Archives for December, 2012


Nose Surgery: On The First Day of Christmas, My Surgeon Gave To Me…

...a septoplasty in a pear tree.

Well, minus the whole "pear tree" thing. I like like how "septoplasty" sort of fits into that song.

I'm finally getting into the Christmas spirit -- which is unfortunate, really, given that Christmas was overdays ago.

I had a hard time with Christmas this year, and I blame it on some ill-timed nasal surgery. Lesson for anyone else considering surgery to correct a deviated nasal septum: don't get it done on December 19th if you want to avoid being a miserable wreck for Christmas.

For anyone with an anxiety disorder, surgery can be a special kind of hell. There are plenty of common anxiety and panic triggers involved with any kind of surgical procedure, like...

Hospitals. Even the hospital setting alone can be jarring. All those beeps and buzzers and gowns and gahhhhhhh.Hospitals remind me of sickness and death.
Needles. The worst is the IV catheter that they stick into your wrist. It's not a once-and-done thing -- it stays there. It stays inside of you. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
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My Personal Caffeine Experiment: The Results

My guesses were no better than pure chance.

Over the span of one week, I enjoyed six cups of Americano -- all on different days, of course, or else my heart would explode -- at my favorite local coffee shop. If you missed my last two blog posts, here's the deal: the coffee shop's owner thought I couldn't distinguish between a caffeinated Americano and a half-caffeinated Americano.

But I begged to differ. I know my body, and I know its reactions to caffeine. I bet him that I could indeed tell the difference. And so, the great week-long blind experiment commenced: all week, the baristas prepared cups of Americano for me without letting me in on the secret of which beans they'd used. I drank each cup and took notes.


Cup #1 (Saturday): I ordered this cup around 3 p.m. to go. I was with my husband and my sister-in-law, and we were all planning on traveling about a half-hour away for dinner with my in-laws. I drank the coffee within about an hour. Because of the stress of traveling a half hour away (one of my panic triggers), I took one Xanax. Made it to dinner unscathed, but had a panic attack on the return drive -- an unusual event for me if I've already taken a Xanax.

Prediction: FULL CAFFEINE.
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My Personal Caffeine Experiment: The Setup

I've spent the past week drinking some pretty, uh, mysterious cups of coffee.

Well, not coffee, per se -- I've been drinking Americano, which is made by adding hot water to espresso. It's my favorite coffee-like beverage.

I've been drinking cups of Americano at Alabaster, my favorite downtown coffee shop, for almost a year now. According to Alabaster's baristas, Americano has less caffeine than traditional drip coffee and less acid to boot. It's a pretty solid choice, then, for us anxious GERD-y types who insist upon drinking a coffee beverage.

But I'm not here today to simply espouse my love of Americano or of Alabaster. (Although, really, I do love both.)

I'm here to tell you about my experiment.


I've always connected caffeine intake with anxiety. And why? Well, the books and the news stories and the internet tell me it's true: caffeine intake can increase your anxiety. It increases your heart rate, which, in turn, could even produce panic in someone like me who finds a rapid heartbeat to be a triggering sensation.

When I first began getting panic attacks when I was in college, I wasn't very mindful of my caffeine intake. I drank tea, I drank coffee, and I drank caffeinated soda with every meal. (Thanks, all-you-can-eat-or-drink college cafeteria!)

Over time, however, I began to wonder: how much does caffeine affect my anxiety level and my panic frequency?
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‘Surviving Anxiety’ With Solome Tibebu (And Her Obsessions)

Phew. What a week.
In the past seven days, I've managed to destroy my to-do list (in a good way). What I mean is this: I've completed so many little (and big) tasks that had been clogging up the pages of my brightly-colored At-A-Glance daily organizer.
I love crossing stuff off.
I've finished grading final presentations and final papers for the marketing course that I taught this semester at a local college. I've hacked together a syllabus for one of the two communication courses I'll be teaching in January.
I survived a pre-op appointment with an ear-nose-throat doctor (more on that later!), hosted my in-laws for an overnight visit, and fought two very difficult panic attacks with my awesome husband at my side.
Oh, and I also made fudge. Yes, fudge -- delicious chocolate peanut butter fudge. Mmmm.
Needless to say, it's been a busy week.
With that said, I'm going to share someone else's content today. I'm always on the lookout for people who share their mental health stories both openly and eloquently.
Salome Tibebu is one of those people. She recently spoke about her OCD at a TEDx event in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. In the video below, she talks openly about her childhood compulsions, including the need to eat a very specific number of similarly-colored M & M's in a row:
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Anxiety Society: Finding Strength in Scents, Space, and Sounds

(This is the eighteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)

Last week, we met Sveta, a young blind woman who grew up in an abusive home. Now diagnosed with complex PTSD and dysthymia, Sveta still struggles as an adult with the effects of her emotional abuse. In this final segment of our interview, we discuss her methods for coping and discover exactly how the Russian language reversed her suicidal thoughts.

SB: Tell me about how you use the four senses at your disposal to calm you down or improve your mental health.

S: Wow. Well, in my purse I have a pocket of things that are soothing. I have a velvet cushion, about the size of a pin cushion, an aluminum guitar that my father made, some perfumes that are solid, and some stones. I love listening to music, especially music in Russian. I have some tactile Russian letters that I use as well.

SB: I sometimes carry around peppermint oil because it helps me to reduce my perception of nausea when I'm anxious. I also really like the scent of Tiger Balm, too -- for some reason, it's grounding and it helps to calm me. What scents do you carry around?

S: There is a company up in New York called "Aromadoc". They make perfumes that are solid, meaning they have a longer shelf-life than liquid ones and aren't messy. I usually carry rose, lilac and lavender with me. The rose is to remind me of summertime, the lilac is to calm me, and the lavender is to ground me. I also carry hematite, rhodinite and rose quartz stones with me.

SB: Do the limitations of your disability affect your mental health at all? If so, in what way?

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