Sunday, 24 May 2009

Froot Loops R Us

I suffer from Anxiety Disorder – a consequence of the attack in 2006 that I didn't think would keep rearing its ugly head as soon as a bit of stress came my way.

The panic attacks I've sort of got used to. They are hideous but they're acute, and the after-effects last maybe a day. They're familiar and they're finite.

What I really hate is a flare-up of the constant, chronic whoosh in the guts (it's the same whoosh I used to get as a kid on the swings, except it's no fun without a swing), followed by a massive spike in my heart rate, and difficulty breathing. When it's chronic the loop takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, and it just keeps going ad nauseum....

The first (and I'd hoped the only) chronic episode was three years ago. I thought I was going to die. I thought that the strain on my heart would be too much for it and it would just stop. The loop was running about every 30 seconds, day and night. After 3 days of it I was going crazy. I yelled for help, the doctor diagnosed me and gave me the most disgusting medication ever. It was official – I was a froot loop.

The medication made me nauseous – I could hardly eat (lost a kilo in a week – wheeee, there's always a silver lining, ha ha!) had head-spins that made riding the bike risky and frightening, made my mouth taste like an iron foundry floor, gave me weirdo giant spider dreams and actually increased the anxiety (oh, good one!) I persevered for a week, then ditched the medication.

For me, riding my bike is the best medicine. I hopped on the bike and rode to Deniliquin, a little over 500kms away. And back again the following day. Riding is a great restorer of equilibrium. It puts me back in control.

So today, after work triggered another chronic episode the other day and I've been having the whoosh (NOOOOOO!), I took a giant restorative ride – a 560km trip that took in the twists of Brown Mountain and Clyde Mountain – and it took me over 250kms until the bad feelings went away. It was tough going, I have to tell you, sitting on that bike and feeling the whoosh of anxiety rather than exhilaration. When the exhilaration took over though.... Magic!

But take a step back to Friday morning at work. My boss was staggered that I let work affect me so badly (actually, it's not a conscious choice – it just happens...)

'It's only work,' he said. 'You shouldn't let it get to you.'

Hello? See, I hear that again and again from people in the Public Service, and I just don't get it. I can't operate that way. If I don't care about what I'm doing, why the hell would I spend a third of my life doing it? I just couldn't spend 8 hours a day of my very valuable, only-one-go-at-it life doing something I consider so meaningless that it just doesn't bother me when it all goes to shit.

Am I the only person who thinks that way? Work... um, single woman, mortgage, bills.... how the hell else am I going to live? And I can't spend all day having my brain anaesthetised and not giving a shit about what I do!

I quit teaching because I was so burnt out that I stopped caring – and I'm sorry – teachers have to care – how can they survive such a killer workload otherwise and be good teachers?

Maybe that's where I really belong – back in a school, trying to foster a love of the English language and a love of learning; caring about results; caring about actually making some kind of impact; working myself to death but feeling that it's all worthwhile, rather than working myself into a straitjacket because I'm the only one who takes my job seriously!

Maybe it's time to go back to my first love. Something to think about after my nice hot bath (oooh, aching muscles – haven't had an uninterrupted day of saddle-time like that for AGES! It was soooo good!)


Rosie said...

Wow! It's like reading about me. I have anxiety disorder too. Wooosh AAARRRGG. I've taken the plunge after thirty years of living like a hermit and start cognitive behaviour therapy in September. I haven't ridden my bicycle since I had a panic attack while riding a month ago and I'm talking about a bike not a motor bike. I admire your courage. I'm reading"Panic Attacks, a workbook" by David Carbonell.

Sue said...

Gee Rosie, hope you get back on your bike soon. I once had a panic attack on my bike, riding on a dirt road. It was terrifying, and the thought that kept going through my head was that my "escape machine" had become my gaoler - what if I couldn't ever ride again? Somebody else rode my bike back to sealed roads again and I just cried on the back of another friend's bike. Horrible. The fear was unfounded though (thank goodness) and I was back on the bike later in the day. Will have a look for the Carbonell book. Hope you find CBT helpful - it's a lot of hard work changing how you think and respond - good for you! Good luck!

Velocipete said...

Shines, you may be a fruit loop but like fruit loops you are colourful, sweet and totally delicious with or without milk.
I am lucky I guess, I got over the anxiety attacks after I left school and the bullies behind and they didn't emerge again till I was at treasury and working for another bully.
You are a fruit loop but you are my favorite fruit loop.