Monday, October 8, 2012

The Anxiety Chronicles: I'm Not Making It Up

First, I went to confession AND Mass for the first time in a month-ish this Saturday. SCORE!!! I seriously missed it. I cried when I received the Eucharist because I was SO happy to have the chance to do so. Having tummy issues for so long deprived me of this wonderful privilege we have as Catholics. I did feel a little faint but nothing too bad. :D

Second, I've been giving this some thought over the last couple of weeks and I feel like I should address is so that there is no miscommunication, any tension, or any hurt feelings... well, not anymore. 
I try to be open about my anxiety so that others who may go through similar things don't feel like they're the only ones, or that there's anything wrong with them. I went through the first couple of years without anyone to talk to about this so I know how horrible that feels. Having anxiety can make you feel like there's something wrong with you and that you can't be "normal" because of it. It sucks. Part of why I opened this blog was to help other Catholics with anxiety feel as if they were not alone. Thanks to God, I've been able to meet and help others in similar situations and for that I am very grateful. Sometimes they have medical conditions that trigger anxiety, sometimes it's a food allergy that brings it on (I just learned this), and other times it's past experiences that trigger the "fight or flight" response. Again, I share my experiences because I want others who may be experiencing something similar to take it in, think about it, and talk to their doctors about it. As of late, I've been wondering if I should just stop sharing my experiences... especially when people question me about whether some things are "all in my head." Let me give an example.

If you follow me on twitter or are a friend on my personal FB account, you know I will say "Oh, great... anxiety is back." What I don't say is "Oh, great... anxiety is back. Well, at least I know that my theory that *insert food* is the cause. I will try to not eat it again. At least the allergy is not worse." I already feel like I'm whiny for tweeting/posting about my anxiety but, again, if I can help others, I'm willing to turn the other cheek. In the past two months I've done experiments -- taking foods out of my diet and then reintroducing them to see if the anxiety comes back with it. I've found two foods that indeed aggravate the feelings of anxiety (including peanut butter -- one of the more common food allergies). The anxiety effect lasts for three days at most and then disappears. Can we say "Bingo!"? Same with medication. Some chemicals just do not agree with my body. My doctor since childhood (who, despite being a doctor and giving medicine when necessary) will tell me to avoid taking certain medications and to eat certain things when I'm ill because he's seen firsthand how meds and foods mess me up. (For those interested, I've also had the feeling like I couldn't breathe, have broken out in rashes, and a whole slew of other things when I've had an allergic reaction.)

Last night I took my first dose of a medication to help with my gastritis. It actually took me a couple of days to try it out because I wasn't sure if I had had an allergic reaction to a similar medication years ago (and they advised me not to take it if I had) or if I was given that similar medication but had not taken it. Since I still wasn't sure as of last night, I decided to try it out. Turns out, my first gut reaction that it was similar to one I'd had years ago might've been right because I woke up shaking and just not great. I took the second dose this morning and felt worse, complete with a shaking jaw. I mean, you could say it's anxiety but I know my body well enough to spot a reaction (however minor it may be). Countless trips to the emergency room due to food and medicine allergies have me prepared. Needless to say, I'm discontinuing it... at least until I can get a hold of my doctor and/or pharmacist tomorrow morning when I get my blood work done.

I share this because there might have been comments alluding that I'm making all of this up. I'm not naming names and I'm not attacking anyone in any way so please don't take it that way. This is just like a PSA to let you all know how I feel in these situations. As someone who is a little shy, a little self-conscience from years of bullying, and already feels like she's a huge burden on her family and friends because of this condition, I felt like those comments are discrediting what I feel (physically and otherwise). Not only that, but it makes me think that there is something seriously wrong with me and that no one wants to deal with me. Trust me, it was not my plan to get pale, feel as if I were going to faint, and worry my mother to the point where she couldn't sleep because it's "all in my head."

If you feel like I'm just being oversensitive or need a thicker skin, you may be right. Like I said, this is just how I feel. I am so sick and tired of having this condition. I didn't ask for it. I feel like (pardon my language) crap when I do get anxiety because my mom doesn't deserve that kind of worry. I don't enjoy getting sick. If I could make this go away, I would. And it hurts my feelings when people assume and/or discredit any illnesses or allergic reactions  as being anxiety and/or "all in my head." I'm not the only one who's had this problem lately either. I've noticed some other friends with allergies/anxiety having these same problems with some of their family and friends. We're not crazy or trying to get attention; our bodies just don't work the same way as others do. You try having anxiety for 12 years, and only now figuring out that a lot of the anxiety could've been controlled with proper food allergy tests (which I can't afford, btw). It sucks. Thankfully I've been pretty anxiety-free lately because I've taken certain foods out of my diet and I'm eating healthier. Any recent anxiety I might've mentioned has been as a result of my experiments to reintroduce the foods. As of right now, I am feeling some anxiety symptoms but those may because of a reaction to the meds (btw, my face and my jaw feel tight and odd... and my mom keeps checking in on me in case I get worse. Still think I'm making it up?)

In PSA fashion (which, again, I feel like this is): please be a little kinder when speaking to someone with anxiety... especially if you have no personal (you yourself) experience with it. Yes, I cry. Yes, I feel like poo when these things are mentioned. Yes, I can turn the other cheek... but I'm hope to bring a sort of awareness for the future. If you feel compelled to, then fine -- keep saying that I'm making it up. It'll hurt me but I'll pray for you and I'll move on quickly after. I'll take that kind of abuse but only if you agree not to do it to others. To those with anxiety, try to not let it get to you. I know it's easier said than done but try. Pray that St. Dymphna may intercede for you so that you know what it is that is causing your anxiety. And, BTW, a lot of my friends have had anxiety due to thyroid problems. Just putting it out there for future reference.

Anyway, I just wanted to get this off of my chest. Some of my more popular blog posts have gotten the traffic because people search for anxiety and Catholicism or anxiety and St. Dymphna. I hope some of this will help at least one person. :)

I'm going to go chug some water and try to do something productive while I wait to feel back to normal. :D Hope you all had a great weekend. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless. :D


Anne @WhateverWorksMom said...

I clicked over on your post from Twitter.

I struggle with severe food allergies (all the Top 8 most common allergens plus some random things like black beans and green beans--I guess my body doesn't like colored beans LOL) and anxiety as well. I'm not sure I can connect my food allergies to causing anxiety, but I know I become anxious and struggle with eating, trying new foods or medicines ALL THE TIME.

It can be such a challenge--you know that certain foods or certain meds set you off. And then EVERY food or med you try you stop and think, "Is THIS ONE going to set me off?" It's definitely challenging to find a balance.

Sometimes my anxiety is paralyzing, and other times I figure out how to manage it.

GL to you!

Emmy Cecilia said...

Oh, some anxiety is anxiety due to other things but for me, personally, I've noticed the connection between foods and anxiety levels. A friend on twitter told me to try it since he had similar symptoms and reactions for a while.

Good luck with your food allergies. It's so hard to live with. My only severe allergies comes from dairy, eggs, and whatever is in Bactrim. Everything else gives minor allergic reactions.

I definitely try medications, even when I'm scared to. I always remind myself that I live less than a mile from the nearest hospital in case anything happens which gives me comfort. :D Most of the time I'm fine but there are some that really do not agree with me.

I'll pray for you and your anxiety and allergies. :D

John Janaro said...

I totally support you M, and your honesty is a benefit to many people. There are many who suffer quietly and terribly from these problems, and then they blame themselves on top of it!

You are not making this up!

It is so important to fight against the stigma associated with "mental and emotional" illnesses. As I have stressed repeatedly in my book and my blog, *mental illness happens to "normal" people*.

These are afflictions. They are not under the control of those who suffer from them. Sometimes they can be "cured," but often they can only be managed--and there is no simple way to do that.

I have bi-polar disorder and OCD. Dietary adjustments have certainly helped me. Therapy has also been useful. But these diseases have flare-ups and fluctuations that sometimes have to be endured. Depending on the person and the condition, medication may not be necessary. That's preferable of course, but if a person needs medication they should not be ashamed to take it. The medications continue to improve, and sometimes they can be (literally) life-savers.

I will probably be on medication for the rest of my life. Its not an ideal situation, but it helps tremendously to stabilize my condition.

I feel the way you do: I want to be a voice for many who suffer in silence. These silent people read (if nothing else) and are strengthened by the sense of solidarity. I have been amazed by the response to my own book; people find the courage to remove the veil from their own struggles and rise out of the shame that ignorant judgments have imposed upon them.

Thank you for showing this part of your life. God bless you!

Baby said...

It brings me a sense of comfort knowing I'm not the only one who's dealt with anxiety. My anxiety stems from constantly worrying/stressing over many things. It has taken such a toll on my life and relationship that I feel lost and alone. I was raised Catholic but haven't been to church in longer than I'd like to admit. These past couple of months have been the hardest of my life and I wonder if I could greatly benefit from finding peace and strength through God. Thank you for being open about your anxiety.