Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anxiety. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Acid, Eyballs & Dentists

Photo Credit
Some things should never mix.   Ever.

Like acid and eyeballs.

Gremlins and food after midnight.

Anxiety Warriors and dentists.

I'm an anxiety warrior and the dentist is my nemesis.    

You should know that my dentist Trent is a really lovely bloke.  He is kind and gentle and provides me with copious amounts of gas.   My dislike of him is not personal.   I just don't like being on his chair, unable to move, with my mouth filled with objects that shouldn't be in mouths ... it's all kinds of claustrophobic hell.

The other day I broke a tooth.  I'd rather break a leg.   I am serious.

I am petrified of going to the dentist.   The pain doesn't bother me.  It's everything else.  You could say it is irrational, but I may not listen to you.

As a person who battles with anxiety on a regular basis a trip to the dentist fills me with fear and dread.     I never go for regular check ups ... I only ever go when it is time to fix something.    Yes I totally understand the irony in that statement.   And, no I won't listen to anyone's advice about prevention being better than cure.  I just won't.

I told you.   Irrational.

A few years ago this trip to the dentist would have rendered me incapable of thinking straight for at least 2 days beforehand.  In fact, in days gone by I would only go to the dentist if I could have a general anesthetic.  These days, with a bit of help from a hypnotherapist I can keep the truly irrational fear at bay until I'm in the car on the way.  Then it is game on.

Did I mention that I'm going to the dentist today?   In approximately 2 1/2 hours.

The anxiety levels are building.   I'm trying not to think about it, but minute by minute, hour by hour the space in my mind is being overtaken by all things dentist.  

Today's plan of attack will have me arriving 1/2 hour early so I can sit in the coffee shop downstairs and take a half does of valium.   He will need to take an xray and I can manage that without too much panic.   Should he need to do some work I will require gas - even for a poke around gas will be required.  The minute I have to lie back and the suction machine starts, I need to be somewhere else in my head.   Somewhere else usually involves drugs and/or gas.

Last night a colleague told me he loves the dentist - he catches up on sleep when he is in the chair.  What the?  My mind cannot even process this.   I am still trying to understand how people can watch those televisions they put on the ceilings.   Seriously, the last thing I want to do is watch Mr Bean or Rage music clips. 

Millions of people are enduring much worse than this I know, and as I'm writing this I'm embarrassed by how ridiculous it sounds.   I wish I could just give myself an upper cut and get the hell over myself - but it's not that easy.

Anxiety disorder makes simple things seem so complex.   Yes it is irrational, and to some people it borders on ridiculous, but to an anxiety warrior it is a very real thing and not something that can be fixed with a good dose of "get over yourself".  

If only. 


Thursday, April 26, 2012

On the back of the toilet door

Today, whilst visiting a bathroom in the city, I saw this sign on the back of the toilet door.  It made me smile.

Not because I think anxiety is funny, nothing could be further from how I think, but it made me happy to see it being talked about.   Anxiety is not often given the profile it deserves. So many people suffer in silence, many not knowing they actually have an anxiety disorder. I know a lady who has lived with anxiety for over fifty years not actually realising she had a problem. She thought that's just how she was.  Now she's having treatment she is finally realising that life doesn't have to be lived in a permanent state of anxiousness.

The sentence "It's always there in your mind ... and you wait" describes it perfectly.  Anxiety is your stalker.  Sometimes you never see it hiding in the shadows, other times you catch a glimpse of it following you and then BANG, there it is right in front of you!

It was a bit like that for me this past weekend.   We went away to Sydney to spend some time with dear friends. We've done this a few times before and every single time the stalker jumps out in front of me. The very first time we visited I had a major panic attack whilst on a sight seeing trip around the Manly area.  I literally had to jump out of the car and run into a hospital to find a bathroom.  This attack is always in my mind, hiding in the shadows, waiting.

For the most part of the last few years anxiety has not been bothering me too much.  It just hangs around in the back of my mind, rarely coming to the front.  Except when I revisit a place, time or experience when it has previously occurred.  Then, out of the shadows it leaps and blocks my path.

In the past my anxiety would have paralysed me to the point where every waking thought would be about our trip and how I was going to manage.  I would try and micro manage every aspect of the the travel and work myself into such a frenzy that I would have a panic attack just thinking about it.

Now, not so much.   It is still stressful and I still panic and worry, but not incessantly.  I've got a few little tricks up my sleeve that help me cope.  Needless to say, I was okay for most of the time, except for the Saturday morning. I woke up tired and unsure of the day's plans - being organised and in control does help significantly.  When the plans had been made and we were about to leave I could feel it coming on.  That familiar feeling in my stomach and the sweaty palms.  I tried breathing deep and thought diversion - no cigar.  I went for my big guns - Imodium and half a Valium and within ten minutes I was okay.   Now I know this is not the only way to manage anxiety, and it is probably not the way "experts" would recommend.  However when I am in the grip of anxiety this works for me.

The fact this works will often stop me having an attack in the first place without the need to take anything.  Just knowing I can "stop" my anxiety is enough.  Sometimes deep breathing is all I need to do and other times just redirecting my thoughts will work.  Other times, I need to call in my big guns.  That is just how it is.

During my fifteen years of dealing with anxiety and panic attacks I have found the key to managing it so it doesn't paralyse me has been finding what works for me.  Anxiety is so unique to each person.  We all have our own triggers and our anxiety manifests in different ways, which is why something that works for me might not work for someone else.   Finding that thing that gives you peace of mind helps to keep the anxiety hiding in the shadows.  So far I've not found the holy grail to eliminating it from my life entirely, but for now I can manage.

Let's all keep talking about anxiety. Sometimes simply sharing your anxiety with someone else can be enough.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Conversation I Never Thought I'd Have

On Thursday I had the absolute pleasure of being Richard Fidler's guest on Conversations.  It was such an honour to be interviewed by the man I have always called the "Andrew Denton" of radio.  In my humble opinion both Richard Fidler and Andrew Denton are the two best interviewers Australia has ever produced.

I often hear the Conversations music sting and it always makes me wonder what interesting person he is going to be speaking to.  I never in a million years thought I'd be sitting across from him, in the studio, waiting for the music to stop so he could talk to me.   Me?

The topic of the Conversation was "Living with Anxiety" and a side issue, which really isn't a side issue in the scheme of life, "Child Sexual Abuse".  It was never going to be a light hearted chat and I was always going to be nervous about it.  I do suffer from anxiety, so that is a given.

If you heard the interview, you would know I did need to prepare well in advance to minimise any chance of having an attack, either on the way or in the studio.  When I arrived I was nervous, but not out of control.  Pam O'Brien, Richard's producer, is the warmest, loveliest person you could ever meet.  She made me feel so comfortable and I felt like I'd known her for years.  In some ways perhaps I did.  Just a week before we had a long and intense discussion covering the events of my life.  She probably knows more about me now than most people do.  Richard also came out and sat with me on the couch (this would be the equivalent to the "green room" we often hear about).  We chatted and he put me at ease. This was so important and one of the reasons he is the best.  I don't think you can conduct an intimate interview with someone without meeting them beforehand.

When we went into the studio I must admit I got a new wave of nervousness.  It wasn't particularly small, but it was closed off with one exit.  Now I was sitting near the door, which for me is a prerequisite.  However, it's not like I can just jump up and run out mid interview is it?  We were live on air, not just in Brisbane but in other states as well.  That was the very one thing that worried me the most about the interview.  There was no escape.  Or was there?  When I told Richard my concerns, he told me I always had an out.  If I needed to go at any time I could just get up and leave.  He would ensure the show would go on and no one would know.  If it wasn't so inappropriate, I would have jumped across the desk and kissed him at that moment.  The instant relief I felt was indescribable.  For the past week, ever since I found out the interview was live, I'd been making myself ill about the inability to escape.

We then talked about the interview and Richard briefed me on the areas he was going to talk about and whether I was comfortable or not.  We made a couple of adjustments and we were ready to roll.   The Conversations music started and there was no turning back.

It went smoothly and Richard was amazing.  I never once felt uncomfortable and he interviewed me with style and compassion.  When I spoke he moved away from his microphone and looked at me and really listened.  He cared and he empathised.  This, my friends, is why Richard Fidler is so good at what he does.

My best friend told me she could tell he was listening intently and that he wasn't waiting to read out his next question.  He took the interview where it needed to go because he listened.  Good interviewing isn't something you can do because you have a list of questions and you've done a bit of research.  You have to care.  You have to want to know what the person has to say, and most importantly you have to listen.    Richard Fidler does all this in spades.

I never intended this post to be a testimonial to Richard Fidler, however, as often happens when I sit down to write, my original intentions change once I get going.

I have received so many touching emails from people who listened to my interview.  This has humbled me so much and is exactly the reason I agreed to talk about these issues.  Later in the week, after I've responded to every email, I will write some more about this.

If you want to hear my Conversation, you can listen here


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Irony & Anxiety

On 5 March 2011, I wrote a post here about living with my anxiety.  The response to this post was extraordinary.  I was overwhelmed with emails and DMs on Twitter.  It truly highlighted to me just how many people are living with anxiety and how many people are too embarrassed to speak about it.  It reminded me of how alone I felt when I was in the thick of it all.  

Today, as a result of that post, I am Richard Fidler's guest on "Conversations" on ABC radio.  We will be talking about living with anxiety.

Ironically I am experiencing heightened anxiety this morning!!  Trying to remind myself this is normal "anxiety" I am feeling.  Breathe.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Today my Cranky Pants unnerved me

Today I had my cranky pants on and for no real apparent reason.  Sure we had a busy day, which included an unplanned visit to the Emergency Ward of the Royal Brisbane Hospital.  Nothing serious and all was ok.  However despite all of this, I don't believe it was totally the unplanned chaos of the day that had me snarky.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but whatever it was, I was out of control.  I wasn't my usual calm rational self.  I felt like something else was taking me over.  Invading my being.  I didn't like it.  One. Little. Bit.  

It made me remember a time 14 years ago when something did take over my being. When I wasn't myself.  When I lost control.  A time where my world caved in and the person I am today did not exist.

I was married and had two small children.   I worked part time, had a lovely home, fantastic friends and a good life ... on the surface.  To everyone looking in I probably had a perfect life.   In some ways they were right.  In some ways it was ideal.  In other ways, the important ways, it was not.

I can't remember exactly when my anxiety started or what triggered it.  I can't remember when I started feeling different.  I can, however, remember the first time it started taking over my life.

On the days I worked, we would drop the children at my mother in law's home and drive to the City.  One day as we were driving I felt hot and clammy and my breathing pattern changed.  My stomach started gurgling and it felt like everything inside me was melting.  I needed to find a toilet immediately.  This was not so easy in peak hour traffic.  

I was light headed.  My face was perspiring.  I was about to have a major meltdown - in more ways than one.  We were approaching a factory and I literally jumped out of the car (remember it was peak hour so we weren't moving too fast here).  I ran to the door and rang the buzzer and begged the lady to let me use her bathroom.  She did.  I survived.  I was lucky.   My husband managed to pull over down the road a way and I made it back to the car and we went to work and believed I had forgotten about it.  No big deal.  These things happen.  Once.

The next week, we were driving to work again.  I felt strange in the car.  I started paying attention to my stomach and started thinking about where I might find emergency toilets.  As we approached the factory from the week before, I felt my stomach contents melting again.  I felt hot and sick.  I felt light headed.  I didn't want the same thing to happen so I "willed" it away".  We drove past the factory and it hit me again - twice as bad.  My safety zone had passed.  I was stuck in the car, in traffic with nowhere to go.   I started hyperventilating and begging my husband to find me a toilet.  In the end we remembered a good friend who lived a few minutes away and went to his place.   Again I ran in and just made it.  This time I was really rattled.  I felt different.  What was happening to me?

From that day onward, the mere thought of going in the car caused my stomach contents to melt.  I would have to go to the toilet numerous times before we left home.  I would then stop at almost every suburb on the way to my destination to use a public facility.  This behaviour started dominating my life.  

I bought some books about anxiety.  They described panic attacks as something akin to a heart attack, except it wasn't your heart.  The books said that you could breathe through a panic attack.  You would be ok.  You wouldn't die.  The worst thing that could happen was you embarrassed yourself a little, but ultimately you wouldn't die.  I finally found one book that described my symptoms.  It said that almost never did the worst case scenario eventuate.  I held on to that thought.  

It helped me for the next few weeks.  Until, the worst case scenario did play out. I'm not going to go into detail, but needless to say on this one occasion I didn't make it.  I was on my way to work. I was not in the car.  It was all kinds of awful.  

I called my doctor from work and told her I needed to see her.  Urgently.  They squeezed me in.  I had to walk there.  I made a mud map of every building and toilet from my office to the surgery.  It was only three blocks. I stopped three times. By the time I got there I was pale, shaky and apparently a little incoherent.  I don't recall much of the appointment.  She gave me a piece of paper with the word "Imodium" written on it and I vaguely remember her telling me I might need some anti depressants.  I believe she also gave me something to settle me down.

My memory of the rest of that day is vague.  The next morning I woke to find I had a dark cloud shrouding my entire body.  I felt smothered.  I couldn't stop crying.  My husband was annoyed.  He wanted to go into the city to buy some shoes.  I wasn't making any sense.  He called his parents and they came and picked him and the kids up and went shoe shopping.   

I was falling apart.  I felt like I couldn't escape from my thoughts.  I felt like I could no longer function in society.  I was so scared.  I called my neighbour in tears and she came and took me up to her home, where I stayed until my family came home.   I don't remember much about what I did or said.

My family came back and my husband reminded me that our close friends (2 couples) were coming for dinner.  I remember crying and telling him that I couldn't deal with that.  He told me I should pull myself together and stop being stupid.

Our friends came to dinner.  I don't remember much of it.  I think I cooked, I think they helped.  I think I was sociable.  I have no idea.

The next day was worse. I couldn't function.  I couldn't look after the children.  He called his mother.  She told me to "pull myself together" and that I was being ridiculous.  

Monday came.  I had to take my eldest child to school.  After seven attempts to leave the house I gave up.  I called my mother in law.  She came and took me to see her doctor.     He prescribed strong antidepressants used to treat anxiety.  He said I was close to a nervous breakdown.   The family became a little more supportive at this point.  

The medication eventually helped.  The first few days were hell and I felt like I was going further over the edge, then one day I woke up and the black cloud was gone.  I felt different, but better.

For the next 11 years I battled the demons of anxiety.  I didn't want to remain on medication because it altered me so much.  It took away my creativeness.  It took away my ability to feel strong emotion.  It made me numb.  I was on a roller coaster of being medicated, coming off, being ok, then falling again.   

My psychiartrist explained that I was not a failure for having to take medication.  I always thought I was.  I was made to feel like I was.  She explained that my anxiety was a "medical" condition and not a "mental" problem.  She used the analogies that if I had diabetes I would have to take insulin.  If I was an epileptic I would need medication.  If I had heart problems I would need medication.  This helped, somewhat.

I eventually left my marriage.  I truly believed this would ultimately rid me of my anxiety.  It didn't.  My anxiety had become me.  I learnt to co-exist with it.  I had put in place some odd behaviours that helped me cope.  That stopped me being in a position where I might have a panic attack.  I always drove alone (other than with the kids). I was never a passenger.  I always sat near a door.  I always sat on the aisle seat.  I always needed a quick escape.  I never went anywhere there wasn't a toilet facility.  If I had to leave the house in the morning I wouldn't eat until I reached my destination.  I kind of managed.  

My life settled down.  I met a wonderful man who loves me and allows me to be me.  He gives me courage and makes me feel good about myself.  I thought if I had love my anxiety would disappear.  It didn't.  For the first few years of our relationship my anxiety was a constant companion.  I tried to manage it without medication and failed.  I eventually went back on it for a few years.  Again, I couldn't tolerate how it made me feel and stopped taking it.  The weaning off symptoms were horrendous and that last time I swore I would never take that drug again. I was not going to fail again.  That was seven years ago.

A few years ago I tried hypnotherapy and this was the turning point.  I was bordering on going back down the medication path and wanted to try anything I could to prolong this.  I had heard good things about hypnotherapy.  I had a number of sessions as well as listening to a CD every night.  For the first time in a long time I felt like I might have found the cure.  It all went well until I caught a stomach bug and "almost" got caught in the car again.   That one moment brought the entire house of cards down and I was there again.  Face to face with my old mate anxiety.  

The difference this time was I felt stronger.  I was a bit anxious for a couple of days and made sure I listened to my Hypnotherapy CD more often.  I started to feel better.  My mind was working with me, not against me.  I was able to calm down. I also started carrying Imodium tablets in my bag, along with some Valium. I had been given Valium for some dental work and noticed that within minutes of taking it the nervous, anxious feeling in my stomach had totally disappeared.  

That was 3 years ago now.  I still carry Imodium and Valium in my handbag.  I have had to use it four times.  The last time was 2 years ago.   I do not take any medication for anxiety and haven't now for 5 years.  I no longer have any strange rituals such as planning my journey via the route with the most toilets or not eating until I reach my destination.  I still however, sit in aisle seats and near doors, but I do drive with others and I am happy to be a passenger in a car.  

I don’t believe any one thing has cured me.  In fact, I am not cured.  I don’t believe anxiety can be “cured”.  It can only be managed.  For me it has been a process of learning, self acceptance, self worth, hypnosis, mind games and the ability to relax.   I no longer fear my anxiety, I accept it. 

Anxiety is no longer the boss of me.   I feel like I am in charge of it these days.  I don't doubt that it will challenge me for the leadership again, and it may win, temporarily. But I do know one thing, whilst it may win for a short time, it won't stay in power for very long. This I know for sure.


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