Greetings! September is flying by, and the cooler weather has been wonderful.
Some of you may be wondering where I've been, since I haven't been posting here. Let me tell you what's been going on as we watch the local vultures hover around Wendy, who likes to take her time over her supper dish. I spend extra time every night keeping various boys out of her food dish and she is entirely ungrateful.
For more than a month, I've been dealing with a few strange and annoying nerve issues that may be the result of years of daily bad habits (sitting too much at my laptop, walking too much in bad footwear). I've also been extremely anxious — not entirely without reason, since the nerve sensations are weird, but the anxiety seemed abnormally intense, even for me.
I inherited my anxiety from my mother and grandmother, who struggled with it all their lives and probably my father, too. I've had medical anxiety — fear of doctors, illness, symptoms, tests, and test results, since I was a toddler. It hasn't been fun lately.
(I think my father had it since he managed to avoid all of those things by never going to doctors unless he broke bones or needed stitches. He died this past Valentine's Day at 104, loathing and criticizing doctors and nurses almost to the end. May I have inherited his good genes and not his poor manners . . . .)
All of this started happening after I'd been using a tiny amount of estrogen gel for a few months to treat severe hot flashes. I never felt good about using it, and I wondered if it could be contributing to my other issues, so I stopped using it nearly three weeks ago. I am beginning to feel a little more like myself and a bit less anxious. The hot flashes have yet to return with a vengeance so I probably still have a ways to go before the estrogen has stopped affecting me. I never imagined I'd be happy to have hot flashes but life is hilarious.
Estrogen made me lightheaded when I first started taking it. One day in May, I had a few seconds of tunnel vision out at Mount Auburn Cemetery, but most of the time it was just the sensation that my brain was floating lightly above my skull. It went away after several weeks, but it's back now. More fun. So I eat, and drink lots of water, and remind myself that I've never come close to actually passing out. I've start exercising again, both at a gym and by walking up and down five of the hilliest Beacon Hill Streets. That walk always makes me dizzy, and I don't feel any worse now. I have all of my strength, balance, and coordination, such as they are. If I wasn't such a mess, I'd actually feel pretty great!
I've seen my doctor, a neurologist (a two-fer, in fact), and just had my first visit with a physical therapist. I regularly see a psychotherapist, and we have so much more to talk about now. I'm learning ways to make myself feel better and I'm taking a magnesium supplement. I plan to do whatever it takes to get back to being myself again, and I'm trying to be optimistic that I'll succeed.
I'm also avoiding those bad habits. I'm spending a lot less time sitting and I am trying to use my laptop much less,, since even standing at it for long stretches is bad for my back and my feet. So I will be taking an even longer break from writing here, aside from maybe posting occasional photos (you can probably find more from me on Instagram).
On the plus side, I've known I was injuring myself by sitting in a crappy chair for most of my days (and nights) without enough breaks. I knew my feet weren't happy; I developed plantar fasciitis in both feet three years ago, which never really healed. I've had tingly soles and toes since then, and now it's spread to my calves.
Since my body just felt uncomfortable but didn't actually hurt, I kept ignoring all the trouble signs. Now I pay attention. I stand much more, and move around a lot more. I lean against walls, and I read instead of being online. For perhaps the first time since my 20s, I am up-to-date on The New Yorker. I'm reading three books at once right now, which I haven't managed since I was a kid.
For a while I was pretty sure I was losing my mind. I'm still not 100 percent convinced but I'm getting there as experts keep reassuring me. Both here and on vacation in Maine, I spent way too much time consulting Dr. Google. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, and I managed to convince myself that I had every horrible neurological disease out there. I've been like this my whole life, and you'd think I'd learn. But I had one of those Big Milestone birthdays last month, the kind that gets you thinking about mortality. And, as you know, sooner or later, mortality happens.
My husband has been even kinder and more patient and understanding than usual, as have some of my neighbors. In a nutshell, I've also become hypersensitive to mechanical vibrations that others can't feel, so I feel all the rumblings of dehumidifiers, big fans, washing machines, and so on that are not in my own apartment. When I feel our bed shaking, I can't sleep. I feel our sofa shaking, I can't relax anywhere. I feel our cats purring more intensely, too.
Apparently this hypersensitivity is a "thing," as the neurologists put it, in technical terms even I could understand. The physical therapist told me it is probably related to the unhappy nerves in my back, legs, and feet, which are causing similar "purring" sensations from my backside to my toes.
All this "vibrating" is why I thought I was crazy. I've had to play detective for weeks, rooting out the causes, and for the most part, I've figured them out and have been able to stop them, at least at night. It's amazing how much our world vibrates and roars from all kinds of equipment: HVAC, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, trucks, planes . . . . Until last month, I had never had to pay attention.
After I've explained to people why their ordinary devices are suddenly torturing me, they have often in turn confided in me about their own struggles with anxiety, neurosis, noise, etc. It's been quite an education, and a bonding of deeper friendship. We are all dealing with something, although most of the time we mask it well.
Anxiety doesn't give me panic attacks, it makes me sick to my stomach sometimes, but more often I feel trembly and shaky. Those sensations are exactly what I do not need right now. On the plus side, I also lose my sugar cravings and interest in food of any kind. I've lost about 5 pounds on the Severe Emotional Distress Diet, patented by me. I don't recommend it for you. I force myself to eat regular meals and drink tons of water. I also take a few basic supplements now, including calcium, plus the magnesium capsules both of the lady neurologists take themselves for healthy nerves.
And now I need to take a walk because I've been writing for too long. Walking seems to be very good for my stress levels and my back and legs — my feet are tolerating it, so far, and I've promised them a pair of actual sneakers or walking shoes instead of junky sandals and flip flops. Soon.
Please wish me well. I hope to be back here soon!