Anxiety & anemia, but is there more?

On Dec. 31 of last year I wrote that my big goal for 2009 was to take care of my mental and emotional health. I knew I needed to do this for a few reasons. Not only was I treating my children and husband with the love and respect they deserve, but I felt my physical health was starting to suffer as well. I had started having anxiety or panic attacks – again.

I thought they were a thing of my past. I had experienced anxiety attacks while Jody and I were trying for month after month after month to conceive Ava. It was a difficult time in my life. I so wanted to be pregnant and to be a mom. I was charting using the Fertility Awareness Method and we seemed to be doing everything right, but it was not happening for us. It obviously eventually did happen (with a little help) and the anxiety attacks went away. That is until several months ago.

I don’t remember exactly when they started up again and because the symptoms weren’t consistent with what I’d experienced in the past, I wasn’t entirely sure they were anxiety attacks. My heart would start racing which would make breathing a little more difficult. I was also feeling dizzy at times, tired, lethargic and sometimes depressed.

Over the past month, the frequency of the attacks increased dramatically. I started having several anxiety attacks a day or ones that would last for a long, long time. I started getting worried that this was more than just anxiety. After consulting Dr. Google and my favorite resource, Twitter, ;) I thought I might have a thyroid issue or even a heart problem. After a particularly bad attack, I finally called my doctor’s office and scheduled an appointment. It was five days out. Five very. long. days.

During those five days the attacks continued. I debated about going to urgent care once or twice. I thought about going straight to the ER. And then, the night before my appointment, as I tried to go to sleep I had one of the worst attacks ever. My heart would not stop racing no matter what I tried to tell my brain to calm myself down, no matter how much I focused on my breathing. I told Jody I was doing really bad and that I wanted to call the doctor on call (while I was really thinking, “maybe you should call 911″). I had all of these fears that I would die the day before my appointment because I had put it off too long. That I was going to leave my children motherless and my husband a widower. It was too much.

I called the doctor’s office and spoke to the woman at the answering service. She told me to stay on the line and she would try to call the on-call doctor (not my doctor, but one in the same practice). To my relief the doctor answered the phone (even though it was 12:30 a.m.). I talked to the doctor for about 20 minutes. She reassured me, based on the symptoms I was describing that it was likely anxiety and not a heart issue, but she was also glad I was scheduled to come in for an appointment. I felt better the longer we talked and had calmed down a fair bit by the time we hung up. Of course, my heart started racing again after we were off the phone and there was no way I was going to sleep any time soon, but after watching Scrubs with Jody for an hour, I felt better and was able to go to sleep at 2 a.m.

Photo courtesy of Neeta Lind

Photo courtesy of Neeta Lind

The next morning I happily went to see my doctor. I told her my symptoms, she examined me and said she felt I was likely experiencing anxiety. My blood pressure was normal and my heart sounded, in her words, “perfect.” She did want to rule out thyroid and heart issues just to be sure, so she sent me for blood work and an EKG.

I had told her that I did not want to go on medication unless absolutely necessary, but I was looking for natural ways of treating this. She recommended a therapist, acupuncture, a $300 biofeedback video game called The Journey to the Wild Divine (it looks really cool, but pricey!), as well as fish oil (double the amount recommended on the bottle). She gave me a prescription for Xanax too, just in case I really needed it. (I haven’t taken it, although I was tempted to today.) She said she felt confident that we could get this under control and she wanted to see me back in two weeks.

In the meantime, I had my blood drawn and my first EKG. The EKG came back normal, but the bloodwork revealed that I am mildly anemic, so it was recommended that I go on an iron supplement and increase my green leafy vegetables.

It’s been nearly two weeks since my appointment and while the anxiety attacks do not seem to be happening as often, they are still happening – some worse than others (like last night’s when I was up until 2 a.m.).

I really want to believe that everything I’ve been experiencing is just from anxiety and anemia but honestly, I feel like it could be something more. And I don’t think I will be satisfied until I’ve ruled out those other possible issues.

This week I’m going back to my doctor for a follow-up appointment and I have a therapy evaluation scheduled. I might be making an eye appointment with the doctor who did my strabismus (eye muscle) surgery several years ago and revisiting my old neurologist too. I just want to get to the bottom of all of this. While I feel like there have been improvements in how I feel just in these two weeks, I still have a long way to go before I’m back to feeling like my old self. I miss my old self and am going to keep trying to get her back.

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60 thoughts on “Anxiety & anemia, but is there more?

  1. read up on adrenal fatigue. I have GAD and occasional (well fairly rare( panic attacks but I went through a period of daily panic attack hell. After several months, my GP (god bless her) realized I had adrenal fatigue. With vitamin suppliments, changing how I ate (eating frequently & following schwarzbein principle), and taking a work out sabatical, I healed.

    I hope, whatever the cause, you can get to the bottom of it. Panic attacks suck

  2. Just wanted to stop by and let you know you are not alone!! I have been suffering anxiety attacks since I was 11. Some other natural suggestions are:

    -make sure to keep well-hydrated; dehydration can trigger anxiety,

    -eat foods that are high in B6 and zinc specifically (there’s a theory out there that mood disorders may have to do with the body’s dis-ability to process those two things. Whether or not it’s true, it still doesn’t hurt to eat better.),

    -eliminate artificial colors, preservatives, including MSG, and sugars, as much as possible

    -consider taking lemon balm as a supplement

    -consider testing for hormonal imbalance. Once I looked at balancing my progesterone/estrogen levels, my emotional stability has improved significantly

    -get regular exercise

    I hope any of these suggestions help you! I hate feeling this way all the time, and I’m doing everything in my power to fix it. I’m doing these same suggestions, and I’ll let you know how it works for me. ((hugs))

  3. Hope you don’t think I’m stalking you by offering you random advice on Twitter– but I am really feeling for you. Wanting to reach out. My husband and I both deal with anxiety issues, his manifest very closely to what you describe yours as. It’s hard, hard, hard, but you CAN get it under control!

    One book that has helped us is this one: http://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Phobia-Workbook-Step-Step/dp/1567310745 May be worth getting from your library and see if it would help?

    I hope you find some relief soon. This can be such a terrifying thing to go through!

  4. Go with your gut. In no way am I saying what I’m about to say because I think these are your problems but rather just to share that sometimes it is more and if think so then keep harping on it to your doctor.

    Having set up that whole disclaimer I know that Tiffany Washko has said she was experiencing them before she was diagnosed with colon cancer and I had them for a long time before realizing they were all related to my severe systemic yeast.

    So sometimes they CAN be because of physical/medical problems. And if you feel there is an underlying cause then you keep working to find out what it is.

    And I’m sending you as much virtual support and hugs you can stand!

    Nell

  5. So sorry you’re having to deal with this. I hope you can find a natural way to deal with it. Have you looked into cranial sacral therapy and atlas-orthogonal chiropractic? They do wonders for me and anxiety. I also a huge advocate of acupuncture. Can’t list all the ways it has helped our family.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon!

  6. I have no good suggestions. I just wanted to let you know that I’m reading, and I hope that you’re able to find some sort of resolution. As a generally anxious person myself, I can relate to what you describe, and I know it’s no fun.

    In order to take care of others, sometimes we need to take care of ourselves first. As moms it’s hard to do that sometimes, so good for you for being proactive on this.

  7. Amy,

    I am so sorry you are going through this. I wish I had the answer for you, but I think you already have some good advice, and I second, going with your gut. You can always get a second or even third opinion if you are not satisfied with what your doctor decides.

    If your insurance accepts it, I would really recommend seeing Dr. R. at Dr.B’s office- the acupuncturist there. She has worked with women for over 20 years. I was having major depression and stress issues and after just one session with her, I felt a lot better. She is amazing. It might be worth checking her out as well.

    Hang in there, and keep us updated.

  8. Amy,
    Thank you for sharing your struggles. You are very courageous for writing about your anxiety online. I hope your health care “people” (drs. and others) can help you stabilize and reconnect with your old self.
    Your blog is fabulous, btw. I just recently found it and am now addicted. Thank you:)

  9. I know all too well how disruptive health scares/issues can be. I hope they get to the bottom of this and that you feel like your old self again asap. Love you, Amy!

  10. Does it make you feel any better to know that *my* anxiety shot through the roof reading your post? Probably not.

    Good for you for sticking on this. I hope you find an answer sooner than later.

    I empathize with your hesitation to try drugs, but what would happen if you tried the xanax just once, to see if it helps. You have many resources available. After dealing with Keith Swan I think he’s a true healer and he might be a good resource at some point.

    Hang in there. I’m thinking of you and sending you much love and healing thoughts!

  11. I am sorry you are dealing with this. I was once taken by ambulance to the ER for an anxiety attack. No fun. It may or may not have been related to dehydration, but when I feel an anxiety attack come on, it helps me so much to immediately get something HOT to drink — tea, apple cider, whatever. Can’t hurt to try that.

  12. My sentiments echo your other readers’. You’re brave to express yourself so vividly and honestly about the issues you’re facing.

    I’m very sorry you’re going through such a difficult time and I can also relate to a degree because I’ve gone through it too, though much milder. I sincerely hope you find relief soon, and drug-free since that is your ultimate desire (understandably). Keep us posted.

  13. Glad so far your tests are normal! That game looks neat! Guessing it would save you money in the long run in place of going to bio feedback. Let me know if you buy it if it’s any good.

  14. I’m so sorry you’re having these issues. I had anxiety attacks after my son was born. Mine was partially due to lack of sleep, and dehydration, and the panic of being a new mom. Accupuncture may help alot. I found a woman who does healing touch, and that really helped me alot.

    You’ve gotten some great suggestions, I hope you find the answers soon. Good luck!

  15. Amy,
    Just a quick note to say that if you’d like to try out my (original) version of Wild Divine, you can borrow it for a bit!

    You can read a bit about the benefits of biofeedback on my very first blog: http://biofeedbackgames.com/

    It never went anywhere because I had a newborn, and then every time I went to play it one or another of my kids wanted to play, and they go to bed when I do… It is hooked up to my computer now, ‘cuz I feel that I’ll soon have the time. HA!

    Anyway, if you wanna get a taste of if it’s worth it and wanna come pick it up, I’d love for you to!

    Also, sign up for their newsletter, ‘cuz they have deals all the time. And check out Vitamin Cottage ‘cuz I see it there all the time!

  16. I can only imagine how terrifying all that was. And, of course, it’s so much worse at night – in the dark.

    I know when I’ve felt that (not for the same reasons, but I believe we all have those moments of darkness), I have also felt terribly alone.

    Good for you for reaching out. Help is never far away.

    Thank you for sharing.

    ::: gentle smiles and lots of hugs ::::
    Dawn

  17. First of all, HUGS.

    I know what it is like to have chronic health issues that threaten to take over your life. Before I had kids I was nearly disabled by low thyroid, fatigue, joint pains, and other strange symptoms.

    Noone could figure out what was wrong and I got deep in debt paying Doctors.

    NOW I have glowing health, and have kind of pieced together the puzzle.

    For ME, part of the cause (after the emotional strain my ex put me through that also triggered it) was my two year stint as a vegetarian.

    My adrenals and thyroid just bottomed out. I simply can NOT eat like that, and I think MANY women/people cannot.

    The more fat and meat I consume, the better I feel. I try to eat grass fed organic meat every single day at least twice a day. I eat LOTS of grass fed butter, coconut oil, bacon, etc. I stick to the highest quality stuff that I can buy from local farmers or at least Whole Foods.

    These types of foods are very nourishing to the endocrine system. You might want to look into (not assuming you are ignorant…) the Weston A Price/Traditional Diet/Nourishing Traditions way of thinking.

    I’ve never felt better on this diet. Another source of info is Lisa Fyfe of holistic-treatments-for-depression. She was a previous guest and also is @lisafyfe on Twitter. Another great source of info on this way of eating and the science behind it.

    Please email me privately if you want to talk more. We moms can’t be sick. :-)

  18. Amy,
    I am really sorry to hear that you are dealing with some difficult health issues. It sounds like you have come to the point where you are going to search until you get the right answer, that’s a good thing!

    You’ve had some great guidance here, so I won’t offer more, but just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you and hoping that answers come your direction.

  19. Get the full workup done, Amy. Go to the closest University research hospital or if you can get to Mayo Clinic, then do so.

    Not trying to alarm you. These are just the quickest ways to rule out any physiological problems. Which I’m sure there are none.

    In the meantime, take a break. Take a break from blogging. Don’t worry so much about saving the world, the chicken fight, etc. And just focus on yourself. Wear comfy clothes, hang out with your family and do the very minimum that you need to.

    In other words: hug yourself, take care of yourself, and focus on you.

    Everything is going to be OK.

  20. I so hear you on the panic attack front. I only started getting them late last year when my business took off and got crazy busy.
    What worked for me…
    Making sure I was getting enough sleep.
    Delegating as much as I could.
    Spending time just sitting each day.
    Emergency Calming Techniques: http://www.destuckification.com/
    Brightest blessings to you dear soul!
    Leonie

  21. Amy – I am so sorry to hear this. What were the results of your thyroid tests? I was diagnosed with Graves disease (hyper-thyroid) about 5 years ago and I was experiencing similar symptoms to yours. I wish I had known enough then to seek out more natural alternative solutions, but I didn’t and now take synthroid every day. Keep us posted. I hope you find what is happening in your body and can feel better soon. It is so scary to not know.

  22. I hope you figure it out, I know what the heart racing feels like as I produce too much epinephrine and it sometimes makes me dizzy and weak; it’s much better since I became an adult but sometimes it used to feel like my heart was going to pound out of my chest.

    As a yoga teacher I have to add that nadi sodhana, a breathing exercise, may help a bit as it calms the nerves very well and balances the ida and pingala (the yin and yang of your body).

    http://www.holisticonline.com/Yoga/hol_yoga_breathing-ex-nadisodh.htm

    Will say a little prayer for you, I hope that’s OK.

  23. You have gotten lots of wonderful advice, especially Carrie’s description of needing to eat more (good) fats.

    I highly recommend The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which you can find at gapsdiet.com (also you will find a basic explanation and the intro diet)

    You are experiencing endocrine symptoms, but you may find that they abate through changing your diet. You may find that you are well-fed but not well-nourished (we are what we digest, not merely what we eat)

    Many are finding great healing from “psychological” illness, through nourishing themselves well.

    If I can help, please let me know. There are links for GAPS on my blog, and also my email. Good luck!

    (p.s. with five kids and adrenal fatigue and a history of anxiety I really do empathize–but you CAN change this)

  24. Amy,
    ((HUGS))
    I hope you find out what’s causing the issue and are able to find yourself again like you mentioned. Have you heard of the book- Good Food, Good Mood, by Gary Null. May or may not be helpful. Hang in there and take it easy, mama! :)

  25. Amy – I’m so sorry this is happening for you. I suffered from panic and anxiety attacks for many years – to the point where I couldn’t eat or sleep, let alone leave my house. The first thing that helped – breathing. I would set my watch alarm for 1 minute and 10 seconds (to be sure I got the full minute) and just breathe deeply – I counted in and out. Within a week, I felt better. It was my lifeline back to the world. Years later, when I trained to be a yoga teacher, I learned that you can not simultaneously breathe deeply and have a panic attack. It’s like trying to stand up and sit down at the same time – physically impossible.
    Also, there is an amino-acid called L-Theanine that helps tremendously -it’s role in the body is to reduce stress. I’m terrified to fly, but it got me to and from St. Louis w/o a care in the world – it isn’t a drug, there are no side effects accept feeling totally calm.
    I also highly recommend going to see a homeopath…

  26. I’m so sorry to hear you have not been yourself. I’ve written about my 10 year bout with panic and anxiety so I feel for you right now. You are right to dig and dig until you uncover the root of why you are not feeling right. Trust your instinct.

    In my experience my symptoms were so multi-layered that it was confusing, but over time things started to fall into place and health returned. Be good to yourself. Sending you healing thoughts!

  27. Hi Amy,
    There is a lot of great advice here and i want to add one more suggestion. BodyTalk.
    It is a great way to help the body heal both physically and energetically and has helped me gain a lot of insight into my personal “issues” that are affecting how my body is working as well. I highly suggest it. Here is a link to some practitioners near you
    http://tinyurl.com/b2g5uk.

  28. If you want to explore natural treatments for anxiety in addition to what your Dr recommended (which I actually thought was very progressive) make an appointment to see Deb Breakell at Helios Health Center in Boulder. She is wonderfully caring NP and very knowledgeable in treating anxiety with herbs and supplements. As a certified herbalist & former college of Deb’s, I too suffered from anxiety attacks and know the guilt they can induce when you can’t be at your best as a mom. Take care of yourself first, its the most important thing you can do for them. (PS They don’t take insurance, but only charge you for the actual length of your appointment.) http://www.e-helios.com

  29. *BIG hugs* Oh, Amy, my heart goes out to you. I think that you should take as much time as you need to take care of yourself. Health & wellness is priority #1!

  30. How scary! I’m so glad your GP is addressing your concerns. Go with your gut – if you think there’s something else, keep searching for it.

  31. Sorry to hear about what you are going through. Hope you get to the bottom of it soon! In the meantime, I strongly recommend that for your iron supplement, you take Floravital liquid iron and herb supplement (found at any natural food store). I have always had low iron so for my first pregnancy, I took liquid iron from a pharmacy. Boy, that stuff was NASTY but my iron level went up enough to allow a homebirth. The second time around, I found out about Floravital and took it during my second pregnancy. My iron levels were NORMAL. It was amazing how quickly Floravital worked! Good luck!

  32. Thank you for sharing this, Amy. It can be really difficult to share such personal details. But it is so nice to read – the “hey, I’m not the only one!” thoughts :)

    Have you tried daily meditation? I know, I know…hard to do with two kids… But I know that meditating for around 30 minutes per day can increase milk supply – not necessarily meditating while pumping, but just anytime during the day. We often tell working moms to try to find time to meditate every day (even just for 15 minutes). I don’t know if it would have any effect, but hopefully it could help alleviate the severity and perhaps frequency of the anxiety attacks.

  33. So sorry to read that you’re going through this. First of all, I highly, highly recommend acupuncture. I’ve just started getting treatment for some chronic issues, and the results have been amazing.

    I’d also suggest that you consider looking at your diet. I used to have major anxiety issues–not panic attacks, but very persistent anxiety that had a pretty big impact on my life. I cut dairy out of my diet due to some physical problems, and the anxiety all but vanished, and I think the remnants that are left are more from habit than anything else. (I’m so used to being nervous, I’m not sure what it feels like to not be that way!)

    Steph

  34. Hi

    I was having anxiety attacks during the whole period where I was trying to conceive – have you tried thinking about what this meant at that time and what your feelings are about having another child? It’s very personal but could there be a relation between just that? How is being a mother right now?
    xxx

  35. no wise words..just thinking about you and praying for you when I have a panic attack or two of my own…I’m thinking pre-menopause for me..oh the joy?
    This too will pass…
    xo Donna

  36. I had my first panic attack about 5 years ago and have dealt with this issue on and off since then. NOT FUN. I know that every woman who deals with this issue has to find her own way to make it better. I have found 4 things that help either in the midst of panic or afterwards. They are 1. Slow deep breathing. (Slow, no matter how much I want to breath faster) 2. Sitting with the feelings and journaling about them at the time. Getting them out of your head. 3. Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal book. I LOVE and rely on this book, especially chapter 3 on “Taming Stress & Anxiety”. Her herbal tea recipes really work for me. And 4. Yoga. Specifically restorative yoga. Find a class that offers a true restorative type yoga. Some yoga excites your nervous system and you don’t want that now. I love a book called “A Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health” by Linda Sparrowe. Specifically Chapter 3. I know you’ll find your way out of this.

  37. I too have suffered from anxiety attacks since my teens, and I feel for you as I know they can be so scary. I take meds for mine, but I do notice that reading a magazine or a book helps take my mind off of stressful situations that trigger the attacks. Hope you find relief soon, and hang in there. God Bless
    Charissa

  38. So many great comments and so much support! I also wish you the best and am one more mama with a history of anxiety issues and also depression.

    I third (or fourth) the motion to make sure you take a close look at your Thyroid. Also, make sure that a *full* thyroid is done. Sometimes doctors don’t do a complete test, as I’ve read.

    Finally, just more support to you to know that you’re doing all the right stuff and your choice to focus on your health will pay off! Of course, don’t forget relaxation and meditation, whether you prefer something like yoga, meditation, or visualization. One great book is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn for work on meditation to combat pain and intense life issues.

    Good luck to you and good luck staying away from the benzodiazapines! (a class of meds, of which Xanax is one) Some clinics won’t even prescribe them as the entire class has a tendancy to promote additction. When I was younger, I was given Klonopin, a stronger anti-anxiety med from the same class, during a severe bout of anxiety and stress. The addictive qualities made my situation worse, not better.

    Be well and keep loving yourself!

    Hope

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