Tag Archive: anxiety

New Year, New Fears

Forgive me, blogosphere, for I have sinned.  It has been 6 months since my last confession, and now it’s a new year.

To backtrack, in 2012 I lived through a go-kart race, a German roach infestation and plenty of slippery sneaky silverfish.  I climbed a rock wall on the top deck of a cruise ship and rang the bell.  I lived through a colonoscopy and an MRI, each of which made me face my fears of losing my lunch.

I took leaps to put myself out there as a professional writer, allowed people to read some of my short stories and even gained paying clients.  I got a new job and watched my husband do the same.  I hired a dog walker, something I was afraid to do because, well, it seems weird to have my key floating out there in the ether with someone I’ve only met once.  Okay, and because I’m a nervous dog mommy, but our dog walker is awesome about checking in.

It was a long year…a year in which I found it difficult to keep up with this blog while completing freelance work and fighting the frustration of long commutes compiled with the exhaustion of having an autoimmune disease.

Now, in 2013, I face another fear.

Last week my doctor informed me that the safest treatment option for my—emphasis on my personal plight since I know others have found success with other options—Crohn’s disease right now is to start a drug called Cimzia, which is an injectable immunosuppressant.  I know what you’re thinking.  Something that suppresses your immune system is safe?  Why an injection and not a pill?  You never seem stomach-sick—why do you need to be on medication at all?  And, can’t you treat it herbally?

For the first question, I’m up to date on my vaccinations—TDAP, flu shot, pneumonia, etc.  So I’m told that if I am feeling unwell I should see a doctor to make sure I don’t have any infections that my body might have trouble fighting.  Sure, I might become a hypochondriac at first if people are sniffling around me, but I’m hoping this won’t be an issue, and hundreds if not thousands of other Crohn’s patients have found success with immunosuppressants.

For the second question, my disease has not progressed to a point where I’m in constant pain, can’t work, or feel the need to complain.  I am fully functional and often find that overeating or certain foods at certain times of the day cause me distress.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where I suffer that are inexplicable.  It’s just that I choose not to share the gory details, because the symptoms of Crohn’s disease are frankly pretty embarrassing.  When my colon is inflamed, noises occur.  Frequent trips to the bathroom happen.  There’s so much more, but it can be TMI, so if you have specific questions, feel free to ask me off the blog.

To address the third question, the injection is the best option for me right now because the drug is safest for someone who wants to become pregnant.  Am I trying to get pregnant right now?  No.  Am I going to tell you when I’m trying?  No.  So don’t ask.  Apparently the drug stops before going into the placenta.  With other immunosuppressants, the drugs reach the baby and the small risk is that the baby will be born immunosuppressed and need to wait on getting crucial vaccines.  I’d rather not worry about that…I’ll be worried enough about having a newborn as it is!

And lastly, sure, I could probably go see a homeopath and attempt a bunch of herbal remedies and diets—possibly with little to no success.  Unfortunately, I am running out of time to do something with trial and error.  My MRI showed that the Crohn’s is spreading to different areas in my system.  While I don’t necessarily FEEL worse, this can be dangerous.  Serious issues can include blockages, surgeries and colostomies.  I don’t want any of this.  So the Cimzia is preventative and may help me feel better in a way that I can’t imagine right now because I’ve lived with undiagnosed Crohn’s probably for at least a decade…I’m used to having a bloated belly, sores in my mouth, night sweats and a host of other symptoms that go along with my particular case of Crohn’s disease.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I’m not afraid of needles.  I often watch as the needle goes in for routine blood tests.  But there’s something about knowing that I have to put the needle in my own skin that is giving me the willies.  I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong.  That I’ll either waste this incredibly expensive medication somehow, or that I’ll give myself an infection.  That it will hurt.  That I’ll have terrible side effects.  Or, worst of all, that it won’t work.

On top of this, I’ll be taking a drug called 6mp, often given to leukemia patients, which is supposed to help me not become resistant to the Cimzia.  It’s got a host of side effects of its own.  Because it can cause liver damage and mess with your platelets, I have to have frequent blood tests too.  2013 is therefore looking like a whole lot more poking and prodding than I’m used to.

I am inspired by a lyric in the Broadway musical Newsies (those of you who know me well, please do not roll your eyes at my obsession with those adorably capped dancers!):  “Courage does not erase our fears, courage is when we face our fears.”

I think it’s important to keep this in mind.  If I ever go zip lining again, I’m still going to be nervous.  Even after holding giant insects and arthropods in the palm of my hand, I’m going to be terrified when I see grasshoppers in my house.  And I’m never just going to be okay with throwing up.

But while I was once a Cowardly Lion shamefully holding my tail, I have since earned my badge of courage.  Do I run and hide from my fears?  No, not unless someone’s threatening to tickle my feet, or I’m in any real danger.  I may pout, cry, whimper, and attempt to gain the sympathy of others when facing my fears, but I do just that, head-on, like the newsies.

In 2013, I dare you to do the same.


Perhaps a Little TMI

I’ve grown.  You only need to look at the events of the past week to see how.

First, let’s start with my mild emetophobia (fear of throwing up).  The last time I violently emptied the contents of my stomach was at 15 years old after getting food poisoning from a bad burger at my high school.  I was so viciously ill – not to mention seriously grossed out about the epically foul patty – that I didn’t touch ground beef at all until about 2005.  And for whatever reason, the powers that be smiled down on me and decided I’d had enough and I didn’t toss my cookies ever again…until Tuesday. 

Normally, Mr. Upchuck is preceded by minutes or even hours of nausea and sweating, and for me, thick swallowing, crying, digging toes into the carpet, whining, panicking, palpitations and praying that either it will happen RIGHT NOW or never.  Bless those powers that be though for making this unpleasant event occur without warning.  Granted, this created a much bigger mess that I was then forced to clean while my insides continued to clean out with the help of 4 liters of sodium bicarbonate prescribed so that I could endure what is known in the gastrointestinal world as a “double whammy” — an endoscopy and colonoscopy.  Fun stuff, let me tell ya.  But hey.  At least I wasn’t sitting in a puddle of fear waiting for the inevitable.

Anyways, sparing you all the gory details, is it pathetic that I’m actually proud of myself for making it through?  I threw up, so what?  It happened and now I don’t have to worry about it anymore.  I had a good streak going there for 16 years…maybe I can go another 16.

Secondly, I had to undergo the afore-mentioned invasive procedures as part of routine maintenance for a suspected mild case of Crohn’s Disease.  If you’re not really sure what it is, don’t worry.  I’m not 100% sure either, except that it involves swelling in the colon and can cause narrowing of the intestines and can be really painful, embarrassing and make you feel very abnormal in the abdominal region.  I’ve probably been living with this (or IBS or IBD or all three, or colitis or a number of other issues) for years but this time around we’re hoping for a definitive diagnosis. 

I’d previously had two colonoscopies and one endoscopy as well as an MRI, several blood tests, and even a test in which I had to drink something weird and blow into a machine every fifteen minutes.  So this wasn’t all that scary for me…except the part where I had to drink the massive jug of metallic salty-tasting solution designed to shrink your stomach to the size of a pea, give you a supreme case of the shivers and keep you on the toilet till midnight.  I was so dang nervous about drinking that stuff because it makes me gag and dry heave…but not at all concerned about getting knocked out or about what they might find.  I’m mostly okay with needles, so the IV was a cinch (except for the part where they couldn’t find a vein, but what else is new).  Nope, it was the drinking that I was afraid of…that and the fact that during my last colonoscopy 4 or so years ago, I just so happened to wake up during the procedure.  (shiver)  But I requested that my doctor give me extra anesthesia this time so I was out like a light, and even once I woke I continued to act so drugged that I asked Greg the same question no less than four times in the space of about ten minutes.  Hilarity! 

So, for drinking MOST of the 4-liter jug of sodium bicarbonate and living through the yucky gastrointestinal procedures, I must pat myself on the back again.  I faced these challenges with dignity, tissues jammed up my nostrils so I couldn’t taste the putrid liquid, and my favorite fuzzy bathrobe, and only whimpered and moaned a few hundred times.  I was a champ.

Now, while awaiting my -oscopies, the hospital was running seriously behind.  I was told to check in at 9:30 am, so we left the house at 8 (hey, rush hour traffic on LA’s infamous 405 South is nothing to scoff at), got to the hospital by 9 and proceeded to wait…and wait…and wait some more.  I was not called back till about noon, when my initial appointment was scheduled for 10:30 am.  I had hoped to be leaving the hospital for home by noon.  So besides proving that waiting is the worst part of any medical test, a new fear sprouted in my mind.  Our dog Brody was at home alone with full run of the living room, dining area and kitchen for the longest time since he’d eaten an eighth of his weight in dog food just two weeks after he was adopted.  Since the incident that dragged us to the animal emergency room on Valentine’s Day 2010, Brody had been crated.  And my four or five replacement pairs of shoes had been happy.

However, lately we’ve been leaving Brody for up to 3 or 4 hours uncrated as an experiment.  With nothing out of place, we figured leaving him for the morning would be fine.  What we didn’t expect was that we’d be getting home 6 hours later. 

All signs point to Brody having slept all day, so feeling oddly confident, I suggested leaving Brody uncrated for seven hours while we were both at work on Friday.  This was completely out of character.  For the past two years, I’ve been the worrywort.  I always knew that at some point I’d be ready to leave him out of his “house” (partially because he was destroying every last towel we put in there) but I didn’t know I’d be ready now. 

So that’s the third thing I’m proud of this week.  Plus, I’m very proud of Brody for being a good boy and not touching a thing!  My shoes and I profoundly thank him.

As a side note, I apologize for being a bit too busy these days to write or to accomplish any crazy fears, but as you can see, I’m still working on my anxieties…even the little ones.  So I hope you’ll continue to support me on my journey!