this is a post i have been mulling over for a while. there are some things that are difficult to talk about at the best of times, but become even more difficult in the context of pregnancy and parenting. they are, however, part of who i am and what i bring to this story, so i want to address them.
i have three separately diagnosed health problems that each effect my life in different ways. these are: anxiety/panic disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.
i think i need to split my discussion of these things up into a couple of posts rather than one giant one, so i’ll begin with telling you about what these disorders are, and how they relate to each other. in future posts i’ll talk about how i am treating them, and what i think they’ll mean for me as a parent.
so. what do these diagnoses mean?
- preoccupation with possible negative events or outcomes (often death of loved ones, failure, illness, etc.), even if these are highly unlikely.
- difficulty with problem solving and other higher order cognition, due to aforementioned preoccupation.
- hyper-awareness of risks in the environment
- placing a disproportionate amount of importance on small worries and failures
- a hair-trigger startle reflex
- certain physical behaviours, including picking/tearing at my nails, and poking and scratching at my chest. s is usually the one to notice these, as i am not generally aware of them (i’ve grown out of it now, but when i was in high school i used to pull my hair out. by the end of vce i had no eyebrows because i had compulsively pulled every last hair out without realising i was doing it.).
- exhaustion that is wildly disproportionate to exertion
- heaviness in limbs
- aches and twitches in muscles
- digestive/stomach problems (we thought this was coeliac’s disease for a long time)
- orthostatic hypotension
- regular tenderness in the glands around my throat and neck
- diminished cognitive abilities (i’ve noticed a marked decrease in my concentration and attention span, as well as in other higher order cognitive abilities – you’ll note that this overlaps with the anxiety)
- increased vulnerability to viruses like colds and flu.
- difficulty regulating body temperature (i cope extremely badly with hot weather, and all my symptoms increase noticeably in the summer when my body has to work doubly hard just to try and keep me tolerably cool)
- all the negative and sad thoughts and emotions that you would expect to characterise depression, and associated teariness etc.
- hypersomnia – i literally cannot sleep enough, and just want to hibernate til it passes
- loss of interest in the things i usually enjoy (s always knows there’s something wrong if i stop wanting to sew)
while they are each diagnosed and treated as different disorders, i see these three conditions as very much interrelated. not only is there a degree of symptom overlap, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how they interact with each other in daily life. for example:
i want to attend an aba meeting, but find that i am extremely anxious about the idea of being in a room full of people i have never met before. i decide not to go, then get depressed because i am ashamed of being such a chicken, and worried about being isolated with no social network of parents when fruiby is born.
i have a particularly bad week of generalized anxiety, with several panic attacks, and because my nervous system has been in ‘flight or fight’ mode for an extended period, i experience a cfs flare up.
i know that i’ve been having a cfs flare up, and that my energy reserves are low, but i have a family event that i have to attend. i feel increased anxiety about my ability to make it through this event, and about offending people if i have to leave early in order to preserve enough energy to drive home safely.
i reflect on my limited abilities, and what they mean for my career prospects, how they influence my daily life, s’s life, and how they’re likely to impact on fruiby, and i become both anxious and depressed about the future.