Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘anxiety and illness’

Yesterday I talked about taking my black lab, Tashi, to the vet because of her trouble walking. I wrote about needing cue cards because the questions I should have asked escaped my consciousness in the midst of the exam. What caused my lapse in consciousness? What is it that prevented me from following my own protocols that I’ve set in place for my own healthcare when it came to Tashi? Anxiety!

Anxiety can be an overwhelming tidal wave of angst. It causes panic attacks and evokes a stance of fear. I don’t find myself to be an anxious person, but when anxiety does strike it strikes hard. It’s not invited. It’s a party crasher to our lives. I’ll give you an example.

I’ve got asthma. It’s under control with the use of a couple of inhalers. I am under a doctor’s care and have had numerous pulmonary and cardiac tests to insure that I’m getting the right care. I don’t know if you’ve ever had trouble breathing, but the anxiety of not being able to breathe, for me, is worse than not being sufficiently oxygenated. There is an anxiety of doom and potential death.

Prior to taking Tashi to the vet she was having trouble walking. She was agitated and would move around the house quickly and without purpose. Her back was hunched like one of those black cat pictures you see at Halloween. You could look in her eyes and see the angst she was feeling.

Watching Tashi struggle evoked my anxiety. Instead of waiting for the exam I was already struggling with her impending euthanasia. For me, in that moment, there was only one ending to the story and that put me in a tailspin. By the time I got to the vet I had forgotten my own medical exam process. I didn’t have enough clarity of mind to ask the questions I knew in my heart needed to be asked. It wasn’t until I got home that the fog cleared and the questions surfaced.

When anxiety strikes it can be debilitating. This is why when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness it’s important to either record your doctor’s visit or bring a family member or friend as a witness. There are too many of us who miss vital information when the anxiety fugue hits and when it comes to our health and healing we don’t want to miss anything!!

Experiencing Anxiety?  Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to alleviate anxiety through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I have two dogs and both have had their fair share of medical issues.  I’ve talked much more about my black lab Tashi who has suffered with recurrent infections due to MRSA.  I’ve learned a lot about facing illness and creating a new normal from her.  This past weekend my other dog, Bella, visited the vet because of a cyst in her ear.

As it turns out, Bella has a hematoma in her ear.  It was drained and a cortisone injection to reduce the swelling was administered.

During the examination the doctor noticed Bella required dental work with the probability that a tooth would need to be pulled.  If that weren’t enough, she has a cyst in the middle of her head that we decided is she’s going to be under anesthesia should probably be removed.

Bella was sent home with a bandage covering her ear.  Unfortunately, she kept trying to remove it so we had to get one of those big radar dishes for her head.  The poor thing was bumping into walls, tripping over things, and was generally a bit disoriented.

This morning I took Bella to the bet for her procedure.  She was very good in the exam room, probably because she was scared.  She began to shiver.  Her anxiety was evident and trying to console her did little good.  The vet was very good with her and he too tried to console her.  So why am I talking about a 10-1/2 year old dog?  Because dogs don’t understand their pain, the medical procedures they endure, or adjusting to medical devices for their own protection.

On the other hand, as humans we also don’t understand pain, medical procedures, or medical devices that become part of our every day lives.  Too many of us try and make sense of our illnesses, but is that even possible?

When we enter the medical arena we often try and hide our fear and anxiety, but it still always comes through.  Because illness is so disorienting how do we try and alleviate the panic?  It’s important to have people in your life that will help you disperse the anxious energy.  Talking, engaging in creative activities, finding a spiritual director, illness coach, or psychotherapist helps with those anxious moments.

What would happen if you really experienced the anxiety so you could disperse it into the universe?  We expend so much energy trying to hide it or suppress it that we are continually exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I had a clinical supervisor who said, “You can’t get out of something if you’re never in it”.  It’s like dancing around the mouth of the volcano…sometimes you have to jump in so you can know what you’re getting out of, experientially.

My dogs are my examples for coping with illness.  They seem fearless, truly a projection.  They provide me with insights into the illness experience that I wouldn’t have made conscious any other way.  It is because of that, that I am eternally grateful and I make sure any way I can be of service to them I will.

Read Full Post »

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

Summer has officially begun and the 4th of July is right around the corner.  One way this becomes clear is that there are a number of stands selling fireworks throughout the area.  Unfortunately in my household there is a scaredy cat…or rather a scaredy dog.  My dog Bella is terrified by the sounds of the firework and once they begin she retreats to the corner behind the couch and the end table; a cramped little space where she feels safe.  She hides back there because, as we all know, those shooting the fireworks don’t stop after one firecracker.  She’s well aware of this so she takes measures to make herself safe.

The same is true in caregiving.  It’s a role that doesn’t end until the person is either healed or cured, and the road to recovery is filled with twists and turns.  Is it really any wonder why caregiver stress and caregiver burnout are rampant in our culture.  We expect you, the caregiver, to provide 24/7 care without backup, training, resources, or any other relief strategies.  There are self-help books and support groups and those are great, but they don’t alleviate the anticipation of waiting for the other shoe to drop with the one you love.

Caregiving is wrought with anticipation.  It leaves you, the caregiver, a little edgy at times because there is no protective barrier for you the way you serve as protection for the person facing the chronic or life-threatening illness.  The anticipation is heightened because you feel vulnerable and exposed.  In many cases you are the liaison between the patient and the doctor and let’s face it; the messenger is the one who always gets shot.

So how will you deal with your anticipation?  Anticipation is rooted in anxiety, and in this case the anxiety is rooted in fear (kind of the domino theory of caregiving).  It can be draining and exhausting unless you set procedures in place for self-care.  This is one of the times when a family meeting is very important because everyone needs to be on the same page.  Caregiving is not a one person show, it’s an ensemble cast.  Who is responsible for what in your circle?  Think of it as being a project manager.  Different people have different responsibilities and you hold those people accountable for their activities and responsibilities.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop is terrifying so the first and most important activity is to consider what makes you the most anxious.  Taking a personal inventory of your own concerns and Achilles heal is vital.  I know, for me, that illness isn’t the big anxiety producing event, but pain and suffering raises my anxiety factor.  Everyone has that one or couple of things that sends their anticipatory anxiety through the roof.  Know what it is and find ways to curb that anxiety.  Support groups are great because you may find others who have the same fears and you can become a band of brothers/sisters.

Anticipation may be great when waiting for Heinz ketchup to come out of the bottle, but it is counter-productive for your own physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.  What are you going to do to lessen the impact of anticipation?

Read Full Post »

Unlike yesterday, today is bright, sunny but still a bit cool.   No I’m not going to give you a daily weather report, but it is relevant to what I want to share with you today.  Aside from having an auto-immune disease for over thirty years, I developed asthma as an adult.  It’s one of those things I don’t think about until I begin wheezing and need to grab my inhaler to regain my breath.  I have what’s called “exercise induced asthma” which I find amusing since I don’t exercise.  The reality is that my breathing troubles are triggered when I begin some type of strenuous activity (yes I understand that strenuous is individually defined).

As I mentioned yesterday it was snowing here in Denver in the morning.  I was leaving the house and decided to give the driveway a quick shovel.  It only took about ten minutes, but as the time went on my chest got tighter.  By the time I finished I was short of breath and I went in the house to get my inhaler.  I sat at the top of the stairs, sat down and took a puff.  By the time I get my inhaler in these instances my anxiety level is pretty high.  I often believe that my anxiety about not breathing is worse than not breathing (I guess that’s up for debate).

Once I regained my composure I had to make a conscious decision about how I would spend my day.  I could hang on to the anxiety or I can let it go.  As with many who have a chronic illness, anxiety is huge.  The idea that in one moment you can be fine and like the weather in twenty minutes things can change keeps you on the edge of your psychic seat.  There is an anticipatory angst about how will the symptoms show up to day, if at all, and how will you respond?  It’s easy to sit in the anxiety and become paralyzed from participating in your own life.  So what’s the plan?

I’ll share with you my thoughts and then I hope you’ll share with me some of yours.  I’ve come to understand my body and its triggers.  I know the cycle of my anticipatory angst and can talk myself down from the ledge.  I obviously need constant reminders that my lungs don’t function like others and I probably need some more work accepting and taking precautions in this arena.  It is something I am committed to working on because the moments of gasping for air are far from fun and certainly don’t make for the start of a great day.  I have to surrender to the idea that I have certain limitations.  Yesterday it was about taking precautions before shoveling the driveway.  As I approach the warm weather I need to keep in mind that the same thing happens when I mow the lawn.  Being able to generalize my triggers is a big step.  I hope you’re looking at not only the specifics of your triggers, but how they generalize to other activities or situations.

This is the time when you have to begin a love affair with your physical body.  You have to court your body as if you’re beginning a dating ritual.  You need to inquire about likes and dislikes.  You may be saying, “Greg, I know my body and I know the triggers”.  I would beg to differ because if you did would you really intentionally provoke your body?  We do provoke our bodies and I know that to live a higher quality of life I need to befriend my body, not challenge it. 

How will you spend your day?  Will you stay stuck in the anxiety of the symptoms and limitations?  How can you transform the current episode into a fact finding mission so you can make better decisions next time around?  What would your day be like if you didn’t feel stuck or trapped?

Read Full Post »

Do you remember the movie “The Blob”?  I remember watching this movie for the first time and loving all the oozing stuff overtaking the world.  The problem is that for many facing a chronic or life-threatening illness, the blob is confusion, overwhelm and certainly anxiety.  It can take over and leave you at its mercy.  Are there ways to clean up the blob?  Is it even necessary to clean it up?

Facing this type of far reaching turmoil, the clean-up job can take some time and if you don’t know where to start you may just let it continue avoiding more overwhelm.  The first place to stop is containment.  You don’t want these feelings of anxiety, overwhelm and disarray extend its boundaries.  You need to start creating borders or a container for these unfavorable feelings.  It’s like putting a baby in a playpen, the child can roam anywhere it wants within the confines of the playpen.  The same is true for your feelings of overwhelm or powerlessness, contain them.

Following containment comes the time when you have to figure out how are you going to make the road ahead manageable.  There are many ways to do this but they all take work and it’s up to you to roll up your sleeves and put in some sweat equity.  You are the one who will need to begin a spiritual practice, an artistic endeavor or some other structure that will reduce your level of anxiety and allow you to proceed with your day and your journey to wellness.  We’re not talking about creating an internal autocratic society, but structure prevents us from those unyielding feelings of floating and drifting in a sea of confusion.

You’ll need to build structure into the system because going through treatment means having as much on autopilot becomes a blessing.  I understand that you’re not alone in this world, so getting others to understand the complexities of your life is often cumbersome, but I assure you the anxiety and overwhelm are more consuming.  You may need to crack the whip for a short period of time as you establish the structure, but I assure you that once people see the benefits of having a structure their anxiety levels will reduce and you’ll begin to establish a harmony that is welcome and overdue.

It’s easy to get consumed by the blob because it has no understanding of boundaries.  Start with containment, move into structure and then take the leap and begin mopping up the mess.  If you stick to your guns the blob will retreat.  The anxiety and overwhelm will shrink and your life will develop a level of calm you may never have experienced before in your life…it’s a shame you had to confront a health challenge in order to learn these lessons, but they are universal so use them in all areas of your life.

What blob are you trying to contain?  What have you done to contain your personal blob?  Have you began creating structure in your life and if so has it helped?  Don’t be shy, we all need to learn each other’s strategies for dealing with the blob!

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I drove from Denver to Santa Fe, about 570 miles.  I got an early start so there wouldn’t be too many people on the road and I was right!  Once I got beyond the suburbs, down to the more rural areas I put the car on cruise control and down the road I went.  It was a straight ride down I-25.  It got me thinking about when every day is about taking medication or going for tests, it’s easy to put life on autopilot, but what happens when we remove ourselves to that go along for the ride mentality?

Keeping things systematized is how keep structure in your life and that most likely reduces anxiety, but does it dull your other senses?  How are you keeping engaged?  Are you still involved in activities?  I can tell you that if you enjoy an activity keeping up with it will boost your immune system.  It provides you with joy and that’s always good for the cells.  It gets you thinking about your life as it related to your life before the illness, that’s good.  Depending on the activity it keeps you connected to others.

Autopilot or cruise control is great for vehicles, but in life, there needs to be a balance between turning over responsibility and “going for the ride” and being so entrenched that it’s overwhelming.  If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.  Share how you stay engaged, but keep the medical aspects of your journey to wellness within the bounds of structure.

Read Full Post »