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Dealing with Anxiety

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 31% of Americans will deal with anxiety at some point in their lives. Over the past year. 19% of adult Americans reported dealing with anxiety. 23.4% of women and 14.3% of men dealt with anxiety in some form.

Here’s my story on anxiety. Maybe it will help someone.

I am sure almost everyone deals with some type of anxiety but maybe for most, it is mild and not an issue. People deal with it in a number of ways. Some drink, some take prescriptions, some use other drugs, and some people learn to manage it.

I don’t recall it being an issue for me until 2014 after my mom passed away. I grew up on a farm so I saw my parents every day from the day I was born until I was 38. A year after that we moved my parents into a guest house on our property, so I continued to see them almost every day. My dad passed away in 2010 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s and dementia.

When my mom died in January 2014, that was hard to deal with. I was 51 and with the exception of one year and vacations, I had seen my mom almost every day of my life. After she died the stress of dealing with that and also my sister and I had to deal with lawyers and the family trust and partnership. It was a little overwhelming.

I remember I woke up one morning less than 3 weeks later and felt strange. I didn’t feel good. My heart was beating really fast. I laid down and tried to rest but I could still feel it. My wife suggested I take my blood pressure. It was something like 180/100. That scared me and made it worse. Next thing I know it was 200/110. My wife took me to the ER. At one point I was thinking maybe we should stop at the fire station. I was trying to take deep breaths to relax but I was pretty scared. I thought I was having a heart attack. They got me right in at the ER and my BP was 232/110. They ran all kinds of tests and didn’t find anything. It came back down. It was pretty scary. I was thinking I wouldn’t see my kids grow up.

The next day I met with my family doctor and he prescribed some BP medication. He suggested I lose some weight. He also wanted to me take a treadmill stress test. I did that test a few weeks later and that caused the anxiety to flare up. I don’t recall the details because I probably blocked it out. I think they may have injected some dye into my blood and then they want you to get on the treadmill and get your heart rate above 150 and then they have you lay on your side and they do a test. I started walking and my heart rate went from 100 to 180 in a few minutes of just walking slowly. I felt light-headed and almost passed out. They did the test and everything was fine. It was crazy how fast the anxiety kicked in.

I eventually took up walking and then jogging and lost 30 pounds. I was doing fine. I have always woken up early for work and even after leaving the farm life I still wake up early. I have always had a lot of energy in the mornings and I don’t drink coffee. Then later that year in September, the anxiety came back. If I didn’t immediately do some type of activity it would hit me and I could feel my heart rate go up. One day I went out to walk on the trail I started getting light headed and I had to stop and come home. Over the next 4 days, it hit me every morning. I couldn’t do any exercise because as soon as I tried, I could feel my heart rate and BP go up. All I could do is sit on the recliner, listen to music, and try to relax and let it pass. To this day I don’t like sitting on a recliner because it reminds me of that time. The few times I have sat in one I can feel the anxiety.

Finally, on the 4th day, I told my wife I needed to go to the ER. My BP was way up again. It was over 200/100. They did more tests and the doctor said it could just be anxiety. He gave me a pill and it immediately came down.

I met with my primary doctor again and he suggested I take some anti-anxiety medication. He gave me two prescriptions. One is a lower dose to take daily and the other is a little stronger to take as needed when it was worse. That has worked pretty well. I probably used the stronger dose a few times a year, sometimes just taking half a pill when needed. Now I have learned how to manage it better by relaxing, by taking deep slow breaths. I also have to get outside. I work in the yard, walk 3-4 miles a day, play golf, or just sit outside. I realized that my anxiety comes from a fear of my health and having a heart attack I think. When I can feel my heart rate go up it scares me and that makes it worse.

The other thing that really helped me is my dog. Dalton. My wife jokes he saved my life. Most days back then the kids were at school and my wife was working. I worked from home so it was just me and him. We took walks all the time. Just the companionship really helped me. Then a year later in 2015, we added our second dog, Darla. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you are having or what you are going through, they are there with unconditional love. The two of them really did save my life.

Everyone deals with anxiety differently and it hits everyone differently. You’re not alone. A lot of people have it and don’t know it or they don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

Dalton and Darla
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