The Worst/Best Part Of Having a Panic Disorder Is You Can’t Hide It Forever

I had a blow out panic attack in my doctor’s office today. He knew I had anxiety, but I don’t think to the extent that it is there. Likely because I’ve done an extremely good job of concealing it for a long time.

Or maybe he did know and was just taking it one step at a time. I don’t know, I’m not the doctor but I think it’s probably that because he walked in the office after the nurse had made me lie down, and the first thing out of his mouth was “HEATHER…WHY are you worrying so much right now?”

The thing is that very few people in my life know about just how bad my panic disorder is. In fact, very few people even know that I have one. My husband does, but even he didn’t grasp the full effect it has on me until today, when in the doctor’s office I was made to lie down on my left side until my blood pressure and heart rate went down, because both were THROUGH. THE. ROOF. as I sat in there hyperventilating, completely unaware of what was going on.

The first panic attack I can remember ever having was when I was 11 years old, visiting my grandparents at their new home near Yosemite. We were in the grocery store and suddenly I just had a terrifying feeling like I was in a dream and my heart was pounding. I had no idea what an anxiety attack or a panic disorder was at the time. And I just dealt with those types of situations over and over again, as the years went on, until I finally researched what was happening to me just 6 years ago.

So it started when I was 11, and I am now 34 and have only known what has been going on for 6 years now. I mean that I knew what was going on (that I was having a multitude of symptoms I could not explain), but I didn’t know why it was going on (that I have a panic disorder).

And since knowing why, I have done literally nothing legitimate to take care of it.

Why? Because when I started trying to figure out what to do, I was told by closer family and society in general that this should be kept “private” or that I should be ashamed of it. That. I. Should. Be. Ashamed. Of. A. Mental. Health. Issue. Completely. Beyond. My. Control.

And that I should just calm down.

Also, in a situation with family that gossip about each other’s personal and health issues TO NO END – where you can’t sneeze without everyone hearing and speculating about it – the need to keep things utterly secret so as to avoid all that unnecessary speculation was paramount. I don’t like it when people speculate about my personal life.

1323075370156_2789080

Incidentally, I started writing my blog roughly 6 years ago too. Coincidence? I mean come on now. 6 years ago was when I also developed the coping mechanism of making fun of everything and joking my way through my unrelenting anxiety, which was getting worse and worse by the day.

But the jokes can only go so far, and of course people that think you should be ashamed of your uncontrollable panic disorder also like to shame you for just being yourself to try and cope with it. Suddenly the speculation turned to being that about my blog and I started to wish I could *just* write for bloggers and strangers, because whenever close family or friends read it I would get text messages and emails in response, as well as “unfriended” by many online.

Then only recently, I realized that to cope with the social spectrum of my panic disorder, I had made it a habit to just drink wine. I don’t mean – like – alcoholic status drank wine, but anyone that has ever known someone with an addiction knows, it often starts as a way to cope. Which is exactly what I was doing.

And I’m not going to lie – I love my wine. But if I were to be completely honest, as delicious as wine tastes, it gives me a headache and makes me feel like crap. And yet I still drank it as a social lubricant. Often.

Until I realized what I was doing, that is.

Now, it has been months since I drank wine. I don’t tell as many jokes anymore, because I never know who is going to read them or how they are going to respond; so basically I’ve stopped being *myself* in as many venues as I needed to to feel comfortable.

And I worry endlessly about everything.

I worry about money, as I talked about in my blog post yesterday.

I worry about the health and safety of my kids, and how one little thing will set off a chain reaction of other problems, many of which amount to more money worries. This is mostly because of a couple things that have happened in the last few years that should have been as simple as a bruised knee or a minor cold, but that got blown into huge, costly, and long-term problems.

I worry about what people think of me as I write blogs/homeschool my kids/parent in front of others/basically just live my life.

And I worry about my own health.

This is a new one for me, and it’s gotten out of control. Of course it doesn’t help that everyone around me acts as though I’m suddenly some fucking invalid because I have some allergy problems and had an asthma attack a couple months ago. Regularly, I go to the doctor and come back with a clean bill of health, and yet even just this last weekend my mother, as well as several other of my and my husband’s family members, made comments like “well you aren’t in very good health you know.” Um, OK…I’m not sure where you got that one, but…I guess I’ll go ahead and let your negativity work me up (which is exactly what I do).

I could go on…in a nutshell, I spend all my waking hours worrying.

So today, as I was lying in the doctor’s office, my heart pounding, trying to catch my breath, my blood pressure up to dangerous levels (I actually have low blood pressure, normally), a few very shocking things were presented to me. They shouldn’t have been shocking, but for someone who has been coping with a debilitating panic disorder for 23 years by basically pretending nothing is wrong, they were.

  1. I have a panic disorder and that is nothing to be ashamed of;
  2. I cannot hide my panic disorder forever;
  3. Ignoring, rationalizing, telling jokes, and drinking wine may be short-term solutions, but when those are gone the panic is still there. In fact, it’s worse;
  4. If people want to be negative and toxic to me about who I am – in whatever way they want to, be it giving me a hard time about a blog I wrote or a joke I told or the way I homeschool my kids; or speculating on my general health and happiness with others – I have every right, regardless of who those people are, to cut them out of my life permanently;
  5. It’s OK to say “NO” to people if it’s a situation I don’t feel safe in; and,
  6. If the doctor says to take the fucking Xanax, just take the fucking Xanax.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about people swimming in debt but being OK as long as they just pretend everything is fine. I think this is a lot like that, in fact maybe that’s really what I was trying to write about. I am literally swimming in this mire, or more like drowning but you guys get the point.

Now I can go on and pretend that everything is fine. Or I can deal with it head-on.

The only question, though, is how? That is where I am like a fish out of water – I have no idea truly where to begin. I do know that I want to feel like myself again. To start, I think it has to be found in my #2 realization today: I cannot hide my panic disorder forever. Perhaps the best way to start dealing with it is to stop concealing it.

Advertisements

My No-Vomit Rule, and Other Assorted Hypochondrias

CLOROX-PROFESSIONAL-CLO02467

I’ve had writer’s block for going on two months now. Haven’t written a thing; in fact, I haven’t even tried. I just stopped caring, and I’m not sure why. But I knew the urge to write, and to write on this blog, would come swooping back at some point.

Swooping back like a hard and fast case of explosive diarrhea.

I’m a bit of an hypochondriac. By that I mean I sanitize everything – pretty much – every day. I just really don’t like being sick, and more than not liking being sick, I don’t like caring for people that are sick. Because then I get sick, and moreover I’m filled with this overwhelming sense of a) guilt that I cannot do anything, really, to take it away; and, b) there is always that ever looming fear of “what if?” What if this is something worse? I’ve read enough Huffington Post articles about a woman that goes in for a routine check up and dies one week later of some obscure form of melanoma; I’ve heard about MERS making its way around the United States.

I know how many of you now don’t vaccinate your kids…

In any event, to curb illness, and my own cases of heebie-jeebies, I have some rules in the house. Relative to my hypochondria, that is.

Rule 1. No vomiting. I know you are all thinking that this is insane, and never works – BUT …this actually works as a rule a fair amount of the time. Everyone knows that Mom can’t handle vomit, so they do their best to keep their nausea down when ill, or at the very least just tell themselves they are fine until it comes out the other end. Too graphic? Well, blowing chunks is too graphic to me and since I’m the one who has to clean everything up around here, they (usually) control it.

Rule 2. Always ALWAYS ALWAYS wash your hands when returning home. From anywhere. I don’t give a flying fig if you just stepped outside to let the dog pee for 30 seconds. You leave the house, you wash your hands. Very simple, works like a charm.

Rule 3. If Mom says you are sick, you are fucking sick. My husband and my father (both of whom live in our home) have this habit of being sick but denying it. “No, I don’t have a cold, it’s just an allergy…” “No I don’t have a stomach bug, my body is just doing its own colon cleanse…”

Bullshit on that noise. If I say you are sick, you are sick and you will act accordingly (as in, stay away from everyone else in the house and DO NOT – whatever you do – go to work/school/playdates/extra-curriculars/etc to just make things worse).

On a related note, I’d say that about 95% of the time, I’m right. Even with the dog – who we just adopted a week ago, and I just knew wasn’t feeling well. Everyone said I was being paranoid, but I insisted and now she’s on antibiotics for suspected pneumonia from kennel cough (a relic of being a shelter dog just over a week ago before we brought her home).

Rule 4. If you are sick, and you know you are sick – you have accepted it into your heart as absolute truth, independent of whatever denial you have put yourself through prior to said acceptance – just let Mom know. Just let her know! Give her a shout out! A text, a Tweet, a trail of snot rags to the end result of a note on the fridge saying “I clearly have a cold…” WHATEVER. Just let me know, because then I can sanitize the shit out of the house, preventing others from getting your plague.

I think we fair pretty well on the iron fist of my glaring, and probably unhealthy, hypochondria.

But it doesn’t go without its problems. By that, I mean that I usually always assume people in the house are sick. Germy. Ready to spew everywhere, or at the very least take an uncontrolled dump on my nicely cleaned carpeting. See, the thing about hypochondria and paranoia about germs is you realize that all those sons of bitches around you don’t think like you do. Suddenly everyone is the enemy – germy, disgusting, unclean enemies just trying to make you ill. Their hands are not riddled with eczema from excessive hand washing. Their lungs are not coated with a thin layer of Clorox solution from daily inhalation of the fumes that waft up from the constant scrubbing of surfaces that would be riddled with germs, had it not been for your daily sanitization routine.

You see? I’m PSYCHOTIC.

Like I said: I’ve read the articles. I’ve seen the bacteria booth at the county fair that shows you how much shit is caked all over your household. It’s disgusting. Really, I think a slash-and-burn style approach to all of our things would be best, but then we’d need to be independently wealthy and have no moral qualms with intentionally destroying all of our things and starting anew, just because I may be slightly a-kilter in the mental health department.

So when my husband pounds down food and beverage in a way that is both unsavory to watch, and unholy to his innards; and subsequently gives himself a case of explosive diarrhea … well, I flip the fuck out. Maybe explosive diarrhea is a bit of an exaggeration – what do I know, he doesn’t share the details with me, and all I have is the mess to clean up (ewwwww, gross, is the only thought you should be having there…), but just imagine this…

In less than twelve hours, you consume: a large cup of coffee, a half a loaf of banana bread, a taco salad layered in salsa and avocado, two Bud Light Limes, a turkey dog, a plate of salted watermelon, two corn on the cobs, baked potato chips with far too much olive oil, a large energy drink, another cup of coffee, and another half a loaf of banana bread… well, if you consume that, your tum tum might be a little achy, seeing as about 3/4 of those things act as natural laxatives. If you consumed all of that in that short period of time, you should be going to bed saying to yourself: “self…tomorrow seems to be a good day for diarrhea.”

But do I just think that my husband having a gut ache and a bad case of “I ate an entire box of Ex-Lax” is your standard fair, and worth nothing more than an “I hope you feel better?” Oh hell no. Even after he told me that at lunchtime he basically resumed porking down food at unprecedented rates, I sat rocking back and forth like the Rainman of disease paranoia, wondering just to what lengths I should go to rid our home of his dreaded germs.

I just – basically – cleaned the entire house, from top to bottom. I sanitized everything IN RUBBER LATEX GLOVES …just to be safe. And I asked him about fifteen times if he was sure he’s better now, which he is (obviously). Then the only thing I could think to do was sit down with my glass of wine – the smell of Clorox fresh in my nose – and write a blog about it.

So that – ladies and gentlemen – are the illness-related rules in our house, the public proof of my clear psychosis, and the story of how my husband’s bowels ended my terrible bout of writer’s block.

Thanks honey.