Well as the title of this post pretty much explains…2016 didn’t give me a whole lot of time to start putting some money where my mouth is. I guess that’s the downside of staking your personal brand upon the principles of brutal honesty, transparency, and vulnerability. I’m told that’s what makes me unique and relatable. I have my doubts, which are usually alleviated when strangers start emailing me in response to what I sometimes view as garbage. Which is enough to keep me doing what I’ve been doing…sharing my journey with ya’ll.
I spent last night in the ER all by myself and it was horrible. It is important for you to understand that I DID NOT WANT TO GO. I mean really, who wants to spend over 8 hours of their day at GBMC? Tuesdays are therapy days, so I leave straight from work to journey to Towson to see my therapist and dietitian. It’s just part of a normal week for me.
Well yesterday I started having chest pain at around 1 pm and my hand kept falling asleep and getting really cold. It wasn’t the first time I’ve had the chest pain…I actually had a cardiac workup in November for a similar thing. Turns out I have PVCs (premature ventricular contractions)…which everyone has. I just have it more frequently that “normal” but not frequently enough to require medication.
So when things started up yesterday, I was a little worried, but not super concerned. I went to my therapy appointment as usual. My therapist, however, seemed to be super concerned. She went and got my psychiatrist, which I told her not to do. He came in and was “very worried” and asked me to please go to the ER “right now.” I said ok and he left. Then I told my therapist that my psychiatrist is not a “real doctor” and that I would not be going to the ER. Well obviously that one didn’t work.
I’m there for forever. All by myself. They take me back to run a test, then send me back into the waiting room, then take me for another test, then send me back to the waiting room. My phone is dying. I know that if it was super serious, they would have seen me quickly, which meant that I was fine, which meant that I could leave, except that my insurance wouldn’t cover the tests if I just got up and walked out. So I stay.
When it was finally *actually* my turn (there were plenty of false alarms turn-wise), I saw the doctor pretty quickly. He said it wasn’t a cardiac issue (which I pretty much figured). He suspected it was a panic attack. To diagnose it, he would give me Ativan and see if the symptoms diminished. I hate Ativan. Please note that I am not against medication. I take several psychiatric medications and I know that they have their place, but I did not want to use an anti-anxiety medication to diagnose my condition. But whatever. It helped enough for them to let me go home by 1:15 am. So there’s that.
I was too exhausted and hungover from the ativan to go in to work today. Who takes a sick day because of a panic attack, anyway? It ticks me off. I don’t want to be this person. The ER doctor asked me if I was stressed because I’m a “prime candidate for panic attacks.” Well yes, I’m stressed. Isn’t that part of being an adult human? I mean life is stressful. Suck it up and deal.
I had a very wise friend reach out to me today and our conversation felt worthy of public exploration. We’ll use the abbreviation WF for wise friend. And the conversation will be paraphrased to make this a little easier to follow:
WF: Probably good you could stay home today.
ME: I just hate the way it looks.
WF: Say more…the way it looks, which is…?
ME: Brittany is crazy and can’t handle life/work.
WF: I know what you mean and I would probably feel exactly the same way if I were in your shoes…I just want you to know that when I hear “Brittany’s home sick” I don’t think you’re crazy or weak. I think about how hard you fight every day and the depth of understanding you offer to anyone who crosses your path.
ME: Yeah, I guess I don’t like the idea of “owning” that.
WF: Because if you “own” it, what does that mean? Like it makes it real?
WF: So…just trying to clarify…if you don’t “own” it, then you can continue to hold yourself to impossibly high standards and then beat yourself up when you fail?
ME: EXACTLY. So glad you understand!!! (seriously without any sarcasm). When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like such a good idea. I’ve just never really been a low standards kind of girl.
WF: How is admitting what is true equalling out to low standards? And whose standards are these anyway? Yours? Gods?
ME: I know they’re my own. But I feel like I’m supposed and expected to be this super girl who is smart and competent and able to function like a normal person. Which I don’t believe to be unrealistic expectations.
WF: Do you…can you…see that you ARE those things right now?
ME: Some days yes. Which is good, except then I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to be like that a larger percentage of the time. So it makes me feel unreliable.
WF: I don’t know exactly what to say because I think and feel that way a lot too..but for me, I know it has something to do with being grateful, and something to do with not making demands about what it is or isn’t. It has something to do with the serenity prayer…”taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.” It has something to do with me stepping out of the role of the judge.
ME: Ooooooo yes. Good stuff. Crazy how something you say so routinely sometimes hits you in the face.
So there you have it. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I’m owning up to. I guess I didn’t really realize the extent of my denial. I still pretty much cringe at the phrase “chronic pain” because it makes me feel weak. I don’t want to say “panic attack” because it makes me feel crazy. I don’t want to say “in eating disorder recovery” because most days I feel like I’m not. I don’t want to say “bipolar disorder” because it makes me feel like everyone in the room is uneasy about what I might do or say next. Plus I always say I’m against labels to begin with. So the idea of taking ownership of those things goes against everything inside of me.
But fighting them is even more exhausting. Pretending that those things aren’t part of your identity? That usually just makes them worse. I can identify with the words without identifying with the things associated with the words. As my wise friend so eloquently put it…I need to step off the judging stand. That’s not my burden to bear.
I think we all know by now that it’s all about baby steps. In my last post I talked about doing the next right thing. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have anything against taking psychiatric medication (which will be a blog post entirely of its own in the nearish future). But I have no intention of taking drugs for these panic attacks. The side effects from the drugs are just as debilitating as the panic attacks themselves. So I took my “sick day” to research a more holistic approach. I have a box full of essential oils sitting upstairs in my bedroom. So I brought out my diffuser and the room is now filled with the aroma of Joy and lemon. I started to look for oils and recipes that would help reduce the intensity of the feelings I’m experiencing. I found and tweaked a recipe to make a roller ball using a blend of Young Living Essential Oils that includes lavender, ylang ylang, Valor, and Stress Away.
For those of you who don’t know about essential oils, this might sound pretty hokey. I honestly felt that way myself until recently. But I’ve done a lot of thinking and researching. The medicines that doctors prescribe are hit or miss. It’s all a matter of experimenting until they find the right medicine for you. Sometimes it’s expensive and sometimes it takes awhile. More like often than sometimes, really. Essential oils are kind of the same thing. Each oil has different properties and benefits. Oils also effect different people in different ways. They have incredibly powerful components that can help restore wellness to a person. The best part? It’s completely natural. You’re not putting a synthetic lab-grown medication in your system.
So it might not work the first time. You might need a different oil or a different mix. You might need to make a purchase or two before you find the right fit. You might feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. But you do. You’re taking an interest in your wellness rather than letting your health be decided for you. Oils won’t fix everything; I’ll be the first to admit that. They’re not going to grow back the crappy cartilage in my hip or cure my bipolar disorder, ok? I’m not a medical professional and you’ll never hear me claiming the curing powers of oils. But do your research and you’ll find that they can enhance your life in powerful ways. And that’s a journey I’m willing to explore.
The conversation with my wise friend encouraged me to revisit the Serenity Prayer in its entirety and I’d encourage you to do the same:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is;
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.