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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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msauvage purple
So! In addition to a post about flowery Season 2 shenanigans, I mentioned some health problems. (SPOILER: I am not dying.) It started with headaches--constant migraines when we had thunderstorms for about a month straight; I was pretty confident that air pressure was the cause, in no small part because they would ease up if/when it actually started raining. Even if it was sunny and the forecast was clear--if I had a headache, you best take an umbrella with you. So I spent about a month being a human barometer, and after a couple of weeks of agony, I figured out that if I just took two Aleve in the morning whether I needed it or not, that would either stave off the day's headache or at least ease it up a little.

Then we had two or three weeks of sunshine and... I started getting different headaches. They just really felt different, and didn't respond to Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, what-have-you--when I finally tried cold/allergy medicine (Coricidin), that made something of a dent in them, so I thought, okay: sinus pressure headaches. Summer's changing into fall, it's probably my allergies (unless it's the dead of winter, it's always my allergies). But nothing was really helping. And I was kind of starting to lose my mind, or my shit, or something, because I couldn't even hear myself think over the dull constant roar with a nice little spike behind my eye, like a cherry in the cocktail. Literally, in the literal sense of literally, "could not hear myself think." Like my brain was just full of static and there were some words in there, when I was trying to write, but I couldn't "hear" them long enough to string anything together. And all y'all started telling me on Twitter to go to a doctor. Well, yes. I had a scheduled quarterly med check this week, so I said, I'll go run all this past my psychiatrist ("BUT THAT'S NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR!" Well, she is--just not an internist) and see if she thinks I ought to see someone else about it. (What y'all did not know is that she is constantly telling me to go get checkups with other doctors, so I was pretty confident she was not going to pull a Dr. Sutcliffe on me, as it were.) In other words, I trust her to be knowledgeable enough and trustworthy enough to be like, "Not my division, go see someone else, now."

Then I had a massive panic attack Sunday night.

I haven't really ever had the same panic attack twice, I don't think--they're hard to pin down, as they can appear to be all kinds of different things--a lot of times they seem like heart attacks. That is, in fact, the kind I had Sunday night. It was... educational. I was lying there sometime after 10 pm, trying to fall asleep (as you do), and suddenly I felt absolutely convinced that I was going to die in the next, oh, let's say, five minutes. There was a sort of uncomfortable--but not painful--tightness in my shoulders and over my sternum, kind of like I was folding in on myself. I did not think that I was having a heart attack. I was convinced that I was going to have one. I just really do not know how to fully express that I literally, actually, completely, totally thought I was going to die. Not that I was dying; that I was going to die in the next five minutes, and all I could do was lie there and wait for it. No chest pains, no shooting pains, nothing on my left side, no shortness of breath, not even any heart palpitations--if I was dizzy or had vertigo, I wouldn't know, since I was lying down. It was pure fear, with just enough physical discomfort to lend it credibility. And I think I knew this subconsciously, because there was this secondary voice that started trying to tell me that no, you are not going to die, just lie here for a moment and YES I AM no, sh, you're not even having actual pains, just sit here with your phone and NOOOOO NO NO, DYINNNNG look, if you have any actual pains you can call your mother and tell her that you are, in fact, dying DYING!!!!!! sh, shut up, you're not dying YES I AAAAAAAM just shut up a moment and wait and see, you're probably not dying so let's just wait it out NOOOOOOOOO. This went on for about, I don't know, ten minutes. And then it passed. And I didn't die, and nothing even hurt, and I woke up in the morning not the least bit dead, and proceeded to safely go to sleep and achieve consciousness again several more times.

The all-day headaches and vague tightness continued, however. So Wednesday (was that yesterday? I am currently unmoored in time and space) I had my med check. I've had very few out-of-the-blue knock-down panic attacks like that one; they seem to happen as a sort of emergency brake, as if to say, "You have some shit going on that you're trying to soldier through, but you need to stop and work it out." The worst one I ever had was in a professor's office my first semester of grad school, during a very pleasant conversation where I felt just fine, and then I broke out into a vehement cold sweat, fought off the urge to hworf on her desk, and (I imagine) turned a pale shade of green. I thought some horrible stomach flu had seized me at the worst moment possible--I wasn't thinking I am going to die, but holy shit, it kind of felt like I was. And yet somehow I was determined not to let the professor see it, partly because my legs had also stopped working and if I told her I felt sick, I'd have to reveal that I couldn't leave, either. So I continued a full conversation with her for another ten minutes, managing to kneel on the carpet by pretending I needed to get something out of my bag and I just felt like, you know, chilling there on the floor while we talked. I still don't know how I brazened that out, but somehow I did, until I was able to get up and walk out on my own steam. And what I realized afterwards was that, since I had taken a year off between college and grad school due to burnout, and we were approaching the end of the semester, I was secretly sort of terrified that I was still off my game academically and wasn't going to do well on the final papers. For some reason, I seem to have that kind of violently awful panic attack right when I've let my guard down--I liked the professor, liked her class, and the conversation was just fine, and yet somehow, that was the moment my body decided to revolt. Same thing on Sunday--after a number of stressful things during the day, it was the moment that I let go and tried to go to sleep that it kicked in. So I talked about it with my doctor; I think there's a confluence of things right now, a number of family things I can't get into, that have made me really anxious. I have a really (great! exciting!) deadline to meet in a couple of months as well--and I think I'd started getting really, really anxious because the headaches were keeping me from forming coherent thoughts, much less actually writing anything. And somehow it all just snowballed, the headaches got worse, and--my doctor thinks I need to have my blood pressure checked (by a Medical Doctor Internist Professional, yes). And I kind of sat back and went... yeah, this does kind of feel like elevated blood pressure, which I've had before. Well, shit. And that's why the worsening headaches had stopped responding even to allergy medication--sinus pressure wasn't the real cause anymore. And then the headaches themselves were stressing me out, and--my body hit the emergency brake.

So I am now consciously trying to reduce stress in my life. As an experiment, I basically lay around and did nothing today, FOR SCIENCE, and there was some tightness in my shoulders and that general feeling of tension, but no headache. Like, for the first time in at least a week. The distant rumblings of a headache, but it never actually arrived. Obviously I have to get things done, but that at least told me that it is stress and high blood pressure, and there are things I need to be doing about it. When panic attacks are involved, part of the solution is always realizing that I was subconsciously stressing about something and pulling it out and defusing it, so I've already figured that out to work on. (I've also started trying to talk various plot points out using voice memo apps, since I seem to be able to do that even when I can't produce coherent text.) I'm going to have to spend less time on the internet--not walk away from it entirely, because Tumblr is my primary source of puppies yawning and I'm pretty sure those are medically indicated at the moment, but I need to spend less time, more efficiently. I love Twitter and Tumblr, but just the constant hamster-wheel quality of it social media (is there anything new? anything now? how about now?) just makes me anxious even when I enjoy it. If there is any kind of drama or fight or controversy, I am going to have to walk away from it (like, just reading about GoodReads flame wars makes me anxious, holy shit) (wait, are there really people who think the term "sci-fi" is derogatory? WALKING AWAAAAAY). And I've got my deadline at the end of October, which is exactly when I will theoretically start recapping NBC's Dracula series. I have to get the anxiety and high blood presure under control, is what I'm saying, and that's while also knowing that Seasonal Affective Bullshit is on the way. I'm basically preparing myself to politely decline, avoid, or walk away from anything I have to, in order to work on this deadline and the Novel of the Damned without keeling over--I would like to see a season of Dracula recaps through to the end, but I'm not (yet?) near as invested in it as Hannibal, so I'm not making that my goal the way I did with finishing the recaps in the spring. So I'm trying to hang on and scale back at the same time. I don't know how this is going to work out, though, because I apparently possess a strange magic whereby I state my intentions and then--sometimes through seeming cosmic interference--the opposite happens. I sound pretty cheerful about all this, I guess? Also, I have had a glass of wine. I don't really know how else to handle it. With cute animals, I guess.

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I had one of those panic attacks once. Holy shit was it terrifying.

Cute animals always helps. And whey they're foxes, well....


Thanks. And yeah, I finally decided it was a panic attack rather than, you know, a barely-dodged heart attack because the fear seemed to be the real centerpiece. But they're hard to pin down sometimes. Which is also part of why they're so scary.

Holy moly, that FACE. Lookit his little FACE.

Also, all the <3 in the world. I get what you mean about the hamster wheel--I had to make dramatic changes on how I consume content, because I was starting to freak out over the possibility of missing something (without realizing that was what I was freaking out about until one of my podcast apps crashed and I couldn't figure out how many I'd had left in my queue--and I might have flipped out way more than necessary for the loss of a podcast). Sometimes you just have to camp out on Tumblr and search for kittens falling asleep. The kittens never care if you haven't answered all your emails for the day.

Tumblr's so the worst for the hamster wheel, too, because I keep finding things that are really useful for research/writing, and then I'm like MUST CATCH UP ON EVERYTHING OR WILL MISS NEW IDEAS. Kind of an exercise in letting go, that site.

I tend to lurk on your blog. ... But oh man. I'm so sorry that you struggle so with anxiety. I enjoy reading about you and your life and your snarky quips and man, that really sucks. :( I hope you can relax and focus on the things that you love and feel better.

Thanks. :) I seem to be on day two of no headaches, although "bed rest forever" is clearly not a workable solution.

I've been getting those terrible headaches too, but I tend to get sinus infections really easily and need antibiotics.

tho, don't let people convince you that physical symptoms are just anxiety. I was having trouble breathing for two weeks and kept being told it was anxiety. turns out my allergies were flaring up my asthma.

also, FOXES!!! <3

Yeah, I actually think I had three waves of headaches--1) air pressure, then 2) sinus pressure, then freaking out over days lost to sinus pressure headaches ended up with 3) anxiety/hypertension headaches. Wheeeeee. Like, there's definitely high blood pressure, definitely some physical issues, but I think working on the anxiety is part of what will help that. The rest depends on the visit to the other doctor.

You know what you're doing, move zig.

I'm glad you've got it figured out, more or less, and that you're not going to die. I hope the new meds work wonders, and good luck with your deadline!

Thanks! I look forward to continuing not to die, it should be fun.

Thinking of you, ladyfriend. I've been having the same reaction to internet lately -- hamster wheel is a good description. You should be a writer.



Cleo, Cleo, you are great. How can it be possible to describe a panic attack in entirely truthful form and yet also make it terribly funny? Greatness. Much of your symptoms are ones I have experienced, with a little more of the I AM DYINGGGG RIGHT NAOW than the I AM GOING TO DIE IN TWO SECONDS parts. (TW FOR PANIC ATTACK DESCRIPTIONS AHOY) Often it involves feeling all of my blood rushing about in my body and not knowing how the hell to stop my heart from doing the bad things yet keep doing the good things, and then I try tot to freak out. I am actually fairly practiced at not freaking out when my body doing bad shit is involved because it is highly necessary when you have asthma. It can literally save your life the not freaking out. So.

I am glad you figured the actions you need to cut back on, subjects, etc, you need to step away from to keep your overall health manageable and still get things done. Self care is essential!

Also, cute foxes are too cute to handle.

ETA: Allergies being the case and never going away except when all is frozen is also very familiar. Why can't I just take out my sinuses and leave them at home those days?

Edited at 2013-09-13 03:43 am (UTC)

Well (thank you) it was like STARING INTO THE SKELETAL FACE OF MORTALITY at the time, so you kind of have to make it funny in order to cope with it. I keep slipping towards "but no seriously I'm probably going to die today" trains of thought and having to talk myself out of it. I don't know if that's some sort of lingering "trauma" (for lack of a better word) from the panic attack itself, or potential new attacks that I'm talking myself out of. So talking about it is the only way I really know how to stand outside it and detach from it and get perspective on it.

(Deleted comment)
Aw, glad you like it!

Well, a lot of bloggers have (very sadly) had to do the "my health has taken a severe downturn and you may or may not ever see me again" post, and I just wanted to make sure up front no one thought that's where I was going with this. I mean, "I have had headaches for weeks" could have very easily ended with "because I have a brain tumor" (as it did for my grandmother) (she's fine now). Hell, maybe I do. But that's not what the post was leading up to, at any rate, so I thought I should just get that out of the way.

It's good to hear from you, though I'm sad that some of the news is that you've been feeling poorly. I'm glad that you have some context for and control over it, though, and are doing what will help you. I hope that you feel better soon.

Thanks. I spoke too soon about "day two without headaches," though, because I feel one coming on. But I'm still better than I was yesterday, which in turn was better than I was the day before.

Augh. Sympathies and best wishes. Anxiety sucks.

Hang in there, Cleo! You will get through this and meet your deadline. Crossing all my fingers and toes for you. And don't worry about the Dracula recaps. I get why it's something you'd like to do, and it would totally be something up your alley, and I would LOVE to read them, but your health and well-being are more important. *hugs*

(Also, wow. So what I experienced back when I was fifteen really was a panic attack. I have never felt such terror that I was going to die--for no apparent logical reason--than in that moment. Yeaaaah, I never want to experience that again, tyvm.)

Thanks--honestly, I was doing really well with staying on top of the deadline, managing expectations, etc. And then multiple unrelated stressors piled on, without my actually realizing it, and WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP panic attack time. It was kind of awful, but--also kind of a necessary warning signal? For me, anyway.

But yeah, I wanted to go ahead and talk about that because I figured a number of people reading it would go, "Oh, hell, that's what that was?"

Ugh, I've always had anxiety, but I've been dealing with that particular brand of panic attacks in the last couple of years. I think of them as my "sudden doom" attacks that send me to "the dark place." I once watched Master and Commander at 3am to try and calm down after one.

I feel for you, Cleo, and I hope you're able to take some time and feel less stressed and more rich-with-cute-animal-pics.

Thanks. I actually have very, very mild panic attacks fairly regularly--more of a low-boil hysteria/irritation that kind of feels like insta-claustrophobia. Like, it's not the room that's closing in on me, it's the air. But those seem to be in response to low blood sugar and/or noise and/or bickering. It's this "OH MY GOD SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP" feeling, and I'm generally fine once I get 1) food and/or 2) away from people. I don't like it, but I know what it is, and it's fairly preventable. The kind of real-true full-blown panic attack I had Sunday night is a very, very rare event, and seems to happen in response to long-term stress and anxiety. So that's why I think of them as warning signals. "Sudden doom" is a pretty good term for it.

If cute animals help

This video makes me want to plan a flash mob at my workplace

Re: If cute animals help

Oh Lord. Someone was asking on Twitter the other night if there was a Fox Mulder version yet. Heh.

Best wishes and virtual hugs if you're okay with those. If not, substitute virtual flower crowns or something. Virtual manuls in virtual flower crowns, maybe.

Heh, yeah. (I am.) Last night I did something ill-advised and ended up tweeting something like "FLOWER CROWNS! FLOWER CROWNS ON PALLAS CATS! NOBODY ARGUING ABOUT THINGS!"

Whatever happens, Cleo, know that you have the entirety of the Cleolinda's Army in your corner. Let us make blood sacrifice to the Dread Lady of Mental Health.

I don't know how this is going to work out, though, because I apparently possess a strange magic whereby I state my intentions and then--sometimes through seeming cosmic interference--the opposite happens.

I too possess this magic, to the point where it's like, "Do you want me to come to your wedding? If you actually want me to show up, I have to not tell you until the instant I show up at the wedding."

I also just sigh wistfully at articles that talk about how women are reluctant to speak frankly about their abilities and successes in the way that men do, and are therefore holding themselves back yadda yadda institutionalized sexism, because I can't. If I indicate an intention to complete a plan or indicate that I possess a certain ability, SUDDENLY COSMIC INTERFERENCE and I fall face-down on the asphalt.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is UGHHHHHH ME TOO WHY

I feel terrible about it, but that's why I'm always so hedgy about "will you actually finish XYZ?" Because it's like, shhhhh, if you make me say I will, then a meteor will hit my house or something.

I like the idea of being confident and outspoken about talents and abilities and things that have already been achieved. Anything in the future tense is just tempting my personal fate, I feel.