Thursday, January 9, 2014

Anxiety Adventures: Part 1: Background

I have been considering writing on this blog about my anxiety and my efforts to master it for a while now. However, because mine is social anxiety, I'm terrified of people distancing themselves from me, or confronting and/or lecturing me if I "go public" with this struggle. My primary worry is that there is a heavy-duty stigma attached to medicating anxiety, so I hesitate to talk about what I'm trying, since it involves medication. (THIS is a good article about that- #3 is my biggest thing, I think.)

However, writing helps me cope, helps me sort things out and clean out my brain, so to speak. It's therapeutic for me and I always feel better after I write things out. So here I go.

photo from
Anxiety is a tricky beast. I think I've had social anxiety my whole life, but it waxes and wanes and over the years it has manifested in different ways. When I was in elementary school, I was dreadfully shy. Our family moving and changing schools every 2 years didn't help. I never really had close friends, and because I was so quiet, it was very difficult to get to know anyone. I was, however, courageous and sometimes pushed myself out of my shell.

Having an abusive mother probably didn't help either... but I don't blame her for my anxiety anymore. I used to blame her, and I wonder if her anger and abuse made it worse, but I don't think she's the core reason I have anxiety anymore. I've since realized that my dad has some social anxiety, and most of my siblings do, too, in varying degrees. My doctor told me that if one close relative has anxiety, you're 40% more likely to have it, too. In the last 6 months, two of my children have also been diagnosed with anxiety. Sigh.

I got very good at pushing my anxiety aside when I was a teenager and young adult (interestingly, within a year of my mother leaving, I began to push through my fears and be more social... food for thought...). I overcame stage fright and did a lot of performing, which was so much fun, and I managed in high school to have a decent-sized circle of friends. I went away to college, and I managed just fine and flirted and went dancing and experienced fun, normal social interactions. I've always managed to stay employed and done well at most of my jobs. I am lucky that I have a positive attitude, and I like to try and improve things, everywhere I go. My anxiety has not been debilitating.

As I've gotten older, however, I think it has become markedly worse.

Only I didn't realize until the last year or two that what I was experiencing was anxiety. About 10 years ago, I started feeling tired all the time and I was getting regular silent migraines (read about that here). About 8 years ago, I went in to the doc for some testing. Many blood tests later, she said I probably had what qualifies as Chronic Fatigue, which was what I suspected. I also had an elevated ASO titer in my blood (read about that here), which apparently hasn't disappeared, since I'm currently undergoing another series of tests because it's baaa-aaack. Or never left. Or whatever.

I think maybe Chronic Fatigue wasn't an accurate diagnosis. I wonder now if all of my wacky symptoms can be attributed to two factors: whatever is making my body create all that unnecessary ASO stuff, and my anxiety.

I like to research, so generally when I go to the doctor for something like this, I've self-assessed and read up and have a diagnosis already in mind-- her tests and questions are for confirmation and treatment. She is a great doctor, and I think she will help me find answers, solutions and hopefully a more energetic and normal future.

I've been blessed with a strong willed temperament, and I haven't let anxiety keep me from doing anything that I want to do, nor have I let it control my mind. I am pretty good at shutting down irrational or unreasonable fears, and I cope very well with anxiety. But, I'm so dang tired and the list of physical symptoms is increasing, which makes me think it's probably time to do something about it. It's time to take action and take my life back. It's beyond my abilities to just overcome anymore.

Please share your stories and experiences as I blog about this journey. I appreciate your support and love!


Carolyn said...

Brave, Brave, Brave!!!I have always known you were very brave! It is not easy to talk about those things with which we are struggling (and we all have them!). Thanks for sharing! I hope you find the answers you are looking for. There are so many things in our bodies and our lifestyles that impact energy.

LeeAnn said...

I never would have guessed because I spent the most time with you during what seems to have been your push through the anxiety year's. :) Just know that I think you are wonderful, with or without medication. If you had a physical ailment, you would be expected to treat it and sometimes that treatment would include medication. So why shouldn't one view taking care of their mental health in the same light?

Steph said...

Carolyn, thank you. :)

LeeAnn, also thank you. Yes, I was far more outgoing in HS than I am now... ebbs and flows... :) Thanks for the compliment and the positive remarks.

Mlis said...

Hey Stephanie, very interesting. I treat chronic fatigue and anxiety from a functional medicine point of view, which means trying to get to the root of the problem, often through hormones or nutrition, to get the body to function properly. Since you like to research, maybe you could look into adrenal fatigue, low progesterone causing worsening anxiety among many other symptoms over the age of 35, and a genetic polymorphism called MTHFR. I treat those things day in and day out in my practice and get great results. It's really what I specialize in. Let me know if I can help at all. I could suggest places for study, since I know you like to read :-)

Mlis said...

Sorry, that just showed me as Mlis. It's Melissa (Riggs) Lonnecker

Steph said...

Thank you for your comments, Melissa! Just curious, are you an MD or RN or other initialed medical person?

I have read up on some of those things, and my reading continues...

Mlis said...

I am a Physician Assistant