Apologies for disappearing. I went into “can’t cope” mode, as you know I am prone to. If I owe you an email I’ll pull myself together and write back soon.
I’ve been having anxiety attacks. They can come on at any time, but particularly happen at night, and they can go on for hours and hours through the night. I’ve been struggling to get any sleep, feeling like hell, struggling to do even basic housework or walk the dog, feeling very hypothyroid.
I’ve been moderately anxious since I really started to crash and become really hypothyroid a few weeks ago, but the anxiety attacks have come on quite strongly in the last couple of weeks. I don’t know why. I’ve been worried it might be my adrenals and getting into a silly feedback loop about being anxious about being anxious, but I don’t really think it could be adrenal, there’s too much psychology involved, but I’m going to do a saliva cortisol test just to be sure.
I think it’s partly just a reaction to the thyroxine, since my body is so out of kilter that I’m having some “hyper” symptoms even though I’m definitely still hypo. Apparently there are differences in the quantities of adrenergic receptors in hypothyroid people – too many alpha ones compared to beta ones or some such thing, and that’s something that will correct over time.
It may also be connected to reintroducing a lot of carbohydrate and sugar into my diet in an effort to not diet anymore. Apparently withdrawing from a ketogenic diet can cause anxiety as the body gets used to having all those extra calming neurotransmitters, so I’m trying to cut down a bit on the sugar and the oats (even though I love homemade flapjacks almost as much as life itself).
I think it’s also because I’m a hypochondriac – and by this I mean that though I really am ill, I do obsess about being ill and I can’t stand the sensation of feeling ill and I refuse to put up with it, and so it all drives me a bit crazy. This probably hinges into my autistic traits – being extremely hypersensitive to one’s surroundings and bodily sensations makes it difficult to switch off and the whole thing becomes overwhelming.
I had to go back to the GP, I saw a different female doctor, who told me “don’t worry about this thyroid problem, you’ve had Generalised Anxiety Disorder for the last five years, that’s why you have attention deficit disorder.”
Of course I’ve only been anxious for about six weeks and having anxiety attacks for two weeks, so this is BS. You have to be anxious for at least six months solid to get a diagnosis of GAD, and I’ve been very, very calm over the last few months. And besides, adrenaline helps to focus my attention – that’s why they give ADD kids Ritalin, isn’t it? That’s why I’ve managed to finish writing my novel, ffs.
Anyway, I came away with a prescription for beta blockers. I’m breaking open the capsules and taking small amounts as required, just to try to help me to sleep, because the anxiety tends to come on at night when my imagination gets overactive. The beta blockers give me fibromyalgia – musculoskeletal pain, back ache, and restless legs syndrome. Apparently they do antagonise thyroid hormone on some level. I suspect this is how salicylates operate too.
I really thought getting better was going to be plain sailing, but apparently not. The psychology of all of this waiting to get my dose increased is driving me nuts. I’ve actually resorted to seeing a counsellor and an acupuncturist in desperation in an attempt to control these anxiety attacks.
Acupuncture does have measurable effects on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. It can alter blood pressure, breathing and pulse in measurable ways. There are papers on it, so I was willing to give it a go, just for giggles. I saw the acupuncturist for the first time today – I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, I didn’t think it would work really. She started by putting two needles in each of my ankles, and when she put the last one in, I had a strange dizzy moment. I dismissed it as psychological. Then she put needles in my wrists and one in my forehead between my eyebrows. Once they were in I had a few minutes where I started to develop anxiety, I could feel my heart starting to go and I started to struggle with my breathing. I had been expecting to feel relaxed! Anyway, I fought with it and eventually I started to go calm. After she took the needles out I was incredibly calm, like I’d had a dose of valium or something. I’ve remained calm all day. I’m still pretty calm now, so hopefully I won’t have another awful night’s sleep. Even if what I experienced was psychological – which it didn’t feel like – it works a lot better than beta blockers! I can’t wait to go back for another session.
I saw a counsellor earlier in the week. This going to see practitioners is very odd, I would never normally have the courage to do it, but something seems to have changed there. Anything I can do to get my head round the mental aspects of the anxiety, I’m willing to try. The counselling session left me feeling pretty overwrought and was possibly counterproductive, but hopefully that will change over time. Although I’m normally a very balanced person, I do have a lot of “issues” in my past – being bullied at school for being a geek, a chronic fear of doctors brought on by being accused of making up my fibromyalgia when I was thirteen years old, a lot of experience of rejection and fear of being rejected. Talking about it is like dredging muck up off a riverbed, possibly muddying the waters, possibly ineffective. I don’t know, we’ll see how things go.
I went to see Dr S this Wednesday. I’ll write about the visit soon. He’s upped my dosage of thyroxine to 50mcg, which I’ve started and I already feel like I have more energy for it, despite the bad sleep. I was able to walk the dog quite a long way today without feeling like I needed to collapse, despite a bad night’s sleep. When I got back home I realised I was more heat tolerant than usual. I’m heat intolerant as well as cold intolerant. Normally when I come back from a walk I have to strip off my clothes because I feel so hot, even though I’m not actually overheating. Today I didn’t get that unbearable sensation. It’s funny how some effects of the thyroxine come on almost immediately, and others only change slowly as the weeks go by.