Category Archives: My Crazy Brain

Blogs about depression, anxiety or anything mental health related

My Take: Dealing with Anxiety and/or Arrhythmia

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(I have written an update to this post. While most everything here still rings true and is important, there are just a few updates which can be found HERE.)

I belong to a couple of online support forums – one for anxiety and one for arrhythmias/heart issues. It is quite fascinating how the topics can often intermingle. Especially the anxiety and heart issues. If I had to guess, I would say that some form of anxiety/panic co-exists with a heart rhythm disorder probably 80% of the time – and that is a conservative estimate.

Some times the anxiety triggers the arrhythmia and very often the arrhythmia triggers the anxiety. It is a vicious, shitty cycle that spins with the velocity of a cyclone and it is very difficult to jump out. Let’s get off this stupid (not so) Merry Go Round, shall we?

When I do become involved in the discussions on these forums, I find I am most often giving support, advice or tips to those who may be newer to these experiences. Having dealt with this issues for several decades now, I have gained a lot of insight which I feel would have helped me earlier in my journey. So, why not utilize my crappy background to benefit others? There may as well be something good to come out of that suffering, eh?

There are several things that come up over and over again. So instead of constantly rewriting the same answers, I figured I would make a post with all of that information in one place. And this will be that place. Welcome, all. Have a seat. Relax. Have a listen and be well. This is for anyone who is dealing with anxiety or panic or an arrhythmia or all of the above. It could also be helpful to those who love someone dealing with one of these maladies.

Me?

I have lived with anxiety/panic for nearly 20 years to some degree. Maybe even longer. If you go to the My Crazy Brain category on this site, you will find a lot of posts on these topics.

I was diagnosed with SVT, PVCs and PACs about 10 years ago – but had it for many years prior. I was diagnosed with mild MVP a couple of years after that. All of these conditions cause symptoms that I can feel. Many people do not notice a thing and never even know they have it until it pops up on a monitor. But lucky me – I feel almost all of it. If you go to the My Crazy Heart category on this site, you will find quite a few posts about my heart issues.

One Bad Ass Mineral 

One thing I tend to preach about – perhaps to an annoying level – is magnesium. And let me tell you, I have my reasons. Whether you have anxiety or heart rhythm issues – magnesium may just end up being your best friend. It also helps many other ailments and it is definitely worth looking into. I can say with all honesty and certainty that supplementing with magnesium has made a very big difference in my life.

A couple of years ago, I was having hundreds of ectopic beats (PVCs and PACs) per day. Sometimes they would come every other beat. I was absolutely going insane. And, of course, it drove my anxiety into high gear – which only made my heart nuttier.

I searched high and low for solutions. I tried it all, man. Aloe gel, apple cider vinegar, black strap molasses, meditation – if I read about it, I tried it (for the most part). I saw several doctors. One wanted to perform an ablation procedure on my heart and another said that was a ridiculous idea. Finally, I spoke to a pharmacist/nutritionist here in Racine at Nutritional Designs Pharmacy. She explained to me how magnesium works and that I may just be deficient in the mineral since American diets are so lacking many of the nutrients we desperately need.

I soon found myself in Barnes and Noble with a decaf coffee drink reading The Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Carolyn Dean. Suddenly, a light went on and I knew I had to try what could just be a last-ditch effort to slow those horrendous ectopic heartbeats.

From the National Institute of Health website:

Magnesium is of great importance in cardiac arrhythmias. It increases the ventricular threshold for fibrillation. Sinus node refractoriness and conduction in the AV node are both prolonged. Main indications for intravenous application of magnesium are Torsade de pointes tachycardias, digitalis toxicity induced tachyarrhythmias and multifocal atrial tachycardias. Additionally, patients with ventricular arrhythmias due to overdoses of neuroleptics or tricyclic antidepressants may profit from i.v. magnesium. Monomorphic ventricular tachycardias and ventricular arrhythmias refractory to class III antiarrhythmics have been shown to respond to i.v. magnesium. Recent publications have documented that perioperative use of magnesium can reduce the incidence of arrhythmic events on the atrial and ventricular level. Oral magnesium has been used for many years in patients with symptomatic extrasystoles. Studies show that the incidence of extrasystoles as well as patients’ symptoms are reduced during oral magnesium therapy.

With the recommendation of the above mentioned nutritionist, I began supplementing with Krebs Cycle Chelates (I take one in the morning and two at night), a magnesium/potassium supplement (one at night – never go above 90mg of potassium without a Dr’s suggestion) and with powdered magnesium citrate (which I add to my tea several nights per week). They can be purchased online (see links) or look for a local health/supplement shop in your area. In Racine, I highly recommend Nutritional Designs.

It is very important to find an absorbable form of magnesium. The magnesium oxide you typically find at Walgreens only provides 4% of absorbable magnesium. This means you are paying to basically have your crap loaded with magnesium – it simply goes right through you and does not enter into your cells where it is needed.

It should also be known that typical blood tests cannot detect an accurate level of cellular magnesium. It can only tell you what is floating through your veins. This does not help you. The best way to know is to go by how you FEEL.

I also take a warm bath with epsom salts and baking soda (about a cup each) almost every night. This not only helps my heart and anxiety but also menstrual cramps (when I had a uterus), muscle and joint aches (its been a godsend since surgery) and really helps with my sleep.

How much magnesium should you take? Well, it isn’t a difficult experiment – but perhaps one you’d be best doing on the weekend. If you want to know how much is too much – you ask your bowels. Hey, I am sure it won’t be the first time you’ve talked to an asshole! So, you need to purchase an absorbable form of magnesium (magnesium only, do not do this with a complex or combo supplement. With combos – take the recommended dose unless directed otherwise). Make sure you get a dose low enough to take multiple pills (or whatever form you take) per day. Take a small amount each day. And then a little more. And keep increasing until you have loose bowel movements (yes, the runs). And hey, if you have been constipated – this just may be a relief! Once you get runny stools, you back off to the previous dose and continue on that dose as long as your movements are back to normal. That is the magic test to find out how much magnesium your body is needing you to take.

**I highly HIGHLY suggest trying magnesium if you are struggling with an arrhythmia. But – as always – please check with your doctor first. I AM NOT A DOCTOR and this is not to replace professional medical advice!!!**

More Heart to Heart

Along with my beta blocker (Metoprolol 12.5 mg twice a day – which helps tremendously for tachycardia), magnesium has truly changed my life in regards to my heart arrhythmia. I went from having 100s of ectopic beats (what I sometimes refer to as “skipped beats” even though that isn’t exactly accurate) to maybe 4. Some days I get more and some I get none. Right now, I am in what I consider a “remission”. I get maybe a couple per day. Next month I could have a week where I get 20 a day. But that is not frequent. There are people who live with 10s of thousands per day. This isn’t a cure and isn’t an exact science. We simply look for things that help our lives become more manageable.

I am sure you already know, but just in case – you should really eliminate stimulants from your life if you are dealing with an arrhythmia or anxiety. This means caffeine, energy drinks, decongestants and even some times ginseng or similar herbs. Be careful of anything you take as far as herbal remedies or medications. I once tried melatonin and my heart went bonkers. Same thing happened with valerian root. Both of these are supposed to be calming. Even sedating. But for me – opposite. You just never know.

When having any kind of local anesthetic/novocaine, make sure you speak to the doctor or dentist about your heart. Many of these medications have epinephrine in them and, usually, you can request for that to be left out. Epinephrine will most certainly make your heart tachy.

When prescribed a new medication, I always ask the doctor AND the pharmacist if it will have any effects on heart rhythm. Always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Someone asked me yesterday how I have gotten to where I am now as far as my acceptance with these stupid heart flip flops. My answer isn’t an easy one. And it won’t be the same answer each day. But what I can say is that this is a process and likely a life long one. Some days I can deal with it calmly and rationally. And other days I am scared and angry and want to throw something against the wall.

Each arrhythmia is different and each person is different. I can only tell you what has helped ME. Walking and trying to stay as fit as I can helps me. I hate exercise, really, I do. But I make myself do it because I know my body needs it. For some people, this may not be the case. It is all individual and needs to be discussed with your doc. Alcohol also makes me feel worse so I usually avoid it. For others, it doesn’t bother them a bit.

While I do have my little tips and tricks when it comes to dealing with this crap – none of that really helped until I came to a realization. And that happened gradually as I became more and more sick and tired of wasting my life.

I watched my father die in front of me at the age of 46 years old. I was 23. I know all too well how short life is. Even if we live to 90 – it is still very short in the grand scheme of things. And it flies by in a flash. I could no longer allow myself to waste away in a puddle of my own tears and fears (not to be confused with the band, Tears for Fears, which is pretty fucking awesome).

Fact is, I am going to die. I don’t know if it will be due to my heart or an accident or a toilet seat falling from a jetliner in the sky. And I certainly do not know when I will cease to exist. So, while I am here – I am going to do the best I can to actually LIVE. Waiting to die isn’t a life. It definitely is no fun. And it usually doesn’t include cake. So fuck that. And I don’t mean I am out there hang gliding or mountain climbing. I am still pretty toned down. But I no longer set up camp in that pile of shit pebbled with fear. I do things I can savor, even when I have to force myself.

Am I always able to keep it all positive like that? Hell no. But the older I get, the more I refuse to wither away until I am actually dead. So, I can sit home feeling my pulse all day long just waiting for that final thud. Or I can deal with my PVCs and other crap while I am spending time with my family or going to a movie or eating a tasty meal. If the thud is coming – I may as well be trying to enjoy myself when it arrives.

After All, I AM the Neurotic Housewife

I was always an anxious child. And that anxiety manifested, eventually, into depression and later on into panic. The panic came after the arrhythmia. I was undiagnosed and untreated for over a decade and this created the whirlwind of panic disorder. At my worst times, I was having more than one panic attack a day. In the past 9 years, I have had maybe 5 full-blown attacks.

I still deal with GAD and health anxiety. Much of the time, these aren’t much of an issue. But other times – I can go off the rails. Before my recent hysterectomy, my anxiety went into overdrive. I was obsessive and SCARED TO DEATH. But I got through it with the help of medication, meditation, loved ones and some CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) techniques.

I Said Yes to Drugs

For years, I was a medicinal guinea pig. SSRIs, SNRIs, Tricyclics, Benzos and other oddballs tossed in for good measure – I tried almost all of them. They either didn’t work or the side effects were worse than the original problem. I ended up hating meds and refused to try them again.

But after my daughter was born, I became a wreck. As a stay at home mom, I was with her all day. And I panicked constantly that I would drop dead and she would be left here alone until Charlie returned at night. It was awful and no way to live. I was absolutely miserable. So, I finally broke down and agreed to take a daily medication for the panic.

I started taking klonopin and I swear it saved my life. The panic subsided almost immediately. I noticed no ill effects and, in 9 years, I have not had to increase my dosage. I believe the beta blocker and magnesium also help in that arena as well – but the klonopin has truly changed my life. I will happily take it forever if need be.

Now, it doesn’t eliminate any depression nor does it get rid of my generalized anxiety. It simply stops the panic and the physical/physiological symptoms of the anxiety. The thought processes that create the GAD have to be dealt with on a cognitive level. And I do work on that constantly.

In the Midst of Panic

People often ask what helps during a panic attack or extremely anxious times. Through the years when I did have so many, I developed many coping skills. Here is a list of what got me through those moments and what may help you too:

  • Distraction is key!! Count the pennies in your change jar, rearrange your living room, clean out your closet, alphabetize your CDs (do people still have CDs?), watch a funny television show, pull weeds, organize your bathroom drawer, make a grocery list – get your mind on something easy, simple, lighthearted and distracting.
  • Buy and read the book – The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. This was my Bible for a long time. And I still pull it out during hard times. Do the exercises in the book!!! I cannot tell you how helpful this is.
  • Relax. I know, I know – this is the worst thing to tell a person who is panicking. But do what you can to manifest some relaxation habits. Take a bath (again, epsom salt!!), guided imagery meditations – you can find millions on YouTube, stretches, painting or crafts….find things to relax not only your mind, but also your body.
  • Move it move it move it. During a panic attack, your brain is releasing adrenaline and setting off your fight or flight instinct. The adrenaline and muscle contractions are what is causing those horrible physical symptoms of a racing heart, sweating, shakiness, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest tightness, muscle aches, etc. Exercise and moving your body will release that adrenaline more appropriately. Take a walk and notice the beauty around you. Try out a yoga video online. Jump rope. Swim. Move your body in a way that feels comfortable to you.
  • WRITE!! Journaling helped me so much. I would use the same notebook each time. I would just keep writing until I started to feel better. I wrote whatever I was feeling, I wrote gratitude lists, I wrote about my day – anything. And not only is this  releasing your feelings – it also provides proof for you the next time that you have been through this before and you SURVIVED!! You can clearly see that (for example) last Tuesday you were also certain you were about to die and had chest pain and had tingling in your legs…and that you lived through it.
  • Call a trusted friend. Now, while this may be extremely helpful, it can be tricky. You do not want to become a constant burden to the same friend every day. It cannot always be about YOU and how YOU feel. You will drain the friendship – even the great ones. You must make an effort to gear the conversation toward THEM. Ask them about their day and their families. Show them you care and appreciate their time. It not only will strengthen the friendship, but it will also help you escape your own shit for a while. Try not to be an energy vampire.
  • Help someone. Anxious/depressed people can become pretty self involved at times. Some more than others. It is important to get out of your own mind and a great way to do that is to help others. Volunteer. Visit a nursing home. Make cookies for a sick friend. Write cards of thanks and mail them. Walk a neighbor’s dog or mow their lawn. Help out at your local food bank. The options are endless. You will feel better and you will help someone else feel better. Win win, man. Also, you may just get a new perspective that helps you see how good you have it. As sucky as anxiety disorders can be – there are problems that can be much more devastating.

Some People Just Don’t Understand

And they never will. If they have not felt this themselves – they just can’t truly get it. There are some great people who really try to understand and are compassionate enough to be there for you even if they don’t know what it is like. These are the people you really need to appreciate, pick flowers for and smother with kisses. These people are rare and precious and deserve praise.

It is not easy to be the loved one of someone experiencing this mental bullshit. It sucks for them too – please remember that.

There will be people in your life who treat you like a disease. They will talk to you like a child and roll their eyes when they think you aren’t looking. They will never attempt to muster up an ounce of compassion and they have no tolerance for your emotions. They will think you are too sensitive and need to get over it. They may be close friends, relatives, clergy, teachers and people you’d expect to care. But they don’t. And there isn’t a goddamn thing you can do about it.

You can let it get to you. You can over explain or try to change for them. You can hide your real self. You can allow yourself to be constantly disappointed and heartbroken. Or you can simply say goodbye. I will let you guess which option is healthier.

In Closing….

While I could go on and on all day about these topics, I must end it at some point. And like I said, I have written extensively about all of this in the past. Feel free to search this site (almost a decade of blog posts here). And if you would like to discuss this or anything else about these subjects – please feel free to comment!! Start a discussion.

So, as a re-cap:

Magnesium is wonderful. Klonopin saved me. Beta blockers help the heart and adrenaline surges. Different meds work differently for each person. Speak with your doctor, be patient and give the med a chance. But be aware and listen to your body. If something is making you feel horrible, say something and make them listen!!!

Distraction is key during panic. Helping others is one of the best ways to overcome your own anxiety. Exercise is necessary. Stay away from stimulants. Read The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. And remove toxic people from your life.

Most importantly – live. This is your one chance and it is passing you by RIGHT NOW. Live the life you are so afraid to lose. Shit, you may as well make the fear worth it, right?

Again, please see my update to this blog post HERE

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Death Blows

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On Tuesday,  I wrote about my recent panic attack. I just wanted to mention some things about that before delving into the whole death thang that I wanted to talk about today.

I had mentioned that the attack snuck up on me as I was calmly eating my salad. Well, there is something that is pretty consistent with panic sufferers – we are masters at practicing avoidance. And for everyone it is different and at varying degrees. For some, if they have an attack in a grocery store (which seems to be a big trigger for some people) – they may avoid going back to that store or any store until they absolutely have to. If they have an attack on an airplane – chances are they will avoid flying for a while if they are able.

My attacks happened all of the time and usually at home. So I really couldn’t avoid that. But I did notice tonight that for the past two nights – I actually avoided eating my nightly salad. I have to laugh because that sounds SO. STUPID. Once I realized it, I made myself a tasty salad and lived through it.

Anyway, brains are weird.

I also mentioned in that blog that my attack escalated when I got paranoid about having a pulmonary embolism. I haven’t really been able to rid the thought for the past couple days – but I have been much more rational about it. I had a sharp fleeting pain in my chest and my back while at the store today. Some fear developed – but I talked myself out of it and carried on.

But tonight I saw THIS article. A 26 year old man who had been on the show Catfish died recently from…a pulmonary embolism due to a DVT. Which is exactly what I could not get out of my head for the past few days. Just weird and icky and sad.

ANYWAY…

So this death thing. How in thee hell am I going to get over this once and for all so that I can really start to LIVE my life with genuine quality? I have been trying to lick it for many years now to no avail. Several different shrinks…many different medications. A lot of books and introspection. Nothing is really helping. Shit, man. How do I get over my messed up mind??

I read THIS article yesterday and it really touched home with me. He mentions practicing Buddhism. This has been mentioned to me in the past. I mean, their philosophy is to live in the present, right? So fearing death wouldn’t be allowed. Can I rake some sand and finally be free? Honestly though, this sounds wonderful and I have to wonder…where does one start? Will I REALLY be able to change my thought processes after nearly 40 years simply by engaging in this belief system? It would take some major deprogramming.

Most people I know never really even think about death. They do not seem at all concerned with whether or not there is an afterlife. I know some people who absolutely believe we just die and that is that. Dead. Lights off. No soul, no survival of consciousness. How can this not depress the piss out of them?! I know others who strongly believe that there is an afterlife and we see our long gone loved ones or perhaps reincarnate.

My 9 year old has told me very matter-of-factly that this is what happens:

You go to heaven for one month and then become a baby. Heaven is a huge huge huge mansion with a million rooms. You do not remember your life so you do not reunite with anyone. After those 30 days you pick new parents and are born again. I asked her, “Well isn’t it kind of sad that you can’t see you family and pets again?” Her reply (as she shrugged indifferently), “Yea, it’s sad. That’s why dying is sad. It’s just the life cycle, mom.” She was clearly not bothered by this in the least. And who the hell was I to squash the peace she seems to have adopted with this dreary theory?

There are several components to dying that are encompassed in my ever-present fear.

Dying suddenly. Most people, if they worry at all, are concerned about having a terrible disease and dying in a long drawn out painful way. I tend to focus on the dangers that just snatch you – heart attacks, blood clots, stroke, etc. Sometimes I worry about accidents too. There are instances when I am walking down the basement stairs and I imagine falling to my death and Cassidy coming home to find me lying there. These are the kinds of things that enter into my brain with no invitation whatsoever! WTF??!!

Leaving Cassidy. As I have said, my fear did not develop so intensely until I had her. The thought of not being in her life is so painful. The idea of her having to go through losing me, equally so. This kid really has turned me into a crazy lady. I just love her way too much.

Afterlife. This is a biggie. I was not raised in any religion or any particular belief. And to this day, I do not have any kind of faith whatsoever. I do like to believe in SOMEthing. I am not religious…but I lean toward the spiritual side. I have seen John Edward live twice and that dude has me pretty damn convinced (go ahead, laugh, I don’t care). I have seen and heard of things happening that seem too real to be coincidence. And I have read a bagillion stories about near death experiences. They are so truly amazing and really do bring me some peace much of the time. And someone close to me has had an experience personally.

The thought of nothingness is torture to me. I don’t really know why, but it is. For some screwball, obsessive reason…I need to know that there is a survival of consciousness. And the fact that I will never KNOW that really pisses me the hell off. It’s probably all really a control thing, no? The one aspect in life I have absolutely no chance of controlling is the one thing my mind chooses on which to transfix.

So yea, death sucks. But what sucks even more is my refusal to accept it and move on with my LIFE. Don’t get me wrong. I am not laying here in a puddle of my own piss and tears. I am living a life and loving most of it. I just want to learn how to make it more full and peaceful.

Thoughts?

Panic Attacks: Sneaky Bastards

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When I started getting panic attacks just over 15 years ago, they were rarely discussed and the general public certainly did not understand what they really were. Most people thought it was a symptom of crazy people or an exaggerated expression of being stressed out. The Sopranos shed some light on panic as Tony suffered several attacks during the season. And since then it has been talked about more and more.

As much as panic attacks are mentioned or read about or depicted on television, there is still no way to understand them if one has not had the experience. Of course, some people are better than others at attempting to understand or sympathize. Although some still think you can just snap out of it. Oh, to be able to snap out of it. How magnificent that would be. “Hey! Shit for brains!! Just get over it already!!”

I started getting panic attacks shortly after watching my father die. I have written much about this before, so excuse me for repeating myself.  I didn’t know what was happening to me and I was scared as hell. To make it even more confusing, I was also experiencing a heart arrhythmia called SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) which was discounted as “just panic/anxiety” for well over a decade. I also experience PVCs and PACs. And unlike most people, I feel every shitty one of them.

I went to the ER and Doctor several times with a racing heart or complaints about my heart. I was always patted on the head, given a valium and told to see a shrink. And I did. I was willing to do ANYthing to stop those feelings. And by feelings I do not just mean emotion. I am talking about very real physical symptoms that were, at times, unbearable.

It was an awful cycle. The panic triggered the SVT and the SVT triggered the panic. I was a medication guinea pig for years. And some of the antidepressants I was prescribed likely worsened the heart condition.

When I was about 27, I finally learned how to ride the panic wave. I couldn’t stop the attack but with certain techniques (different for everyone…mine were baths, journaling, watching comedies, walking and most of all – talking to someone who was calming to me). Also, benzodiazapines helped considerably. I had finally convinced myself that there was NOTHING physically wrong with me. I thought I had a pretty good handle on it.

At 28, that all went straight to shit. I talk about some of it HERE. Long story short…my heart – out of fucking nowhere – jumped to around 130 bpm. I drove to the ER (stupid) where my heart rate sustained this high rate for several hours. It finally came down with a dose of beta blocker (which I have taken every day since). I had some tests, saw a cardiologist (more than one) and was diagnosed with SVT. It wasn’t all in my head after all. And after that my anxiety and panic really took over.

The next year, I had Cassidy and things got worse. I had a real reason to fear death now and I obsessed about it. I was petrified I would die leaving her alone in the house. I would imagine the most horrible scenes. I went to a new shrink who finally talked me into taking a daily anxiety med. It was a Godsend. It gave me my life back. Yes, I am tired most of the time and also depressed (common side effects). It doesn’t really help the fucked up thinking that creates my daily general anxiety. But the panic attacks virtually disappeared. And to me, it was all worth it.

I have been taking this medication since that time and it has basically been doing its job. But once in a while, an attack will sneak through the gate and scare the piss outta me. Especially if I am having an arrhythmia flare up.

Last night, one of the bastards snuck up on me. First real, full panic attack in such a long time – so much so that I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Nope. In my mind, I was having a pulmonary embolism.

I was having dull aches in the front of my thigh for most of the day on Sunday. I had no idea why. Tried to ignore it. Then last night I was just sitting here, completely calm, eating my salad and watching a cooking show and suddenly felt like I wasn’t getting enough air. I wasn’t breathing heavy or weird that I could tell. Just felt kind of short of breath. Then my heart started to race and I got light-headed. I quickly took my nightly doses of aspirin, beta blocker and klonopin. I immediately thought – blood clot.

I grabbed the phone in case I needed to call 911. I tried to breathe calmly and went out side to get some fresh air. I tried calling my mom but she was busy and then called Charlie who just said the usual, “You’re fine.”

I talked to a couple of people online – a paramedic friend and a two other friends through private message. Then my mom called back and I talked to her for a while as I finally started to calm down a little. Still shaky (uncontrollably, as though I was freezing) and scared, I was relieved when my friend, Kelly, called. Talking to her helped a lot and I felt much better. I was exhausted (as I always would be after an attack) as well as angry and sad, but okay.

I must say that there really isn’t anything as valuable as a someone who you can talk to while going through a panic attack. I haven’t had many of these people in all of these years…but the few I have had – fucking priceless. Maureen, Kevin and a couple of others (and now, Kelly) throughout the years have been wonderful. I truly couldn’t thank them enough.

So…this really all ties into my fear of death. And yea, I know I talk about this a lot. But I have really struggled to beat this and talking about it helps. And maybe it can help someone else. I want to go into this more, but this blog has gotten long enough. Tomorrow I will write more about that.

In the meantime, thanks for listening and I hope you have a swell night.

James Gandolfini: Yep, I’m Pretty Bummed

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In this picture he even LOOKS so much like my dad.

People think I am weird for all sorts of reasons. And, agreed, there are plenty from which to choose. Take your very own pick.  Anyway, one of the odd duck qualities I bring to the table? I take the death of strangers too much to heart. From reading obituaries of local residents to celebrities – depending on the case, I can truly be affected.

There are some deaths that seem to really shock people and cover the internet with a mourning blanket. Often times those deaths do not phase me much. But other times, I will cry as if I knew them. Phil Hartman has so far been the worst. And today, I feel that same sadness due to the death of James Gandolfini.

It is reported that James died in Italy from a heart attack at the age of 51. Clearly, an age much too young.

If I came across a movie starring the actor, I would typically watch it just because he was in it. I have always found him to be a remarkable performer. True Romance to Zero Dark Thirty to Sopranos – he was always a welcomed sight.

But for me it wasn’t just about his talent. For some reason, he has always reminded me of my father. Watching him and listening to him comforted me. Sometimes I would feel like my dad was in the room. I dunno, it’s weird.

Sopranos was my first outbreak of binge viewing. Not being able to afford cable, I didn’t watch it until about a year after its initial release. It was Memorial Day weekend and I borrowed my friend’s VHS recordings of the first season. I didn’t leave my apartment all weekend and by Tuesday I had a Jersey accent.

Those who know me know that I have a bit of an obsession/love affair with mob movies. At a young age, The Godfather (both 1 & 2 because I always watch them together) became my favorite film…and that has never changed. If it was about the mob – I watched it. So, obviously, when Sopranos came out…I was twitchin’ pretty hard wanting to see it. I became addicted immediately and eventually owned every season on DVD.

But even bigger than that – greater than my fascination with the mafia – James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano was the first time I had witnessed someone on television portray a panic attack. During that time in my life, anxiety and panic had a pretty tight hold on me. I felt like a total crazy person. I felt stupid. I felt weak. And most of all, I felt fear. I knew a couple of people who could somewhat relate, but people really didn’t talk about it much…not like now anyway. So to see it in this way was very meaningful to me.

Here was this big, tough mob boss having panic attacks. Just the fact that it was such a major part of his character was some kind of proof that I needed to realize I most certainly wasn’t alone in my neurosis and that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t a complete wimpy tit for being so afraid. His character didn’t react to the attacks like I did – but it didn’t seem to matter.

So, yea. I am very saddened by the loss of this great actor – this stranger who honestly brought some relieving and comforting moments to my life. Thanks, James. You have been appreciated.

Just Being Morbid and Junk

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I go in and out of my death fascination (for lack of a better term) phases. Lately, I have been in one. Like I mentioned in a recent post, a lot of young people have been dying lately and I am thinking that is one of the catalysts to my oddball curiosities  I wouldn’t say it is to a morbid degree. I simply have a deep interest in subjects about dying, afterlife, near death experiences or even the sub-topics like cemeteries and hospice. All it is really is my futile, yet obsessive, desire to figure everything out.

Every since watching my father die at age 46 and especially after having a child, I am petrified of dying. It causes much anxiety – as I have written about in abundance. My dying, loved ones dying, being diagnosed with fatal illnesses…most people can turn these worries off and head back into denial (which clearly is necessary for healthy living). But for some reason, I cannot get my mind to shut the fuck up. Not always, of course, but like I said…in phases.

I think reading and watching and listening to the experienced or the “experts” about death is my attempt to come to grips with this anxiety. When I have a problem that is causing me stress or anguish  I cannot truly rest until I come up with a solution or an answer. I am such a control freak that I need to know I have done all I can do to make the situation better. Once I can be assured of that, I am relieved and can stop worrying about it.

For example..and this is really dumb, but the only thing I can come up with in the moment…I am nervous about the upcoming WI Democratic Convention. It is not a scary thing. I am looking forward to it. But I also have a lot of anxiety because it is out of my comfort zone. A few years ago, I would not have gone. I would not really go anywhere I didn’t feel completely at ease. It really restricted my life. I started forcing myself to do these things and now it isn’t so hard. But it still comes with these mental irritations.

But I was able to put my worries at ease by controlling little aspects of the trip. I looked at a Google Map and realized the drive is pretty simple and it would be pretty difficult to get lost. I have made sure I know where to be and when. I have plenty of people who will be there with whom I feel comfortable. And I have childcare situated. As long as I can complete this mental check lists…I am fine. And really, they have become second nature by now and take little conscious effort most of the time.

Jay Mohr gave a great example of this in a recent WTF podcast episode. He mentioned that he could never figure out why flying never gave him panic attacks, but being safely in a store would. He said his therapist explained that it is all about control. When flying, you know months ahead of time what plane you will be on, where your seat will be, what time you are leaving, what time you are returning, what you will be eating…it is all planned out. So that messed up part of your brain shuts off the worry because there is nothing you have to figure out or control.

But a checklist for death? Fuckin’ forget it. A sense of control? It ain’t happenin’. I have to throw my arms up and leave it to God or nature or some fucking alien kid who is using me as his avatar in some life simulation game…whatever entity or science is controlling my world is the one with the control. Not me. And that really pisses me off.

So the last couple weeks I have been watching a lot of documentaries about death. From near death experiences to end of life healthcare to assisted suicide. They were all very fascinating and as gloomy and weird as it seems, helpful. Here are a few of the ones I watched:

Facing Death – About the emotional, physical and financial costs of prolonging life.

The Suicide Tourist – One man’s journey to Switzerland to end his life before the effects of ALS takes its torturing tolls.

Afterlife – Not the best film I have seen on NDE’s and the afterlife…but it’s interesting. And I love hearing these stories.

The End – Gut-wrenching movie that follows five hospice patients until their end.

And not REALLY related, but kinda…I watched all of the segments of This Emotional Life which was very interesting.

Anyway, while watching these might depress others, it actually helps me. Even if you don’t have these “issues”…they are all worth the watch.

Trying to Get Through This Rough Patch…

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UGHHHHH!!!

I just do not ever get a chance to catch up with my emotions. I can’t seem to get a fucking break.

I have been trying SO hard to come to terms with the heart issues…trying to accept them and learn to live with the symptoms. I know this won’t happen over night. I know this is going to take work and time. But now, more is thrown at me.

Cassidy was sick this past weekend. She was having stomach cramps which would come and go. They appeared to be gas pains. She did have one day of a fever – not even a whole day. After a round of ibuprophen, it was gone. But the tummy issues stuck around until Sunday night. By Monday she was fine. Or so I thought.

A few days ago, I wrote about her experience with what I think was a PANDAS episode.  Well, sure enough…again after an illness, I noticed some eye rolls. I saw a couple last night. I was truly hoping and praying (yes, praying) they were insignificant. But then her teacher told me today that she noticed a few at school.

The teacher only mentioned it because I wrote her a letter about the whole ordeal…shared everything that I did in the blog. She said she has noticed it in the past as well.

I was really hoping it was just a strange event – never to appear again. But it doesn’t look to be the case.

I sent a letter (by fax) today to our Family Doctor. I trust this doctor and have been with her for nearly 20 years. MANY doctors out there straight up do not believe in PANDAS (believe me, I have been reading like a mad woman). I also sent her THIS information. This is very good and interesting information and if you have any interest in this topic, I suggest you read it.I am hoping so much she takes me seriously and doesn’t poo poo it.

I really don’t know what to do at this point. I am going to wait for a response from the doc and HOPE AND PRAY this goes away.

As far as the heart stuff…here is an update…

2 weeks ago I had a conversation with Sunday Muniz at Nutritional Designs. She is always so helpful – being a nutritionist and a pharmacist. VERY very smart. Anyway, she really thought my minerals were probably out of whack. I have heard from a lot of PVC sufferers that magnesium helps a lot. So that was a path I wanted to follow.

She advised me to take a mineral supplement and also said to try a product called Natural Calm at night. Also, I mentioned to her that I was eating about 4-6 cups of baby spinach per day. She said to stop AND limit calcium. The spinach has something called oxalic acid and can mess with the absorbtion of minerals. And calcium competes with the magnesium in the GI tract.

I have taken all of her advice and also started taking epsom salt baths almost daily. This also helps with magnesium absorbtion.

For two weeks – since starting this, I have had very few heart skips (PVCs and PACs). I have been very pleased, but I have not been letting my hopes up.

The true test starts now. Usually 10 days before my period until it is over…that is when my heart goes bonkers. Last month was AWFUL. At least 100 skips a day. There were even moments of skips every 4 beats. And for quite some time, ever minute. It was terrifying. Now, I did feel a couple very slight skips yesterday. And one or two bigger ones today. But my stress level has been VERY high and my sleep has been lacking. These both make a HUGE difference. Anyway, the next 10 days will tell me a lot about how well these changes helping. God, please.

As it turns out, this Natural Calm is also very good for kids with tics and like issues as well. I will be trying this on Cassidy starting tonight. it can’t really hurt and I will be starting with such a small amount.

Anyway…I am just trying to muster through everything right now. I am scared about everything and want to crawl under the covers all day every day. I want this fear to end. I want to have a normal life!!!

Ok. Done whining for the night. Carry on….

 

 

Heart Anxiety – I Cannot Go Through This Again!!

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Boy am I pissed. I feel like I put the car in reverse just to go back to that pit was I able to drive from seemingly long ago. I know it is unhealthy and the worst thing for me…but I cannot seem to get my foot off the accelerator.

GAD – Generalized Anxiety Disorder – is something I deal with on a daily basis. This is no shock or surprise. I am in therapy for it and have been gradually getting better at dealing with it. But the panic, terror and constant fear is something I thought I had left in the dust several years ago. At one time in my life, I was having severe panic attacks almost every single day. That is when I started taking klonopin and since then – I have been pretty ok. No real full blown attacks since. But sadly, I feel myself regressing.

The fear has reintroduced itself to my life and I am trying SO hard to squash it. Just like it was in my 20s, this is all sparked by my heart symptoms. This past week, my PACs (feels like a skipped beat…very noticable) have been much worse than normal. They are always worse the week prior to my period…but this month has been more frequent than usual.

I am letting this consume me. It has taken over. I still try to be normal…cooks meals for the family, clean, shop, even exercise (tho much lighter). But all the while I am filled with anxiety and fear and worry. I am living in a world of what if-s and why me-s.

I have an appointment tomorrow with a cardiologist for a second opinion. Read HERE for more info on that situation. I just learned that all my records may not be ready on time and I am now really pissed off. I feel it is very important he has all the tests to read over. Charlie took off work to bring me and I NEED this to be tomorrow. I cannot wait longer. I have made it my goal that after this consult, I will get back to my normal life and leave this behind. I promised myself. So this needs to happen tomorrow.

My mom works with this Dr. and thinks very highly of him. His staff was excellent in getting me in whenever I wanted and are eager to help me. I feel good about going. But I am worried I won’t have all the info he needs.

I should also say that the staff where my current EP is is also great. They have been helpful and understanding. But I do fear the Dr. may be pushing for a procedure I may not need. I need to be sure.

By this time tomorrow I want to be calm and reassured. I want to laugh and enjoy my life. I deserve it damnit. I will NOT live like this again. Too many years were wasted on constant anxiety attacks…constant terror. I will NOT do that again.

Just a Bunch of Boring Crap

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Well I certainly hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and are looking forward to the New Year. Are ya all amped up? Any resolutions? Are you sick of hearing the word resolution?? I know I am.

I don’t make New Years resolutions because I make them all year-long. And I illustrate them on my Vision Board. Now THAT I need to update. Its old and not really workin’ anymore. I need to freshen it up. Some of the goals will remain the same, but new ones should be added. But all in all, I still have the same desires, wishes and priorities. Weight loss (MUST lose 10 lbs by July), happy family, good marriage, improvement in my writing, letting go of negativity and poor self-image, make some friends (real life friends…not just the online kind)…ya know, basic stuff for which I am always reaching.

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I am finally done with the Heart Event Monitor. It caught some of the PVCs I have been feeling. But it was nothing like it was the previous month…figures. But hopefully, it will be enough to give the Doc enough info to ease my mind. I am going to call them next week to schedule and appointment to go over the results.

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My anxiety has been weird lately. I was almost completely off my anxiety medicine, but I had to start taking it regularly again. I do take WAY less than prescribed and less than what I was taking…but I sure was hoping to stop altogether. I guess I just can’t do that right now. I was starting to get panicky. Especially during the night when trying to sleep. Of course, the triggers are always health/death based. I worry about Cassidy SO much. I imagine the most terrible things – it is truly ridiculous but scary. I just cannot bear the thought of anything bad ever happening to her.

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For some weird reason, I have been watching this show called One Born Every Minute. It is basically a reality based show that lets you peak in as women are in labor and delivery. It’s really been freaking me out. I will be watching one minute stating, ‘There is NO WAY I will ever go through THAT again!!’ And then 10 minutes later…usually when I see the damn kid…I think, “Oh my God, I have to have another baby before it’s too late!!!” I am maternally bipolar.

I know that having a baby would probably not be in my best interest. I am so very tired all of the time as it is. Cassidy is already 7 years old and it would be like starting over almost. Charlie doesn’t want another. I don’t know how my body could handle another labor like the one I had (christ, that was hell…pure hell). I would have to stop taking the anxiety med and probably go into panic mode for 9 months. And it took me 6 years to lose all that weight…I am trying so hard to get my body back at 37 years old; another pregnancy would likely ruin it for good.

But when I think that this is my only life…when I realize that I may one day REALLY regret not having another…I get overwhelmingly depressed. I see how fast Cassidy is growing…how fast Mackenzie grew up and it floors me. As sad as it is, Mackenzie and I just are not that close. I feel like once she is old enough, she will choose to not even come here anymore. That is very depressing. So it will all be on Cassidy to take care of me when I am old LOL. Ugh. Talk about all your eggs in one basket…

Anyway, this whole baby thing has me pretty upset from time to time. I should probably stop watching that show.

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Another show I have been watching is Sons of Anarchy. We started with episode one over the holidays and are now almost finished with season 3. I am obsessed. I just love a good drama that keeps you wanting more. Breaking Bad, Dexter, Homeland (god, is THAT a great show), Big C, Weeds, The Closer…there aren’t many…but I sure love a good drama.

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I have been volunteering at the Recall Walker headquarters for the past couple months. Only once a week, taking signatures. I feel like I should be doing so much more. I am just a shitty activist, I guess. But its better than nothing, right? It will all be over in about a week. Ugh. I am nervous. But I don’t want to get into any political yakky yak right now…enough of that on Patch.

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Oh hell. I am so tired. I know this post was lame as shit. I promise to make a better attempt soon. Have a good night y’all.

Awake and Terrified

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I can’t stop crying tonight. It is 10:30 and I really need sleep. But I am afraid to close my eyes. I am afraid I won’t wake up. The thought of leaving my daughter, my family…it is so intense that I am certain I need to go back to the shrink.

Tonight my PVCs/PACs (not sure which) have been significantly worse than normal. To explain it the best I can – they feel like my heart stopping. In fact, if I am taking my pulse, I will feel it stop. When it happens, it catches my breath and I feel a weird surge…probably adrenaline – which I hate. I hate hate hate adrenaline. Anyway, I have been told these are benign. That they won’t kill me. Somehow, those words do not help – not even sure I believe them.

They were really bad for a while…but then the beta blocker helped a lot. Anxiety medicine helped even more. I probably still had them, just noticed them less. I continued to have increases the week before my period – they are definitely affected by hormones. And I found that apple cider vinegar helped a lot as well. But for some reason, today is worse than usual. Even with extra ACV. I took a little extra of my beta blocker too – which the Dr. always suggested during bad times. And I think it is starting to help. But when I lay down I still feel it every few minutes or so.

I know I need to get a grip. This will likely be with me forever. I need to learn to deal with it and live my life. And really, I have been for a long time now. For some reason, tonight has shifted me backwards. I have been through this before. I have had this conversation with myself a million times. I am alive now, and I need to live while I can. Instead of freaking out, crying, reading the internet and taking my pulse – I need to spend time with my family. I need to lay with my daughter and laugh with my husband and vice versa. Unfortunately, they are sleeping right now so you are stuck with me, dear website.

It is all about acceptance. I need to accept that I have this shitty condition. I need to accept that with or without a heart problem, I can die at any moment. I need to accept that I will never have ANY control over death. I need to accept that all I have is RIGHT NOW. Once I accomplish these, it won’t matter if these fuckers are benign. It won’t matter if the docs are lying. It won’t matter what the tests say. Living in the moment is truly what it is all about. How do I get there? How do I do that??

If I don’t wake up, please remind my family often how much I love them. Please do not let Cassidy forget me or what she meant to me. Help Charlie guide her through life so that she becomes strong, confident and happy. And don’t you dare let Charlie replace me with some dumb ass bitch. 😉

Clean as a Whistle…Well…Almost

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So I am almost med free. Well…perhaps not compared to the average 37 year old…but much better than I was!! At the beginning of this summer I was taking the following:

300 mg of Wellbutrin

300 mg (I think?) of Lamictal

1 mg of Klonopin

5mg Zyrtec

 

Now I am taking:

150 mg Wellbutrin (will be stopping but not sure when…soon…worried about increased appetite)

ZERO Lamictal

.5 mg Klonopin EVERY OTHER day

5mg Zyrtec ONLY as needed (was daily…now maybe once a week)

I still take the beta blocker for my heart issues as well as quite a few supplements and vitamins. I am fine with that. I am really quite pleased and haven’t noticed much difference once the withdraw for the Lamictal stopped. I DO feel more tired than usual. And perhaps a little less motivated. But not enough to take more pills. I need to have another talk with Sunday Muniz at Nutritional Designs to make sure I am taking the right vitamins in the right doses. Hopefully that will help with the sleepiness. But, I also realize that I have felt this way (tired) since I was a kid. I slept my way through high school and not the fun kind of “sleeping” either. So I may have to be okay with feeling this way forever.

I don’t think psychiatric medications are bad in general. I think MANY people absolutely need them to function. I think they have helped me as well. 6 years ago, my panic attacks were so debilitating weren’t for the klonopin, I would have had NO life. Jesus they were horrible and much too frequent. That medication saved my life.

But I also think that they over medicate people to the point where no one knows what “normal” feels like anymore. I think mental docs typically take 20 minutes to diagnosed and treat and they are so quick to whip out that Rx pad. And if one med doesnt work? Add another…and perhaps another…and….ugh. No thanks. I got to the point where I didn’t know what was me, the illnesses or the medication effects. What a medicinal cluster-fuck.

I know it is weird to share all this so publically. But I am not the only one out there who deals with this shit, so if even just the familarity can ease one’s mind…it is worth it to me. I know that hearing the stories of others helps me when I am having a hard time. It is often a relief to know that there are others like me and that they have made it through the rougher patches. So there. 😉