Friday, February 17, 2012

Panic! At My Body - Part 1

If you are super duper observant, you may have noticed that Sunday was missing from my PJs @ TJ's recap. This is not because I didn't make it back to Kelly's for breakfast (donuts! and bagels!), it's because I wasn't entirely sure what, if anything, I was going to say about that part of the trip. After having some time to process things, it turns out that it's SO MUCH BETTER for my mental well being to share things than to keep it in, so here we go.

Sunday morning, I had the awesome opportunity to talk to people about my anxiety. To the four ladies who listened to me and gave me thoughtful, non-judgy words of wisdom, I am forever in debt to your priceless advice.

I have alluded to my anxiety issues here before, but I usually just laugh it off or totally gloss over it. I have never even come close to explaining the extent of it, or how freaking scary it really is, or any of my own personal hangups about it.

The first time I ever had an "episode" I was sitting in class, just minding my own business and trying not to fall asleep during a movie. Granted, it was the first day of my MBA program (so...fall 2008) and we had all stood up and introduced ourselves earlier in the evening, but I had been doing the school thing for many, MANY years and it shouldn't have caused any stress.
But there I was, with my heart racing so fast it felt like it was going to explode. I got up, went outside, and called my parents, who suggested that I call 911 ASAP and have an ambulance take me to the nearest hospital. I remember my blood pressure was super high, like high 150's over high 90's compared to its usual low 110's over low 70's. They hooked me up to an EKG in the ER, but basically said that at my age, it was most likely anxiety.

I told the doctors that I am not even remotely an anxious person. I have no fears whatsoever, except a slight dislike of public speaking (insert nagging voice in back of head, pointing out that I had to talk in front of people earlier that night), and was no more stressed that day than any other day of my life (nagging voice now pointing out that my baseline level of stressful activities is 10 times more than any normal person considers taking on). I not only smacked down the nagging voice, but I was actually OFFENDED and IRRITATED that the doctors were brushing my HEART PROBLEMS off as anxiety. Anxiety is for WEAK PEOPLE, and I am STRONG.

I was sent home with a clear EKG and instructions to chill out.

Over the next couple of months I had maybe 5 more episodes (way less intense than the first day, but scary nonetheless), and each time I just sucked it up and powered through it, because whatever was wrong with my heart wasn't going to show up on an EKG.

In October 2010, I was sitting at work and I had another episode intense enough to send me to the ER. After another clear EKG, the possible explanations were anxiety (weak!), caffeine (maybe, but I've been downing 3-5 Diet Cokes a day since I was like 15), and some sort of autoimmune issue, since I have a family history. I was instructed to follow up with my family doctor for bloodwork to see if I needed to see a specialist.

But I was too BUSY for that shit! I was planning a party for my 1 year old! I was doubling up on classes so I could graduate from my MBA program in December! I was killing it at work! (A physiological reaction to stress? NOT ME!!! I'M FIIIIIIIIIIINE!!!) Just like last time, I had 5-6 more less intense episodes afterwards, which I could ignore fairly easily now that I had TWO clear EKGs.

Then I got knocked up, and preggorexia, fatigue, and other adventures in pregnancy took over. My blood pressure is awesome when I'm pregnant, so I basically ignored my issues for the next 9 months.

Have you ever noticed that I never got around to talking about Lucy's birth story on here? You're about to find out why.

So. I did my birthing thing in which I get some pitocin, but skip out on the pain meds because I'm AWESOME! And STRONG! I was riding high from the post-birth endorphins so I jumped at the chance to be released after 24 hours. Hospital stays are for WIMPS! I am a birthing GODDESS! My vagina is better than yours!

Then karma bitchslapped that smug smile right off my face.

We got out of the car as a family of four for the first time. Justin got Adriana out of her carseat, so I grabbed Lucia's carrier. I had to twist a little funny to make it through the breezeway, which made my insides feel a little funky. And then I lost my shit.

Over the next 3-4 hours, I experienced a full blown panic attack. This was way more intense than the heart palpitations and weird rushing sensations of ER visits past. I was POSITIVE that I had messed up my insides by trying to carry Lucy. My whole body felt so weird that I started googling stuff like "insides falling out after birth" and "uterine vaginal prolapse" (seriously). My brother and SIL stopped by with a gift shortly after we got home and I had Justin send them away because I was still freaking out. Then my parents came by with food and I was WIGGING OUT but I completely faked it and acted like I was just a little tired so they would go away. I was dizzy and shaky and panicky and seriously considering going back to the hospital. I'd lay down and then pop back up and then lay down and pop back up - I couldn't get comfortable, and no matter which way I arranged myself I couldn't stop feeling like my kidneys were detaching and getting stabbed by my ribs. And, of course, my heart was racing and my fingers were tingling the whole time.

I simply COULD NOT DEAL with Adriana, so I took Lucy upstairs and had Justin and Adriana stay downstairs. I was able to talk myself down by focusing on Lucy and blocking everything else out. She saved me, for real. In fact, for the next day or three she was the only thing that kept me calm.

Would you believe that even after that happened, I was still not 100% convinced it was anxiety?

To be continued...


Lacey said...

Ahh! I didn't know this about you and I'm super anxious for the next part now. But, not anxiety type anxious, just regular anxious. Is that offensive? Shoot. Maybe I shouldn't use the word anxious.

d e v a n said...

As a fellow anxiety sufferer, I'm looking forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing!

Jessica said...

Well, now I'm really annoyed I didn't have time to go over Sunday morning! I wish I'd been able to be a part of the conversation.