Anxiety is No Walk in the Park

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Today I woke up with quite a bit anxiety. It’s the sort of anxiety where it feels like you will die. Lately I have been missing my family a lot. I could teach a master class in codepency. Up until a year ago I lived with my family for over eight years. I got to spend every day with my nieces and nephew. I was able to experience them growing up and I loved every minute. Last May that all changed when I moved out. I went from seeing them everyday to going months without seeing them. It broke my heart and I had severe anxiety over the loss. It felt unfathomable. After my Mom died in 2012, I became even more codependent to my family to the point where I feared leaving the house, in case something happened.

It was an unhealthy attachment. The fear was preventing me from moving forward with my life. I made my family my center and it crumbled under my feet. I felt lost. Like floating into outer space without a tether. It felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest. It’s difficult to adjust to life where your family is no longer your center. Not to mention that in order to get affordable housing I had to live in a homeless shelter for almost two months. It was a very scary time in my life. I had few possessions to my name and had hit rock bottom. It was torture knowing that the kids would continue to grow up without me. At least not on a daily basis.

After a few months of homelessness I finally found my own place. A one bedroom apartment in a nice small town. It was one step towards stability and independence. Even still it was very scary to do it alone. As each month passed it became easier to cope with the loss. I went from seeing the kids all the time to hardly at all. It’s been really difficult. It finally got to the point where it didn’t feel like I was going to die from the disconnection. I missed the kids dearly but I had accepted that things had changed. I needed to rebuild my foundation to where I was the center of my universe. It’s not been easy. I spend most of my days alone. If it weren’t for my therapist I wouldn’t see anyone. At my worst I don’t even leave my apartment. I’m talking about days.

The last six months have been very difficult. I was hospitalized in January for a suicidal plan. It was the first time I was ever close to do something. That loss finally became unbearable and the only way to cope with the loss was death. Thankfully I had a few friends who cared enough to notice. I was in the hospital for two weeks and started to accept that I was now on my own. I stopped killing myself over not being able to see the kids. I had to let go. It was doing me in. Somehow I was outside the family circle and it was difficult to overcome.

Recent changes to my psych medicine sent me into a deep depression that led me to be admitted to a partial hospitalization program. I hadn’t been this depressed since 2013, after my Mom died the year before. I went weeks without leaving my apartment. I was in complete darkness. I was holding my sanity because of my birthday coming up and I always spend it with my family. I hadn’t seen the kids much this year and all I wanted to do was spend a few days with them. Then I went downhill and it didn’t look like that was going to happen. Again I was devastated. Thankfully I wasn’t hospitalized and was able to go to my sisters. I spent a week there and it was the best week I had since before my Mom died. A few days before I left for home I started to feel the same kind of anxiety. I thrived on every minute I could spend at my sisters. I didn’t even care that I didn’t spend all day with them. Just being in the same house was great. I wasn’t alone.

The time I spent with my younger niece was both wonderful and sad. I knew my days with her were coming to the end. I didn’t know how long it would be until I saw her again. I felt a deep sorrow that I can’t even begin to explain. To make matters worse she’s started to grow up on me. She doesn’t need me as much as she did. She’s very independent. I cherished every last minute I got to spend with her. I loved the times where we played Mario Kart on my switch. I wished those moments could last forever but they didn’t. The last day was the best but also the saddest. I spent a good hour bird watching with my niece. It reminded me of the days when I lived with her. We’d go outside and play for hours. One of my last memories of our time together is when we played school together. You never realize when those moments will be your last, in terms of phases in a child’s life. The days of playing house are over and that makes me sad.

The anxiety was crippling that weekend. When they dropped me off at my apartment on Sunday I was a sobbing mess. I didn’t want to leave my niece. It felt like I was going to lose it. Thankfully I started the partial program the next day. My meds were adjusted and my anxiety lessened considerably. It was tolerable. Granted the first part of the week I was taking xanax. The past few days I have been waking up feeling the same way, feeling lost without my family and I don’t care for it at all. My mind starts to wonder when the anxiety becomes unbearable. I start to have suicidal ideations. Thankfully they’re fleeting. Just quick thoughts.

This last weekend was tough after a week of structure. By Sunday, I had started to become depressed again. By Monday morning I didn’t want to leave my apartment. I was very close to not attending group that day but I pushed myself. I was glad once I got there, as I had a really good day. That’s until my atrial flutter caused me to almost pass out. I couldn’t walk very far without getting light headed. I had to see the cardiologist right away as my resting heart rate was high. My cardiologist increased my med that helps control my heart beat but it takes a while to take place. So this morning I had a hard decision to make. I really wanted to go to group but I was afraid of passing out. I tried to walk to the elevator but quickly became out of breath. I knew that if I pushed myself physically I would be right where I was yesterday. Things got so bad that I had to be wheeled to the front of the building, in an office chair. While I had felt light headed I had never been so close to passing out. It was extremely scary. Thankfully I was sitting down when it happened but it made me realize how careful I need to be. If I fainted and hit my head it could be serious.

As much as I wanted to go I couldn’t risk it. Which made me really sad. I really enjoy the groups. Today I haven’t really been depressed but my anxiety has been high. I want to go to my sisters. I texted my niece and held onto every last word, like I always do. I’m just very sad. I wish I could see my family often but the reality is that’s not possible right now. It would be easier if I had a life of my own, which I don’t. I’m disabled, poor and without a car. I don’t have any close friends. So I have all the time in the world to miss them. I probably have another week of group and I worry about what happens after. I will go back to no structure and being alone. I don’t want to get this depressed again. I just want to not feel this anxiety anymore. It makes me feel helpless. It’s like a monster you can’t see, it’s that scary. You just have to wait it out and that’s my only choice right now.

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Nobody Wants to Die Alone

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When I came out to my parents in 1995 my father told me that I would die alone, in the hospital of AIDS. That I had always wanted to lose weight and I would from AIDS. I would die alone in the hospital. That the friends I thought I had wouldn’t show up when I was dying. I was just out of high school and unsure of the world. These messages I have carried with me since then. Most people fear dying alone, I think. I took his falsehoods as fact. Dying alone was hard wired deep into my subconscious. It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind.

The fear is amplified by the fact that I don’t have children. I have been single for nearly ten years and these days I don’t want a relationship. So this only adds to the fear of being alone for the rest of my life. Honestly most of my life I have been alone. So I should be used to it by now but I’m not. It’s one thing to be alone in your life but another thing to die alone.

Death has always scared me senseless due to the fact that I don’t know what I believe in terms of the afterlife. Will I just turn to dust or will I move to the next stage of consciousness. I just don’t know. If I believed in the afterlife definitely then I would have some comfort at the idea of dying because eventually I will see my loved ones again. I have no clue what will happen when I die. I start to panic anytime I think about it.

I avoided anything related to death. Anytime a loved one died it brought it to the forefront of my mind and it always scared me to the core. This was especially true when my Mom died in 2012. After that I haven’t been able to get away from it. Recently I had a premonition that I was going to die. I was recently diagnosed with atrial flutter. As my doctor was taking longer than usual listening to my chest I started to worry. Then when she said I would need an EKG I for sure thought I was having a heart attack. Was this my time I thought. It was irrational but it felt real.

Thankfully my the rest of my heart seems to be normal, other than the flutter. In order to get my heart back into normal rhythm I have to have a procedure called cardioversion. I must take blood thinners to prevent blood clots in the heart. This is especially true when I have the procedure done. I was supposed to have it done this week but my blood wasn’t thinned enough. Now I have to wait another month, which is problematic because anytime I exert myself it makes me light headed.

My current health has brought my mortality to the front of the line. While the procedure is fairly safe there is risk of blood clots. If they leave the heart then I could have a stroke. What’s most scary is that they basically restart your heart using paddles on your chest. That’s just an image that I don’t want illustrated. So as I waited Friday morning in the hospital waiting room I saw families and friends waiting for loved ones. This triggered me horribly as I had no one to go with. I was alone. Ever since then it’s all I can think of. If something was to happen while I was under I would have died the way my father said. There isn’t anything more sad and tragic than to die alone.

I already struggle with being alone most the time. If it wasn’t for my therapist I wouldn’t see anyone regularly. I have few friends that I see in person. Sure I have friends on facebook but they’re not a substitute for people you hang out with. Many live out of state. Now my fear is amplified and I’m even more desperate for connection. Sadly making close friends isn’t like growing sea monkeys. There are no instant friendship, well not usually.

For now I have to cope with these feelings and fears the best I can. The night before the procedure I was overcome with anxiety from the fear of dying. I finally had to come to peace if it was my time there would be nothing I could do. I felt a sense of peace. That it won’t matter when I’m dead, I won’t feel anything like the loss of my loved ones. At least I hope not. I have suffered enough in this lifetime I hope that when I die I’m at peace finally. You’re forced to deal with mortality as you grow older. With each year you move closer to the front of the line. Then there’s the whole no guarantee aspect to life. Long life isn’t given to everyone. I don’t want to be that person, no one does. I have too much left to accomplish before I do. I feel like I have wasted time already. I want to leave something behind, like my comic book.

I have had the idea for over five years but my mental illness has kept me away from anything good. So I feel like I’m fighting against time both with my mortality and the disease. I have two major players constantly fighting me. So it’s a lot to cope with let alone the fear of death. It’s just another added level of complexity to my life and I have no choice but to deal with it.

It’s Going to Be Okay

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A few months ago my psychiatrist started to tinker with my medicine, in the hopes of finding something that would relieve my depression. I have been on Zoloft for almost a year and I was still getting very depressed. I would cycle in and out of mini bouts of depressive episodes. Usually I was able to bounce back if I showered or got out of the house. After about a week of misery from not showering and living in a messy apartment I’m usually pushed to do something about it. My latest depressive episode has been completely different.

At first we tried Abilify but that made me gain over thirty pounds. Then we switched to Vraylar and that didn’t work. I tried Pristiq and that made me a zombie. Slowly my depression worsened over the last month. I could feel it creep up on me and I was unable to stop it. With the Pristiq making me numb it made the symptoms of depression even worse. I felt nothing, yet I was crippled and unable to do anything.

Usually I only leave the apartment to go to therapy, which is once a week but recently I have had heart issues and had to miss a few weeks. Then my therapist went on vacation. So I spent over a week not leaving my apartment. It got so bad that my neighbor noticed that I hadn’t been out of my apartment and became concerned enough to knock on my door. When I didn’t answer she left a note saying if she didn’t hear from me by the next day she was going to have the police do a wellness check. So I answered the door. The first time she knocked I was sleeping and thought she was my one neighbor who is pushy and nosey. It felt good that someone cared enough to check on me. I don’t really have people like that in my life.

I had no energy to do anything. I spent money I didn’t have on pizza delivery and hide in the darkness. My sleep schedule was completely off. I was going to bed around noon and wasn’t waking up until late in the evening. I became a vampire. I couldn’t control it. I was helpless and hopeless. My thoughts about suicide were just a matter of fact. I wasn’t really suicidal but when I had thoughts they were serious. It was like something was turned off in me and I had no emotion behind my thoughts. Like I was suffering greatly but it felt differently. I just didn’t care.

I was drowning in muck. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that I was in trouble but nothing escaped my windpipes. Not even a whisper. I was rotting from the inside out. I was living in complete chaos and I didn’t know how to get out. Until one night when I woke up with a massive panic attack. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had been suffering for two months and enough was enough. I thought about the relief that would come from being hospitalized and wondered why I hadn’t thought about that earlier. That’s the problem with depression you have tunnel vision. You can only see the misery and pain. As much as I hate being hospitalized I knew that in a few weeks I would feel better.

So I called an uber and packed up a small bag of clothes. Within thirty minutes I was at crisis services at community mental health. It’s a scary process as you are put in a room for hours. I can imagine that it’s like a waiting room on an alien ship for humans to be probed. The most scary aspect of the process is that they can send you anywhere in the state of Michigan for help. The first bed they find available is where you go. Unfortunately that’s the reality for anyone on Medicaid. It’s almost like having no insurance at all when it comes to mental health.

Unless you are going to kill yourself they won’t even consider hospitalizing you. So they deemed me safe enough for alternative treatment. Honestly I was at my worst shape I have been in since 2013, after my Mom died but that’s the system for you. I wasn’t eating, nor was I showering. My apartment was super messy and I had been isolating for weeks. I very easily could have done something in a snap decision. You basically have to lie and say you are going to kill yourself to get the help you need. The system makes it almost impossible to get help and they make you jump through flaming hoops.

I was referred to a partial hospitalization program. The nice thing about not being hospitalized is that I was able to spend my birthday week with my family, who I love with all my heart. It was the best week I have had since my Mom died in 2012. I got to see my nieces and nephew. We played video games, went swimming and watched fireworks on the fourth of July. It was something I really needed to push me through into the partial program. It gave me the strength needed to work on some tough issues, like my fear of leaving my apartment. I have gotten to the point where I don’t like staying in my apartment. Which is strange because for the longest time it’s the only place I felt safe. When I’m home I have no one to talk to or see. It’s just me. I’m alone with my thoughts, struggles and pain.

The Friday before I started the program, I started to have severe anxiety. It was unlike any panic attack that I had ever had. Usually when I have a panic attack I feel like the walls are closing in on me and the oxygen is escaping the room. This time I felt utterly scared for my life. I thought I was going crazy. It was an anxiety that I had never felt. It was severe and constant. I really thought I was dying. I wasn’t sure if it was anxiety or related to my heart. My worst fears came true and I wondered if this what it felt like when you have a stroke. I was desperate to be around people. Thankfully I was still at my sisters. I tried to spend as much time around my family as I could, that’s how unsafe I felt. That night I almost woke up my sister because I thought I was dying. I did everything I can to snap myself out of it. I splashed cold water on my face. Paced. Using my grounding exercises and nothing was working. The next day I told my sister and she gave me a xanax, which helped cut the severity but it was still unbearable.

That Sunday I knew I was going home and I started to panic. My family was outside preparing their boat for the lake. Normally I would stay in side but this time I was desperate to be around them. I went outside by them and sat under a big, old oak tree. My eleven year old niece sat beside me and we spent some quality time together. She showed me a morning dove in a building near by, they call her Thicky Nicky because she’s quite big. We spent a good thirty minutes trying to identify another bird who created a nest in one of those gigantic spools for wire. I soaked up as much time with her as possible but I felt a great sadness, knowing that I was going home soon.

After my Mom died to was severely codependent to my family. I was living in hell and couldn’t leave their side. I was afraid something would happen to me and it paralyzed me. My fear was that if I moved out that something bad would happen and I wouldn’t be there to take care of whatever happened. Last year I broke that cycle and moved into my own place. It’s been the hardest year of my life. I went from seeing the kids every day to barely seeing them. It broke my heart, especially knowing that they were growing up and I would miss those moments. So for a good year I have isolated. If it wasn’t for my weekly therapist appointments I wouldn’t leave the house, nor would I see anyone. I went from one extreme to the next. I locked everyone out because I couldn’t handle the grief from losing that deep connection. It was something that I had to do in order to be happy. I have suffered for most of my life and I just can’t suffer anymore.

So it came time to leave. I sat next to my niece and I held back the tears. As I got out of the car I started to sob, the pain was unbearable. I had to hold back from breaking down. I don’t know if I have ever felt more sad than that moment. It felt like a release of ever last ounce of sadness I had from the loss of my Mom to various other events in my life. I gave my sister a hugg and I ran into my apartment to sob. I felt so very alone in my messy apartment. I didn’t want to leave the best week in seven years but I had to in order to heal. I was sick and needed help.

Monday came along and I didn’t want to leave the apartment. I wanted to hide, as it was comfortable and all I knew. The first day I constantly looked at the clock hoping that 3pm would arrive. Though I dreaded coming home to my empty, chaotic apartment. It was a strange place to be. Each day my mental health has improved. I finished my first week and am already feeling better. The doctor at the program increased my medicine and that seems to be helping. I think that’s what caused the severe anxiety being off Zoloft. I’m really thankful to have such a great program to go to. It’s a relief to have structure and to be away from the loneliness of my apartment.

Recently I have started to have issues with my heart. It was discovered that I have atrial flutter, where the top part of the heart is out of rhythm. My heart beat flutters. At first I thought it was my asthma and being allergic to the cat I just got. One day I went to the grocery store. I didn’t do much walking but as I was checking out I almost fainted. The symptoms began to get worse to the point where I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without feeling light headed. I went to my doctor and she started to be concerned listening to my chest. When she said she wanted me to have an ekg I thought for sure I was dying aka having a heart attack. The hooked the cables up to my chest and the results showed that I had atrial flutter. I was put on blood thinner because with atrial flutter there is a risk of blood clots which could lead to having a stroke. The following week I went to a cardiologist and had an echo of my heart. Other than the atrial flutter my heart was okay.

To get my heart back into rhythm I have to have a cardioversion, which is an outpatient procedure where they send electrical currents to the heart. The doctor will deliver an electrical shock through two paddles. One is placed on your chest and the other on your back. Or both paddles can be placed on the front of your chest. The shock lasts less than a second, and briefly stops (resets) your heart rhythm.  Blood clots can form in your heart’s left atrium. Cardioversion may knock loose a blood clot in your left atrium. If the clot (embolus) travels to your brain, it can cause a stroke. To avoid this, your doctor may give you medicine (such as warfarin) to make your blood less likely to form blood clots. To get my heart back into rhythm I have to have a cardioversion, which is an outpatient procedure where they send electrical currents to the heart. The doctor will deliver an electrical shock through two paddles. One is placed on your chest and the other on your back. Or both paddles can be placed on the front of your chest. The shock lasts less than a second, and briefly stops (resets) your heart rhythm. 

So you can imagine how scary this would be. My biggest fear is to die. While complications of electric cardioversion are uncommon, it’s still a risk. The idea of them restarting my heart sends shivers to my bones. No matter how much fear I have I know that the procedure must be done because it’s hard for me to do anything. Not to mention that there is a risk of blood clots and taking a blood thinner puts me at risk of bleeding, especially if I fall. I thought the procedure was on Thursday morning, so I told the program that I wouldn’t attend. I fasted the night before and woke up early. I get to the hospital and they inform me that the procedure was for the next day. I wanted to go home and hide. I was so frustrated at the idea of doing this all over. Instead I pushed through and called the program to pick me up from the hospital. As much as I wanted to go home I didn’t really want to spend a whole day alone. I was glad to have a place to spend a good part of my day. I get home in the late afternoon and tried to not think of the fear I was dying. I had this irrational fear that I would die during the procedure.

I arrive at the hospital at 7am. I get to the hospital room and they start to prepare me. They took some blood to test how thinned my blood was and unfortunately my blood wasn’t thinned enough. The procedure was cancelled and postponed until my blood was thinned out. The doctor increased my medicine and now I have to wait. So that means another month of suffering, which is troublesome because I have pack up my apartment this month due to a remodel. This day was different. I went to the hospital cafeteria and had a big breakfast. I called the program and had them pick me up again. This time I didn’t want to go home.

I was so relieved to not be home, especially because I had to process what had happened. I ended up having a decent day. The program had pizza for lunch and it was delicious. I could live on pizza. I went home with the strength to pick up my living room and asked a friend to help me to take trash to the dumpster. My apartment is cleaner than it’s been in a while, probably months. Now I need to tackle my laundry. It’s been months since I have done it.

The biggest challenge that I am going to have is the lack of structure. I’m already dreading this weekend because I have nothing to do. I woke up in a panic at the idea of spending a few days in my apartment alone. I can feel the depression creep up and I haven’t felt that this week. I’ve learned that isolation only makes me worse. It’s my achilles heel. It traumatizes me as it brings up trigger of forced isolate when I was growing up. A time where I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. So now anytime I’m alone I get transported to that time, thanks to my PTSD.

After I finish this partial hospitalization program this will be a big issue for me as I don’t want to go back to where I was and it will be easy for me to do. I’m not able to volunteer or work due to going for SSI disability. If I do the judge will deny me. I have been waiting over five years for this and I just can’t risk it. Having that income would be a lifesaver for me plus it would mean having Medicare. For the past four years I have lived off state disability which is only two hundred dollars a month, which is very miserable to live off of. Which contributes to the isolation because I don’t have a car or money to do much.

I’m looking at another year until I could get my benefits. I won’t have a court date until the end of the year and it’s yet to be scheduled. I’m not sure how I will manage this year but I don’t have a choice. I have started to look into alternative forms of treatments like ECT or medical marianna. I’m desperate for relief from my depression. I deserve wonderful things and more importantly happiness. I want to live the remaining years of my life content and happy. I have earned it.

The only choice I have is to continue to push myself and do what I need to do to survive. People tell me all the time that I’m stronger than I think. For me, it has nothing to do with the lack of strength. I’m one of the strongest people in this world. Anyone who deals with their trauma, pain and suffering are the strongest warriors on this earth. It’s about suffering and wanting relief. I use to think I was broken but I now realize that I’m made of steel. I just don’t want to die anymore.

Structure will be important to survive this year. Which means setting a normal sleeping schedule, including set times to take my medicine. Making lists and using my mental health hacks. Setting goals and pushing myself to get out of the house, even if it means going downstairs to the community room where there is cable tv. I don’t want to return to the last two months. I’m not sure I could survive another depressive episode like that again.

I deserve nothing but the best and I will stop at nothing to achieve it.