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?
Source: Personality Growth
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!
Source: Parent Pretty