So let’s talk a little about anxiety first and what it looks like. It’s not the fear that you think of unless you are one that deals with anxiety. We all have been afraid when we see a scary movie, or nervous when we go to perform. As a kid I would get stomach aches all the time and have difficulty sleeping. I would cope by controlling my circumstances and have obsessive tendencies. Not like the ones you see in the movie where I have to check the door so many times and flip out if my routine is altered. I did think that if I changed my morning routine that something bad would happen to me or my family. I used to have clothes organized on color coded hangers, all of my CD alphabetized, and cataloged all of our VHS tapes in a database.
I was always able to function and was able to spend the night at friends houses and act mostly like a normal kid. In my second year of college, I started to lose a lot of weight and not be able to eat. My normal weight was around 120 and I gained the typical freshman 15 and was about 135. Well that year I think I got down to 105. I remembering thinking I know what it feels like to be anorexic. I would put food in my mouth but just didn’t want to eat. I finally went to a GI doctor and was told I have some inflammation and was put on prescription heartburn meds. Those seemed to help and I did well for a while. I also saw two different counselors at that time. Make that 3. Some helpful and others not.
Then about 4 years ago I was sitting at my desk at school when I totally felt this “whoosh” in my chest and felt suddenly dizzy. I got up and got to the door and sat on the floor in the hallway. The teacher across the hall called someone down and before I knew it I was being taken away by an ambulance. They checked me out and nothing was wrong so back to school I went and then it happened again and another ambulance ride. At that point everything checked out again and a battery of tests all came back normal so they concluded anxiety. I started counseling again. There was one other time I was driving and it happened and again called 911. It is so scary and you feel out of control but what I’ve figured out is that a physical sensation then causes worry. Those times I tried to breathe deep to calm myself I ended up hyperventilating. It’s such a mess and so embarrassing. The last time I was taken by ambulance I was put in the “psych” area and the doctor came in and told me she didn’t think I was trying to get drugs out of them. At that point I asked to be released and knew I needed to figure this out on my own. The connection that I could make between the college episode and this one was stress. Even though I didn’t feel stressed there was a lot going on. In college I had two majors and was taking 22+ hours a semester and running like crazy. I decided to back off and just do one and take some summer courses. As an adult I had two kids at home and was feeling the pull of wanting to be at home with them and the pull of needing to give my all at school so I decided to quit my job and stay home.
We ended up moving to Iowa to be closer to family and I was pregnant with number 3. Well one night I woke in the middle of the night and actually passed out. I didn’t want to go to the ER but my husband thought I had a seizure so he had me taken by ambulance. Everything checked out again after a battery of tests! I can’t tell you how frustrating it is and I’m not sure what or why it happened but this was the first time I passed out. The other times I thought I was going to pass out and panicked. I will say I have passed out before but always when seeing blood or having some medical procedure and it has been several times.
So what have I learned from this no fun experience that I continue to deal with on a daily basis? There was a counselor that gave me steps to take and they are the ABC’s.
- Accept: Accept how I feel. Many times I can’t even describe how I feel but I feel off or not right. Sometimes I have a physical symptom like I’m too hot or too cold or my arm hurts or I feel like it’s hard to breathe. Anyway I just need to say to myself it’s ok that I feel this way.
- Breathe: And not deeply! Deep breathing can cause you to hyperventilate and once you send yourself there it’s hard to get out because it then becomes a physical response. I was told to just breathe normally. If you start to hyperventilate then start to breathe into your arm.
- Counteract: The thoughts that are the irrational ones need to be counteracted with rational ones. I once told my husband I worry if I’m not worried and he just laughed but I was completely serious. Many times my thoughts were ones like I’m going to pass out and no one will know who I am and what will happen to my kids? How will my husband find me? etc. etc. etc. and it goes on.
This has been very helpful and reminding myself that the doctors have checked me out and there is absolutely nothing wrong with me.
I’m sure it all sounds ridiculous and you may think just knock it off but it is really something you have no control over. Sometimes It just comes out of no where and boom you are panicking.