Anxiety and Answers

I managed to describe the events of my Hugo experience without once using the words “panic attack.” This was because I don’t like those words. Placing those words on my experience felt like I was stealing them from someone else with more severe symptoms who needed them more. That was not the only reason. My mind was also twisting and turning to avoid applying those words to me. I knew it was a panic attack even when I was having it. Yet I kept trying to redefine it into something else. As panic attacks go it was a mild one. I could breathe, function, and think. On a scale of one to ten with 1 being the mildest, I’d guess what I experienced was in the two-to-three range. Afterward I waffled between feeling like I was doomed forever and saying things like “It wasn’t so bad for a panic attack. I know lots of people who have had much worse.” This was the murky space between normality and abnormality which I approach obliquely in a different post. In the end I had to concede that the mildness of my attack doesn’t change the fact that I was on the panic attack scale. If I am measuring anything in my life on the panic attack scale, it is time for me to discuss it with a medical professional.

Fortuitously I already had a scheduled check up appointment with my doctor. It would have been much harder if I’d had to make a special appointment, because the very act of making the phone call would have forced me to acknowledge something out of the ordinary. Instead all I had to do was mumble “I’ve been feeling anxious lately” in the middle of the check up. My doctor, being a very smart man, let me get dressed before we sat down to discuss anxiety in detail. Sitting in drapes to talk about how anxious one has been feeling lately is not on my fun-to-do list. We talked causes and treatments. Then we checked to see the results of the thyroid test done a month prior. This was a turning point. My levels were too high. The medicine, which I’ve been taking to treat hypothyroidism, has apparently tipped me over into hyperthyroidism. Anxiety is the primary symptom of hyperthyroidism. Probable cause and likely solution both presented with one simple blood test.

I should be feeling relieved. My increased anxiety is not new and alarming, but just a new iteration of an old problem. What I feel instead is tired and sad. I am again at the mercy of my body chemistry. I know this is true of all biological beings, but I like to pretend that I am the master of my self. I don’t like having that particular illusion stripped away. My thyroid balance has been stable for years, and part of me scrambles to figure out why that has changed. There are some very scary answers to that question. There are also much more likely answers which are quite simple, starting with the fact that I’m getting older and that biological systems are never static forever. There are reasons that part of thyroid treatment is a yearly blood test. If I’d called about the results prior to WorldCon, I could have known about the issue in advance. On the other hand it is rather nice to know that my racing heart and shaky hands are not the result of fretting, but that the fretting is my brain trying to explain the racing heart and shaky hands. The next few months will be a long slow process of tinkering with dosages and taking blood tests. Whee. I’ll also be putting exercise firmly back into the schedule because it is the one thing I can do which will improve my general health no matter what other funny things my body and brain may be up to.