Anxious Bodies

“Tilt your head back, please.”

I tilted. A quick pull and a pop and my nose stud was history. My finally healed piercing was finally ready to receive my brand new rose gold ring (a wonderful present from my sister, by the way). A pinch and a twist later and my piercer had situated the ring perfectly. I looked in the mirror. The piercing looked perfect. The ring looked perfect. All seemed perfect.

Those who know me know that I really have zero chill. I’ve suffered from varying degrees of anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a tot my mom said I would become visibly unsettled until I knew that my dad was coming back from his business trips. As a single digit kid, I would get up in the middle of the night to cry about the fact that one day my parents would die and leave me. As a pre-teen I just knew I would soon perish of breast cancer, a spider bite, and/or the flu. My hypochondria, germaphobia, and irrational fear of abandonment has abated, but none-the-less anxiety has not let go of my hand. It’s like a snotty, jam-handed two-year-old strolling with its mama. We go everywhere together – me and my anxiety.

Therapy is a godsend. Yes, it has a way of emptying your bank account. But there is something so utterly comforting about PAYing someone professional to listen to you and/or help you so that you never ever have to feel like you are burdening your friends once again with the scary place that is your mind.

The crazy thing is… that my brain doesn’t always feel anxious. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it feels like it’s my body that is the anxious one. One of my top goals for therapy is to put in the work to train my brain to not beat up on my body. My conscious mind doesn’t think it’s anxious, but my raw stomach, tension headaches, and wandering pains tell me otherwise. The doctors say there is nothing physically wrong with me. No worries, Doc, I must just be crazy.

Recently, I’ve gotten into reading anxiety memoirs, too. You know – memoirs written by individuals with panic disorders. The authors in my books are saying these same things. Their minds are giving them symptoms of illness…but doctors say that no illness is present. Doctors, specialists, tests. All say nothing is wrong. But you don’t feel well. Rapid heart rate, tingly arms, chronic pain. Those don’t sound “normal” to you, do they?

Something weighing on my mind right now is how to proceed with the treatment/management of my Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Not too long ago I sought counsel from a new doctor about my hypermobile joint syndrome causing a severe drag on my daily life, but when she read my medical history for my digestive system she yanked me right off Mobic (NSAID) so fast I didn’t even have a chance to revel in any of its purported pain relieving benefits. Apparently it can cause people like me to have bleeding insides or something…

Off I skipped to my new stomach and liver specialist – stomach gurgling with hope for a better future. I didn’t get to meet with the doctor. Instead they scheduled me for a consultation with the specialist’s nurse practitioner. She read through the results from my last endoscopy and frowned. She asked questions. She asked for lab results. She poked, prodded, and listened to my guts.

We couldn’t find the results for my lab tests from my esophagus. Ugh. You see, when you have GERD your esophagus comes in close contact with your stomach acid on a daily basis. It doesn’t like that. First it becomes irritated. Then it can become confused. It says, “Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time! I thought I was an esophagus, but…there’s always this acidic stuff on me so maybe I’m actually part of the stomach. I should start making different cells – then I can become more like the stomach!”

When this happens…if this happens…they call it Barrett’s Esophagus.

If it’s Barrett’s Esophagus they call it pre-cancer. Left unchecked for a long long while – then they just call it cancer.

Another endoscopy with another biopsy is the only real way for them to know if I actually do have Barrett’s Esophagus. And for a mere $2000 they will perform this mind-assuring diagnostic.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dumb. I know I only get one stomach and one esophagus. But I also know that this doctor has terrible ratings. I also know that I only have income from a part time job. And that I have a $5500 deductible on my insurance. And that I would be paying off that bill for many many months. I also know that my GERD has good days and bad days – and good months and bad months. I also know that I have anxiety. I also know that I have an anxious body. And that I’m having both a bad month for GERD as well as a bad month for anxiety. Maybe they’re tied. Maybe they’re not.

Anxious bodies.

The nurse practitioner sent me home with samples for a new PPI (proton pump inhibitor), instructions for my procedure, and said she’d see me in a few weeks.

It was not but a few hours after having my new nose ring put in that my piercing started oozing something thick and white. This nose has had an 18g rod through it for the last nine months – there is no way that this thing did not heal in that amount of time. In fact, my piercer said that it was a “beautifully healed piercing”. When I later emailed her about my red, sore, oozing nose she couldn’t believe that it was acting up. Honestly, I could.

Anxious bodies.

Since having the ring put in my nose I’ve been put back on a regimen of cleaning the piercing with saline. It has since stopped oozing and no longer appears red. It’s been a week, but if I’m being completely honest my nose still “hurts”. I put “hurts” in quotes because by now I’m not really sure what’s real and what’s made up by my mind. My piercing isn’t red, oozing, or uncomfortable to clean. It doesn’t even smell – and anyone who has ever had their nose pierced knows that even a frequently cleaned nose ring can occasionally smell like… toe jam. But I still feel some sort of sensation on the edge of my nostril. Burning? Irritation? Tingling? I’m not quite sure, but I definitely feel something going on up there.

Anxious bodies do weird things. I seem to have the super power of literally causing illness and issue in my body simply by my thoughts. Alert the news because this is really quite interesting. My doctors and therapist say that just by thinking I have caused my stomach to begin to digest itself. Just my compulsive thoughts and fears about my piercing getting infected or healing with a bump I have caused irritation and some sort of phantom pain? Weird.

My sister says she uses her piercings as a meditation of sorts. Piercings heal best when they are literally just left alone. Clean them gently with saline a couple times a day. But other than that don’t lay on them, rub them, handle them, or mess with them at all. Ever. So whenever she was tempted to mess with one of her piercings or worry about a pain that she thought she was experiencing she would repeat some selected phrase to guide her mind off a worrying/anxious path. Piercings are quite a journey so she might say “The end goal is worth the journey” and envision a perfectly healed piercing.

Yesterday was the first time we’ve experienced any decent amount of sun here so naturally I spent the whole afternoon sprawled out on a towel reading a book. Another anxiety memoir. I know, I have problems. Lots of them. But I got to the chapter in this one where the author dedicates many many pages to how his anxiety has hijacked his ability to control his digestive system. Interesting. Sometimes I can eat. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I can swallow. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I can breathe while eating. Sometimes I’m breathless.

I wanted to call that digestive specialist right then and there and say, “I have anxiety. I’m going through a rough patch and the prospect of having this test done is making my anxiety worse. I’m seeing a therapist. May I please have an 8 weeks prescription of this PPI and I will check back with you in 3 months when I will hopefully be in a calmer, less stressful period of time?”

I’m not exactly sure of where I wanted to go with this post, but at this juncture… I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do about my stomach and I still can’t seem to get my brain to stop thinking about this piercing.

Why else would I call this blog Unsteady as She Goes? I have no clue what I am doing.

4 thoughts on “Anxious Bodies

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