I have heard that once you hit 40, that's when the s__t hits the fan. I guess it's true because it's been quite a year. Probably one of the hardest I have been through. I am grateful to have gone through it though because I learned more than I care to admit.
I am over nine months out from the start of the trouble and only just now ready to put my thoughts down into words. I have been open and honest about it all with my family and friends because that is just how I am wired. I can't pretend or lie very well. I am finally ready to share it here.
In mid-December 2014, I started having trouble sleeping. First it was waking up in the middle of the night and not going back to sleep for hours and then it morphed into barely sleeping at all. After a couple of weeks, I was a disaster. I have always needed 8-9 solid hours of hard core sleep. I love sleep. I am a champion sleeper. Trouble sleeping, what the what? It's never lasted for long when I have had the odd bad night and then it was always easily attributed to some stress factor I was conscious of.
By the last week of school before Christmas, I was having anxiety. That's fun. I have never experienced true anxiety. It's not mental. Nope. It's a full blown physical chain of events that comes and goes almost randomly. Of course by this time, due to the lack of sleep, I was but a shell of my former self.
My doctor subscribed sleeping pills. Like as in the ones that you can get addicted to. I didn't care at that point, just knock me out for all that is good and holy in the world.
I took the first one and slept for....a whole hour. Mother trucker. Now what? She told me to I could take up to two. So I popped another. Great, another whole effing hour of sleep. And then I tossed and turned and went down to the spare bed and back up to our bed and maybe slept another hour in total and not consecutive. The best part? Almost falling asleep and twitching so hard I woke myself up only to have to start all over. Good times, I tell you, good times.
It was one of my own personal hells. There are many. Another involves spiders, as in tarantulas. I could go on but for the sake of preventing nightmares, I'll stop there.
By this point the anxiety was 99% related to sleep. Will I finally sleep tonight? OMG what if I don't sleep tonight? What if I die of lack of sleep? (yes, it was all completely logical and well thought out can't you tell?)
Two days later and a day before we were heading to visit family for Christmas, I was done. I was having full blown anxiety the whole day through, not sleeping and basically a basket case. It was a Sunday I think so I had to go to a mediclinic rather than my family doctor. At this point, I needed some way to control the anxiety so that I could hopefully have more success with the sleeping pills.
I was prescribed an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug. Stop for a minute. That was heavy. How did it come to this? HOW? A phrase I uttered often was "why is this happening to me?".
The kicker? It takes 2-3 months to take effect. Awesome. He also suggested I see a psychologist. Luckily enough I got in the next day and right before we left for Christmas.
She was great and she provided me with some podcasts that were supposed to relax me.
I listened to one in the car on the way to Saskatoon and finally was able to relax.
Later that night, as I talked with my parents, the anxiety ramped up again. It was always worse in the evening. I go into the bedroom and listen to the podcast and proceed to have an awesome panic attack.
Let's just stop right and here and point out that my mom was my rock at this point. I was like a child again and wanted my mom to fix this. She wanted to fix it too. I am sure it was really hard for everyone to see me like this. It wasn't me.
The next morning after yet another crappy night of little to no sleep, my mom calls my brother and they are brainstorming. He is a pharmacist and finally suggests that maybe it's my thyroid acting up. At this point, no one especially me, could consider anything other than a physical issue. Off my mom and I go to the ER because it's the week of Christmas and I am not in my home city so the family doctor is not an option.
After a very long wait that involved me losing my shit after the doctor came to see a girl that had stubbed her toe (I kid you not - who goes to the ER for that?!) before me. I was a mess. I wanted help and so I lost it when this occurred right in front of me - in the waiting room - a whole other story. The resident asks me if I am okay as I am sobbing in the middle of a busy waiting room. No, I said, I am NOT okay, that is why I am here. Can I please be seen?!
The solution? To give me effing Ativan. At this point they could have shot me up with heroin. If it would make me sleep, I would have done it. The doctor makes us wait another two hours because she wanted to see if the Ativan could calm me down. No it actually didn't, I am a logical person who had a tantrum to try and get action and I calmed down on my own. She then tells me she won't test my thyroid because she can't treat it anyway and I should not be taking the sleeping pills but should be taking Ativan and sends me home.
She was lovely, in an I don't want to deal with you, you have a mental issue and I wash my hands of you, just go home and sleep kind of way. Merry Christmas to you too, lady.
So at bedtime that night, I take the Ativan as lovely doctor beyatch prescribed and after a half hour of practically hyperventilating go out of the bedroom and my mom takes one look at me and we head to a different ER. Ativan was not at all helpful, to say the least.
We had a much better doctor. He tested my thyroid even though he was 99% certain it wasn't the issue. It wasn't but at least knowing that the test showed that, I had some closure. He also suggested taking both sleeping pills at the same time. I had not idea I could.
Mom had me pop them in the car before we drove back out to their place (25 min drive give or take). I was out like a light and mom had the pleasure of escorting a rather inebriated adult daughter into the house. It was comical. I reached for something and fell over. You have to laugh at these times.
Christmas was a blur. While taking two at once helped, it was not the final solution. I spent Christmas Day in bed resting because by this point, I had absolutely no energy to even sit upright. We then headed off to Kimberly, BC for a ski trip after Christmas and I loved the car ride. It put me right to sleep! Once we got home, I was able to see my family doctor and she finally got me on the right mix of anti-anxiety meds to get me sleeping through the night (can you say, triple the normal dose!). It took me weeks before I felt "normal" again (ie no anxiety) with weekly visits to the doctor to check in.
Fast forward 9 months and I have been through the process of weaning off the sleeping pills (huzzah!) and have cut the dose on one of the anti-anxiety drugs to 1/6 the original dose. The side effect of that drug, 20lb weight gain thankyouverymuch.
So. The moral of the story is that all of this was caused by stress. Did I feel stressed? No. Not at all. I had it all under control. I knew how to manage the demands of being on call 24/7 for my job. I prioritized! I was confident none of this was stress related for a long time.
I had to finally break down and admit that it had to be stress. There was no other reason. Thankfully changes were easily made to my job to cut my stress by half or more. I am so lucky to work with the organization I work with. They are so great to me.
I also had to make some significant changes in my personal life. I had to give up my one personal training client. That was hard. Really hard. I cried that day. I was pretty proud of my accomplishment and the fact that I could by dynamic enough to have my accounting career and a side gig as a PT. But I did learn my lesson. And I really do think that this had to happen for me to learn. It was hard but without having gone through this much hell, I don't really think I would have admitted to myself that my life was not manageable as it was.
The other huge change that is still a huge work in progress is my self body image. Gaining 20lbs will put that in perspective in a damn hurry I tell you. This is me last summer when I decided to get "serious" about my fitness:
Can you see why I needed this slap in the face? What in the hell did I think was wrong with how I looked? That day, I could have given you a list of at least 10 things. Today? Not a one.
Like I said, 20lbs will put that in perspective in a damn hurry. I will not likely ever look like that again. I still wasn't happy so why why why?!
Right now I work out because I enjoy it, I feel strong and fit and because I am good enough just as I am right now at this very moment not when I lose the 20lbs. Okay, I gotta be honest. I would at least like to get close to where I was in that picture above. But I am working on that because as I compare these two photos, I wonder if there is really that much of a difference. I see a huge difference but I am biased and skewed.
I have been reading the book that the founder of GoodLife Fitness wrote. His mantra is "Good enough is good enough". I was searching for perfection and it ended up with me in the ER having a tantrum like a child. I don't need perfection. I need a body that can live my life and I already have that.
I am good enough.