The waiting is the hardest part

On Tuesday I had an MRI (with and without contrast) on my brain. It’s not the first time I’ve had an MRI on my brain. The last one was about 8 years ago and due to all of the migraines I was having. This time, however, it’s because of all of the weird symptoms I’ve been having over the past 6 or so months – periodic double vision, tingling in my hands and feet, tightness in my throat, dizziness. All of these symptoms can be attributed to my anxiety disorder (and with my eyes, my history of strabismus and four eye muscle surgeries over the years), but part of me can’t help wondering what if that’s not what’s causing it all? What if I have multiple sclerosis (MS) or a brain tumor? My doctor agreed to schedule me for an MRI for my own peace of mind more than her concern that something could be seriously wrong with me and I’m so thankful that we have insurance that is covering the whole thing or I doubt I’d be able to do it.

Now I am waiting for the results. They said it could take four days, which could mean Friday or maybe not until Monday (or actually Tuesday because this is Memorial Day weekend – drat!). Although I feel fairly confident that my brain is fine, I just want, or really need, to know for sure. Just as I had multiple tests done on my heart when I was having heart palpitations for months to convince me that my heart was healthy, this is equally as important to me. Part of dealing with an anxiety disorder (at least I’ve found in my case) is that I have to rule out other possible causes before I can fully embrace the fact that an anxiety disorder is indeed what I have. Until I know that I don’t have some underlying cause for all of these symptoms, it’s hard to fully accept the diagnosis and then proceed on the path to recovery. It’s impossible to get better if you have this nagging concern in the back of your head that something else is responsible for what you are experiencing. The anxiety becomes a vicious circle.

I can say, however, that the way I’m feeling the past week or two is definitely an improvement over where I was a month or two ago. I think it’s been a combination of a lot of things, like:

  • Reading The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne
  • Signing up for a membership to AnxietyCentre.com (thank you, Nona, for the suggestion). It’s a wealth of information and was such a good investment. I can’t recommend this site enough. Knowledge truly is power in this case.
  • Reading about Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome (something I think I may be experiencing in addition to the anxiety)
  • Talking to a therapist every other week
  • Practicing abdominal breathing exercises several times throughout the day
  • Practicing progressive muscle relaxation before bed
  • Doing a Yoga DVD
  • Practicing biofeedback with The Wild Divine video game
  • And, of course, I think the Zoloft I’ve been on for a month is finally starting to kick in too.

I don’t think the Zoloft alone would have made this much difference though, nor do I think the effects would be long-lasting if/when I choose to go off the Zoloft. I think that really there has to be a lifestyle change in order to overcome an anxiety disorder. I’m taking it one day at a time, but am definitely working on changing my habits for the better so that I can live a more peaceful life.

But for now, I wait. I wait for the answers that will change my life one way or another. As with everything I’ve experienced in dealing with my anxiety disorder thus far, I am learning that patience truly is a virtue.

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25 thoughts on “The waiting is the hardest part

  1. Thanks for sharing with us, Amy. I am similar in that I _have_ to be able to eliminate the worst-case-scenario first. I am only thirty years old and I have had three breast ultrasounds, one needle biopsy, and several CBC’s because I’ve been convinced there is something wrong. I just have to know. I appreciate the tips on deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, too; two things I haven’t really experimented with too much. Hope the MRI results are negative, conclusive, and fast!

  2. Huge, huge hugs to you, first because brain MRIs suck ten kinds of ass – the noise! The NOISE! It invades your thoughts for days! And second, because they probably will wait like 2 weeks to tell you the results, during which time you’ll scare the hell out of yourself. Just stay away from Google until they call you, okay?

  3. Sorry to hear you’ve been through so much lately. Way to go for fighting for your own piece of mind and how lovely to have a doctor that appreciates that! Keep us posted on your results! Thinking of you!!!

  4. When I was dealing with my worst anxiety the only way i got through it was to follow my fears (mentally) through their worst case scenario. You read a lot/hear a lot about how you shouldn’t “allow” scary/negative/whatever thoughts but trying to stop my thoughts made my anxiety exponentially worse. In the end just following my fears is what ultimately “cured” me (and I did like you and HAD all the tests done too!).

    I’m also eagerly awaiting your results – and thinking of you!!

  5. ((hugs)) Sending lots of positive and peaceful thoughts to you as you await your results!

    Did I ever tell you that the wolf in Wild Divine is modeled after my old dog, Chilkoot? The developers of the game are friends of mine. :-)

  6. Hugs, love and prayers from me to you across the miles. Wish I were there to give you physical support instead of long distance support. One other thing that might have helped over the past couple of weeks is your baby sister being present. Call tomorrow for the results…I had a very hard time waiting for mine a few weeks back too, so I kind of know how you feel.

  7. Hey Amy — It’s amazing the great things you’re doing for your well being — I’m v. impressed by your efforts!

    I’ve never had an MRI, but have certainly had physical symptoms that seem so severe that I really couldn’t believe were psychosomatic and got them checked out multiple times. Sometimes the answers to these things to me were both a relief and a downer, regardless of the answer is (meaning it’s technically good news to find out you don’t have a major progressive illness, but it can be discouraging — even baffling — to not really have an explanation for the physical symptoms besides psychosomatic stuff, esp. when you’re already clearly working v. hard on mitigating them.

    Might it help to see the therapist every week during this stressful time?

  8. I suffer from anxiety/depression occasionally, too… I fought drugs my whole life, but gave in when I was in danger of not graduating from college 2 months before my graduation. Lexapro was what I went on… it was perfect at “taking the edge off” and helping my brain perform chemically normal so that I could learn what was “normal, restructure the rest of my life, and reorder my thinking and such. I went off of them with much trepidation 6 months later when my school insurance ran out (I just couldn’t afford the $70 a month it was going to cost after that)… and found that the wonderful coping skills, life reordering, and such really DID help. I still get occasional panic attacks and days of extreme anxiety… but until something happens to trigger a bigger attack I’m doing great with just those skills. (I’m betting pregnacny will have me over the edge again, though).

    I agree the drugs don’t work by themselves… so glad you figured that out, too!

    Good luck, and fingers crossed that the MRI comes back negative, as I KNOW that you can heal your brain! You can do it!

  9. waiting is the worst. much cyber support coming your way as I know what waiting for brain MRI results can do to your mind. It will come back clean, but until you hear those words, sit tight and try not to worry!

  10. Amy-I just happened across your blog and feel compelled to share an amazing book that I am reading that might assist you in your health journey: The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman. I have already seen miraculous results with my son. Warmly, Cynthia

  11. Waiting is the hardest part and not using “Dr. Google”. So glad to see you are able to get an MRI to cross off some things. Ongoing problems are a hard but you have some great coping stragies here.
    Hope some of your What ifs get crossed off.
    Write down whatever they say over the phone. I wish I had…felt so foolish calling back to ask for a repeat.
    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hope all works out well for you – it’s so hard not to know.
    I had thyroid cancer a few years ago and need to go back in for a scan to make sure it hasn’t come back. I’m pretty stressed to do this as I’ve been having odd symptoms that make me think maybe it has. Will find out in June. You know, when the ultrasound tech went oddly silent – that should have been a clue when it was discovered.
    I’ll be thinking of you and hoping it turns out to be something that can be handled easily – sometimes it’s just the not knowing that’s the worst.
    All the best . . . liz

  13. Deep breathing is my favorite technique, I am sending metta your way; positive thoughts.

  14. Thank you so much for posting about you’re anxiety! I really appreciate your openness! I’ve been suffering from anxiety since about 2000 and, after reading of your earlier anxious adventures, I’ve finally sought treatment (and I’m reading the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, too!). Thank you so much for motivating me into a much better life! Please continue to share your experiences with anxiety… it really makes a difference. (And good luck with the MRI results!)

  15. Pingback: Normal | Crunchy Domestic Goddess

  16. Wow Amy,

    Your internal thought process sounds exactly like me several years ago when my life was plagued with severe and debilitating anxiety attacks.

    I don’t know how you are able to work on this website. As my health was in such a fragile condition, sitting in front of the computer for more than a few minutes would totally wipe me out.

    It took a long time for me to truly believe it was my dog gone nerves that were playing tricks with me and causing all kinds of extremely frightening symptoms.

    Yes, I did all the heart tests. Yes, I had just about every diagnostic test done. Yet, it was still hard for me to believe that it was a worn out nervous system and now in a nervous system stuck in high drive or hyper alert mode that was reeking havoc with me.

    I am now completely anxiety attack free. There really is light at the end of the tunnel.

    As your nerves heal, your symptoms will slowly fade away.

    Because of my experience, I created a website to reach out to others struggling with poor health and anxiety too.

    Perhaps there is some information that will help you on your get well journey, as the healing knowledge I share is what helped me.

    And remember this, those with anxiety attacks are usually very intelligent, conscientious people, your nerves have just tricked you and your fear is feeding the cycle.

    God bless you on your journey back to wellness. I am pulling for you.

    Eryn

  17. Amy-
    I stumbled upon your blog many months ago when I was turning my life more “green.” Since then, I check back periodically.

    I have to share something with you. A few years ago I felt awful. I felt dizzy, nauseous, tingling, cold, vision issues, depression, etc. I had no idea what was going on.

    I went through several rounds of bloodwork, looking at lyme disease, lupus, low blood sugar, etc, etc. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

    I continued to feel like crap. The doctor thought I was a hypochondriac. We were discussing anxiety meds.

    Then he send me for an MRI. They did the same pos/neg scan. They even initially thought they saw something resembling MS. The neurologist did his own bloodwork….and just happened to test my B-12.

    Well, wouldn’t you know I was severely deficient. I guess nobody had tested this. Anyway, I’ve been getting monthly shots ever since and it’s like it never happened. They are still trying to find out why I am deficient, I am not anemic.

    Anyway, please have your B-12 checked. If it is anything less than 500, get supplementation. The range is 200-900.

    I even tried a depression med (Lexipro) and it was AWFUL! Glad you aren’t having a hard time with the Zoloft. Curious- have you gained weight?

    Check out this new article I just read:
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/05/19/Warning-Potentially-Life-Threatening-Vitamin-Deficiency-Affects-25-Percent-of-Adults.aspx

    Take good care- All my best.
    Jan

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