Instead of worry

it came to me

 

This week I was a bit nervous for an appointment, and unfortunately I had some time in the waiting room to sit, and of course I started to worry about it. Then, I noticed the woman next to me was….miserable. Her eyes were closed and she was taking long, slow, deep breaths and her face looked pained.

Right as I saw her, I changed my thought pattern to concern for her and I prayed for her and sent good energy her way until her name was called. And by then I was completely relaxed.

It IS possible to beat worry.

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Oh, the heart.

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A week ago today I was sitting at the desk in my craft room, when I felt a little flutter in my chest, followed by some pressure in my sternum.  I thought to myself, “Hmmm that was weird”, but kept plugging away at whatever I was working on.  It happened a few more times that morning, always passing quickly.  I chalked it up to the Mexican food I’d had the night before – maybe it wasn’t agreeing with me.  Although in the deep dark recesses of my mind, I remembered reading an article about how one of the symptoms WOMEN have when having a heart attack is a feeling of indigestion.  Great.

After a quick afternoon nap, I felt fine until about a half an hour later when all of a sudden I had heart palpitations – I thought my heart was pounding out of my chest.  When I felt my pulse in my neck it felt like it was irregular, skipping beats.  I immediately got nervous.  The pressure in my sternum was present, too.  I took my blood pressure and both that and my heart rate were erratic – sometimes REALLY high, other times calm.

I tried not to panic, but this didn’t feel right.  It also didn’t help that my husband was an hour and a half away.  I was home alone, and at one point I was standing in my living room when a wave of panic hit me, followed by nausea, and I looked at my dog and thought, “I don’t want to drop dead right here in front of my dog…alone.” 

Lightheaded, I made 2 phone calls – one to get a ride to the ER and one for a friend to meet me there because I knew she would keep me from losing it.  I slowly packed a couple things I thought I might need for the hours I’d likely stay in the ER and off I went.

When you’re a 40-something female with heart palpitations, you’re admitted to the ER right away.  I immediately was seen and had both an EKG and chest X-ray within minutes.  Both came back clear, so they decided to do some blood work.  Many hours later, I was told that I had an enzyme show up in my blood that was an indicator of a heart attack.  It was a very small amount, but they wanted to see if it would rise (which often happens if you’ve had a heart attack).  Even though the other tests didn’t show I’d had a heart attack, they decided to watch me closely because that enzyme shouldn’t be in my blood at all.

So, I was admitted to the hospital for further observation.  I was hooked up to a heart monitor. I was poked, prodded and poked some more.  Over the weekend, even though I felt relatively fine (the fluttering and indigestion episodes had stopped) I was given heart related medications and more EKGs.  I had a regular doctor but also a cardiologist who was concerned about the enzymes (they had actually come down, however) and of all the options he gave me, my husband and I decided I’d have an angiogram.  Which of course couldn’t be done until Monday.

Although I had plenty of visitors and people checking on me in various manners, I was a nervous wreck inside.  What if I DID have a heart attack?  What if I was all clogged up as a result of all the bad stuff I had done to my body.  My mind was racing, especially focusing on the words the regular doctor had said:  “We need to make sure you’re not about to have a catastrophic event.”  

Turns out?  My angiogram results were perfectly clear.  That test was a trip in itself – a bit scary but I was given some happy juice via IV to help me through it.  The doctor came and saw me a couple hours later and happily reported there were no blockages and my heart looks strong and healthy.  I feel so blessed by that news.  But…what the heck?

If it was a panic attack, then I really need to think more about my approaches on keeping myself calm.  I have a full plate yes, but I’m no where near as stressed as I’d been in the past.  It’s….a mystery.

 

Acts of Kindness

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I made this little reminder to myself with a $5 garage sale frame, some scrapbook paper and trim. I put it in my bathroom so that I’m forced to see it every day. LOVE it.

When I first became….down in the dumps, for lack of a better phrase, my sweet and longtime friend Candy’s advice  was immediately “get out and help other people”.  She knew what she was talking about – she herself had had a life changing experience, and the thing that helped her heal the most was volunteering in her community.  I knew she was right.  I’m very much a people person and I knew I was only making things worse by shutting people out, but I couldn’t imagine helping others right then….when I couldn’t even help myself.

Yet, that advice nagged at me in the back of my mind.  I thought it was enough to be serving on a board of directors for a nonprofit.  But that definitely wasn’t enough to get me out of my own head and focusing on others.

When I made my 100 Things to Do This Year list, that idea popped up again and I found myself adding “Do 100 Acts of Kindness”.  At first I was stumped on how I was going to make this happen.  First off, what would be considered acts of kindness?  I’d like to think I’m a pretty kind person in general, so what would be considered worthy of being put on that list?  I decided I had to figure that out for myself.

I made my guidelines as such:

1)  Does it take more time and effort that I wouldn’t automatically do?

2)  Is it something completely personal and does it make someone feel special/seen/or validated?

3)  Is it something I did with no expectations of anything in return?

4)  Would it surprise and delight someone?

With those guidelines in mind, I went to work and I have really been enjoying myself.  Some acts are small but fit tidily within the guidelines.  And some are a bit more extravagant and have stretched me out of my comfort zone.  But all have made me (and hopefully) the receiver very happy.

My friend Candy was absolutely right.  It’s hard to have a pity-party for yourself when your focus is on someone else and you share a special moment with them unlike any other.  And really?  It just makes me want to do more and more.

This is one exercise I wish I would have started a long time ago.  (Candy says, “SEEEEEE?!”)

How did I get here? ADD (Part 6)

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The diagnosis of ADD came just at the beginning of my group therapy sessions for depression and anxiety.  So needless to say, I was getting confused with all of these conditions whirling around in me, and the only thing I could really do for myself was keep taking the antidepressant, follow through on the group therapy sessions, and I studied a bit on ADD – my doctor recommended that I read “Delivered from Distraction”.  I shouldn’t say I just studied, I immersed myself in the book and took copious notes.  Sometimes it would just be a section or chapter and then I’d let it absorb for awhile.  The book explains what ADD is, and how MANY people have it and don’t even know they do, until it becomes debilitating, as it was for me.

Here, according to Drs. Hallowell and Ratey are the characteristics of the “dark side” of ADD, which I could completely relate to:

  • Pessimism (which most people who only saw me infrequently would guess I couldn’t possibly have, but ask my husband who is with me day in and day out.)
  • Frustration
  • Moments of despair
  • Surges of self-contempt as well as baseless rage at others (self-contempt is correct in my case, but “rage” was never a factor for me.)
  • Unpredictability (I don’t know how true this is from people on the outside relating with me, but I do know I couldn’t STAND routine and would have to shake up things as much as possible.)
  • Lapses into addictive behaviors and substance abuse.  (Hello.)
  • Ongoing struggles to get organized. (In my case, my house seems neat as a pin at most times, but please open a drawer, a closet, pull up my computer files, and BOOM.)
  • Feelings of being in-effectual and reckless no matter how successful the person becomes (I’m going to write more about this one.  This was…a biggie for me.)
  • Periods of being remote, cut off, and impossible to reach.

Oh, yes.  Cruising down that list, I almost couldn’t breathe because it was describing me to a tee.  And I had alllll this time….allllll my life just thought that’s how EVERYONE is.  I just thought I couldn’t handle it as well with others.  So, instead of identifying these problems (and not knowing it was a real condition), I just did what I could every day to struggle through it, to make sure I came across as Susie Sunshine as much as possible so I wouldn’t have to REALLY look at this stuff.

I had spent so much time dwelling on things in my past that I could point to and say, “that’s why I’m messed up!”.  When really, yes I had some stinky stuff happen, but I also had a condition that was ignored and that if it had been treated early on, I believe I’d be a different person today.  I honestly believe that ADD IS the reason I was messed up.  Or am messed up, but I’m working on it.

Next time I’ll talk about how I’m working through ADD to get and feel better.  (Hint: this one does not include medication.)

Need to catch up?

Part 1: The Beginning

Part 2: Shameful Secret

Part 3: The Holidays & New Year

Part 4: Hospital Fun

Part 5: Medication & Therapy

How did I get here? Medication & Therapy (Part 5)

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In my last post, I talked a bit about my hospital stay and how I found myself open to starting medication.

I’m super duper sensitive to medications (which isn’t frustrating one bit, she said with her voice dripping sarcasm), so I had reluctantly accepted my doctor’s suggestion to try an antidepressant.  I should say re-try because I had tried two different antidepressants way back when I first started having health issues.  I wasn’t looking forward to going through the side effects again, even though I was on the lowest dose possible, but my doctor nearly insisted that I have to push through the first few weeks of side effects and that they WILL get better.

He was right of course, and I started to have interest in doing things again in mid-May.  That’s about around the time I decided to do my Do 100 Fun Things This Summer Project.  I was moving slowly in the beginning, but I was getting out of bed, off the couch, and reaching out to people again.  And enjoying myself in the process.

Next, I thought about adding therapy so that I could get my mind in order and then hopefully not have to depend on medication to make me feel better.  So I was assigned to a general therapist at my health care provider.

Here’s a funny story – in that very first appointment I was telling her a few of my major struggles, and I could tell she was trying to diagnose me on the spot, which kind of annoyed me.  After a while, she pulled out a booklet and started going through it with me – it was about a condition called “Borderline Personality Disorder” .  I was super scared of the sound of that, and as we went through the information together I could see why she identified that with me, but I also thought she might be wrong about the diagnosis and I’d have to give her more information.  But I listened patiently and promised to read through the literature and return for a follow up appointment.

As I was leaving her office, I was almost to the stairs when I heard someone call my name.  When I turned around it was a lovely older gentleman I used to be associated with through a nonprofit I had commitments with.  I hadn’t seen him in quite some time so of course when he caught up to me we embraced.  As we did, I realized I was holding a big ‘ole booklet with a cartoon person on the front and the word BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER splashed largely across the top.  While we chatted, I was trying to do everything I could to cover it up so he wouldn’t see it.  I did that thing where you try to lock their eye contact so intently (and uncomfortably( that they won’t look away and then tried to fold the booklet up in the meantime, praying he wouldn’t see it – it really was so funny.

I came back to see her again, and this time I started out with the fact that my biggest concern was that I had been gaining weight rather quickly since starting the medication (which is a pretty common side effect).  The therapist wasn’t qualified to discuss medications, so she suggested I see a psychiatrist for advice on the medication.  She also introduced me to some of the support group therapy they had on campus for depression and anxiety, and I signed up to attend one the same day.

Group therapy was pretty amazing.  I suppose it was shocking to me (although it probably shouldn’t have been) to see so many people – average, normal people like me, even though as I type that I don’t even know what that means – coming in and sitting down to get help for depression and anxiety.  That other people were being just as brave as I was to get help for something that was troubling them as much as it was troubling me.  That I wasn’t alone.

The therapy sessions were six weeks long – once a week – and there was a different topic or coping mechanism covered every week.  I found it fascinating to hear some of the ways other people related to or dealt with depression and anxiety.  Some people had some SERIOUS problems that were greatly attributing to their diseases and I felt like I shouldn’t even be in the room with them because my problems weren’t as big or my life wasn’t as rough.  But the more I learned, I realized it doesn’t matter.  No one is “typical” when it comes to depression and anxiety and it can hit anyone.  ANYONE.

Some days I learned a lot, or I was touched by the people in the group, and other days it took every ounce of my being to walk into the room and not burst into tears the moment I sat down (during the summer I was doing A LOT at looking what in my past was bringing depression and anxiety to the surface and it was incredibly painful at times.  Regardless, I’m glad I went through the program.

I also did get into the psychiatrist to talk about my challenges with the medication, my sensitivity and the weight gain.  While we were becoming acquainted she asked if I’d be willing to test for ADD.  I was blown away.  Isn’t ADD a “kids” disease?  Isn’t that for hyperactive people or people who are all “fly by the seat of their pants all the time?  That’s certainly what I thought.  But she seemed REALLY hot on me taking the test.

I don’t remember the exact numbers on the score, but I do remember I scored SUPER HIGH for ADD.  Like WAY high.  As I read the questions and determined how I live my life, my habits, my daily struggles, etc I just about cried because I identified with almost every single thing that ADD sufferers struggle with.  I couldn’t believe it.  She said confidently, “Oh yes.  It’s definitely ADD that’s contributing to your depression and anxiety.  Mind:  blown.

More on ADD next time.

Need to catch up?

Part 1: The Beginning

Part 2: Shameful Secret

Part 3: The Holidays & New Year

Part 4: Hospital Fun