Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Day I Don't Feel Anxious

I think that I have always battled anxiety. As an extremely shy child I felt the most at ease when I played alone or with my sister Shannon. I’ve never been a big talker, in fact my parents use to request (without my knowledge) that teachers place me with the more vocal students. It was years before they copped to that one. I always thought I must have the worst luck in the world to always be sitting with the “bad” kids.
As I grew up and into my adulthood I had a wide group of acquaintances but only a few close friends. That was by choice. For a person with anxiety the fewer people you have to fool the better. Many people with anxiety limit their social interactions to situations they can control with people that they trust. I am no different.

Three years ago a situation occurred that I had no control over.  My dad, who had been battling liver issues, was put on the transplant list. Despite his illness, he looked fine. I knew he was sick but not that sick. It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and we got the 6am call that a liver had been accepted for transplant. I didn’t have time to be anxious. There were a million of things to do. I had to get ready and drive to my parents’ house. I still didn’t have time to be anxious. Once there I had to talk to my mom. What did they say? Where do we have to go? And all the other who, what, when, where and how. After that I still didn’t have time to be anxious. My dad needed to show me how to pay the mortgage and where he kept all his passwords.

Finally we got out the door. Funny…I didn’t have time to be anxious then either. We talked the entire ride about the surgery. We got the hospital and went through the registration process. We talked about anything dad wanted. I didn’t have time to be anxious. After a while I started making phone call to other family members. Then they started arriving and asking questions, some I knew the answers to and other I didn’t.
After waiting all day my dad was finally wheeled down for surgery. I didn’t have time to anxious. By then I was consumed with fear.

For the next 32 days I lived in a perpetual state of fear, hope, anguish and exhaustion. Every day was spent thinking of dad. I’m not going to go into details here but his transplant story did not end the way you hear on the news. Most of those are success stories that make light of all the trials and tribulations that go with transplantation. The media also showcases the failure known as rejection. My dad suffered or was unconscious for most of that month he lived after the transplant. Not once did he reject the liver or livers as there were 2 transplants done.

It was not until about a month after my dad died that I had my first major panic attack. I think that my grief 
had keep it at bay and as the initial shock subsided the anxiety returned with a vengeance. I was at home watching television when I felt the nervousness. I had a hard time getting a deep breath (even though I could if I concentrated).  I felt as if I was having a heart attack but I wasn’t. The attack went on for a minute or two and then I was fine.

This continued every day for the next few weeks. My dad’s death just intensified my anxiety (also my depression). The fact that I knew it was a panic attack didn’t make it any easier. In fact I think it made it worse. I lived in fear of having an attack. What if it happened at work? Or at the movies? Or with my friends? What would they think of me?

I wish I could tell you that I have conquered the beast but that would be a lie. I battle it constantly. Some days I win and others I lose. It took me two years to finally share my problem with the doctor. Given what my dad experienced I have a huge mistrust of the medical profession. Thankfully I found one that seems to listen to her patients.

I am a work in progress and I look forward to the day that ... I don’t feel anxious.

1 comment:

  1. Its hard when you lose a parent. My dad passed away in 1982 of colon cancer. Of his three kids, I'm the one who was closest to him. I still miss him and I always will.

    I had what you described. That pressure in your chest which made it hard to breath. It went away and then come back.

    Two months after dad passed away, I started a new job which had a lot of pressure to get things done. It was the wrong time to start something new. Too many things were happening all at once, and I was still in mourning. The pressure in my chest got worse. I'd sit and pant. Then it would pass.

    I worked hard, but still I lost the job. So, I went back to my old job, which thankfully rehired me.

    I kept going. My mantra was "This too shall pass."

    Eventually things get better and they did.

    It's been 31 one years since I lost my dad. I think of him sometime and still cry a bit and miss him, but I'm suppose to. He was my dad.