Monday, June 10, 2013
I have lost eight pounds in three weeks. Normally I would be ecstatic. But I know the weightloss has occurred at the expense of my mental health.
I have been struggling with anxiety for about a month now. I am not sure why. I am not sure it matters at this point. But my suspicion is that perimenopausal symptoms are forcing me to face some emotional baggage. (Either that, or I’m dying. Ha! That’s a joke for my friends out there who also struggle with anxiety.) My emotional self says, “Uh no. Don’t want to go there, wherever that is.” And my physical self says, “I know what we’ll do! We’ll make you irritable and bloated and sad. And then we’ll give you itchy/crawly skin and make you wake up with weird facial swellings. Just for kicks we’ll make you completely heat intolerant. On top of that, we’ll give you neck tightness and a constant lump in your throat. And just to make things really fun, we’ll give you occasional chest tightness to the point where you think you’re having problems breathing. Oh, and you’ll feel on edge all. the. time. If not on edge, then just plain sad and uninspired.”
Ugh. I think those who’ve experienced chronic anxiety will understand me when I say – it is exhausting.
The only reason I have lost weight recently is because I’ve had an appetite vascillating between barely-there and none-at-all. There is no “unexplained weightloss”, just the fact that my body has been on overdrive and the acid reflux (I think) from constant stomach churning has turned my appetite into dust and my poop into a continuous run each morning.
At the beginning of May, I had routine bloodwork done. When the results came back, the doctor said my estrogen was high, as in not the kind of high that comes from estrogen dominance but the kind that is simply off the charts high – ovarian cancer high, adrenal cancer high, endometriosis high. I then had abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds (because of some bloating and nagging lower right pain) and both came back clear. So no scary tumor! Yay! The doctor suggested a retest. Perhaps the lab made a mistake. When the bloodwork came back the second time, my hormone ranges were back in the land of normal. Crisis averted.
By that time, I had read everything I could get my hands on about high estrogen. I read about how our environment increases estrogen levels which can then feed some cancers. I read about how caffeine, sugar and alcohol can also increase estrogen levels. I began to think about using more natural body products and cleaning supplies and sticking to organic whole foods. I eliminated caffeine, sugar and alcohol (which wasn’t difficult because I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway.)
Once I heard the good news, you’d think I’d have been relieved and return to my peaceful-easy life. Indeed, I was relieved. My appetite actually came back a little. But this is the insidious nature of anxiety. It literally popped up on my face late that night when my lower lip suddenly swelled for no reason. I took an antihistamine and by noon the next day, it began to disappear. The next day, my upper lip swelled. The day after that my eye swelled. What?! I was clearly retaining fluid. (And my anxiety told me I was dying. So my throat got tight. My chest got tight. “Am I going to suffocate?!”) I began taking antihistimines pretty much around the clock and I was eventually swelling-free for four days. Yay! Maybe it’s just allergies. Grass pollen is sky-high right now.
Then I went for a massage on Saturday. After an hour I got up from the table and my eyes and upper lip were swollen. I looked like I had been hit in the face. It had been a rather rigorous massage so perhaps my lymphatic system had a lot of toxins to deal with. More anxiety. Big burning lump in my throat. Fear. Fuzzy head. Fear. Tears. Fear. No appetite. Fear. No energy. Fear.
To those who don't struggle with anxiety:
1. I went to the doctor. My estrogen was high. But then it was normal and the ultrasound was clear. Great news!
2. I got some swellings on my face. They eventually responded to antihistimines. Great news!
3. I had a massage. It made my face swell. The swelling went away. Great news!
But for someone who lives with anxiety, I’ve had all this great news and am still sitting in a sea of anxiety. So I finally made an appointment with a therapist. I had my first session last week and it went really well. It seems that I am in a state of grief. I’d say it has to do with moving from the Midwest to the deep south. But it probably has more to do with being in a new town, having no connection to it and realizing that I will soon be letting my children go (and my youth).
I am contemplating the empty nest in a town where I have no roots.
I have spent the last 11 months setting up our new home, getting the kids acclimated and worrying constantly about their happiness. (Geez, they have handled it beautifully.) My husband loves his new job. And I have found a few friends, mostly through volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. It’s all good. In fact, I thought I was handling the transition well. After all, it has been almost a year. But there was a gentle gloom that settled in April that bloomed into all-out anxiety by May. Some of it was instigated by widely fluctuating hormones. Some of it was further exacerbated by physical symptoms that turbo-charged my sympathetic nervous system. That's just how I'm wired. All of it has to do with unfinished emotional business. (At least I hope so! That’s another joke for those who deal with anxiety.)
It’s time to find my own voice. It's time to face the fear.
All I can say is that I’d rather lose weight the old-fashioned way. This has been a really tough couple of months.
Do you experience chronic anxiety? Did it increase as menopause approached? How did you deal with it?