Waking up anxious is one the most uncomfortable feelings in the human experience. Each of us who experience it has our own mixture of symptoms; my experience tends toward racing and/or repetitive thoughts, feelings of fear, sweats or chills. Usually the first indication of an impending episode includes increased saliva and stomach upset. Sometimes I feel very hungry, yet I cannot eat due to nausea or a gagging sensation and strangely enough, a running nose.
Over the years, I have read everything from scientific journals to metaphysical dalliances pertaining to anxiety disorder and I have not found a cure; because there is no cure. Anxiety is simply a biological function and I have been blessed with a particularly sensitive endocrine system due to my family history. I blame my mother.
The biology of anxiety is insistent. Metaphorically, anxiety is a major alarm bell ringing and rattling throughout your body with the message that you are not safe. It is a desperate plea from your brain to move your body’s ass NOW. It is when the alarm rings falsely and repetitively that you attain the label of anxiety disorder, or now more precisely categorized as its own diagnosis of OCD in the DSM-V. I often hear, “It is not a weakness!” and yet I find that anxiety/OCD is a weakness in the sense that my nervous system is more delicate and prone to false alarm; like a Mercedes as opposed to a Chevy. Although it is a biological variance and not a character flaw I find no solace in that fact.
Among my illnesses, I also have Hashimotos disease (common in females) which alters my hormone levels more so than with the standard female human model. The shifts cause havoc in my endocrine system which includes nature’s fight or flight response. The long line of symptoms that accompany this illness can be managed and are not life threatening, however there is rarely a sense of full recovery, i.e. homeostasis.
Hashimotos is an inherited auto-immune disease that attacks the thyroid and requires hormone replacement. I have tried several types of hormone, including desiccated extract made from pig thyroid glands. I have found that Synthroid works best for me; it is a brand name synthetic hormone (more stable and less variation in each dose.) Nonetheless, nothing beats the elegance of natural balance in your body, therefore I periodically fluctuate between anxiety and depression. In some cases, these fluctuations can be mistaken for bipolar disorder; I do not have bipolar disorder, my mother had me tested!
My therapist says my diagnoses are complicated by my health history and my childhood which was unstable. We have spent several years digressing and analyzing my life. I have read many experts who recommend some type of therapy for anxiety and depression, so I have diligently tried several – CBT, light therapy, massage, pharmaceutical, yoga, meditation, breathe work, EMDR, journaling, Gestalt, and perhaps a few others I have forgotten.
Because I fluctuate between symptoms, I often find myself bouncing between the medical and mental health communities, which are separated by some bizarro world bifurcation, as if my head is unconnected from my body. The severing point of the two aforementioned communities seems to fall between my hairline and my eyebrows. To be honest I am not sure of the exact anatomical divisional points; I am a walking talking Venn graph. My cynical side might guess that the dividing point looks more like this $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
In my search for harmony within my biological imperfections, I sometimes feel as though I am drowning within my own body, that is to say, I spend so much time fumbling to maintain a balance that I lose sight of the outside world, and this is the worst part of ill health. I have tried the rigid approach of duplicating my actions on a daily basis in the hopes that I could self-regulate but there is too much fluidity in the human experience to maintain any semblance of a normal existence.
There is a world of difference between an illness and a chronic illness in that, an illness has an end date, you recover and return to normalcy. However, many people with chronic illness face unpredictability on a daily basis, and unpredictability is the scourge of human existence. On the upside, managing an illness can provide insight to your thresholds; these are not necessarily limitations, only lines of demarcation from the world of good health where concessions must be made. I have often fallen behind my peers and have had to catch up. I have lost work and the ability to maintain a regular schedule. Everything takes a bit more effort for instance, I was unable to go to college until my 40s. During that time I had a particularly favorable run of well-being and earned both a bachelors and masters degree in five years. Now, I work as an independent contractor and consultant which allow a more flexible schedule.
Types of therapies