Saturday, June 23, 2012

When Caffeine -My Best Friend- Became My Enemy

As I was fighting for my life back, and my energy started improving, I decided I needed to fight to find "me" again. 

I had been a coffee drinker for at least ten years on a regular basis.  I was one of the people who would get a head ache if I didn't have my morning coffee.

Coffee was my way back to normality.  I grabbed a cup one morning thinking that it was my first step back to being "me" again.

Shortly after I drank the coffee, I felt as though someone released little firecrackers in my brain.  I wanted to cup my brain and scream.  In addition,  I was having a hard time breathing.  Caffeine did not agree with my body anymore.

At that time it was easy to blame it on anxiety.  I blamed EVERYTHING on anxiety.  My entire life, I tended to lean more towards the depression end of the scale when I would go through difficult times.  Anxiety was never a big part of my life and I was so confused as to why it decided to show up.

Now it all makes sense.  Lyme.  It's taken a hold of every single function in my body.  I will not be a victim to this devastating disease and I will find my way back to good health. 

Extreme Fatigue

So as if suffering with anxiety wasn't enough......

A few weeks after my initial panic attack, more symptoms started showing up.   I became extremely fatigued.  When I say extremely fatigued, I'm saying I imagine it is close to how one would feel if they were walking through a dessert for 2 days on little water.  I had a hard time walking to my bathroom.  I would sleep 10-12 hours and wake up feeling like I needed more sleep.  Taking a shower became nearly impossible.   I felt as though I was going to faint the entire time.   I wondered what was happening to my body, but I was so exhausted that although death crossed my mind, I didn't care.  If this is how one is prepared for death, it works.   I felt ready to die.  This lasted a couple of weeks before my energy SLOWLY started to creep up to half of that of a healthy individual.  Once I had a little bit of energy back, I felt I could somewhat function.  I would force myself to go for short walks outdoors.  I worked myself up to a point where I could run, but nothing about running felt right.  I forced myself to do so thinking that I could run myself back to better health and more energy.  I changed my diet thinking that would help me feel normal again.  Nothing worked. 

This is one of the million symptoms that lyme can cause.

Up Next: Over Sensitivity to Smells

Weeks after my panic attack I was still suffering the aftermath.  I couldn't drive my car unless it was for a trip to the grocery store - which were very few and far between.   During my 1.5 mile drive to the grocery store, I was in a constant state of panic.....waiting for my heart to start coming through my chest and waiting to feel as though I was being suffocated.   Not only was I in a state of constant panic about having a panic attack, I was now noticing that I had a major over sensitivity to smells.

Any time I would smell exhaust or gas, I would feel like it was going to send me into another deep state of panic.  This lasted over one year.

I realize now, that those smells were much more potent to my nose for whatever reason.  I'm certain that Lyme and I'm sure anxiety disorders on their own heighten many of our senses.  It could be that we are just overly aware of everything around us due to our panic, but I believe it is much deeper than that.  There is something else going on in the brain that I don't think is fully understood in the mental health/medical world.

Three years into lyme, this symptom has diminished.  Smells no longer throw me into a state of panic.  Actually, it's rare that a smell even bothers me anymore.  This is one of the little things that I need to celebrate.  Thank goodness that this symptom is gone!  Now I have to work towards eradicating the plethora of other symptoms that cause major pain and suffering on a daily basis!

The Beginning of Hell in Retrospect

Today I wonder why I didn't call the ambulance.  Panic attacks are no joke and I'm now aware that doctors and ambulance see these several times a day.

Time hasn't changed how scary that experience was and over three years later, it still feels like it happened yesterday.  Although, I can say it took more than six months following that panic attack before I could drive my car without a state of panic, today I can. It's the little things that I see that keep me going!  Progress is happening!  Some day I will be healthy again!

The Beginning of Hell

August 2010

I was driving to a friends house when all of a sudden my heart started racing, I was sweating, I couldn't catch a full breath no matter how hard I tried and I thought death was moments away. I had to swerve over four lanes of traffic to get to the side of the road. pulling over made me feel a little safer, but i swore i was about to die. I contemplated calling an ambulance and learned that calling the ambulance for yourself is harder than it sounds. I'm not sure if it was shame or pure embarrassment, but apparently I was willing to risk my life instead of asking for help.

Cars were zooming past me as I decided that praying would probably be a good idea. I grabbed my water bottle and guzzled the entire thing- I was more than thankful that I had it available. I put my hand to my heart and swore that my chest was going to explode. I again sat and questioned how long it would take the ambulance to get to me and if they'd make it before i died. The thought of death crossed my mind more than a dozen times.

My heart rate slowed from a billion beats a minute to about five hundred thousand beats a minute and I briefly contemplated calling my friend to pick me up. I thought about how she didn't have a car and wondered how she would get to me. My only choice would be to drive to her. I sat for another 20 minutes or so feeling exhausted - I imagine the feeling was similar to what those with epilepsy experience after having a seizure.

I had about 30 miles left to drive to my friends. My house was about 80 miles away, so obviously the logical choice was to continue driving to her house. The entire time my breathing was shallow and the road no longer felt safe. I stayed in the right hand lane fearing that i would need to pull off to safety.

To this day, more than two years later, I still wonder how I made it to her house safely. I had never experienced a panic attack before, but I would never forget this one.

My understanding and compassion for those that suffer from anxiety and panic attacks is the only positive thing that came from that experience. If I would have known that was only the beginning of the hell that I was about to inure, I don't think I would have made it through that experience.

And the nightmare began.........