March 20, 2017Mental Health


Since December I’ve suffered through the winter blues, which consisted mostly of feeling anxious of having to walk the dogs through the snow and ice and not slip and break a leg or an arm.

But I’ve also experienced some mild anxiety where I’m convinced that I’m about to have a heart attack. I reckon I associate winter with heart disease because Greg died of a massive coronary in late November.

Shortly after he passed, I joined a Facebook grieving group and I was told that panic/anxiety attacks would be my new normal and to accept it. I was appalled to read that and I thought it was a sign of weakness. But as I’ve learned these past few months, panic or anxiety attacks can be triggered by many things. Mine are triggered by Greg and Donald Trump’s shared misogyny, bigotry and xenophobia.

It turns out that during the time I lived with Greg, I bottled up a lot of feelings. He was a difficult person and the times I needed to talk things out with him, he dismissed how I felt attributing them to “silly female worries”  Although he’s been gone for almost a year-and-one-half, much of the anger and frustration manifested itself into anxiety attacks. With the exception of one visit to the ER, I’ve weathered through the stress, but it has left its mark: my blood pressure is high, and the doctor prescribed 100 mg metoprolol to take daily. Apart from treating high blood pressure, metoprolol is also used to for anxiety. So I’m on a multipurpose medication. Yay me (written in a sarcastic tone).

I’ve been on the metoprolol for three weeks and I’ve noticed a significant change. I’m not as anxious. I don’t seem to ruminate as much as I did. However, I’ve also noticed a few things and that’s the obsessive need to research every ache and pain. I discovered that in spite of joking about my hypochondria, it’s in fact an anxiety disorder. One that I’ve had since dealing with my precancer bout.

So I made a pact with myself: I take my medicine, I meditate, I exercise, I acknowledge the anxiety when I experience it, but I don’t dwell on it. If I have some physical discomfort, I don’t go running to WebMD to look up the symptoms. That feeds the disorder, drives my blood pressure up, and  ruins the entire day.

My next step is to see a therapist for some talk therapy. I know I have to work through several issues—one is the anger with myself for staying in a relationship that physically and emotionally harmed me, and another is this newfound fear and uncertainty that seems to accompany me everywhere I go.

Although I tend to be patient with others, I’m not very patient with myself. But to accept and defeat this, I know I’ll have to tell the fear to get lost because there are books to be written, people to meet, places to travel and live a full and happy life.

A New Normal

January 18, 2016Mental Health

After Greg’s death, many friends offered to help me, telling me if I needed anything not to hesitate and ask. As I mentioned in the Conquering the Windmill of Personal Debt, a GoFundMe account was launched and what has been contributed helped me get through December.

A friend from high school added me to a community on Facebook to help me go through the grieving process. It’s there for support, to rant, to ask questions and to also make new friends.

Although it’s a lovely group of men and women, I somehow don’t feel as if I fit in. To be honest, my grieving doesn’t seem to be as intense as the other participants in the group.

I probably come across as heartless, but I believe I need to move on and not focus on the loss. Greg is gone. I can’t bring him back. It’s winter in the Adirondacks, and my primary concern is to keep the dogs and me warm, fed, and with a roof over our heads. I can’t afford to waste time weeping, making myself sick, and not getting enough rest so that I can’t work and or upkeep and maintain this house and the vehicles.

That said, there were two instances when panic set in—the kind when your heart is racing, and you’re close to calling 911 because you’re convinced that you’re on the cusp of a heart attack.

Since December, I’ve had two anxiety attacks. During the second one, I went to the Facebook grieving group and asked if this was part of the process in dealing with the death of a partner. A few of the folks who commented wrote about having several panic attacks throughout the day and needing medication. Others told me they have meditation and yoga practices. Others go to therapists. I was told this was the “new normal.”

I don’t accept it. I believe that if I were living in Southern California with 70-degree weather and not having to carry heavy wood splits into the house or shovel snow that I’d be fine. My two attacks were strictly related to the weather and the fear of having a coronary.

Before it began to snow, the thought of dying of a heart attack was far from my mind. But you hear too many stories of shoveling snow and dropping dead. Right after I shoveled a path from the front door to the driveway (a short distance), although I had no symptoms of potential heart failure, the head games began.

How do I eliminate a potential panic attack? I don’t shovel snow. I make several trips and carry small loads of wood back into the house, and I figure out what is causing the anxiety. If my head refuses to let go, I force it to quit by meditating or participating in activities that turn my focus away from the anxiety.

I know stress will never go away; there will be times I’ll feel anxious about money, work, my health, but that’s life. We all experience these aggravations that are dealt on a daily basis, and we shoulder on without needing medication or running to the ER.

What I refuse to accept, though, is having numerous panic attacks as the new normal. I had two too many. I lost two days I could have been writing, reading, relaxing or working. It won’t happen again. Cross my strong heart, and will not die.