It’s three years since my first nocturnal panic attack and in that time my anxiety has developed into generalised anxiety disorder, health anxiety with some depression.
My nature is to research so there’s not much I don’t know about anxiety and the havoc it can wreck on the human body. Three years ago I was 10 stone. Today I am 8. The weight loss isn’t due to the anxiety alone though -it’s also due to having made dietary changes to try and alleviate some of the symptoms such as palpitations. I avoid sugar as much as is possible and don’t drink alcohol anymore. *weeps*
A few weeks ago I decided to cut out wheat and replace my usual bread with gluten free. The next day my anxiety level went from a 7 to a 3. I had no ‘brain fog’ and the burning mouth syndrome I’d had since July last year disappeared. On top of that I had energy, but it was normal energy, not the nervous kind I usually get with the anxiety. The second day was the same so I figured I was onto something with ditching the gluten. I’m not allergic to gluten, but I do think I am sensitive to it just as I have become sensitive to certain other foods, drinks and products.
Unfortunately I didn’t take into account what a dietary change like that would do to my already sensitive digestion system. Having replaced my bread with GF foods made from rice flour (combined with having to take calcium supplements for Osteopenia) I became, er, bunged up. Now in a non-anxious person this would not be a problem. Just neck a few laxatives or up the fiber and it will sort the problem out, but with a lunatic like me it’s not so simple.
I didn’t have constipation, you see.
I had bowel cancer.
So I decided to sod the GF diet off and eat my usual bread. Within twenty minutes of eating it I felt sick and exhausted with a migraine. I forgot to mention that since going gluten free, my migraines have all but gone too.
So I went back on the GF diet..
After a few tricky toilet sessions I went to the GP. By this time I was feeling fairly unwell, but in my head it was because I was dying. I sat in the doctor’s and told him outright, “I feel as if I’m dying!” as if I have first hand knowledge what it feels like to die?
I also had a ‘feeling’ in my right hand side that had been niggling at me for a few months which only added fuel to my fearful pyre. It wasn’t even a pain, but because it was different and so my lunatic brain homed in on it and made it terminal totally bypassing the less sinister (and more likely) things it could be.
I saw a locum doctor that day who was very supportive and reassuring. He checked me over and told me he couldn’t find any reason to admit me to hospital. I was that sure I would be admitted that I’d cleaned the house and wrote a list of instructions for OH. The fact that people who are genuinely dying don’t tend to whip the hoover round beforehand was lost on me at the time..
The word ‘anxiety’ was brought out for the TRILLIONTH time and I broke down crying. How could I feel this ill and it be anxiety? The doctor was kind and told me ‘Don’t worry, we will get you better’. This was in contrast to the previous week when I had a panic attack in front of another GP who simply carried on writing while I hyperventilated in the chair. Helpful, no?
Unsurprisingly, I left the locum doctor feeling much calmer than when I went in. That’s what happens see.. you go in full of fear and with a bit of reassurance suddenly you’re not at deaths door anymore..
Until a few hours later when the ‘what if’ gremlin pops up again. THAT ANNOYING LITTLE SHIT!
I should point out that another GP had already ordered an abdominal and pelvic scan because of this sensation in my side..
Meanwhile poogate got worse and I ended up having a phone consultation with a GP because I was convinced I was having a prolapse. But he obviously had my nutter notes in front of him and sounding unconcerned told me to take some Lactulose and if I was still worried on Monday to go in for an examination.
The ‘prolapse’ turned out to be some stubborn poo, so no botty-fingering required. Phew!
I didn’t take the lactulose either. One, because I am practically a medication-phobe and two, because I figured it best to try and clear my pipes via my diet. So I upped the fiber, water and switched my calcium supplement from carbonate (which is known to cause constipation) to citrate.
Needless to say, I was able to perform.
After that I was back to normal, well, normal for an anxiety- ridden lunatic!
The rational stuff was all there in my head. I’d changed my diet radically and wasn’t having my usual amount of fiber as I’d been averaging five slices a day. Combined with the calcium, it was no wonder I got bunged up. While I convinced myself I didn’t have a tumour blocking my bowel, there was still that ‘sensation’ in my side.. so I was back to dying again.
So I had my abdo scan and was 100% SURE they would find something wrong. I figured if it wasn’t bowel cancer then it must my gallbladder about to explode, yes?
They found nothing wrong.
I hassled the bloke who did the scan..
“Are you absolutely sure?”
I even questioned him on the size of my kidneys!
I’m sure it chuffed him no end to have his expertise questioned..
Anyway, I’m not dying.
Not today anyway..
What I do have is health anxiety.
The sensation in my side was real enough but was most likely due to muscle tension. I tend to hold my stomach in a lot with anxiety and only became aware of this by doing progressive relaxation. Because I am so sensitized, I am aware of every little ache and pain. Since doing those exercises, it’s, er, kind of disappeared.
I have tried to add a bit of humour to my situation but health anxiety is no joke. It’s mentally exhausting. I hope you don’t read this post and think ‘You need to get a grip, Mrs!’. If only is was that easy, ducks! I don’t want to be like this. Nobody wants to be like this, trust me.
I understand this post may be a bit tmi for some people but I wanted to show how something simple like constipation can be turned into something terminal by the power of thought. It’s called catastrophic thinking. A headache becomes a brain tumour. A cough becomes lung cancer and so on. Not everyone who suffers with anxiety will have health anxiety but for those who do have it, it’s yet another fear to overcome.
I will overcome it though.
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.” Game of Thrones