Anxiety

A couple of weeks ago, I told Paul that once the kids leave home I will worry less. With less stress and anxiety, I would stop taking my medication for acid re-flux.

As a child, I lived with a constant stomachache. Sometimes it was a dull ache and sometimes it was a sharp fiery burn. I had a lot of nausea. I had it down to a science how much food I could eat to just feel okay. My parents never took me in and after awhile it became normal to me.

My autistic brother Matt also had stomach issues. He did a lot of gagging with his tourette’s. There were times that he even threw up at the table between the acid re-flux and tourette’s. It was not unusual for him not be able to keep his breakfast down and barely make it to the bathroom in time. There was a period of time that his valve between his stomach and intestines closed and he wasn’t able to keep any food down at all. He was very sick and almost died before the doctors figured out what the problem was and surgically corrected it.

As you can imagine, my stomachaches were ignored. It wasn’t until I was over 40 that I went to the doctor because of it because I was in a lot of pain. I probably had an ulcer. The doctor put me on 1 Prilosec a day and when that didn’t take care of my stomachache, I was put on 2 a day. It’s been a couple of years now.

I’ve always attributed my stomachaches to stress which I believe greatly aggravates it. Although there may be a genetic component to it since multiple family members have similar issues.

Childhood was the most stressful period of my life to date. Not only was my autistic brother violent towards me on a regular basis, he also had some very serious medical concerns as well. My dad was abusive. It was no wonder I had stomachaches.

It wasn’t all that long after I left my childhood home that I had a family of my own. Having 3 little children was stressful. I didn’t get a lot of help from either Paul’s or my family. I had a lot of stomachaches.

Then I helped my husband run a business while having three teenagers. I had a lot of stomachaches.

I am no longer running a business. One of my children has moved out and soon will another. Maybe I wouldn’t worry so much if I wasn’t always stressed out.

Then Paul said something interesting. Alissa, you will always have anxiety. You will just find something else to worry about. I thought of this as I reread my old journals. They were filled with anxieties and worries.

Sometimes I feel so full of anxiety for no apparent reason at all. I feel like something bad is going to happen and for some reason it is my fault. I felt that way a lot as a kid. If I wasn’t hyper-vigilant enough and missed the signs that my brother was going to attack someone, then it was my fault because I didn’t stop it. But the truth is that sometimes no matter what I did or didn’t do, I couldn’t have stopped it. The truth also is that I have lived my whole life with an anxiety disorder.

What makes me think that someday it is just going to go away when it was always there? The smartest thing that I can do is accept the cards I have been given and play them as best as I can.

I can’t relax. I get a lot done.

I worry. I care too much.

I have useless nervous energy. Running burns it off and makes me feel human.

I feel anxiety. I can help others by understanding their struggle.

I try to control things I can’t. I’m not to blame for things outside of my control. I realize that now.

Doing rituals made me feel safe when I wasn’t.

Isn’t overthinking better than not thinking at all?

I have the solution for every what if scenario whirling around my head.

I have to run back home to make sure I turned off the coffee pot. Got a keurig.

I’m not saying that I am no longer anxious. I just learned to live with it.

I have many fears. But I won’t let that stop me because I learned over time how to manage it to my advantage.

I learned to cope. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to function without it. Strange because most people would think that I couldn’t function with it.

 

What now???

Sometimes life can be stressful. When I am not busy at work, raising teenagers, or slaying my demons…I try to relax.

Work requires me to make a lot of high level decisions that effect other people’s lives. Someday I will tell you about it all, but not today. Last Friday we had a new client do some work with us and he didn’t understand the whole process of what we do. So rather unexpectedly he conference called me and chewed me out saying that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for over a decade and he is a brand new client…and I don’t know what I’m doing??

After 30 minutes of trying to explain the process, which he wasn’t listening to, I was pissed off and wanted to tell him to take his business somewhere else. But I remained fairly cool and calm. I sent him an email with answers to frequently asked questions. But that still did not satisfy him.

I ended up sending him over to my husband Paul. Paul makes higher high level decisions and often deals with difficult clients, makes collection calls, and other stuff I couldn’t stomach doing. When the guy started to complain about me, Paul said that I am his operations manager and also his wife. Shut the guy right up.

Running a business together can be very stressful. Sometimes we have to make hard calls. I have lost a lot of faith in people. Sometimes it feels like it is us against the world. I think working together has made us closer as a couple. We make a great team both at home and at work. I can’t complain because we make an excellent living. But that doesn’t make it any less stressful.

Although most of the time I enjoy what I do, work is a big stressor in my life. I try to relax, usually unsuccessfully, over the weekend.

On Saturday morning I received a phone call from a parent of Alex’s friend saying that she wanted to come over with her husband and talk to us right away.

I could almost feel my ulcer burn. What now????

Journal 5, part 2

5/2/1991

I’m only going to eat one meal a day or else I will be sick. When I was younger this worked all of the time until I felt better..

It is true that sometimes the needs of the ‘normal’ kids get swept under the rug when there is a special needs child in the house.

I know now that I have been a lifelong sufferer of GERD. I didn’t know this as a child. All I knew was that I had stomachaches all of the time. When it was really bad sometimes eating made me feel sick. I felt like I had a fire in my chest. Eventually the acid crept into my throat, gave me frequent canker sores in my mouth, and wore down the enamel on my teeth as a child. My parents threatened to take me to the doctor if I didn’t eat, but they never did.

My brother Matt also has GERD which was made worse by his gagging from Tourette’s. He frequently threw up his breakfasts. There was a time that the valve completely closed between his stomach and intestines. He couldn’t keep down any food and had to have the valve surgically opened again. In the meantime, he dipped below 90 lbs and he almost died.

Whose needs were more important??

Not only did Matt suffer from GERD, he also has autism. He engaged in a lot of self-stimulating repetitive behaviors such as rocking and flapping his hands together. At one time he had to wear a helmet on his head because when he became agitated he would hit his head with his fist. He was hypersensitive to touch. He would scream when he had to have his teeth brushed. He had to be sedated to go to the dentist for cleanings. He would only tolerate having 1/4 of his teeth cleaned at a time and eventually his teeth rotted. He has difficulty communicating and understanding emotions.

He suffers from Tourette’s. He would gag when eating and constantly make sticky saliva sounds with his mouth. His body would twitch and he repeatedly blinked his eyes.

He suffers from schizophrenia. He hears voices that tell him to hurt little girls. Sometimes the voices terrified him. He had nightmares. He would talk to the voices and laugh at the evil things they would tell him to do.

He is intellectually impaired. He cannot read, write, or do simple math.

He has issues with anxiety.

Matt made anything that my brothers and I struggled with minor in comparison.

There was a 3 year period when Matt was not allowed to go to school because of his violence. After that time period, he had very limited exposure to the outside world up until he was placed on an anti-psychotic medicine that eliminated the voices and the violence towards self and others.

My mother did not want my brother institutionalized in a place for the violently mentally ill so she pulled him out of most situations where he could hurt others. That did not stop him from being violent towards me at home. He grabbed a knife and threatened to cut my eyes out. He punched, scratched, kicked, bit, and pulled my hair on a regular basis. Who protected me?? Who reported his violence against me? No one.

I want to say that I handled it like a trooper, but I did not.

I withdrew into myself. I became very depressed. Although childhood goes by fast, it seems to take forever when you are being abused. I wanted out. I cried myself to sleep at night. I woke up crying in the morning after being awoken by nightmares.

I held my body tight like I was always bracing for impact. I cowered like a dog that was beat too much. My shoulders were held tightly up to my ears. I suffered from insomnia. I fell asleep easily but was typically awake from 2 to 4 AM. In the middle of the night, I suffered from muscle pains. I had to wrap pillows and blankets around my legs. I think my muscles were finally trying to relax in the middle of the night and it hurt.

I suffered from anxiety and worry. I was angry. I developed structure, rituals, and routines to feel like I had some control over my environment. For awhile, I was a compulsive hand washer. I washed my hands so often that they cracked and bled.

With everything going on at home, I couldn’t concentrate at school. My grades were horrible. I was put on a high dose of ADD medicine. It helped me focus, but made my skin crawl. I scratched my skin until it bled, especially on my scalp. I scratched until I pulled out scabs with big clumps of hair.

I was exhausted most of the time.

I was a mess.

That was a long time ago.

I survived.

I am strong now.

I am healing.

I feel ready to fight my demons.

 

Lenten worry

This year I decided to give up worrying for Lent.

Before I made the decision, I had to decide if worrying was a problem. The plan was to keep a journal Wednesday and then give it up Wednesday night if I decided it was an issue.

I awoke Wednesday morning before the alarm went off worrying about what I wrote on my blog the evening before. Should I delete the post?

Arabella said she wasn’t feeling well. Is she getting sick?? What is wrong?

My stomach hurts. Am I getting an ulcer? Should I get my stomach scoped at my next physical?? Why isn’t the double dose of Prilosec working??

Did someone forget to let the pets in from outside last night?? Are they cold and freezing?? Maybe they are dead?

Don’t forget to buy tickets for Cindy’s sons musical. Cindy and Ted and traveling 8 hours this weekend and getting a babysitter to see Angel perform. What if I forget? What kind of friend would I be??

I’m cold. Will I wake up my husband if I sneak back into the bedroom to put on my robe and slippers?

March comes in like a lion. It’s snowing. My son will be driving to school later today because of a late start. Will he be okay? Will he go in the ditch? Will he die?? Will he even wake up in time?

Will today be the day that running the dryer will start my house on fire?? If my son is sleeping will he wake up and get out of the house in time?? Or will I kill him by doing laundry??

Will my employee come in to work or will I have to handle it all by myself??

I wake up Arabella for school. She is moving slow. Will she miss the bus??

Who is going to make supper?? What will we make? There is no food in the house and no time to cook after work and before after school commitments for the next two days.

My stomach hurts. Do I have an ulcer??

Wow, I do worry a lot. How am I going to stop worrying?

It’s 7:30 AM.

What if I have a bleeding ulcer?

Arabella texts me saying that she thinks she will be sick and will have to miss her sister’s show. I’m glad we got non-refundable tickets and hotel rooms.

My husband asks why I am so crabby.

I get a Facebook friend request from someone I don’t know. Is it a scam? Did someone find out my identity on WP?? Does everyone know about the crazy stuff I write about?? Do they know it’s me???

I worry that I am going to back into my son’s car as I leave the driveway. Will someone drive into me as I leave the driveway?? I worry about this everyday because of one time I didn’t see someone in my blind spot years ago.

Don’t forget to buy the tickets.

I’m at work.

For awhile keeping busy keeps the worry away.

My son calls me while driving saying that school was cancelled early because of a snow storm. He is almost to his friend’s house. Keep both hands on the wheel! The roads are bad. Will he be okay?? Did he let the dog out and leave him outside during a storm?? Is the dog freezing?

My employee calls in. I don’t get caught up at work.

I bought the tickets and put a check in the mail. Will the snowplow hit the mailbox and lose the ticket request??

Will we lose a big client because I can’t keep up at work??

Now my son is driving in the snowstorm with his girlfriend. Were they alone at the friend’s house?? Are they having sex??

Did I stop far enough away from the school bus??

Will I fall on the snow or ice and not be able to race from the injury?? Will my car get stuck in the snow??

Do I have an ulcer?

I forgot to practice my musical songs and the show is a month away.

I am ready to go to the Ash Wednesday service.

I worry over inappropriate laughter.

Arabella says she doesn’t feel well but has no fever. Did I forget to let the dog back in? What if my son goes in the ditch??

Okay, it looks like I will have to give up worrying.

When we get home, Arabella has a fever. Did she get the elderly couple behind us sick?

That’s right, stop worrying!

Yesterday, day 2 of the fever. Alex makes a comment that at least he is not sick.

Last night, Alex gets sick with another round of the bacterial colitis.

This morning, I am angry because I want to give up worrying but have a lot to worry about.

This morning, two doctor appointments for two sick kids.

A weekend road trip less then 24 hours away for my daughter Angel’s first opera.

I’m trying not to worry, but it has been so hard..

Instead of trusting God to help me with worry, I have been angry and blaming Him for giving me these struggles..

 

 

Extreme athlete? Who me?

Last weekend someone called me an extreme athlete.

I looked to the left of me. I looked to the right. I even did the Hokey Pokey and turned myself around. There was no one else there.

Extreme athlete?? Who me?? I never really thought of myself that way before.

I do eat, sleep, and breathe running.

Even the name of my blog has the word running in it.

Last night I had dreams of running and biking. I dreamed that I didn’t stretch, that I forgot to put on my running shoes, and my legs felt like lead. Then I got to my bike. It was a tiny little one with training wheels.

I also have dreams of racing. Usually in those dreams something goes wrong. Not unlike the unexpected things during race day.

I rolled my ankle three weeks before my first marathon. Despite that, I ended up running the first 18 miles in 3 hours. I had big dreams until I hurt my knee. It took many months for the pain to go away. I said I would never do another marathon again, then went back on my word.

Kind of like the time I said I would never have another child during childbirth.

Every single time I tried something new, I was terrified. I was afraid the first time that I ever ran. I thought I was going to die I was so out of breath. I was afraid during my first 10k, my first half marathon, my first marathon, and my first sprint triathlon. Now I am utterly terrified after signing up for my first half Iron and a very grueling racing season.

But I still did it.

Training for my first marathon was really tough. It was at this time that I realized that I suffered from GERD. The harder I trained, the less I wanted to eat because my stomach was so upset. I had to learn to run with stomach pain. I had to learn the very fine line between eating too much and not eating enough to prevent pain.

At times I thought I was going to be the runner puking on the side of the road. I worry about that while I am at the gym.

I get up on the only day I am able to sleep in to spend the morning at the gym.

(I did a long run this past Saturday and there was a woman next to me on her phone. With all of my heavy breathing I had to laugh because I wondered if the person on the other end thought she was on a porno set.) The things I think of to make running more exciting.

I have learned to run through exhaustion and boredom.

I pretend to race other people at the gym.

I choose what high risk behaviors to engage in. I WILL not do anything risky before a race that could produce an injury, such as down hill skiing. But I WILL do things for a race that others consider crazy.

I will train in the cold, in the rain, in the wind, and when there is a heat advisory.

I have misjudged how fast a storm would arrive and needed to find shelter.

I have been chased by dogs.

I have tripped over a dog and cut up my knee and hands. I had to run home with blood running down my legs and cleaned my wounds with rubbing alcohol to get out the gravel.

I ran with a really high fever. It was one of the toughest 6 miles I ever ran.

I ran through colds.

I ran when I felt zero motivation to do so.

I came very close to being hit by cars on bike and on foot.

I have a very hard time not running.

If this makes me an extreme athlete, so be it.

Why don’t you sign me up for the next race?

Fights with myself

Using my strength to fight my weakness has become a double edged sword right in the gut.

After yesterday, I thought I would have to call the doctor today. This has been the worst GERD episode that I have had in awhile. I know that it was stress related. The stress has been eating me alive lately despite the double dose of Prilosec the doctor prescribed me. That and a strong family history of ulcers and stomach issues probably doesn’t help.

Parenting teenagers has been difficult lately. Things have gotten better since we last spoke. My daughter is being more respectful. Life has been difficult for us all lately.

The situation with my son has gotten better too..Now instead of driving across the state with a car full of teens, my son decided to spend the weekend at home studying. While this may look good to you on paper(?), my son is working on a science project for the school science fair that involves doing an experiment on sleep. The kids are going to stay up for 24 hours and do testing every hour. This experiment is going to be done at my house. So, might as well just add me to the study. I almost wish now that he packed the car up with all of his friends (even the boy that rides in the trunk) and drove across the state.

Do you think he is trying to get back at me for not letting him go??

Then add in my mother-in-law being in the final stages of cancer, I have been stressed to the max.

I figured I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors if I land myself in the hospital with an ulcer. I am NEEDED at home and at work.

I need to learn how to relax and find ways to take better care of myself.

My natural tendency after any perceived weakness is to be harder on myself. If my body fails me, I’m going to push it. I work harder. I make my workouts more grueling. I make sure to not rest or take it easy. I take on too much.

I use my biggest strength, my determination, to fight myself. I have to stop beating myself up. The world does that enough already!

It seems like the stress during this round of the fight has chosen to attack my body and not my mind. For the moment, the demons in my mind have not been stirred from their hibernation. It makes it easier to deal with the external stress.

Now I just need to learn how to relax. It has never been my strong suit.

My determination and self-discipline is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It forces me to work hard. It’s my drill seargant for my tough exercise routine. It’s what keeps me going. It helps me accomplish my goals.

And sometimes it is a double edged sword..I beat myself up instead of taking care of myself like I should.