I hate anxiety

So today I had a full-blown anxiety attack due to beeping. The dishwasher was beeping because it had to be stopped so that someone can have a shower. So for about 20 minutes the dishwasher beeped every 15 seconds. Each beep ratcheted up my level of anxiety. There was nothing I could do. I turned on music and I still heard the beeping. I couldn’t get away from it because I was cooking. I could not control my reaction at all. I was so upset by it that I was in tears. I medicated and calmed down about half an hour later. I seriously hate this disorder.

Never again!

Well it seems I doom myself if I make bold statements on my blog about how I am doing health-wise. After my positive statements yesterday, I went on to have a huge anxiety attack and I slept until 2 pm today. Plus, just to add insult to injury, I have been running to the bathroom all day today.

Since I developed a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)[1] a couple of years ago, I had already had a taste of not having control over my body. Six years of the ravages of ulcerative colitis the anxiety disorder arrived. Once might wonder what it is specifically about ulcerative colitis that would cause one’s anxiety to run out of control.

The obvious first thing is the unknowing of when you will be hit with the need for a bathroom. In the early days this would come on all of a sudden. I would be literally sweating and crying as I drove to try to get to a bathroom. At its worst, ulcerative colitis had me going to the bathroom upward of 20 times per day with great urgency. The place I worked at the time was laid out in a circle. The place I sat was all the way at the back. When the urge struck I did not have much time to make it there. It was incredibly stressful. My hour-long commute was something I constantly dreaded, as I never knew if I would make it to the office. I had to stop eating breakfast because any food in my system would stimulate my colon. Even though I would be going to the bathroom many times a day I was completely constipated.[2] Instead of passing stool, I was passing large amounts of blood and mucous. Every day, I grew weaker as I lost more and more blood. This constant blood loss landed me in the hospital in January 2008.

After being hospitalized, I then had the anxiety of not ever wanting to be that sick again. Once the bleeding was under control, I would move between constipation and diarrhea. Mostly constipation though was the order of the day. I also began to develop severe pain. The debilitating, chronic pain put me very much on edge and contributed to the anxiety. My doctor then put me on an anti-depressant to help with the anxiety. Once the pain was being treated with morphine on a daily basis things did get a little better on the anxiety front – enough so that I could go off the anti-depressant. Sadly that did not last long and I have been on another one for over a year. My doctor keeps hoping my pain levels will go down, as do I. However, I have yet to see that happen. There are days I require less morphine and I take less. It is a funny thing; I never think to take it unless I am an agony. Even then sometimes I will try to wait it out. It is probably not a good thing for my GAD.

The heat of summer also makes things worse. I am not sure why but it seems to be a feature for most people who have an autoimmune disease. When it is hot outside and I am overheated I really suffer. This year seems to have been particularly bad. I was hot even in the winter. I also lose one of my very effective pain relieving treatments – my heating pad. Since I started using a heating pad a couple of years ago, I have noticed that I have far less pain in my back. I sleep with a heating pad at night on my both my stomach and back and it does help to relieve a lot of pain. With the really good air conditioner we now have, I can sleep with the heating pad all night.

Fatigue is also a huge contributor to my anxiety levels. If I have to get up early and be somewhere at a normal morning time[3] I have a really hard time. Even if I get 9 hours sleep I still suffer. Last month I had to attend an all day training session in Vancouver that started at 9am. I was completely exhausted. I had to drink tea all day to stay awake. It took me about a week to recover. The stress of having to be places when I am extremely fatigued causes me a great deal of anxiety.

A byproduct of being an anxious person is loud noises and beeping. I have a visceral reaction to loud noises. I find them extremely jarring. Beeping is the same thing. I fit goes on for any length of time it really stresses me out. It seems to that the list of noises that bother me is getting very long. Yesterday, the movement of dishes in the dishwasher was too much.

I try really hard to identify the cause of my anxiety and deal with it. If I am not, I sit by the air conditioner; if I am in pain, I take something; if there are loud noises, I move away. Sometimes these methods don’t work so then I add in deep breathing and trying to focus my mind on something else. Last night all of my tricks did not work. I could not breathe and was bordering on tears. I took a clonazepam. I really don’t like to take them and my doctor won’t give me that many so I save them for the really bad days. Interestingly, it seems to take me 2 days to get over an anxiety attack. Today with all the pain I had to medicate again.

Not having control over some of the functions of my body is very disconcerting. It really doesn’t matter if it is the ulcerative colitis or the GAD. Having your body do or not do things that you need it to do causes all sorts of problems. The stress of not knowing when I might have a ulcerative colitis attack or an anxiety attack makes things very difficult and stressful. All of this becomes a feedback loop and the more stressed I am the more I have problems with the ulcerative colitis and the GAD.


[1] I am just reading the definition in Wikipedia and it says things like numbness in the hands, sweating and hot flashes. I seem to have even more symptoms.

[2] This is a factor of my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This is different from Inflammatory Bowel Disease of which ulcerative colitis and Crhon’s Disease are the primary manifestations.

[3] Like 9 am.

One of those days

Today is one of those days where every thing seems dark and hopeless to me. I am tired and (still) sick. I feel unappreciated for the things I do and I really don’t feel like going on. I am sure it will pass eventually. It is just a dark day for me.

This and that…

Many things are going through my head so welcome to the latest mish-mash post. Here we go, in no particular order:

  • What is up with play off hockey. Why are the fans so intense? As I drove to work today, I was listening to BC Almanac again, of course they had uber-Canuck fans on today to talk about how they are coping with the unanticipated game 7 of this series. These people are fucking insane! One woman called and said that her 12-year old son had gone on a hunger strike and he was not going to eat until the Canucks won again. Well, if history repeats itself, the kid might not eat until next October. Why do people get so worked up about hockey? Where is all that energy when it comes to social issues? To volunteering? To political engagement? Man if we could harness 1/10 of the energy that is directed towards the Vancouver Canucks we could solve homelessness and political apathy in a few days.
  • I don’t know about you but the idea of Jack Layton as the Leader of the Official Opposition makes me squee with delight! I would love it if Ignatieff had to move out of Stornoway and make way for Jack and Olivia. Layton has worked tirelessly as leader of the federal NDP and it is about time he reaps the rewards. I am glad that people are thinking it is time for a change in Ottawa. I am hoping that Harper is denied his majority – just like Dancing on the Stars you don’t get it if you don’t earn it.
  • I need to make some changes in my world. I want to get a handle on my anxiety so it does not rule my life. I want off the medications that are supposed to help manage it but don’t really seem to do the job. I am completely against going on any more medication. I am not sure what the changes will look like. Some of them I won’t be able to post here unless I do a private post. Mostly though the changes will centre on me taking back control and not letting other people/things control my world. I am tired of walking around with hunched shoulders and backaches because of stress. Now some of it I have no say over. My anxiety ramps up if my pain levels are too high. I am going to try to manage that a little differently as well. Again, not sure what it will look like but the goal is to get some peace back in my life. I want more time for me and with Deb and the dogs.
  • I loved being home last week with the dogs. You miss so many things when you are not here with them all day. They seem to bond more closely to me when I am here. As the week went on, I spent more and more time with Piper laying on my leg and Sawyer cuddled in. It was nice. It made my stress levels go down.

Anyone else out there thinking of making changes? Do you have any ideas for me of things that have worked for you around managing anxiety? Let me know in the comments!


OK – if you can’t deal with TMI then stop reading now. You have been warned.

I am fucking miserable these days. I am severely constipated. Victoza (my new insulin resistance drug) had some not so lovely gastric side effects. One of them is gas and bloating plus rumbling in the intestines. Sadly it is not resulting in a bowel movement. The extra pain is a lot to take. My GI doctor does not want me to take stuff like Senokot because it is a ‘stimulant’ laxative. However, when I take the non-stimulant laxative, I end up throwing it up.  I am also stressed to the max these days. I have had deadline after deadline plus a bunch of extra stuff piled on to my plate.

I am so stressed, I had three anxiety attacks today. I talked myself out of one but lost on the other two. I am so anxious, I have been grinding my teeth and now some of them hurt. My jaw is aching and my shoulders are screaming. I am also exhausted. My workload shows no signs of slowing down and I desperately need a break. I am hoping to take the week of Good Friday off so I can get some much-needed rest. I will forget the relaxation part and just focus on the rest.

I am also having trouble eating. Nothing much appeals to me and I can only eat small amounts. I have been finding meat particularly difficult to get down which is not good for my hemoglobin level. The only thing that is working well for me are Deb’s poppy seed bagels – thankfully for that!

There are some good things going on at home which is a good thing. It makes everything else I have to deal with much easier. Thanks Babe, I love you.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘we ought to be ashamed’ edition

  • It is February and it is winter in Vancouver. Apparently, with the wind-chill tonight it is going down to -17 degrees Celsius. Now, you would think that city planners know the weather is going to cold and there will be a need to help people keep warm on the streets. When the temperature dips below zero here it is a brutal because it is so damp. Factor in the wind that has been ravaging us and this is literally killing weather for people on our streets. The police have said they are not going to force people into shelters – that is big of them. So as the CBC was announcing that authorities were asking for people to donate warm clothing and blankets for the homeless. Perhaps we should read that again: The City of Vancouver wants donations of warm clothing for people living on the streets. What is wrong with this situation? Where to begin? It begins with the off-loading of responsibilities by the federal government to the provinces. The provinces, in turn, have off-loaded on to the municipalities. Now the municipalities are off-loading on to us – the lowly tax payer, who, ironically funds all the levels of government. What exactly is it that our taxes pay for if not to ensure there are adequate supplies for the homeless? All of the shelters should be stocked with these items. Police cruisers should have emergency supplies like blankets, hats, scarves etc. Why can we not do this as a country? I am so ashamed.
  • Today I decided to try to manage my anxiety without medication. I was successful. I did not have a full on attack as I used some cognitive management skills. However, as soon as I got home my right shoulder muscle went into spasm and is killing me. So, while I can manage in this situation without help, the bottom line is my anxiety is rooted in reality and I need the assistance medication offers – at least in the short-term. I am hopeful this stress level will reduce.
  • Today my defensive and slightly paranoid driving style paid off. I am almost always aware of who is where around me. So today when a Sutton real estate sign became airborne as a result of the winds we are having, I was able to maneuver out of its path. It most definitely would have taken out my windshield.

Good Day

I had planned to work from home today so already the day started off great. I got to sleep a little later and didn’t have to face the commute. Sawyer and Piper were playing hard and it was really funny. Sawyer was running so fast that when he rounded the corner his back legs went out from underneath him. The dogs always make me smile the first thing in the morning. Zoe is also very happy in the morning. She likes to greet me with a toy which I throw for her a few times and then she is done.

I love it when I have days when I have met my goals. Today my goal was to finish a report. I am happy to report that I met my goal. I actually used MS Word’s feature that blocks everything else out. I really liked it. The only thing I missed was a clock. I found it frustrating that I did not know what time it was. Otherwise I think I am going to be using this feature way more often. I used to think I was the ultimate multitasker and I can be for sure. However, I am finding now there are times I really need to focus in order to get something done.

I am also happy to report that it is 7:30 pm and I have not had an anxiety attack today. It has been months since I have had a full day without an attack. This makes me so happy. I actually did some time on the treadmill again today. I am having a lot of issues with lower back pain again. I think my colon is swollen again, which causes a lot of pinched nerves in my lower back. I am hoping that by getting on the treadmill occasionally I can build up some strength. We shall see. I also have oral thrush again. The thrush is probably a direct result of ulcerative colitis and stress. At least I have the medication on hand for it.

It has been a good day, one of the best in a very long time. I am off to play Angry Birds.

The Perils of Living with an Anxiety Disorder

As everyone knows my world has been stressful on many fronts for quite some time. To compound things, I also have an anxiety disorder. The symptoms of anxiety are very debilitating. I have trouble breathing, my heart races, I feel shaky and my bowel starts to quiver. Some other symptoms I get include not being able to swallow and intrusive thoughts about scary or stressful situations. Some anxiety attacks take me by surprise. Others, there is definitely a connection to something going on or thoughts I am having.

The attacks that take me by surprise are the most frustrating. There are times I will be sitting and relaxing and all of a sudden I can’t breathe. I start trying to breathe deeply but I really can’t get my breath. I feel my heart race and then my jaw starts to ache because I am gritting my teeth and jaw. These attacks are the most frustrating because there is literally nothing I can do about them. Sometimes I can get it under control.

Another kind of anxiety attack happens when I am thinking about stressful things or issues. In these cases if I am not too far gone, I can get control of it by stopping the thoughts. I find that listening to music in these situations. It allows me to focus my thoughts on something else and to sing along to the music, which gives me a stress outlet. Music has always been very important to me. There is something about the sounds and the timbre of some voices that really speaks to me. Even as a child, my favourite times were when we listened to music. My mother would play Jim Croce, the Lettermen and Three Dog Night. As a teenager I moved on to Queen, Supertramp and Fleetwood Mac.

The other kind of anxiety attacks I get are in direct response to something that happens. Today, I read an email and something in it set me off. I probably over-reacted but that is the problem with anxiety. Before I know it I can’t breathe, I’m shaking and I start to cry. This makes me crazy because it happens at the most inopportune moments.

I have always had issues with anxiety. However, a full-blown disorder is something new. I developed this as a result of my colitis. The combination of being sick, living in chronic pain and the unpredictability of my ulcerative colitis along with my underlying issues conspired to give me a generalized anxiety disorder. I am grateful that it does not debilitate me completely. Although, given a choice there are times I would not leave the house for long periods of time. In some cases, anxiety can prevent people from meeting their potential.

In taking a cue from Airdrie from Talking to Air, I think it is critically important that we talk openly about how mental illness affects our lives. We must remove the stigma if we are to deal more effectively with mental illness.

So, my faithful readers, what do you think? Do you personally deal with anxiety? Do you know someone who does? Do you need help with your anxiety?

My Week in Review

Well, it has been a somewhat better week. Things have calmed down a bit and I was able to complete some tasks that have been on my plate. I feel like my best strategy has been to break things down so that I can feel like I accomplish things. Emotionally, this was also a better week. There was only one new revelation that made me lose it. I am still heavily engaging in self-care: music, massage and counseling.

Health-wise I seem to be holding my own. My hemoglobin went up by 10 points to 124. I am not really sure why I am getting all of those wild fluctuations in my hemoglobin count. I need to talk to my doctor about it. It does not seem to matter whether I take iron or not. I have been a little bit more tired, however that may be simply because I have not been getting enough sleep. I had to get up early this morning and it nearly killed me. Otherwise my ulcerative colitis has been fairly stable again for the last couple of weeks. It is so nice that it is not such a defining thing in my life right now.

Health Improvement

Over the last couple of weeks I have started to feel better. Seriously better. It is such a relief. I had been very concerned that things were never going to improve. Depression had set in and my anxiety had worsened. Now, with my hemoglobin up to a whopping 125[1], I feel fabulous. I can actually go up stairs without stopping to breathe. I can walk without my legs burning. I am not fatigued.

Don’t get me wrong, life is still not all that and a bag of chips. I still have ulcerative colitis and secondary symptoms. I have rashes and roving joint pain. I am still living in chronic pain. My colon can still cause me to run to the bathroom many times a day. Life would still be better without ulcerative colitis. I am still on my drugs including immune suppressant drugs and an experimental anti-inflammatory.

But ohmygod!!! I feel so much better. Even under a great deal of stress right now, I am still feeling good. I am sleeping a much more normal 8-9 hours rather than 10-12. It makes my life so much easier to deal with feeling so much better. It is so nice not to feel fatigued all the time. For the first time in 6 years since I was diagnosed with colitis, I actually have some hope of remission. Think good thoughts for me.

[1] Normal hemoglobin is 115-160