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My over hypersensitive state of life did nothing but control me. The more control I attempted to take of the uncontrollable, the more it controlled me. What a vicious cycle, trying to gain control made me lose control. I eventually got to the point where I actually attempted to control my swallowing for fear I would choke. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself in the E.R. because I felt like something was “stuck”. It’s a miserable way to live, counting every chew, creating disintegrated mush in my mouth and cutting my food into tiny bites for fear of dying by anything I consumed. I had to “feel” the food make its way to make stomach, and if I didn’t, something was wrong.
There are an infinite number of instances where I have feared food since the beginning of my anxiety, and just when I thought I was ok, it would strike again. About a year and a half ago, upon arrival into Spain (and 2 days of travel), my family checked into our hotel room and during check in the receptionist supplied us with some food (it was 2 in the morning after all). I thought this was a little strange, but once we settled into the Spanish culture we learned there were no 24 hour stores or drive-throughs to obtain a midnight meal, so it was actually really nice that they gave us a large burlap bag of snacks to hold us over until morning.
Once in our room, I located the bowls in the kitchen, you know, those basic, chintzy, white bowls that would break if clinked with another dish, I placed some ramen noodles in it, my favorite flavor being chicken, added water, and heated it in the microwave. I cuddled up in bed with my less than nutritious noodle bowl and took that first bite. As I swallowed my food, my throat basically said “nope, ain’t gonna happen”, the food sat mid swallow, and panic immediately showed its aggressive face. I instinctually freaked out, forced myself to swallow and then refused to eat anymore. There was no rationale, I couldn’t even fathom the fact that I was probably stressed, I just traveled halfway around the world with a new baby, I already suffered from anxiety, I was extremely tired, and in a foreign country, no, what came to my mind, one might ponder? I was dying. I had a neurological disease that wasn’t being detected and this further proved my concern.
in the last seven years I have had 3 EGD’s, attempted a manometry and PH test 4 times, 3 state side and once in Spain, which I was never able to actually do thanks to my fear of choking, and I have had 2 barium swallows. All those tests have come back negative, and all I could think was that they were absolutely, 100 percent, incorrect. My train of thought was, “All these doctors see I have anxiety and immediately presume that that is my issue, better yet, I bet there is a note that specifically states that no matter what test I am given I must always be told that it is just my anxiety.” Pretty delusional stuff, huh? Some mass conspiracy to never treat me properly and just send me home unsatisfied with the same diagnosis of anxiety. UGH!
Now, back in the states, this last year, I have been in and out of my doctors office trying to figure out why I swallowed funny. Every time I went in to my provider he would try to nicely encourage me to do more fitness and that would help, I didn’t need meds it was just my anxiety and I would be amazed at how walking just 30 minutes every morning would help me tremendously. But I just wanted a quick fix, I don’t want people to tell me what to do with my time, especially not some doctor who doesn’t know me. I would plead for a Valium or Atarax, just something that would take the edge off to calm my nerves in the moment. I become defensive and could never come to terms with the fact that it was just my body causing turmoil within itself, it made no sense, besides, you’re just a nurse, don’t you know I have my P.H.D. with WebMD?! I know what I am talking about, my extensive online research has revealed that I have cancer or something to that effect.
Look at me, here I am 7 years of this torture and torment of my own volition and it’s as if nothing has changed, except the fact that I no longer rely on Google to diagnose me. Thankfully though, I realize how important my mental health is and am currently stabilized on my medication, the fears are slowly going away, I am no longer anxious and I can tell my mind is much more clear, I can think rationally about situations and they do not let my mind spiral into a frenzy. My swallowing is no longer a constant and agonizing process and I can finally indulge in the new and delicious foods being made right in my own kitchen. And I am working out on a regular basis again.
There is however,one food in particular that has created the most fear for me and has been the biggest barrier to get over, and that is steak. I haven’t had steak all but a handful of times since 2011 and I used to eat it all the time, it was always my go to when I went out to eat and now, even the mere thought of it closed my throat up. But today, all that has changed.
I have had steak three times in the last week, along with several other homemade meals (a story for another time)! It is so amazing to finally agree with what all the doctors have been telling me this whole, entire, time, depression and anxiety CAN manifest within your body causing you to feel as though you have other problems. My eating issues led me adjust my swallowing, which then placed pressure on my inner ear causing me to be dizzy, for a month, and don’t get me started on the 5 appointments, and 1 E.R. visit I had to figure that one out. It wasn’t some incurable disease that they couldn’t detect after all. And now, now I am all better. That little pill has completely made me forget that I think I am someone who suffers from an unknown illness.
I do want to make clear that I am not attempting to be an advocate for medication, but if this is what my body needs right now to level me out until I can get my life on track, then so be it. It does make me a little frightened to think I will have to be on them for life, but, I like to believe that once I get my food and fitness on track, I will no longer require them. And if I do need them forever, then that is just me and there is no shame in it either way.
This journey is off to a great start, I have been in the gym for the last week and have been preparing my own meals for the last 2 weeks, I love being able to share it with all who take the time to read it. I really do hope I reach someone out there who thinks they are all alone in this struggle, and I pray that it brings them comfort and ease in knowing that life can be better no matter the slump you are in, but YOU have to take the steps necessary for YOU to make your circumstances better. No one else can do it for you, no matter how much you want someone to just tell you what the right thing to do is, follow your heart and know that you are not alone.
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