Hello, Anxiety

The first time I had a panic attack was in 2006, before I got married. I was a walking ball of anxiety for a couple of months leading up to the ceremony. I hated wedding planning and I wasn't even sure that I wanted to get married anymore. Call it cold feet or a quarter life crisis, but I had a handful of breakdowns and almost called the whole thing off a few times.

My next panic attack was eight years later on a flight to Boston. Jacob and I had been on childless vacations before (we vowed to do at least one a year since the day Nolan was born), but for some reason I was extra overwhelmed preparing for the trip. To top it off, Nolan woke up that morning with a red rash all over his face and his doctor confirmed it was fifths disease. It's just a virus and we were leaving the kids with my mom who is more than qualified to take care of him, but on the flight, I started freaking out. Jacob slept through the whole thing. I told my doctor about it when I got home and she prescribed me Xanax for "separation anxiety". I never needed to take it, even when traveling without kids the next time. I just thought it was a weird one off thing.

Cut to two weeks ago. I'd been feeling down for about a week. I have scar tissue in my trachea and need surgery a few times a year to get it pushed out of the way so I can breathe again. On a good day, after surgery, my trachea is only open 50%, so I struggle with breathing every day of my life, but when it's really restricted, I feel like I'm dying just walking up a flight of stairs. I'm beyond ready for my next procedure (like, three months overdue) because I had to deal with a change in surgeons and referrals and a bunch of other crap. I also got a respiratory infection, so my doctor prescribed me 20mg of prednisone (corticosteroid) to treat my inflammation. I'm supposed to take it until my procedure. 

Prednisone is a bitch! I get incredibly irritable and anxious. I'm angry one minute and sad the next. I'm hot and uncomfortable 24 hours a day and sweat at night, even with the windows open. I can't focus on anything and sometimes feel dizzy. I get restless leg syndrome and can't sleep. I'm also STARVING all the time. I usually only take a ten day cycle, but I'll be on it for about five weeks and it's really messing with me.

I was at the movies and couldn't help but notice how loud I was breathing. I breathe loudly, cough, wheeze, clear my throat, and lose my voice all the time. It's gross and embarrassing. I tried to stifle it, which made it harder to breathe. Then my heart started pounding, as though I was watching an intense thriller (I wasn't; it was Battle of the Sexes) and I got sweaty and shaky and there was tightness under my lungs. I couldn't focus on the movie because I was so preoccupied with my breathing. It passed after about fifteen minutes and I went home to tell Jacob about it.

After only three hours of sleep, I woke up super grumpy the next day and stayed that way, even though I had a pretty chill day. I ran some errands, got a pedicure, and cleaned the house. When Jacob got home from work, I unloaded as if I just had the worst day ever. I couldn't stop crying, I had tightness in my chest, I couldn't breathe, I was shaking, etc. I remembered I had that (now expired) Xanax and took one. I even joked on twitter about having a mental breakdown. Jacob and I got into bed at 9:00, watched Big Mouth, and I drifted off to sleep.

He had to work the next morning, so I woke up after my first good night sleep in weeks, made a huge breakfast for me and the kids, and started getting ready for Milo's soccer game. My mom called and I broke down, totally bawling and complaining about my breathing, frustration with medical insurance, lack of sleep, weight gain (damn steroids!), social anxiety, and this pit I had in my stomach for the last three days. What a mess!

I got lorazepam to treat my panic attacks and help me sleep. I slept another solid eight hours that night. I took it again the following morning and Jacob convinced me to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. We had a great day in Seattle, eating good food, shopping for a new purse, and tasting hard cider. I slept hard again that night and haven't needed to take anymore medication since then. It probably helps that I cancelled all my plans social plans that weekend and following week, got a ton of good sleep, finally scheduled surgery (it's on Halloween. Boo!), and cut my dose of prednisone to just 10mg.

There are a lot of mental health issues in my family. My mom had anxiety, but has this incredible attitude about just letting everything go and hasn't needed medication for a long time, even while grieving her sister's death last year. My sister and two of my cousins have bad anxiety. Two aunts and a few cousins have depression. I also have cousins with more severe issues like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Mental health has always been something I had knowledge of, advocated for, and wanted to raise awareness about, but I honestly never felt like it really affected me. Touché, anxiety, Touché.


Misty said...

I've only ever had one legit anxiety attack. I do struggle with it on a fairly regular basis though. Recently, it has gotten a lot better. Tony gets the kids when he's on his 4 days off. I spend at least 2 of those days alone, without any plans. I clean. I organize. I run errands. I relax. I try to do something for myself. I put on a mask or paint my nails. I read. I watch tv. I also try to get out of the house for something fun at least 1 of those days. I'm extremely happy, but very stressed about money and trying to make everything work. I've been through so many changes in the last year, so I try not to beat myself up when I totally lose my shit. It happens.

I can't imagine having to take Prednisone as often as you do. I typically take it 2 times a year for my semi-annual bronchitis. That's bad enough. And I hate that they can't give you a more permanent fix for your breathing issues. I know how bad that must suck. I want to punch a doctor for you. Ha!

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

Prednisone makes me angry, hangry, and inspires me to rage clean. It is not good and lord for a prolonged time period, I can't imagine.

Always good to talk about anxiety. Thanks for sharing!

Marie said...

I have been on prednisone various times for my asthma, so I know all about it. I once was on it for about six weeks and it was misery. Anxiety is no joke and it does have a way of just creeping up on you. One of my doctors recommend keeping a journal and I have to say that that has helped alot. Just write whenever you feel at that moment. It does help. You don't even have to use pen and paper, you can keep a note section on your phone. It's good to talk to about it. Sending you hugs!! Thanks for sharing, it's good to share and know that you aren't alone.

Audrey Louise said...

I had a panic attack a few weeks before my wedding. I ended up going home from work and throwing up and finally getting my thoughts together (and sane). In high school I was diagnosed with depressive anxiety, but I've been able to control it (so far) without medication. Every once in a while though I have a total breakdown and my husband checks in to see if I want to go to a therapist or start a medication. It's a never ending battle :( I'm glad you're getting some sleep at night though!!