MicroblogMondays: Christmas Dinner

Just like Thanksgiving, we stayed home celebrating Christmas all by ourselves instead of spending time with extended family.  In the years past, I’d usually have to labor in the kitchen making roasted root vegetables which involved purchasing the vegetables ahead of time, and on the day of, peeling, cutting, and roasting all of them for a dinner for almost 20 people.  This would be true for both Thanksgiving and Christmas day.  This year, we made it simple for me.  We ordered from a catering company and the food was delivered to our door.  It came with reheating instructions that were easy to follow.  And the food itself was phenomenal.  We had a salad, rice pilaf with dried fruit, roasted root vegetables with herbs, roasted rack of lamb with red wine sauce, french onion soup, dinner rolls, and assorted mini cheese cake.

We were really satisfied with dinner this year.  Everything was delicious.  The meal was supposed to be for 5 to 6 people.  With three adults and the kids not eating much, all the food lasted us several meals.  Even though this year it was kind of nice not having to go to someone else’s house as it made things simpler, I still prefer to have the choice to celebrate Christmas with loved ones outside of our household.  There is hope that next Christmas we will be back to having this option again.

MicroblogMondays: People Are Funny

On one of my morning walks with the kids, we passed by a small excavator on the street.  The kids were very excited to see one and ran over to see what was up.  They stood there waiting for the excavator to move but was disappointed that the construction wasn’t going to start yet.  The worker was leaning on the front of the excavator looking at us.  I told him, from a distance, that the kids were exciting to see his vehicle.  He told us that the project would start that afternoon, which would be right in the middle of the kids’ nap time.  That was too bad.  As the kids continued to stand and stare at the excavator, the worker said, “You are babysitting?” I chuckled at such a comment and told him, “No, they are mine” to which he said, “They are mixed right?”  I used to get these kinds of comments a lot in the pre-COVID era when I took the kids to playgrounds in the city. The nannies there somehow often assumed that I was the kids’ nanny probably because they don’t see resemblance between me and the kids.  I didn’t expect that with with masks on all of us that someone would see enough of their faces and my face to make such a remark.  People are just so funny.  I am not bothered by it.  I am just amused by people’s assumption.

MicroblogMondays: Therapy, Again

As mentioned last week, I got a list of therapists to contact in regards to my recent panic attacks.  The first person I wrote did not accept new patients.  The next person I contacted did not return my message until a couple of days later.  The third therapist on the list has a website that seems to focus on parent coaching, although I still wrote her with my details asking her if she sees adult clients with anxiety issues.  She returned my messages in a timely manner.  I am glad to find out that she does see adult clients and has been in practice for over 10 years.  After chatting with her on the phone for 15 minutes, I decided to give it a chance.  Originally she offered me choices of morning slots.  I asked for an afternoon time slot because of child care issues in the morning.  I am glad that she is able to accommodate me.  Our first session was last Friday.  I filled out a questionnaire the day prior and really had to think about all the questions.  One part of the questionnaire asked to check off if I had any of the symptoms or experiences in the last month.  Some of them are the obvious ones: anxiety and panic attacks.  Some required me to think twice about clicking, such a “fear”.  I only experienced fear when I was in the middle of my panic attacks, wondering if these symptoms indicated a health problem, especially a heart problem.  Same with difficulty concentrating or thinking.  This happened only during my panic attacks.  But I did ultimately click on all the ones that I hesitated about.  I was so used to seeing my previous therapist in person that it was quite an interesting experience to do therapy online.  Since Bob has lunch late in the afternoon, I wanted more privacy so I placed a little table and chair in our bedroom in front of the window and logged on early to wait for my new therapist.  She was super punctual herself.  She spent a few minutes to go over the items on the agreement.  After that, we went right into what had been going on with me.  She also asked for clarifications on the items that I clicked on the intake form.  After all of that, we had probably 8 minutes to go over strategies.  Her impression of me was that I am quite in tune with my own feelings and sensations, which is a plus in my journey to learn how to cope with/alleviate/prevent these panic attacks.  She went over a little bit of how the brain works: the fast brain, which is the amygdala vs. the slow brain, which is the prefrontal cortex.  She explained that when the lid on the amygdala is blown off, or when I experience the emotions that require me to fight-or-flight, the slow brain, or the logical/reasoning brain takes time to tell my fast brain to calm back down.  She said that many of the things that I do already are the things that she’d usually suggest people to do: breathing exercises, yoga, journaling, etc.  She told me to continue to do breathing exercises, and do them during my calm time repeatedly so that if I experience another episode of panic attack, I will go to my breathing practice more readily.  The one practice that she recommends is 3, 4, 5, which is to breathe in while counting 3, hold for 4, and breathe out while counting 5.  She also recommends a book to me that she said has been helpful to many of her clients.  It is called “When Panic Attacks”.  I just received it in the mail yesterday so I will start reading it.  She and I will talk about the strategies in the book next week when we have our session.  A couple of days ago I had an experience that resembled another panic attack.  This time the duration was shorter, and I was able to use the 3,4, 5 breathing exercise to ease myself back into my usual calm self.  These attacks come out of the blue.  I can’t wait for them to just disappear all together.  I know that there is some work ahead of me to make them go away.  I hope that my therapist and I can work well together to achieve just that.

MicroblogMondays: Heart Palpitations

I had my cardiological appointment last Wednesday virtually.  The cardiologist asked many many questions.  His conclusion was that he didn’t think my heart has any problems.  However, he was a bit concerned about my blood pressure.  On the screen, he showed me the chart of my in-clinic blood pressure records.  They were consistently high in the last two years.  He wasn’t too worried about the systolic number, although that wasn’t too healthy.  He was more concerned about the diastolic because they were consistently in the 80s to 90s range.  He said that my medical team (meaning my primary doctor) has been a little bit too permissive in allowing my blood pressure to be a bit high without doing anything about it.  He said he doesn’t often prescribe medication for people with heart palpitations but he thinks that in my case, it could help to reduce the blood pressure to a range where he feels comfortable with the numbers.  He chose this beta blocker for me and prescribed the lowest dose. He’d talk to me in a couple of weeks to see how I am doing.  In the mean time, he wants me to check my blood pressure occasionally at home.

I am okay with taking meds for the short term just to get things moving.  I was a bit concerned about my blood pressure for a while now but my primary doctor thought that it was still in the good range.  According to my cardiologist, my numbers are a bit high for my age, and he wants to get it under control earlier than later.  I am still going to modify my diet (to low salt and low caffeine) and do a more consistent job of exercising regularly.

I started medication on Thursday morning.  Friday evening, I was doing the advent calendar with the kids at 7:30pm.  I felt a tiny bit light headed and suddenly could feel my heart pounding.  It almost felt like it was jumping out of my chest.  It bothered me so much that I had to go lie down after the kids went down for the night.  I couldn’t do anything and could just lie there and distract myself with a show.  Sleep that night was horrible and my heart was beating fast.  I felt bad on and off the whole day on Saturday and I even considered going to the ER again, but decided against it.  I started to wonder if it could be the side effects of the new medication.  I also experienced restlessness several times as I couldn’t shake the muscle tensions throughout my body.

I spoke to my brother who told me that he was actually diagnosed at age 41 with PVC and PAC, which feel like skipped beats, and very occasional SVT, which is fast heartbeats (double the normal, at around 130).  He said that these are non life threatening and are more like annoyances in life.  My brother wore a portable ECG patch for two weeks to measure his heart activities.  He said that when he was going through some health scares (lump on his leg that he didn’t know if it was cancer), he said his heart was a mess.  He said that cortisol is a powerful hormone that could do crazy things to the body.  He was asking if I feel anxious in general.  Maybe?

I sent my cardiologist a message.  He responded saying that my brother’s condition is quite common and could happen to anybody, so it is not necessarily familial.  He told me to give myself some time to get used to the medication, which I will.  As for the ECG patch, my doctor said that he doesn’t think it is necessary right now.  So there is that.

Oh and I am going to find myself some help in regards to my panic attacks and general anxiety.  Bob’s work has an employee assistance program that provides 15 visits to him and each of his dependents at no cost to us.  I contact the EAP and got a list of therapists I can contact in order to get some help to better manage my symptoms.

It has been one health scare after another.  Hopefully after finding the right help, I will be on my way to be healthier again.  Maybe this is my wake up call to treat eating healthy and exercising regularly more seriously.