Summer is here….yay?

Tell me about it!

Tell me about it!

Ok, what I am about to say might very well be considered sacrilegious – I hate summer! There I said it, I have admitted it. Let the tar and feathering begin!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things about summer that I love. Summer is a time of flip flops, longer days, no heavy coats and outdoor BBQ’s. These are all great things, and things that I look forward to as I trudge my way through winter. However, summer for me is also a time for allergies, humidity and increased anxiety.

Earlier this week, the weather started to get a little warmer. It wasn’t incredibly warm, but there were a few days where the temperature got up to the high 20s with humidity. Everyone around me was so happy, and was even celebrating the arrival of sun and warmth. I, however, started to feel a little dread and a lot more anxious. When the weather broke, and the temperatures plummeted, everyone around me was complaining and I was secretly cheering.

I haven’t always been this way. I use to celebrate and adore summer the way most Canadians do. I am not a fan of winter either, and much prefer weather like we had yesterday – the sun was shining, but the temperature hovered around the mid teens.  However, if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have been one of the first whining and complaining that it was too cold and asking “where the heck is our summer?!?”. Today, however, I have a real intolerance to the heat, and as the temperature inches upwards, so do my anxiety levels.

I googled to see if this is a common thing, and it turns out that it actually is quite common among people who suffer from my particular form of anxiety – health anxiety. There are several possible reasons for it. The first is something that is pretty rare, and that not many people are aware of, which is Season Affective Disorder – Summer variety. Most people have heard of the winter version of Season Affective Disorder, where a person gets depressed due to a lack of sunshine. Apparently, there is a summer variety where people get depressed from too much heat. Weird, I know, but it is true. Of course, me being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately decided this was what was wrong me. However this form of SAD is very rare, something like 1% of winter SAD sufferers will suffer from this as well, so I highly doubt that is what causes my anxiety.

The more likely culprit is the anxiety about the panic. Believe it or not, this is actually a thing. Once you have suffered a panic attack, you are more likely to have increased anxiety about the possibility of having another panic attack. When you find yourself in similar conditions to those that caused the original panic attack, you will feel increased fear and anxiety over it happening again. This is what happens to me, which is why summer causes increased anxiety levels for me. My first panic attack happened 7 years ago, right around this time. It was actually exactly 7 years ago on the Victoria Day long weekend. I spent the friday night of that particular long weekend in the emergency room, feeling like I had absolutely lost my mind. So, the combination of it being a little bit warmer, and the long weekend, triggered the memory of that night and set off a series of mini anxiety attacks all this week.

Also, last summer was not a particularly fun summer thanks mostly to my really bad anxiety and my neck and back problems. This past Wednesday, I woke up with a really bad kink in my neck. Not only were the muscles tight, but I could also feel that my joints were jammed out of place. In addition to causing me a fair amount of pain and discomfort, it also triggered the memory of last summer. The fear of going back to that place, where I could barely function out of pain, dizziness and numbness, triggered even more anxiety.

Finally, and this is really the big one, the main reason I do not enjoy summer. One of my biggest fears, that triggers the most anxiety in me, is that I am not going to be able to breathe. It is the reason why I don’t like small, confined spaces – such as elevators, airplanes, subways and rooms without windows. With summer comes increased pollens in the air, and I suffer pretty bad with allergies in the summer. Also, I am fat, out of shape and a smoker. So, as the heat goes up so does the humidity and smog levels. I just have to move and I overheat and get winded. This immediately makes my mind jump “oh my god I can’t breathe, I am going to die!” And yes, I do see the irony in a person who is afraid she is going to stop breathing continuing to smoke. Trust me, I recognize the insanity in that every time I light up a cigarette in the summer.

So, you can see, summer and I don’t have a really great track record the last few years. Which makes why my anxiety levels go up in summer completely understandable. However, I do not want another summer like last year. Thankfully, the Farmer’s Almanac says that while we are going to have a warm summer, with temperatures about as high as last year, it is going to be broken up with many more days of cooler more manageable heat. This will go a long way to help control my anxiety levels. However, I also recognize that I need to do some work myself. One of the things that helped this week, was researching and understanding why my anxiety got so bad this week. Recognizing that I was actually suffering from anxiety over the anxiety/panic attack returning, helped me to calm myself down and recognize that I was over thinking again.

Talking about it helps a lot as well. So, I am going to make a real effort to reach out either here, to my friends or DBF when I feel my anxiety rearing it’s ugly head. I am also going to start doing more cardio. I recognize that if I start doing more cardio, I won’t feel so winded when walking or exercising, which will help stop the “oh my god I can’t breathe” bullshit that my brain starts spouting. I know the big one, the one that will help with that the most, is quitting smoking. But, quite frankly, I am just not ready for that one yet. Just the idea of it triggers a whole other litany of anxieties, mostly around the idea of gaining even more weight. I know that is just my addiction looking for reasons not to quit, but it is something that I am just not ready to tackle yet.

So, here is to a better summer then I have had in 7 years. I believe that if I can make this summer a good summer, it will go a long way to help diminish the negative triggers I associate with summer. Because, quite frankly, I miss the carefree, happy feeling that comes with loving and enjoying our oh-so-short summer season!

Facing my first fear

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” ~Mark Victor Hansen

Today dbf and I are finally headed out of town for romantic weekend away. We have found a beautiful B&B on a lake about two hours east of here. It’s on a beautiful piece of property, with horses and a driving range. The room looks great, the food is apparently terrific (if the reviews are anything to go by) and it should be a really nice weekend. I need this. I need to get out of town for a couple of days to recharge my batteries.

There are a couple of concerns, obviously as this is me, but I have done everything I can do to prepare for this trip. I have all my medications/supplements, the nearest hospital is only 20 minutes away (I already googled it lol) and I have packed all the things that help me cope with my anxiety (books, knitting, computer). I am as prepared as I am going to be.

I am still a little nervous, scratch that a lot nervous, but I know this will be good for me. Not only because I just need to kick back and relax for a couple of days. It will also be good as a first step on me getting over my fears and starting to travel outside my comfort zone again. I have spent too many years locked inside this little bubble that I have built myself, it is time to force my way out of it, even if it’s only baby steps.

The circumstances are not perfect, as I am currently dealing with some side effects from my hormone medications. It would be so easy for me to just back out, but I am not going to. Two reasons – first I am pretty sure that would be the last straw for dbf. As patient as he has been, my issues frustrate him. I already cancelled one pre-paid vacation, I am pretty sure doing it again would be the end of our relationship.
The second is solely for me. Even if I spend the entire weekend in our room hopped up on Ativan, at least I will have done it. I need to take pride in small victories, hopefully this will be one.
I will keep u posted!

And this is how the story goes…

So my first few posts seemed to have mostly been about me airing my dirty little secrets. Quite frankly, as cathartic as that has been, I need an emotional break. Being that open and honest, for probably the first time in a really long time, has taken a bit of a toll on my psyche. So tonight I am going to take a little break from the emotional stuff and talk a little about what I have been dealing with the last couple of years and what the plan is going forward. A word of warning some of this content may be a little TMI (too much information), especially for any men that might be reading this.

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The first sign that something was off was summer 2009. I had gone back to Weight Watchers for the how-don’t-know-h0w-manieth time. For six weeks I counted my points diligently, I started doing some mild exercising and went to the weekly meetings weigh-ins regligiously. At the end of those six weeks, I had lost a grand total of 2lbs!  Now having been to WW so many times, I knew that this wasn’t normal, at least for me. I talked to the leader, emailed and had her review my food journals. We were both stumped. After another couple of weeks I stopped going, because really I couldn’t wasn’t going to spend the money if I wasn’t getting any results.

Fast forward to summer 2010. At the beginning of August I got my period like normal, or at least that’s how it seemed at first. Two weeks later I realized that I STILL had my period. Weird, but I assumed that it would eventually stop. Two weeks later it was still going, so I decided it was time to go see the Doctor. He gave me prescription for birth control and sent me home, saying it would stop in a few days. To make a long story short, 9 weeks, 3 visits to the ER, 2 more visits to the GP, 3 more prescriptions and a visit to the Gynaecologist later, it did eventually stop. Their diagnosis? It might be PCOS, but were not sure and it seems to have straightened itself out so don’t worry about it (great advice, huh?) I was just so happy it was over that I accepted this diagnosis and went on my merry way.

For the next couple of years, the numbers on the scale slowly inched up. I found myself getting tired easily, often passing out for 3-4 hour naps on weekends. I also seemed to develop a really bad memory. I mean really bad. Like you could tell me something and, if I hadn’t written it down, I would forget less then 1/2 hour later. My periods, while not as bad as 2010, were still all over the place. My anxiety was getting worse and I found myself stopping doing things I enjoyed (going out with friends, travelling, exploring the city) out of fear.

Although all of this was going on, I just continued to ignore all the symptoms. I was under a lot of stress, both at work and emotionally. I knew I wasn’t really looking after myself in terms of diet and exercise. My dad is known for his really bad memory, so I assumed I was getting that from him. There was explanation excuse for everything that was wrong with me. So I did what I have always done, I just kept pushing myself forward.

2012 started out well enough, but things went downhill quickly.

In March I had my first panic attack in almost 6 years. I was at a conference that I attend every year, surrounded by wonderful and supportive people, and I just freaked out. It was so bad, that I made my boyfriend (who I had only been seeing for 4 weeks) pack our bags and take me home the Saturday night. I passed this off as being under a lot of pressure and stress.

In April, the same boyfriend (surprisingly the panic attack hadn’t scared him off) and I began planning a vacation to the Isle of Palms in South Carolina. This is a place I have wanted to visit for quite a few years and I was very excited. We had booked a condo on the beach, and had done a ton of research on things we wanted to do while we were there. The plan was to drive down, which made me a little nervous since I am not fond of driving long distances (I will go into more on this later). We were going in August and it was suppose to very hot – anxiety raised another notch. The planning continued, and my anxiety kept rising and rising. I would burst into tears just thinking about the trip, but yet I kept forging ahead.

And then everything crashed down around me. About 2 weeks before we were suppose to leave, my neck completely spasmed and I started having daily anxiety attacks and dizziness. A trip to the doctor confirmed that I had cervical stenosis (fancy way of saying my neck was too straight) and I was sent to physio. The physiotherapist told me that I wouldn’t be able to make that long of a drive and, with the daily anxiety attacks, I didn’t think I could handle it emotionally. And so we cancelled out trip. Thus began my weekly trips to physio and massage therapy for the next 4 months. My neck got a bit better, but truthfully it still isn’t 100%.

In January of this year, I decided it was time to pull myself together and try and get healthy again. I stopped eating grains and sugar, I was going swimming 3 morning a week and I started yoga. Everyone around me kept telling me I was pushing myself too much, but I didn’t feel like I was. Emotionally I was feeling more stable then I had in a long time. Sure, I was exhausted all the time, and my period had become daily spotting, but that was just my body’s way of trying to adjust to all the changes. It would even itself out eventually, right? Wrong.

After 3 weeks of all of this, I was still spotting, I was still tired and I had GAINED 5 lbs!

And so, off to the doctor I went again. We have done a litany of tests and she still doesn’t really know what’s wrong. Hypothyroidism? No. Hormone imbalance? Not that the tests show. Fibroids? Cysts? No and no. I have had been poked with a needle more times then I can count, and I still continue to gain weight. All of my blood work keeps coming back normal, so I went to a Naturopath to see if she had any ideas/suggestions. After all this we are back to PCOS, although I only have 2 of the 3 markers, and Adrenal Fatigue. Nobody is entirely sure which, if either, it is. My doctor is sending me to a specialist on PCOS and my Naturopath has me on a series of homeopathic remedies. And me? I am blogging.

So that is where I’m at. Still unsure what is the matter, spending a small fortune on alternative medicine, but forging ahead (as usual). What’s the plan? Well that is a post for another day. Until then, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, one word after the next, searching for an answer and, hopefully, a solution.