And now for a proper catch-up

Sometimes I feel like I complain too much. I feel like when things are going well, it’s hard to say “I feel great and everything is wonderful” without sounding braggadocious. When things are going terribly, it is easy to dwell on it. Sometimes I think it’s easier to complain because maybe it makes a person more relatable. I have always felt the need to externalise my fears. I have to share them, because I dwell on them so much they become just too much for me to deal with on my own. So I talk about them. You know, I say something like “yeah, I’m just a little nervous about work” or “I feel a little let down by that person.” When I can identify my problems, I find them easy to share. I’m okay with that and I think my friends appreciate the honesty. 

But what about when I can’t identify my problems? What about when I should be fine, but I’m just….not. 

I am currently out of work on sick leave. I have no idea what is wrong with me. What I do know is that I have been dizzy and lightheaded. The other day, I stood in front of a class and almost collapsed. I couldn’t breathe properly and my chest was tight. I felt like I was in a nightmare, not really experiencing reality at all. 

I was diagnosed a few days prior to that experience with labyrinthitis. I had bled out of my ear (sorry for the visual) and had been a little unsteady for some time. I had been experiencing dizziness and weakness for weeks. I was out on antibiotics and that was that…

…Or so I thought. It wasn’t my ear that was troubling me really. I mean, sure, I more than likely had an inner ear issue that needed to be fixed. But there was something else. Something I really found difficult to verbalise. I felt completely fuzzy. Like I was trapped in a constant fog. I felt like I was experiencing a dream and that I was out of touch with reality. I told myself that it must be the viral infection playing tricks with my mind. But I felt so off that it was difficult to ignore.

I noticed that the dizzy episodes and the difficulty breathing were only happening in certain classrooms. And never at home, or while driving or when comfortable. Always when I really, really didn’t want them to. 

My usual doctor believes that I’m probably allergic to penicillin since I reacted especially badly the other day. But deep down, I know something else…something I’ve held from her and from myself: 

I am having panic attacks.

I’ll admit; I knew next to nothing about them. I thought that to experience them you had to be especially or noticeably stressed. You would presumably have some knowledge that they were about to happen, right? You could control it surely? 

Well, no. No you definitely couldn’t. And you might not even be fully aware of your stress. On the surface, everything might appear perfect. I know that I felt fine; happy even. But I wasn’t and I’m not. 

And how the hell did I arrive at the conclusion that I’m having panic attacks anyway? Well, through a process of elimination. Besides the labyrinthitis, there’s nothing else physically wrong with me, except for chest tightness and breathlessness. After a careful medical examination, any heart issues were ruled out. My GP was a little confused, naturally. How could I be having such extreme symptoms with so little physical evidence of a major problem? As much as I like my GP, I had to seek a second opinion. “Waiting it out” didn’t seem the most viable or attractive option when at least once a day, I felt like I was suffocating and choking. 

My second GP barely needed to ask me how I felt before she knew. She took a look at my chart. When I had an “attack” I experienced these symptoms: chest tightness and pain, feeling of choking and throat swelling, neck ache, tingling and pins and needles, hot flashes but also shivers, derealisation, dizziness and lightheadedness, and a general feeling of weakness, like I would collapse if I didn’t sit down. It almost exclusively happened when I was being really focused on, like in class or during a conversation with someone I wasn’t overly comfortable with. The worst thing of all is I can never, ever predict them. They literally come out of nowhere and completely overwhelm me.

Even though I was sick, GP2 (what a lovely name, I’m sure it’s French) was sure it was anxiety attacks. The thing is, she can’t really tell whether they are being caused by the labyrinthitis or not. They have certainly been exacerbated by the antibiotics. I guess I had a kind of psychological allergic reaction to them, if there is such a thing. She feels that maybe I am excessively stressed because I don’t want to appear ill in front of my students, and the pressure to be okay is actually causing panic attacks. So I have had almost a week off work, which feels like forever. I am still very foggy and unwell and prone to anxiety. I am trying my best to self-talk my way through it but I would really appreciate advice from anyone who goes through anything similar. 

Anyway, my bloods have been done so I’m waiting on those. And I’m going to take a few days to decide whether I feel the need for medication. The rest is doing me some bit of good but I am alone for large portions of the day and that is just no fun. 

So, woah, Negative Nellie is out in force today. But I feel at least here I can try and make sense of whatever the hell is happening to me. I can make sense of who I am. Or who I’m not, I don’t know. 

For now, I am doing okay. I’m not in any imminent danger and I am surrounded by wonderfully supportive family and friends. I feel the need to remind myself of that quite often. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, the fog will lift and I will see clearly again. For now, I must get used to seeing in the dark. 

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26 thoughts on “And now for a proper catch-up

  1. Chelly says:

    Jeez it sounds like you’ve been having a really tough time! Is it weird to send you hugs? Because I’m sending you lots of hugs!! πŸ˜‚ X
    I’ve never really had anxiety I think, I get nervous of course but it’s nothing compared to what you go through! The last time I really panicked about something was when I was 15 in 3rd year. I used to get this feeling like something really bad was about to happen but I didn’t know what, and I’d get all sweaty with my heart beating a million miles a minute. But then I went into TY, which completely changed me! I learned to take a step back and just let go but when I think of anxiety, I think of it as being 15 year old me but a lot worse, and I can’t imagine what that must be like for you! My best friend suffers from anxiety now but I feel like she has improved lately, I think she just needs to be more patient and congratulate herself on victories no matter how small they are, because I think she’s awesome πŸ˜‚ I have to say I never know how to help, I just want to hug her and take it all away! 😊 I also want to say though, the last time I had an ear infection, I was very dizzy and fainting a LOT so maybe just keep that in mind if you’re still sick..and when I have a migraine I get this feeling like I can see everything but it all feels far away or something, like looking through the wrong side of binoculars except maybe not quite that exaggerated, or looking through curved glass or something, it’s a really weird feeling, which I thought sounded a bit like your out of touch with reality thing. Not saying it’s not anxiety but since you were sick and you did say before you get headaches, it might not be just your anxiety, or your illness might be setting off your anxiety, because being sick can be f*cking scary! ☺

    • janeybgood says:

      Aw thank you. It really is bad at the moment but I comfort myself by saying that it is only temporary.
      Sorry to hear that you went through that in school. Secondary school can be so tough; I remember struggling a bit too, but not quite to that extent. I’m glad you got through it because some teens really crack under the pressure.
      You’re right that the infection is definitely making it all worse. The inflammation of the vestibular nerve is causing a lot of imbalance and lack of coordination. That’s all leading to anxiety issues too and of course exacerbating the issues that I already have. I’ve had a lot of great support from my family so the next step is probably CBT.
      Sorry to hear about your friend but at least they have someone very supportive in you! I have amazing friends too and it really does help a lot. Today, I’m really trying to focus on all the positives. This message helped a lot, so thank you! πŸ˜„βœŒοΈοΈ

  2. pensitivity101 says:

    I suffered from anxiety attacks in my late teens and later in my thirties. The main trigger was in a crowded place and not being able to see the door……. cue pubs or supermarkets at High Season. No medication, but I learned to recognise the signs, and took myself elsewhere before it hit. I still get the occasional wobble/hand shake, and the heart beat increases if I’m blind sided.
    Curious ……… you say some of these attacks happened in specific classrooms? Could it be something to do with the decor, location in building or something like that? Just a thought.
    Also, if you had a bleed from your ear, it may have affected your sense of balance/equilibrium. Hubby had this and I found him on the floor one morning.
    Could your light headedness be a drop or rise in blood pressure or blood sugar? I ask because of my nosebleeds earlier in the ear. Good you’ve got the GPs working on it for you. Take heart and keep positive. They’ll get to the bottom of it.

    • janeybgood says:

      You’ve actually hit quite a lot of it very accurately there. It seems to be bright lights that affect me the worst. So it’s usually in classroom where there is very bright fluorescent lights, and certainly when I have more students.
      The ear trouble has definitely affected my balance alright. I think this has caused a lot of the anxiety issues because it’s difficult to teach and stumble around the place without looking drunk or crazy.
      Yep, blood pressure is also an issue. Apparently, because I’m anxious my blood pressure is rising and dropping quite dramatically and this is causing lightheadedness also.
      You should be a doctor πŸ˜‚
      I’m glad to hear that you have coped so well. It’s very reassuring! Thank you for your comment πŸ™‚

      • pensitivity101 says:

        Nah, wouldn’t make a good doc as I have no patience (no pun intended here)…….. however, being so rarely ill, if something affects me, I tend to remember the causes and fixes that worked for me.
        Suggested things that helped with bright lights: tints on glasses (blue is best imo), filter on computer screen (also blue) dimming brightness on said computer screen. Keep smiling. You’ll get there. πŸ™‚

      • pensitivity101 says:

        Can’t say I have one, though I feel better for quitting the cigs 25 years ago and losing the weight this year. Trying to eat sensibly, exercise daily and knowing my body. Got a slight tilt at the moment, but that’s being sorted and treztment will start shortly. PMA rule.

  3. The V Pub says:

    I’m sorry that you’re going through this medical uncertainty, Janey. I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how you were. Now I know. My hopes and prayers that you heal quickly from what is bothering you. You’ve been missed.

    xo

    Rob

  4. Gary Lum says:

    I really feel for you. Panic or anxiety attacks are common and for some people, it’s a long-term disabling disorder, thankfully for most people they are not regular and do not persist. It’s great you have two caring GP who are looking after you.

    • janeybgood says:

      Thanks Gary! Yes, while you’re in the moment it feels like the worst thing in the world but when I try and think a little more rationally, I know that there will come a day soon when I will feel a lot better. Thank you for your kind words πŸ™‚

  5. Erika Kind says:

    Oh, Janey, I am so sorry, you are going through this. But at least you can give the condition a name now. My best friend was suffering from panic attacks too. He always called it the circling shark. It could happen out of the blue. Sometimes when he was really happy the whole mood could change and he could not do anything about it. But he came over it. He also suffered from depression.That was basically the reason for his panic attacks. We made it through his depression and the panic attacks were gone. It all had to do with an experience in his young adult life when his stepmother left his father. His mom died when he was a toddler and his first stepmother was horror. Now this second stepmother was a gem. When she and her father separated he felt like losing ground again although his father was a lovely person too. Sorry, I did not mean to be rambling here. But just to show that it is happening more often than we might think. So, I wish you from the bottom of my heart that this all gets better soon. I hug you strongly πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

    • janeybgood says:

      Hi Erika! It is so good to hear from you. I’m sorry to hear about your friend, but there is a measure of reassurance in knowing that I am not alone. From talking to different people over the past few days, I am learning that many more people suffer from anxiety than I could have imagined.
      As usual, your support and kind words have really helped me and I mean that. You are a shining light! Thank you πŸ’—πŸ’–

  6. Jess says:

    Oh no! Panic attacks are the worst. I get them from time to time too, but very rarely. Maybe only a couple of times a year. But when they hit, they hit hard. I’m sorry you are going through this ❀

    • janeybgood says:

      Sorry to hear that Jess. It really does suck, doesn’t it?! But in a weird way, it’s good to know I’m not alone, although I wouldn’t wish these on anyone. Hope you are doing well! ✌️️

  7. dweezer19 says:

    Well Janey, before I finished your first paragraph I was saying to myself, “yeah, she’s having panic attacks/anxiety.” Sending the best thoughts for things to be worked out for you. That is an overwhelming thing to experience.

  8. vonkita says:

    Panic attacks are the devil, I tells ya! Best of luck Jane.
    My only pointers are to make sure you’re getting enough exercise & sunlight, are eating right, and that your vitamin D & iron levels are okay.
    It may sound a bit hippy-dippie, but I was bordering on morbidly depressed all of a sudden a few years ago. I couldn’t sleep, was just anxious all the time, and started having panic attacks. Which for me, a normally happy and upbeat person, was absolutely miserable.
    The thing that turned it all around for me was when I had my iron & vit D levels tested in a blood test, and was found to be low. I started taking supplements, and 1 month later, badabing badaboom, I was right as rain!
    Obviously it’s different for everyone, but I couldn’t believe the insane difference it made. Worth a shot!

    • janeybgood says:

      Thank you! Yeah, I’ll have my bloods back soon and I am expecting some kind of deficiency. I lost a lot of weight this year and while I’m more healthy in general, I think that I might be lacking something. Iron wouldn’t surprise me. My friend also advised vitamin B12 supplements. Vitamin D would make sense too, because I live in Ireland where we haven’t seen the sun in so long, its picture is now appearing on our milk cartons.
      I’m glad that that small lifestyle change worked for you. It’s awful to feel down. Thanks for the advice!

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