Saturday, February 7, 2009

Anxious much?

I believe that I am "hardwired" to be an anxious person. My mom is anxious. (She once called me 28 times in 4 hours when I was on a date and didn't hear my phone. I was 25.) Her mom is anxious. It runs in the family.

I didn't realize until much later that what I was labeling as "anxiety attacks" would be labeled by the medical community as "panic attacks". My doctor told me any physical symptoms ramp it up to "panic" over "anxiety". Oh, you mean when I get really hot and dizzy and have trouble breathing and my stomach twists up into a knot- those kinds of physical symptoms?

About two years ago I started seeing a therapsit about my anxiety. She taught me all these strategies to use when I was getting anxious. (Visualizations, "safe place", putting the anxiety in a box, grounding...) But my anxiety was such that at times it would hit full blown, and I literally couldn't access any of the strategies. Or I'd be in a place (like driving in my car down the highway) where I couldn't just close my eyes and start breathing deeply.

Once, in the car, I was thinking about how I had set up the crockpot for dinner. While I rationally know that crockpots are made to be safely used in the way I was using it, and that some people use them every day, and that we have a very nice model that likely has as many safety functions as any crockpot has, I started thinking- what if it didn't work properly? What if it started a fire? What if the fire spread and my dogs couldn't get out of the house? What if my dogs died because I had to make chili in the crockpot for dinner that night?????

Yeah, full blown panic attack driving down the highway in my CRV.

After 3 days of panic attacks in a row (one because a sandwich I'd eaten gave me a stomach ache and I got concerned about my IBS - which it turns out was misdiagnosed, but that's another story- and why I couldn't eat a damn sandwich without getting sick; one because I was watching Alpha Dog which is just a terrible story; and the final because I had a bruise on my thumb and was sure I had leukemia...) I saw my primary care physician (Dr. J, who, I'll just note, I love, love, love). I had been really unsure about going on meds every day, but she started me on a low dose of Pro.zac to see how it went.

What the hell was I waiting for?

I used to wonder how "normal" people dealt with these situations that caused me anxiety. I mean, doesn't everyone worry that something might happen to their spouse? Aren't most people concerned about their own health and all the scary diseases that can creep up on you? Well, since medication, I get it. It's not that I don't worry about those things, but they don't take over my brain, and then the rest of my body. I'm still only on 20mg of Prozac (which I'm told is a low dose) but it makes all the difference.

A positive side effect I've noticed is that I also cry less. I used to break down if I was sad, angry, frustrated, nervous, etc. etc. etc. (Also runs in my family- most of my female cousins and my sister are the same way.) Now I can deal with these situations without the tears. I am able to deal with, say, disagreements with my boss or with irate parents in a much more constructive way.

Driving home from a movie with a friend yesterday, I started worrying about III. He was working last night at a part of his job which is riskier than others. It was possible I would get home before him. I was contemplating whether I should text him asking him to let me know when he was on his way home. Then I started thinking about bad things that could happen to him. Then I started worrying- what will I do without him if something happened to him?!?!? It's the closest I've come to a panic attack in a long time (though, luckily, it didn't quite get there). But when I pulled up to our house, the lights were on and his car was in the driveway. Ahhhhhh.

Dr. J chose Pro.zac because of all the studies that have been done with pregnancy so that, when (if??) I do get pregnant, I can decide if I want to stay on it. I know some doctors advise no meds, but honestly, considering the level of my anxiety, I think it would actually do more harm to not be on the meds. Stress, high blood pressure, that kind of thing- that's not good either. And pregnancy will definitely give me plenty of new things to worry about....

So Pro.zac is my friend, and I don't plan to quit anytime in the near future. I appreciate that it allows me to live a much more normal life, without the cloud of anxiety and panic that used to surround me.


marc aurel said...

No one could call me normal, but I do have a way of dealing with anxiety. It used to be so bad, I would stay home sick and list "anxiety" as my reason for not being at work. (In the bad old days they used to insist on a reason).
I am a fringe Buddhist. Fringe, in the sense that I practice nothing more than four very basic mantras. One of them is for protection. Any situation which leads to anxiety, throw in a few mantras and I usually know my effort will either be unimportant or will be the upper limit of how I can help.
Don't Christians have short prayers, which do the same things?
Without either, I would come up with a wisdom phrase and just repeat it to myself before I got into any frightful tizzy about whatever.

A. said...

When I told my therapist that her recommended stress-relief yoga classes made me even *more* anxious, she practically shoved an Ativan down my throat. Great stuff. Not the yoga, though. The instructor would say, "breathe and relax." I'd feel my heart race..."how can I relax when I could be doing something productive?" That, and I was still the only one falling over during the "tree" pose after three months.


Just me said...

Allison- I feel that way about therapy sometimes. It's like it's just one more thing on my schedule that I have to do...