Eat Me

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TRIGGER WARNING: This post may contain triggers that some people may want to avoid. These triggers relate to anxiety, panic, health anxiety and potential side effects of anti-depressants. If this is something that may trigger your own anxiety or panic or unwell feelings, you may want to skip this post.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a medical professional. I am simply documenting my experience with anxiety and panic. The tools and/or medications I have tried/used are not recommended for others nor are they endorsements.  You should speak to your family doctor about your own health and the options that are best for you.

I have gone down another rabbit hole.

I am in the land of prescription drugs; anti-depressants. Zoloft to be precise.

It is not a trip I wanted to take. I tried everything to avoid anti-depressants. Yoga, meditation, breathing, therapy, books and a visit to the hormone doctor.

Some of these things helped a bit. Others, not so much. Nothing helped entirely.

I went to my family doctor on Wednesday (last week) which was a feat in and of itself. Leaving my house has become very stressful (almost impossible) and usually involves Ativan. I think I realized a couple of weeks ago that this was not working. It has been five months and I am really no better off than I was in December. My anxiety is debilitating. My panic is off the charts. My mind races with obsessive thoughts thanks to my health anxiety. Fun times.

I received the prescription for Zoloft (25 mg) on Wednesday but I wouldn’t start it until there was someone here with me. I know that sounds completely ridiculous but the last time I was on anti-depressants in December, they made my heart race (you can read about that here).

If there are any doctors or healthcare professionals reading this, do humanity a favour: Do not plant seeds in people’s brains who are susceptible to psychosomatic thoughts and feelings. I told my doctor not to plant seeds in my head. So you know what she did? She planted a forest! I kid you not.

Are you suicidal? Are you seeing or hearing things that other people are not?

Thankfully, no and no.

You may experience diarrhea, upset stomach, insomnia and some other side effects.

Great, thanks for setting me up for failure.

Are you manic?

I don’t know what that is.

She explained that manic is when you don’t sleep for three days and have a ton of energy and might do something dramatic like hop on a plane at the last minute to go on an adventure.

Um, no. I can’t go to the grocery store down the street so I don’t see how I’m going to decide on a last minute plane trip to Portugal. Now that you have planted that seed, I will be sure to obsess over whether I am manic or not. Thanks doc.

I started taking Zoloft on Friday, in the morning. My parents came to babysit me.

Now that I am on the pills, I am waiting to have suicidal thoughts or to hallucinate. Why are doctors so dumb sometimes? Why plant seeds? Especially when I told her not to plant any seeds?! I am thinking my doctor is book smart but is really lacking common sense.

Apart from waiting for the worst to happen, here is what the experience has been like thus far.

Day One/Friday:  I had an upset stomach all day. I didn’t really have an appetite. I was nauseous. On a scale of 1 to 10, the nausea was probably a 4. Not bad. However, I spent a lot of time in the washroom with soft stools (sorry, TMI!). As expected, I spent the day obsessing about whether I was going to have suicidal thoughts and/or hallucinate unicorns and leprechauns (thanks so much doc!).

Day Two/Saturday: Talk about crazy dreams! Wow! I was woken up around 4am with the craziest dreams. I couldn’t get back to sleep until around 5:30am. When I woke up again around 8am, I was hot and my heart rate was a bit fast (around 106 BPM). I got up and showered and sat on my bed to look at Facebook. I was relaxed. I wasn’t anxious or panicky and I hadn’t even had my second pill yet. I stood up from the bed and I felt my heart rate soar!  I took my heart rate and it was 124 BPM. I started to freak out a bit. I laid down in bed, ate some breakfast and took my second pill. The rest of the day, my heart rate was fine. I had two visits to the washroom with loose stool but my stomach was fine the remainder of the day.  I wasn’t nauseous but my stomach was gurgling really loud all day and night. I ate breakfast and snacked throughout the day. I had a full dinner. I spent a lot of the afternoon waiting to hallucinate or have suicidal thoughts (again, thanks doctor!).

Day Three/Sunday (Today):  Thankfully, I didn’t have any crazy dreams but I did wake up at 4am again. Sigh. That sucks, but I guess it could be worse. I fell back to sleep around 5:30am again and slept until 8. I got a total of 8 1/2 hours sleep which is great. When I woke up at 8am, I was really hot and my heart rate was slightly elevated (in the high 90’s). I tried to ignore it. I got up and showered and took my third pill.  It is 11am now here and I am hopeful the rest of the day will be good. I am super scared for tomorrow because I will be home alone. Kids will be at school and my husband will be at work. The perfect storm for high anxiety. I am scared I will spend the day in my bed obsessing over the potential side effects.

As an aside, my eyes have been burning but that could be sinus problems (the weather in Ontario, Canada has been up and down and has caused me to have sinus headaches).

Also, I have a really bad taste in my mouth. I am thinking that is the pill but it isn’t a big deal at all.

As for my anxiety and panic, I have not had a panic attack since starting the pill but I am only on day three. Placebo effect? Maybe. I will take it, thanks very much! I definitely feel more relaxed, my heart rate overall has decreased slightly. I didn’t leave the house this weekend and have no interest in doing so just yet. Hopefully that will come.

So there you have it.

If I could just get a handle on my obsessive thinking, I would say that so far, this drug doesn’t have bad side effects at all (for me and my body).  A little upset stomach is nothing to complain about if it will take away my anxiety and panic. I’m a bit tired but I don’t know if that is the medicine or the anxiety or the stress of starting the new pill. I’m not lethargic so that’s good.

I will continue to update as the week progresses.  If you have a positive Zoloft story, I would love to hear it.  Please do not post any negative comments or experiences about Zoloft as I am too open to suggestion and need only positive support right now.

© The Flip of the Switch, April 2016.

 

 

Red Alert, Shields Up!

USS Enterprise

 

Do you check your pulse?

I do.

All. The. Time.

Suffice it to say, I have health anxiety. Full out, freak out, stress out health anxiety.

I describe it as,

An irrational fear of illness and/or death due to the inability to logically explain certain physical sensations during a specific period of time whereby the anxiety and panic are relieved once the physical sensations(s) subside.

Case in point:

Today, I was sitting on the couch. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and I was enjoying a cup of tea. A picture postcard morning.

All of a sudden, out of no where, I felt like I was being smothered, I couldn’t take a deep breath and my stomach started hurting. Ah, the infamous stomach ache. How I despise thee. Commence the racing heart, sweating and thoughts of sheer terror and I had officially entered the domain of a psychiatric war zone. Having said that however, when it happens, you don’t know that it’s “all in your head” and that you aren’t actually in any “real” danger. You just think you are about to die and that your poor children will come home from school and see you lying in a pile of your own vomit on the bathroom floor with your pants pulled down to your ankles.

Seriously.

It’s pretty fucked up, eh?!

I raced to the washroom where I proceeded to do what one does in the washroom. But, what I am quite sure is the anomaly, I panicked. Over a stomach ache. A naturally occurring, quite necessary, physical action that all humans experience. Why, why, why?

The logical side of me will explain.

I am in a constant, heightened sense of reality. I am on the alert to recognize any physical sensation that is out of the “norm” or which I cannot logically explain. Once discovered, within a millisecond, I irrationally decide whether to ignore it or whether I should sound the alarm and proceed down the spiralling abyss into the psychiatric war zone.

Nine times out of ten I choose the spiralling abyss to hell.

It is so easy to sit here now, without a stomach ache, and logically explain what happens during an attack of this magnitude. While it is occurring however, there is no logic. The logical part of your brain shuts down and you enter a realm of disillusion, confusion and terror.

There could be no rational explanation for my stomach ache. It was something that was threatening my existence and as a result, I entered fight or flight mode. A logical outsider with the same experience would think, “Oh, I have to poo”.

Not me.

I think “Holy shit, something terrible is happening.  Red alert!  Shields up!  Set phasers to stun and ready photon torpedoes!

Seriously.

This is my life with a stomach ache.
With health anxiety.
With a raging hormonal imbalance.
With panic.

It’s not just stomach aches that can now set me in to a state of sheer panic. Any unexplained physical sensation can send me into the brink of instability and down the path of panic. It can be my racing heart, a hot flash, a pulled muscle or a urinary tract infection.

It has been about five months now since the switch was flipped and I jumped down this rabbit hole of anxiety. I have tried an SSRI (I had a bad reaction so I came off it), yoga, therapy and vitamins. I have not tried the bio-identical hormones yet as my family doctor is concerned there may be an increased risk given my strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer. I think it might be time to try a different anti-depressant. I feel like I have exhausted the natural remedies and I just don’t want to feel like this all of the time. I want to be able to have a normal stomach ache. Like a normal person.

Yah, yah, I hate the word normal too. But I long to be normal.

So there you have it. My day in a nut shell. It went from calm and relaxing to intensely horrifying in the blink of an eye.

Damn you anxiety.

Damn you panic.

Damn you hormonal roller coaster.

Do you experience anything similar? Do you have health anxiety? Do you struggle with finding logic and rational thought during a panic attack? What tools do you use to help your anxiety and/or panic? Are you on an anti-depressant? Please share your story. Your experience, tips, tools and knowledge will help me and others.

Yours in panic,
The Flip

© The Flip of the Switch, March 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wall of Jealousy & Deceit

 

mysterious brick wall

It is so easy for you to sit there in your house, near or far, and judge me and my circumstances.

You don’t call.

You don’t text.

You don’t write.

You know nothing about me, my family or what is happening in our lives. Yet, you think you can judge me and you think you know what’s best for me.

Why is that?

How can you possibly know what is best for me when you don’t speak with me? You barely make an effort to communicate, to ask me how I am doing, yet you think you know what I need.

On top of this, you advise others they are enabling me.

That makes no sense.

Furthermore, you have given others ultimatums. Advising them they cannot have a relationship with you AND me.

You can’t be serious. There must be some mistake because asking my family and friends to choose between you and me is asinine. On top of this, upon confrontation, you denied your actions.

Your pathetic attempt at deceit is embarrassing.

Telling people they are sitting on the fence and must choose a side.

You are building walls.  Barriers.  You are doing yourself and your family a disservice.

But, you are blind to it.

Sitting upon your high horse thinking you know of what you speak.

You couldn’t be further from the truth.

You are failing beyond measure.

You must be so jealous.

So insecure.

Forcing individuals to choose.

A weak hand instigates such nonsense.

The green eyed monster has a grip on you and your behaviour is embarrassing. I am embarrassed for you. I am ashamed of your behaviour. Such an epic failure. Very disappointing.

It has to be jealousy and insecurity.

There are people here who have relationships with my children. Who are close to me. Who I confide in. We support one another. It is not one sided. There is no enabling going on. It is called a reciprocal friendship. We are there for each other. They have active roles in my life that you don’t.

Oh…and you there, yes you. You are probably thinking this doesn’t apply to you. That it only applies to one person. That is not accurate. This may indeed apply to you. I have heard all of your judgement too. The comments whispered behind closed doors. Careful to ensure I don’t find out.

There are no secrets in this family.

The walls have ears.

I don’t take kindly to ultimatums. Hearing you are forcing others to turn their back on me. How childish. Such nonsense is usually restricted to the playground. You are an epic disappointment. I thought so highly of you. I thought we were friends. I thought I could trust you.

I was wrong.

Upon your return to reality, there will be no fanfare.  No door for you to walk in.  You have built this wall. You can figure out how to tear it down and rebuild the relationships you have squandered out of your jealousy, fear and insecurity.

 

 

© The Flip of the Switch, March 2016.

 

 

Hormonal Roller Coaster

Tiger & Turtle  Magic Mountain - Duisburg - Deutschland

This blog post discusses women’s health issues and other things that would make my husband squirm, gag and possibly vomit. You’ve been warned.

I met with a new family doctor who specializes in women’s health and more specifically, hormonal balance.

Amen.

Up in the great, white north (a.k.a. Canada) our health care is provided by the province and is funded, for the most part, by our taxes.  We do not usually pay to go to a family doctor or the hospital.  Nor do we usually pay for X-rays, vaccinations and the like.

Having said that, we can access certain medical tests and practitioners quicker and easier if we choose to go private and pay for these services.  This new doctor that I met is just that.  She is a family doctor but, she has chosen to open a private clinic that is not funded by the provincial government as it is outside the realm of their financial responsibility.  Apparently, hormonal balance just isn’t a provincial priority.

I opted to try the private route because I cannot continue to live in this perpetual state of chaos.  A constant state of panic, anxiety and the general sense that I am losing my fucking mind.

I scheduled an appointment a while back and it was for this week.  Leading up to my appointment, I had twelve vials of blood sucked out of me which were mostly covered under our provincial health plan. Phew!

In a nutshell, I am estrogen dominant.

This is exactly what I told my other family doctor back in November when I first started having symptoms of perimenopause.  I told her I thought this was all hormonal and she said, “It can’t be, you’re too young”.

I have gone through three and a half months of hell because my family doctor didn’t believe this could all be hormones and I didn’t believe myself.  I should have believed in myself but I didn’t.  Sigh.

This new doctor went through my family history (which is a complete gene swamp), my symptoms (good lord, it was a long conversation) and then she went over my blood test results.

Estrogen dominance.

Part of me wanted to stand up and scream “Eureka!”.

I should have.

But I didn’t.

A lost opportunity.  Oh well.

It turns out, during one’s luteal phase (the last two weeks of your cycle), estradiol should be below 790 pmol/L.

Mine was over 1,000 pmol/L.

Boom!  There it is!

Estrogen dominance.

On top of that, I have low progesterone;  I don’t have enough progesterone to balance out (lower) the estradiol.

Eureka!

I’m not losing my fucking mind after all!

Well I am, but at least we know the cause!

In addition, I have very little vitamin D (which affects mood) and also need to supplement with B Complex and magnesium (which will apparently help my anxiety).

Say it with me…

Eureka!

To balance out the estrogen, I am starting bio-identical progesterone cream.  I am starting on the lowest dose and it is a cream I will rub into my forearms the last two weeks of my cycle.

There could be side effects such as bloating and increased anxiety (God help me!), but we are talking about my quality of life and right now, it sucks so I am willing to try the progesterone cream to see what happens.

Oh, and I have a urinary tract infection. Everything else just wasn’t enough. Peeing blood is the icing on the cake.  Why not freak out the anxious, panicky girl by making her pee blood!  Someone up there is having a good laugh!  Seriously.  Please pass the antibiotics and someone fetch me a martini. Fun times.

So there you have it.

I am indeed losing my mind, but thankfully we have identified the cause.  My hormones are riding a roller coaster through hell.

When will this chaotic, nauseating, heart palpitating, panic filled ride end?

They say perimenopause can last years.

YEARS!

I said it before and I’ll say it again.

In my next life I’m coming back as a sexy man.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Gimme Some Love

IMG_6142

Love is in the air…and on the door!

It’s the season of love so we are gearing up for Valentine’s Day!

This idea has been floating around social media for a few weeks.  I’m not sure of the original source as so many people have shared it and reposted it.  My sincere thanks to whomever the brilliant, innovative person is who thought this up.

Here’s how it works. Starting February 1st, every night while they are sleeping, you tack a heart to your child’s bedroom door professing what you love about them.  Super simple to do and the impact is huge!  Here are some example of what I have written:

You are a really good friend.

You always look after everyone and make sure they’re okay.

We are so proud of you.  Proud of who you are.  Proud of what you do.

You are so artistic!  Your art is amazing!

You are beautiful, inside and out!

My children wake up so excited to see what has been added to their doors.  A little tidbit of love to start their day off on the right foot and fill them with all of my love.  The bonus is that it delays the sibling fighting for all of five minutes! Hahaha!  But seriously, it is a little thing that warms them and reminds them how much we love them.

You could do this for your significant other too!  You could tape hearts full of love on the bathroom mirror for them to read while getting ready in the morning or maybe sneak them into their bag/purse or tape them to the dashboard of their car. That would be such a nice surprise!

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?  How do you show your love?

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

It is all a Facade

 

Portrait of a beautiful woman

Look at me.

Really look at me.

What do you see?

You likely see a woman who is put together quite well.  Beautifully styled hair. Flattering make up. Conservative clothing;  perhaps leggings, a designer sweater, high boots and a favourite handbag.

You are probably thinking that I have it all. The house, the car, the wardrobe, the successful husband.

Well, I don’t.

I do not have it all.

It’s all a facade.

Created to trick you into thinking that I have it all.

It masks my internal despair.

For on the inside, I am in a state of emergency.  Always on red alert.  Wildly searching for my sanity.  Terrified that I am going to die or go insane.  Scared to be alone. Trapped in my mind.

Yes, when you see me, I look well put together.  I am a pillar of strength.  A woman who can take on anything, be anything.  A woman thought highly of in the community.  A woman that people can lean on, depend on, confide in.  A woman of unparalleled character.

And yet, I have lost myself.

On the outside, it is all a facade.

 

© The Flip of the Switch, January 2016.

 

 

Someone Was Here

Inukshuk on the coast in Eastern Passage, Canada

Where were you?

Ah yes, selfishly tucked away somewhere trying to bury the guilt wrestling your soul. Too dependent to leave, not strong enough to stay.

The ultimate battle.

It wasn’t that I asked for help, it wasn’t that I told you I needed you.  That would have been a different story.  In fact, it was you that announced you were coming to help me, wanted to be here for me, support me, love me.  It was you who made phone calls to ensure people knew you were compassionate, caring and ready to take action.

All to save your own face.

The guilt wasn’t that you weren’t here to help me. The guilt was that you were worried people were judging you, questioning your decisions, your loyalty.

The reality, of course, is that you should have been here.

You should have been the one to lead me through the darkness, help me redefine myself and help me to function within the confines of anxiety and panic.

Yes, it should have been you.

But it wasn’t.

It was a select few of my dearest friends and family who guided me through this storm, wiped my tears and gave me the strength to persevere.  It was this small group of warriors who came together to check on me every day, offer their time and calm me in a panic.

Someone was here, but it wasn’t you.

Each day that passes, my mindset improves, my confidence grows.

I should have known you wouldn’t be here. I suppose that’s why I didn’t ask.

Your actions were driven by your need to look good to others; so terribly selfish and yet, not surprising.

Your insecurity is difficult to hide, dependency unparalleled.

As I write this, I can’t help but think what will happen if you read it.

It suddenly occurs to me that I don’t care.

I can sleep at night with the choices I have made.

Can you?

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

1980

Mystic Keyhole

1980.  That was the year of change. That is when you left.  Too self absorbed to fathom the chaotic impact you had on me.  Too taken aback by lust to understand that you had stolen my heart and damaged it beyond repair.  At the time, I was blind to the repercussions your actions would have on my life.  I was naive to think that you would ever be able to put me first, love me as a father should.  As a little girl, control was not something I possessed and my childish thoughts and dreams were in fact, unattainable fantasies.  As I recall my early childhood, I am reminded of what once was.  But I know now, it was all an illusion.  A child learns to repress the negative at an early age, to foster resiliency; emotional survival.  But alas, my attempts at regression have failed. My reality has caught up with me, my childhood illusions have become unravelled.  As I look through the keyhole to my soul, I know that you changed me, your actions caused irreparable damage to my heart and to my mind. Damage that has poisoned my adult life.  Here I sit, reminiscent of all the decisions you made; all of your poor choices.  The ripple effect is unparalleled, you hurt so many people, impacted the destiny of so many lives.  All consciously. You had choices to make and you consistently chose wrong.  You looked into my eyes and lied; filled me with hope and dreams and quashed them like no other. How do I come to peace with that?  As a grown woman, I am angry and furiously disappointed. I must however, realize those were not my choices and I had no control over you.  I must let go of my resentment so that I can thrive and live a happier life.  I am taking control now and I refuse to be dictated by my childhood fears and disenchanted dreams. For while you were once everything, now you are nothing.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

 

Spinning

To turn as squirrel in wheel

My mind is full of panic. Spinning on the wheel of chaos. The anxiety is suffocating, I can’t breathe. Triggered by the physical sensations occurring throughout my body. My stomach hurts. My thoughts are racing. My heart is beating hard and fast. I’m shaky. Wait, am I starting to sweat? Why is it so hot in here? There must be something very wrong for me to feel shaky, hot and sweaty. It couldn’t be that I just changed over the laundry and walked up a flight of stairs. No, there’s no room for logic here. Only irrational thoughts are allowed to take up residence in my mind. The stomach ache. Oh, it won’t go away. I hate IBS. I’m going to die in the washroom like Elvis Presley. Seriously. These are the thoughts I have. These are the completely irrational, illogical, false thoughts I have all the time. Health anxiety. You bitch. There is no escape. Sigh. Pull yourself together. It is just a stomach ache. Not a big deal. Sit down. Give it a minute. But I’m shaky. Yah, you haven’t eaten breakfast yet. It’s so bloody hot and I’m sweating.It is just from doing laundry and walking up the stairs. My heart. Oh my god, my heart is beating fast. Yes, you just walked up the stairs. You don’t exercise, you are out of shape. Anyone’s heart would beat a little faster walking up the stairs. It is normal. It happens to everyone.

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4…Exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Oh logic, how I have missed thee. Where the hell were you? Don’t ever leave me again! I’m calming down.  I’m not as hot. My heart is returning to its happy place. Writing it down helps.  It almost forces me to look at the logical side instead of just letting my mind spin on the wheel of chaotic thought! The spinning is hard to stop. How much time has passed? Maybe fifteen minutes, maybe longer. I’m not sure. I lost track of time. The minutes blurred together.

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4…Exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

The spinning has stopped. Time to move on with my day. Try to forget this happened. Logic, you better stay strong, I have a lot to accomplish today.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.

2016 Reading List

libro antico aperto

Take me to your world.  Let me whisper among the fairies, sleep upon the moss and fall in love with a prince.  Let me fight aboard a pirate ship, soar above the clouds and rest in the arms of a gallant knight. Take me to your world.  Let me escape mine, but for a moment.
The Flip of the Switch, 2016.

In my effort to hold myself accountable, I have added a page to my website to document the books I have read in 2016.  I would very much like to read at least one book a week. I am trying to minimize my excessive binge watching of Netflix and stimulate my mind through books instead.  Quite a novel idea.

Here is the link to my 2016 Reading List.  I would love to hear your recommendations.  I am always looking for a good book to get lost in.

© The Flip of the Switch, February 2016.