Hello 2018

It’s been a long time since I wrote. No fault of my own however, WordPress keeps crashing. Even if I save a draft, it’s all gone. I debated trying again, but what the hell, here goes.

At the end of 2017, I had started with a psychiatrist and counselor to attempt to learn how to live with this tinnitus. Unfortunately, it was too expensive to continue and I just wasn’t feeling it. I mean what is the point in “learning to live with it”? Is there really an alternative?

I did think I had a breakthrough with the tinnitus though. After seeing an eye specialist earlier this month, he diagnosed me with meibomian gland disorder (scary word for dry eyes) and has no idea why I have that thumbprint-like pressure feeling on my right eye. He suggested maybe sinus. So since the ENT said I’m congested and told me to take nasacort before she dismissed me (yes, I’m still angry about that) and now the eye doctor said I may have sinus issues, I asked the pharmacist for the strongest OTC decongestant. Sudafed. I started it Saturday morning and by Saturday afternoon, the screeching had subsided to a loud whooshing. My hopes soared. I continued with the full doses, but unfortunately the decongestant doesn’t treat anxious people very well and I was up most of Sunday/Monday unable to breathe. My heart was racing and I couldn’t catch my breath. I had to cut back the dose and not take it close to bed. The screeching is back. I see my family doctor in a few days and will ask her if there is something she recommends I can take to test this theory a bit further.

One thing did come from counseling that I found beneficial. My OCD behavior is not weird. I mean it is to some, obviously, but my OCD behaviors are more a way of protecting myself from anxiety. I managed to keep most of my behaviors hidden, but now I’m out and proud. Dishwasher utensils are organized, clothes for the week planned with coordinating scarves before I go to bed Sunday, gym bag packed days in advance, color coordinated everything at work and home calendars, and routines are in full force and I’m defensive of them. The only warning my counselor gave me was that if OCD controls my life and threatens my health (like not eating because I missed that window for “lunch” or not using the restroom, etc.), then I need help for it. I have never been like that although I do understand how hard it must be for some who need that control.

My daughter suggested tracking my days as good or bad since the bad seem so overwhelming. No analyzing the days, just good or bad. Surprisingly, there haven’t been any bad. Sure bad parts…nothing a few choice curse words directed at a rude tractor trailer moron won’t heal…but my days are good. This is very eye opening.

I’m exercising again. My husband got me started at the gym and so far so good. There is a kickboxing-esque class called Strong. I guess it’s owned by Zumba. It’s ok. I still don’t like the Jackie Chan moves as none of my training involved fighting a crowd of ninjas in choreographed style. I also take a dance fitness class. I caught a glimpse of myself in mirror and shuddered. But I managed to work up a sweat and the instructor plays cool music…reggaeton and bhangra.

I’m still struggling with nonstop distractions. My mind never stops. I think the exercising is helping with that a little, but it just seems that constant changes keep me from feeling settled. One of my bosses resigned, and we have 4 new attorneys starting in March. A new paralegal (or two) as well. I just want normalcy for a few weeks but if I were honest with myself I would learn to accept that these constant changes are normal. I have a long way to go.

I’m neither excited for nor dreading 2018. I’m ambivalent. One day at at time.

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The verdict is in …

No, this is not a blog about work so not that kind of verdict – although we DID have a verdict and not exactly in our favor, but not my point.

So since my last blog, I did hear from my ENT’s nurse. Your MRI is normal and there is minimal fluid so keep using he Nasacort and if you need us please call. Um….what? Minimal fluid? MY copy of the MRI report said “moderate” not “minimal”. That HAS TO be it. I start to choke up, I say to the nurse “so that’s it, I have to learn to live with the screeching in my head. I can’t live with it.” TINNITUS IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE. Oh, I’m sorry, what was I thinking.

I called Johns Hopkins. They arrange to get me in Thursday (i.e., day before yesterday). I call my ENT and ask for copies of my audiology report and the MRI report (because hers must have said “minimal”). In the most immature fashion possible I play a YouTube video of a balloon squeal on repeat, because, after all, if I have to hear that high pitched squealing nonstop I should share the love.

I’ll save you all the boring details of what transpired between Monday and Thursday but say I have absolute saints for family members, friends and coworkers. I cannot even imagine how irritating it must be for them listening to me whine, cry and all but throw myself down on the ground in a full-on temper tantrum. I assured my husband that if the doctor at Johns Hopkins agreed with my ENT or in any way felt this is not curable, I would be done. No more seeking answers. No more whining.

Well, my husband is in luck. It is NOT my ears. It is my brain. That amazing gray mass in my head. So much potential and it has to spend all of its energy destroying what little sanity I have left. The doctors at Johns Hopkins are truly spectacular in that that they looked you in the eye and explained the situation. I understand what but not why but then I’ve given up being untitled to the why.

The main doctor I spoke to made some suggestions including seeing someone about migraines (which I’ve had all my life) but more importantly he insisted I get back on my antidepressants immediately. This part worries me the most. I’m not suicidal. Not in the slightest. But I’m starting to wonder what is wrong with me that I’m not. He wants me to get under the care of a psychiatrist to work on CBT – sooner rather than later – so like a good patient, I called my primary for a referral (which I already had, but they are scheduling 10 weeks out). As per usual, three days have passed and no call back from my dr. I’ll call the doc at Johns Hopkins for a referral Monday afternoon.

Finally, I get to bombard my brain with similar white noise in an effort to stop hearing the noise that is constant and will never end. I’m still wrapping my head around that one. I’m generally just numb and quite gun-shy (rather terrified) of what my brain is going to do next.

Struggling

I'm struggling. I shouldn't be but I am. Is it possible that anxiety is a living organism? If this is my brain causing all this commotion, why can't it focus on solving world problems instead of traumatizing me?! I have been working on accepting and acknowledging with the help of a brilliant therapist (ok she's my daughter and not a therapist, but should be). But it's like the anxiety refuses to back down. It is like it is waiting for me to go to my doctor, meet with my care team for them to give me the lecture on accepting and acknowledging the anxiety. Everything is compounding. My body hurts, I have ringing in my ears 24/7 and nothing I do makes it better, my right eye won't focus, and I have headaches daily. I can't stay awake for more than a few hours and I have no bouncy morning energy as I have had in the past. Who am I kidding, I have no energy at all. I'm overly sensitive to everything anyone says and feel that good old out of control apple cart feeling. Everything is heightened. And not in a good way. I'm overwhelmed and I just want to crawl in my special corner of my closet, under my long dresses and sit in silence. Only there is no silence. Just non-stop ringing in my ears.

Post-Anxiety Musings

So I had an anxiety attack on Monday.  Such is the case with me, there was really no trigger that I am aware of.  Sure a few things could have aided in pushing me to the ledge, but no ONE thing I can put my finger on.  

I spent the morning struggling to keep myself from falling off the ledge and in retrospect I seriously wonder if the struggle was worth it.   I reached out to one of my pillars (my eldest daughter who has the unfortunate inherited gene of anxiety disorder but the wherewithal to understand the disorder far better than I do). By midday, I felt I was under control again, although I was exhausted.  I finished my day at work, and went home.

The next morning I continued listening to my lectures on mindfulness and understanding how to have compassion for one’s self and the egocentric effects of perfectionism.   (Both hitting home as I am overflowing with compassion for others and next to none for myself while all the time beating myself up for never being good enough).  I turned it off as I began to feel weepy.  It was shortly after that that I first heard of the senseless terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in the U.K.  That was it…  I was overwhelmed with sadness and darkness.  How can anyone want to live in his hate-filled world.   This was not an anxiety attack anymore, it was the deep dark pit of depression hell.  The post-anxiety reality.

For days, I couldn’t muster enthusiasm.  I wanted to sleep all the time and as a matter of fact, I would become so overwhelmed with exhaustion, my eyes would not stay open.   My brain felt like it was scrambled.  The sensation was something like I have never experienced.  It was like my head was a watermelon and the pulp, my brain, had been scooped out, puréed and poured back in.  If I sneezed or coughed, it literally felt sloshy.  Oh and the inability to form sentences.  Well I could form them in my head, but the words got caught in my teeth.  Simple everyday functions like remembering to turn off the water or how to use my computer mouse were difficult.  Colors were dulled.  Tastes were bland.  I had tightness in my chest and arm.

Why do I feel the need to blog about this…well, now that I know what I have I am forever on a quest to understand it.  I took “mindful” notice of the after-effects of the anxiety.   To quote the lecturer, I allowed the feelings to “arise and fall away” – although that didn’t happen in a matter of seconds, minutes or even hours.  This feelings hung around until Friday.   First my power to speak returned, then my focus and concentration (I regained the power to move my mouse), and then finally the exhaustion faded.  

Recognizing these post-anxiety musings does not make the fear of future anxiety attacks any less, nor does it make me feel like the next one will be any easier.  I still find it hard to find brightness or goodness in this world.  I know it is there and I know I will find it again.
 

Seeking understanding

I’m struggling.

Before therapy, when they “tested” antidepressants on me because I cried a lot and had no friends, I didn’t fully appreciate this “disease”.  It was another one of those labels you slap on a condition you can’t identify and send them away with happy pills. Needless to say, with that attitude and lack of moral support, the pills were useless.  Doses were increased at record speed and their effect was minimal at best.

Then, I sought counseling. All I really gained in therapy was (a) reassurance that I was not the only one who deals with the anxiety/depression; (b) I’m never good enough for myself; (c) the counselor was never going to tell me what to do but rather make me figure it out; and (d) I probably really need meds.  These are not necessarily negative.   Especially the “I’m not alone” reassurance because I am really out there sometimes.

Anyway, I’ve previously blogged that blah, blah, I didn’t want meds, I could handle it, blah, blah, overwhelmed, doctor insisted and BAM!! I’m “human” again.

Here is my struggle:  pre-med and therapy, I would feel the apple cart starting to go and I would fight it something fierce. The bouts seemed so very long…months even.  The fall into that pit of hell was so long.  And yes, I was there longer with no visual on the light at the other end.

But now that I have acknowledged the issue, accepted I need help and support, there really isn’t any time to fight it.  I have maybe one day of “uh oh there goes the apple cart” and the next day I’m in the closet under my dresses trying to quiet the world.  The air still hurts my skin, the noises are still overwhelming.  There really isn’t any time, I feel, to right my apple cart, so to speak – not that I have EVER been able to right it before falling.  I hate it here (who doesn’t) and I know it will pass, but I thought these episode were supposed to stop.  Was that wrong?

And I do know the triggers now.  Only they seem to be simultaneous with the overturned apple cart.  

To be honest, I seem to handle being down here better and that’s a super improvement, but I guess I wanted to reach out to the blogisphere so that I don’t have to ask my doctor.  While I have accepted the need for help, I’m still not fond of pills and I’d like to avoid the “increase the dose” conversation.

How can I get a grip on the slip into this dark place?  How do I get out?  Do I just need to accept that even with meds and support, I’m going to constantly go through these cycles of ups and downs?   Ugh.  I feel stupid…being here…I’m bigger than this “disease”.