Friday, March 21, 2014

My Little Mantra

About three years ago, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.  At the time, I was having 5 to 6 panic attacks a day some days and crying at least 4 times a week, randomly.  Like in the middle of the bathroom sink aisle at Lowe's.  It was a terrible way to live and I really don't know how I let it get to that point before I sought help.  Except that I had no energy to do anything, but sleep and I was *so tired*.  Talk therapy and some properly prescribed medication by a doctor, who specializes in this, got me back on track to feeling like myself again.  I was on the medication for about a year and was very stable and feeling great -- I hadn't needed to use my in-case-of-emergency-break-glass meds at all.  I wanted to start trying to get pregnant, so I started weaning off of my medication.  And for two years I have been feeling great -- not a single panic attack -- until recently... I'm starting to fear that I'm going to fall down the death-spiral-pit-of-despair again.

January and February brought two very stressful situations, both of which had wonderful outcomes in the end, but which left me feeling spent.  My best friend noticed some changes to the skin on her nipple, so we did a little googling (never do that!) and while it was probably nothing, it was presenting a lot like a scary invasive breast cancer.  We went to the doctor and they were like -- meh, it's dry skin.  But this thing that it **could** have been is often misdiagnosed at the earliest point when you can actually treat it successfully, as dry skin!  So, I questioned them and pressed them and they relented and sent her for a mammogram.   The mammogram looked totally normal. YAY! except that this particular thing that I googled doesn't always show up on mammogram and really the BEST way to rule it out is combined with a skin punch.  So, off we went to the dermatologist.  They wanted to give her a cream and send her on her way, with instructions to come back in 2 weeks if it wasn't gone, for a biopsy.  We begged them to just get it over with now, and they complied, thank god.  The result came back as totally non-cancerous kerratosis.  It's not even pre-cancerous and it's not necessary to treat, but HOLY SHIT was that a terrifying time.  I think it was made worse by the fact that we had to press and press and press to get the complete rule out. It was a relief!  We were grateful!  We got the news before work on a Friday morning and for first time in 3 weeks we were able to enjoy a weekend without fretting.

The very next day, on Saturday morning, we got the amazing call that we'd been waiting 2 years to hear -- my cousin, who has Cystic Fibrosis, would receive a lung transplant that day!  How amazing! What an amazing gift for our family.  We thought a lot, that day (and in the days that have followed) about the donor's family.  While they were in such deep sorrow, our family was hopeful and celebrating what would be a rebirth for my cousin.  It's a stark contrast and one I think we were all feeling pretty intensely.  It was a long day and night at the hospital.  Our family spent a lot of time talking and eating -- oh we stress ate like you would not believe!  We played cribbage and knitted.  Some watched movies.  We even spent a good amount of time picking out my sperm donor for the next 3 tries.  The surgery went perfectly -- it truly could not have been any better.  My cousin has continued to do wonderfully, with no signs of rejection or infection.  The lungs are healing and settling in nicely.  He has been able to walk outside and for the first time in a long time he's not on oxygen! 

All good news!  Stressful?  Very.  Seriously, amazing and lucky? Unbelievably so!  And yet, my brain cannot seem to dial out of this.  Or something. 

I feel so raw.  These two situations brought me to the precipice of just how much life can change in an instant.  I am feeling this so intensely.  My Facebook feed, lately, feels like an assault -- it's full of stories that are meant to be inspirational -- people over coming illness, communities pulling together for a child with cancer, etc.  I find that I can't even read it right now.  I just have to hurry and scroll past it. I get it, life! I get it!  I'm not taking anything for granted. 

And yet, I'm sucking on B12 lozenges like they are going out of style.  And I did have to break into the  in-case-of-emergency-break-glass meds.  5 pills in the last two months (2 in the last week and a half). I'm not enjoying life because I'm fretting.  I've just been worried about everything and worried about everyone that I love.  It's such a waste of valuable energy and it's not good for me!  It's also not my usual kind of anxiety.  I'm generally pretty level headed.  My anxiety is not usually tangible where I can actually say THIS is what I'm worried about.  I can honestly say, that it's better when I don't know the cause because there isn't just a constant loop of worry in my head. It's physical symptoms of panic.  This -- this is a constant worry loop with no true panic attack, just a constant fretting and a lump in my throat feels so much worse.

I've been walking every day, trying to do yoga at least a couple of times a week, and meditating a little bit each day. For every scary/bad thought that comes into my head, I try to immediately redirect with something positive.  I'm trying to retrain my brain to get back it its usual ol' happy self.  I'm wrestling with this anxiety and throwing everything I have at it.  I really don't want to have to start medication again -- I really don't feel comfortable taking it while trying to get pregnant/while pregnant, but I also can't live like this either.  I'm trying to be patient and gentle with myself, but I'm terrified that I'm falling back into the death-spiral-pit-of-despair again (or, alternately, that I'm going to die before I'm old, or that people that I love will before they are really old).  I never, ever, ever, want to be in that place again.  So, I'm on alert.  I just don't know how long to let this go on before I take the next steps.  I guess I'll know that when I get there.

In the meantime, I'm just going to keep crocheting this blanket (the 2nd blanket since January) which, like the first, is equal parts worry and positive affirmations.  Each stitch was stitched with the mantra, "I am okay, I am blessed, I am safe, I am happy, I am healthy.  Everyone is okay, everyone is blessed, everyone is safe, everyone is healthy. I am loved."
My Worry Blanket