The Physical Side of Anxiety

Anyone who suffers from a mental health disorder, knows the physical discomfort and pain it can cause. Each of us experience different symptoms, but our struggles are the same. One of the most difficult parts of our disorder is when the people who love us can’t understand what we are going through.

My struggle goes by the name Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I’ve dealt with the effects of anxiety since a small child. Luckily for me, medication agrees with me, and I’ve had the good fortune of having a great therapist at one point in my life. Unfortunately, he has long since retired, but his teachings have stayed with me. For the most part, I manage my anxiety very well; however, there are times when the beast sneaks up and bites me.

Yesterday was one of those times. Big life changes can trigger me, and there is a good chance I might be changing jobs in the near future. This is self-inflicted, as I don’t need to change jobs — but I want to. I’m a driven person, and a great opportunity has presented itself to me. I had a phone call scheduled with the recruiter at 10:00 a.m. yesterday morning, and I could feel the anxiety from the moment I woke up.

A quicken heart beat, shallowness of breath, restlessness, and waves of nausea, were the first physical signs of my anxiety. The only thing I could do at that point was to focus on my breath and try and calm myself. It didn’t work, so my symptoms got worse. My body tensed up, and I alternated between hot flashes and chills. My hands began to shake, and I couldn’t concentrate. I wanted nothing more than to run away, but there was nowhere to run too.

As the day went on, I started feeling sick. Something like a flu, but not quite. My head ached, and it hurt to keep my eyes open. I was worried the headache would turn into a full-blown migraine, so I downed a handful of Tylenol and Advil. My thoughts were racing, and I knew they weren’t rational. I knew what I was “supposed” to think and feel, but I couldn’t stop the irrational thoughts. I’m an expert at hiding my anxiety, so the phone call went really good. That only heightened my anxiety because it meant I was one step closer to the change.

By the time I got home from work, I was a physical wreck. I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out, but neither happen. My boyfriend couldn’t understand why I was so anxious. What should cause excitement caused me anxiety. He continually reminded me that this was a good thing for me. I continually tell him that I knew it, but I was still anxious.

I took more pain medication, poured a glass of wine, and eventually pass out on the couch from shear exhaustion. I woke up this morning extremely groggy, but without anxiety. Today is better, so today is perfect.

A Word of Advice

“Why don’t you just Stop it…” he says, as he looks up from my chart.

Is he joking, or is this serious advice? I look at the man sitting in front me and think: who are you, and am I in the right place? I thought I was at the Chiropractor’s office for a consultation regarding a sore leg. So how was it, I was getting a counselling session for my anxiety?

A lingering sports injury brought me to this man’s office. For almost a year, my left leg has been giving me grief when ever I run, hike, or ride. It has now progressed to the achilles tendon and the bottom of my foot. I’ve been to physio, chiro, and massage therapy, but I haven’t found a fix yet. Out of frustration, I booked a slew of appointments with new practitioners to get some fresh eyes on the situation. Yesterday afternoon, I had my first appointment with a new chiropractor; it was not at all what I had expected.

Most health practitioners like to take a full body/mind approach to healing, and I don’t have a problem with that. I appreciate someone who takes the time to try and figure out my personal situation. Therefore, when the “what types of medication are you taking” question popped up, I was fully prepared to discuss my anxiety disorder. However, only to give an insight to my overall general health. I don’t go to the chiropractor to fix my brain — sorry Dr., but I feel that’s not within your scope of practice. This guy, however, seemed to think it was.

My appointment was an astonishing hour and five minutes long. Never, in my life, have I spent that long with a chiropractor. Thankfully, it’s a flat rate fee for the visit, so his long windedness was on his dime. Mr. Chiro told me all about his past (he was in forestry before becoming a bone cracker). He talked and talked and then he talked some more. When he finally got down to assessing ME, the “teaching” began.

Full body charts were pulled off the wall to show me where my nerves come out my L5 vertebrae. Riveting stuff. As a personal trainer of over 15 years, I have some knowledge on how the body works. I don’t mind getting into the details of what he thinks is going on. However, when he started telling me that I should just “STOP” being anxious, my patience wore thin. Since he isn’t the first unqualified person to counsel me on my disorder, I knew how to deal with it. I say the same thing each time this occurs: “That’s an interesting approach, and I will definitely think about it.”

Yes, sir. I will keep that very useful technique tucked tightly in my back pocket for future reference. The next time I start feeling anxious, I’m going to just “STOP IT.” WAIT A MINUTE; I think I’ve tried that approach before, and, believe it or not — it didn’t work. Perhaps that’s why my actual doctor has me on Zoloft. Which, by the way, works fairly well. That along with counselling, meditation, and yoga.

Although I didn’t appreciate the belittlement this man shelled out, I will likely see him again. When it came to his expertise on bone manipulation, he was pretty good. If he can help me with my physical ailments, I’m willing to put up with his ignorance on mental health disorders. My next visit, however, may include a pair of ear plugs.