Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Anxiety, Headaches and Life

So, I feel like I address this on my social media sites, but it's such an all over the place topic for me, that's it hard to follow exactly what it is that I'm complaining about constantly.

I figured I would just post this on my blog, with the hope that others can feel a sense of relief in knowing you're not alone. Understandably, everyone has their own opinions, and there are still people out there who believe it's "all in your head" and to just "get over it". Well, of course it's all in your head. Everything that makes you function, and who you are is IN YOUR HEAD. HELLO? Gosh people, stahhp. Please spare us the nonsensical boredom and repetitiveness of this so-called "solution". People tend to hate on subjects they do not understand, and frankly, you suck the life out of us.

First, my backstory. As far back as I can remember I'd always been an anxious kid. I always had stomachaches, I always thought I was sick, and anything that started early in the morning made me extremely anxious (ahem, school). I HATED going to school, and not because I just generally hate being bored at school, but because I was TERRIFIED of germs, and throwing up. There was also something about early mornings that made me uneasy.  That morning "smell" of breakfast foods and coffee makes me anxious. I'm guessing this is because I had a stomachache every morning, and forcefully eating breakfast always made it worse. I went to school everyday (particularly elementary school), and complained to my teacher I didn't feel good. So much so, that she stopped believing me and wouldn't even talk to me about it anymore. I was so worried about getting sick that I would obsessively wash my hands throughout the day to the point they were bleeding. I still do this. 

Around the age of 13 we had to move. Long story as to why, but the house we were living in, in my eyes, was this amazing place with a pool, a neighborhood full of my friends, a trampoline that usually had fourteen kids at a time on it, and a giant customized gymnastics style swing set that my dad had built for us (I was in gymnastics at the time). We moved into a house that was smaller, and although brand new, seemed to have a bad energy in it. It just seemed cold, and dark. I think that was just a foreshadowing on my life at the time, but, regardless, we were all not happy. It was a nice house, but it wasn't OUR house. I went from having a pool and trampoline, to not even having any grass yet. A couple days after we moved in, I was sitting upstairs in my room and suddenly it occurred to me, this was my room now. My old room was gone, the pool was gone, and my giant awesome swing-set was gone, all the memories I'd made in that house suddenly seemed obsolete. I suddenly felt this wave of dread come over me. I was never going back there. I was having trouble breathing, and I just started pacing around my room, needing to run somewhere but not sure where, and I just wept. This went on for about ten-twenty minutes, and then I calmed down. Yet, the feeling of dread never left. You know the depiction of the "dark cloud" that follows people around when they are anxious/depressed in those commercials? It was exactly that. Everything just felt...weird after that. Everything seemed cold and gloomy for me. I went to school and came home and laid on the couch until bedtime. I had to be excused from reading class in middle school because we were discussing Holocaust and I literally could not sit through the class without having a panic attack. I had go home from Sunday school one night because the teacher wanted to watch "What Dreams May Come", which is obviously all about death, dread, Heaven and Hell, and it gave me a panic attack. This was my life then, and I couldn't do anything about it but let it run it's course. 

My dad, who also deals with a history of anxiety and depression, brought me in to a child psychiatrist who put me on a medication called Buspar (Buspirone). The side effects of this medication were the worst. I felt nauseous, like I was floating, but the worst was the "skipping a frame" feeling. Anyone who has ever taken a medication for depression or anxiety will probably know this feeling. It's like you can turn your head to look at something, but it takes your brain a second to catch up. Much like if you were watching an old black and white movie that has the tiny blip of black in between each frame. One day, I came back to class after a visit with my psychiatrist, and a kid asked me smugly "so are you dying?"...I should have punched that kid in the face.

Eventually, the severity of the medications side effects wore off, and I started to feel better. Days seemed brighter, I wanted to hang out with my friends again, and I didn't lay around on the couch as much. I trialed a few different medications over the years, those of which I could not even tell you the names of, but I've tried quite a few. Buspar and Effexor were the most effective for me.

Fast forward to now. 

I had stopped taking any medication around 2006, and just dealt. Over the years my anxiety kept on the back burner, only showing up at times that made sense. Getting on a plane for the first time, getting married, being forced on a roller coaster by my husband, you get the idea. 

2007...enter headaches. They came on gradually and annoyingly, I did not just wake up one day with a blinding migraine. I just assumed I had allergies or was "stressed" and just carried on.

December 2014, I pursued working on my Associates in Business Management, and also working at a new job. The hours were relentless for the first 3 months with mandatory overtime, and all of a sudden, my anxiety was back. Within a couple weeks, it came swooping in full-force, and brought on a whole new array of symptoms that I had no idea what to do with. These were all new to me. It got so bad, that it was to the point where I could not eat in the morning and I was practically throwing up if I managed to gag food down. Everything looked and tasted like cardboard. I had a constant surge of cold tingles in my limbs, nausea, dizziness, my usual headaches, but now these headaches were accompanied with mental fog, fullness in my face/ears, random hives, and wondering every morning, "how the hell am I going to get through this day?". The only time I felt any peace and comfort was laying in bed at night. I've missed out on every holiday with my family this year. Even if I was physically there, I most likely was in a state of woe, just looking for an escape route back to my couch.

I finally gave up and went to a neurologist. I had an MRI done, extensive blood work, vitamin deficiency bloodwork (that was analyzed by Mayo Clinic), and everything came back clear and normal. No sign of anything at all. Sinuses were clear, at least in the MRI. No nerve damage or inflammation. She trialed me on Topamax and Trokendi, and to no avail. She also prescribed me with Zoloft for the anxiety, which has definitely helped so that I was able to get my appetite back and function socially, but getting through work is still rough some days. 

Since then, I have been referred all over the place, all leading to dead ends. Aside from my neurologist, I have also seen a chiropractor, a TMJ specialist, an orthodontist, an ENT, a trip to the ER, and my primary (I think I'm on a first name basis with them now), and I have a wisdom tooth removed (which sparked a 4 week long migraine). I've been given a night guard by my orthodontist (which did not help at all, I think it made my headaches worse), and am being fitted for Invisalign to possibly rule out any jaw issues. Is your head spinning yet? That's how I've felt. My blood work always comes back "fantastic" aside from the fact that I may eat too many carbs (WHICH I WILL NOT STOP DOING), and that's it. Yet, I always leave these places, feeling just as crappy. 

I have now been told I have chronic tension headaches, TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome), two vertebrae in my neck are out of alignment, my "bite" is out of alignment, which is the reason my vertebrae are off course (k), and my favorite, dry sinuses. When the ENT hurriedly told me to use a Neti-pot and saline as a form of treatment (which I expressed to her did not work for me in the past), and my heart just sank. I sat out in the parking lot and cried for 20 minutes afterwards because I was so frustrated. She also 
told me that "sinus problems do not cause dizziness, and I should visit my primary doctor for this", and this is why I'm not going back to this ENT. 

I have a follow up appointment with a second chiropractor next week to see the x-rays on my neck that were done last week (no x-rays were administered by my first chiro). He said he saw "three red flags" and indicated that the natural curvature in my neck is actually slightly curving in the other direction. This is the only thing that has made sense to me in the past year. Ouch.

All that aside, I do have good days. It's not all doom and gloom. I'd be lying if I said my better days are not ones that are spent vegging on the couch with my paranormal shows and a drink in hand, but nonetheless. It's a step by step process. Unfortunately, I have to deal with all of this while still trying to embrace my anxiety/depression. I just have to keep on moving because life isn't going to stop while you try to fight it. Exercise helps the anxiety (but flares my headaches), Excedrin is my bestie, and YES, for shit's sake, I drink enough water. Like, a gallon a day. Over a 5 year of period of weight loss, I've done extensive research on health, lifestyles, natural remedies, etc. I know....I just know. So please don't tell me I have a gluten sensitivity, or don't drink enough water, or have allergies, or am a crazy cat lady, I ALREADY KNOW. 

If I was going to self-diagnose myself, which I'm amazing at doing, I would say that I'm just stressed beyond the point of stress. Headaches just come along for the ride, and make the problem worse because I panic about why I have headaches. It's a vicious cycle.

Love thy cats,