughts!
      Blessings to you!
      g

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  8. I enjoy reading your blog and I owe you thanks for that. But you don't owe me anything. The fact that you have given me enjoyment does not mean you are responsible for continuing.
    Go take care of yourself first (or you can't take care of anyone else) and then your family. The rest of the world can wait.
    PS thanks for all the enjoyment you give to me and others.

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    1. Dear Carol,
      Thank you for your lovely words! And for reminding me that I don't owe people anything where the blog is concerned. I need that reminding every once in a while! And thank you for your lovely compliment! It means a lot!
      Blessings!
      g

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  9. I'm so glad you shared this - thank you so much for writing about this! I deal with bouts of anxiety from time to time and lately they have been getting worse due to issues with my oldest son (he is autistic and also is suffering from anxiety/ possible depression so is seeing a therapist and psychiatrist for that). It's hard to talk about this topic but awareness definitely needs to be raised - if for no other reason, than that people who may be experiencing symptoms of this will recognize it for what it is and know that there is help available and no shame for feeling this way! Hugs and love - I hope you are feeling much better soon!

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    1. Dear Sarah,
      First I am so sorry that I am just getting back to you. I got pulled back into a pretty severe attack almost right after I wrote this post and just couldn't bring myself to open the computer and reply. I will be praying for you and your son and his anxiety and possible depression. It is so painful watching your beloved children go through what you know and feel they go through. Writing about this and bringing it to light was my little way of letting others know they are in no way alone and there is help. I'll be praying for your anxiety attacks and those of your son!!
      Blessings, love and hugs to you my dear!
      g

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  10. Oh, my dear Gina, I was crying as I read this (which was double fun because I read it at work!). Thank you for sharing your struggles. These conversations are so important. Your story about the peach canning is so familiar, I had a similar episode... absolutely nothing going on that required anything more the usual amounts of stress that one might apply to, say, getting the dishes done, yet my body was convinced there was a bear on the doorstep and PANIC RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOOOOOWWWWWW!! (bear metaphors brought to you by my therapist, a lovely woman who has watched me cry out my body weight)

    I don't see any shame in seeking out treatments that work. My doctor is reluctant to put me on drugs for a variety of reasons (that I agree with - I'm willing and able to seek out other methods, this may not be true for you or others) but if they work, they work! We should be working towards our healthiest and best selves, and if drugs are the only way to get our bodies to stop fighting us, then that's the route to take.

    So many hugs of support and commiseration. I hope you and Colton both find the things you need. <3

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    1. Dear Crystal,

      Thank you so very much for replying and for you lovely words of encouragement! I apologize for taking so long to get back to responding...I had a major anxiety attack almost right after I wrote this post and am just now feeling like I can write back to people. I am so sad that you too have struggled with this issue. It is so not a fun thing is it? It is so debilitating and horrid when you feel like that bear is at your door! I hate it so much. I am so hoping that after this latest mountain is conquered that I can find a more natural way to deal with the anxiety and lack of seratonin. I am so looking forward to being "me" again!!! With out fear and panic!!!!! Thank you also for including Colton in your comment! That means so much!
      Blessings and healing to you!
      g

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  11. I've experienced anxiety attacks, and they are not fun... No where the amount or level of which you speak, and my only thoughts are prayers for you to find the peace of mind and body that you need to be released from this place. Many hugs, and I pray you have the strength to keep on smiling through the bad days. xxx, bonita

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    1. Thank you so much sweet Bonita! I greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers for peace with this anxiety. I was doing better, but this past week have been plunged back into the cycle. I so can't wait for life to slow down. I may have to give a hermit's life for a while! I am so sad that you too have experienced anxiety attacks as they are really no fun!!
      Blessings to you and I am totally enjoying your Thailand (I think that's were you are?) pictures!
      Blessings!
      g

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  12. Oh Gina,
    Long time reader, long-lost IG friend (Country Mouse City House). I resonate with your words...commiserate with your struggle. I recently made the difficult decision to walk away from social media too for similar reasons, and that's ok. It's ok to be human. I'm so glad you shared and got that off your heart. I hurt for you, but I love that we have sisterhood in Christ that can get us thru crazy weird messy life. Prayers friend. You've so already got this...He makes Beauty from Ashes!
    Jenn

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    1. Hi Jenn!!
      I have so missed you in IG!!! But I totally understand walking away from social media. I had to turn to IG instead of Facebook as there is no where near the amount of drama on IG...just lovely pictures! I hope that one day you will return to IG as I LOVE your images!! I'll be praying for you and your struggles and yes, thank you Jesus that you are our King!!
      Blessings and prayers to you!
      g

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  13. Hmmm. You're living my life. I have also come to the conclusion that anxiety and depression have been my bed fellow all my life. Only now the symptoms are stronger and last longer. Reaction to menopause? I don't know.
    Like you, I once went to the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. The doctor decided it was my acid reflux but I now know it was anxiety. I am getting more and more dangerously high blood pressure readings when it used to be the lowest end of normal. I don't eat less...I eat more because food sedates me and sugar helps keep me moving because I'm tired from crappy sleep.
    My two biggest stressors...work (specifically two co-workers whom I have nick named Lazy and Crazy) and an adult child who who is waging his own war against anxiety and depression. I'm his primary off load. He makes himself feel better by off loading on me. Which in turn ramps me up. He needs more help than I am qualified to give him and yet he refuses to go get it. The idea that there is something wrong with him (other than "life and people suck") makes him anxious and depressed.
    Thanks for sharing. It is good to know I am not alone in the costuming world-trying to be creative and pretty on the outside but a hot mess on the inside.

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  14. Gina, I just remembered awhile back I had tried to leave a comment here with my cell phone but couldn't get logged in. So I decided to wait until I could get on my computer but forgot.
    I had all kinds of thoughts and hugs I was going to send you but now can't remember what they were. But You have been such an inspiration to me that I feel so much love for you, and it hurts me so much to hear of what your life has been like. Greg is so good to keep supporting you, as you say in all your craziness. I can't say I've had as hard a time as you have but I have had anxieties that I finally had to ask for help with. Its hard for me to ask for help, and then sometimes it's too late (referring to my bad knee at this time). But I'm glad that you are being open and ARE asking for help. If I could I would be there hugging you right now and yelling at people to help this lady. You are a treasure and needs to be taken especially good care of.
    I will continue praying for you and send you truly heart -felt wishes that this will be resolved and your strength and self confidence come back in hundred-fold.
    Love and hugs, Val

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