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Feeling sick? You're probably not alone. It's that sneez-y, cough-y, mucus-y time of year. Delicious! So, if you're anything like me, you have an anxiety disorder and you hate being sick. In fact, maybe being sick in and of itself elevates your anxiety level. Throw some cold meds into the equation and you might really end up feeling bonkers. Medicines for cold and flu can be very powerful, and the side effects of their active ingredients can sometimes include disconcerting side effects, like dizziness or wooziness. (Think Sudafed, for example.) And that sucks. Because getting relief for a cold is awesome...unless the price for that "relief" is more than a tablespoon of anxiety. In yesterday's post, I wrote about how I often take smaller doses of OTC cold medication than the bottle recommends. The meds still end up working (to a degree), and save me from some of the side effect-related anxiety. But what if you're too scared to take any cold meds? Are you doomed to suffer?
For the longest time, I've been trying to read Peace From Nervous Suffering by Dr. Claire Weekes. My therapist recommended it to me eons ago and, while it's certainly a great read, its reader (read: me) is prone to distraction by means of shiny objects, internet memes, that Christmas box I just had to pull down from the attic today, and...and so on. But I'm chipping my way through. Slowly, but resolutely. Nervous suffering. What a quaint little pair of words Dr. Claire Weekes uses to describe the big bad beast of anxiety. While her language might be a tad outdated, her recommendations are timeless. And the time is obviously right to share with you a few of Dr. Weekes's most valuable tidbits about recovering from "nervous illness", as she also calls the affliction that is panic disorder:
I consciously try to avoid BuzzFeed articles because it's so damn easy to get lost on their website for hours. I jump from posts like "Thirty Adorable Cats" to "Celebrities Without Makeup" to "Adorable Cats WITH Makeup" and then BAM -- somehow, three hours have passed. But today, something truly worth my while popped up: a collection of web comics describing the frustration of anxiety disorders.
I used to be in love. I used to be in love with my At-A-Glance brand planner, the one that lists two days on a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper. Our affair began two years ago. I was captivated by its simplicity, its wide-open page spaces, and its daily "HOT" notations that sung out to me, siren-like: you, absent-minded gal that you are, can prioritize! You can! But now, everything has gone sour. It was a fatal attraction from the start: what had once attracted me had ultimately ended up repelling me. And now, I am letting you go, At-A-Glance. Perhaps there's someone else out there who will love you, but I'm moving on. UNEASE IN DISORGANIZATION Yeah, I have an anxiety problem. We know this by now, right? My official diagnosis is panic disorder, but that doesn't stop me from feeling generally anxious, GAD style, about a lot of things. Especially organizing my time and my space. I'm not alone on this one, right?
I really like Google's autocomplete feature because it makes me feel like I'm rifling through the world's garbage. That sounds weird, I know. Let me explain further: A curbside trash bag filled with old to-do lists, kitchen waste, and empty product packages can teach you a lot about the creator of the waste. If you snoop hard enough, you can likely determine all sorts of details about the person -- and their culture -- based upon what they toss in the trash. It's like archeology. Dirty and stinky, yes, but still archeology. Searching Google and seeing that little autocomplete drop-down menu can be as revealing as trash, albeit in a more anonymized way. You can use it to take the pulse of the English-speaking world on virtually any topic, from religion to famous tech leaders to anything else, like this:
I went camping this past weekend -- a feat in itself, essentially. Thanks to our awesomely large tent and my penchant for over-packing, I felt safe. I had my anxiety meds. I had enough clothing. I had food and I had water and I had plenty of blankets. And, thankfully, I also had my "nausea bag". Because nausea is one of my most difficult-to-handle anxiety symptoms, I lug around a big black bag of Every Nausea Remedy Known To Man whenever I travel. I don't get carsick, exactly -- I've never actually puked on the side of the road or anything. But no matter: my stomach does flips, I start to sweat, I feel the impulse to dry heave, my mouth gets all spitty, and I sit whining in the passenger seat with my head between my knees. THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, OR BOTH? Does the nausea cause the anxiety, or does the anxiety (of traveling) cause the nausea? Framing such a question in an either/or fashion answers nothing. I'm certain it's a little bit of both. I'm emetophobic, so I'm afraid to puke (and afraid of feeling nausiated in general). And, I'm agoraphobic -- so I'm afraid to go out and travel by car. When nausea and anxiety combine, they form a powerful boss. And, as we were leaving the campsite on Sunday, my anxiety began to kick in. We collapsed the tent and, immediately, my symbolic safe space had been rolled up into a bag.
Yes, my husband and I are buying a house. Oh, the excitement! A house of our very own. A house where we'll raise kids and grow old together. We're buying a house! (Well, we're trying to.) It's a buyer's market in many areas of the country, but I'm lucky enough to live in the 7th-fastest growing metro area in the US. Translation: seller's market. Bah. Having an anxiety disorder affects my life quite enough the way it is. Throw something as big as house hunting into the mix and it's very easy to become overwhelmed -- with the process, with the decisions, and with the somewhat-manic fear of missing out on the perfect home. Here are my tips to help you get through the house hunting process with as little additional anxiety and stress as possible:
...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.
Sigh. I've written before about how important it is to become a competent consumer of prescription medication. Or of any medication, really. Even OTC cough & cold drugs are nothing to scoff at -- they're powerful medicines that can have powerful side effects. It's important to know what we put into our bodies, right? Of course. Of course it is. Let me get this message out of the way before I start ranting: I believe it's important to respect doctors -- after all, they have years of education and experience in diagnosing and treating various ailments. They know plenty more about medicine than the average patient does. But, as patients and consumers of medicine, we need to do our part. We need to play an active role in our own treatment. We can't just close our eyes and let our doctors make the decisions that will affect our bodies. It's important to ask questions. Why did you diagnose me with this disorder? How do I meet the criteria? What diagnostic tests informed your decision? When will I be well again? Why did this problem develop? Is this medication necessary? What are my alternatives? NEXIUM WANTS YOU TO LISTEN AND OBEY But according to Nexium's latest ad campaign, we should simply step back and let our doctors decide what's best for us -- no questions asked:
(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.) It's been quite some time since I've written another installment in the seemingly-neverending "10 Rules" series. My original goal, as you can read in the link above, was to slowly traverse through a list of panic-related rules that I'd received from my favorite therapist. She photocopied it onto a tiny, wallet-sized piece of paper. I keep it clipped onto the back page of my organizer and now, even after only four or five months of dragging it around with me, it's crumbling. And this is a good thing. ON THE WEATHERING OF OBJECTS There was this guy in high school who sat in front of me during American Cultures in eleventh grade. (How do I remember the layout of a classroom I sat in twelve years ago when I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday? Good question...for another blog post.) Anyway, one day before class started, he was reading Lolita at his desk. I noticed that he was being very gentle with the book. He treated it as if it were some sort of delicate and irreplaceable antique, not the Penguin Paperback it (probably) was. He monitored his page-turns carefully, taking caution not only to avoid cracking the binding, but also to avoid giving the book that "I've been read" look. I wondered why.