Dr Google will see you now

Sound familiar to anyone? I have been consulting Dr Google a lot recently! I know I have IBS and have been told that by GP’s several times but I just can’t stop checking things up to see if there is something else wrong with me. I am looking up things to do with my hormones as I honestly think they have a strong part to play in my anxiety flare ups. Every time I switch birth control methods or come off it (as I recently did to try for a baby) I get bad pmt which causes ibs, anxiety, nausea and bad skin. I convinced myself there was something seriously wrong with me but it is probably just normal. A couple of months after coming off the pill I had a terrible period where the pain was so bad my DH took me to A&E and they told me I might have Endometriosis. Although I went to my real GP who told me I probably just had a painful period, Dr Google convinced me that I had it. I had already decided to go back on the pill at that time as my anxiety was a mess and I clearly wasn’t ready for a baby. Need to get rid of the emet first!

I then started visiting Dr Google to find out about the side effects of starting the pill. It calmed me down at the time but the next time I felt any I would need to visit again.

Next were the dizzy spells. I have been getting these for a few months now (actually coincides with me coming off the bcp) and have seen my real GP two or three times for it. They checked my ears and told me that there was nothing wrong so I shouldn’t worry about it (that’s like telling the pope not to be catholic!). But Dr Google told me there were lots of causes of dizziness and I could have any of them. I had previously had low iron so was convinced I was anaemic. I wasn’t of course. I had a blood test and although my iron levels are still low, I’m not anaemic so that wasn’t the problem. So then I got frustrated with my real GP because they were basically telling me that I had to live with it! But Dr Google gave me lots of diagnoses!

My most recent visit to Dr Google was only yesterday. For the last few days I have had a tight stomach and nausea. I was convinced I had a stomach bug or food poisoning so I was looking up the symptoms of those (even thought I know full well what they are!). I even had yesterday off sick because I was so ill after diarrhoea (sorry tmi!) and spent most of the day either asleep so I couldn’t think about what was going on or visiting Dr Google! About 10 minutes before my dh came home from work I went to the loo and noticed that I had started my period. So once again it was just my period that was making me feel so ill. I then felt like a fool as I should have known. Now I am going to have to explain to my boss that the reason I have been ill so much recently is because I changed my birth control pill. That’s going to be an awkward conversation!

But that didn’t satisfy me. I then proceeded to visit Dr Google to find out about hormones and anxiety/nausea and stomach problems. There are lots of things on the internet about that. It all says it is normal but I am looking for something to be wrong with me. I never realised quite how much I have health anxiety. I always thought it was just emetophobia – that I was convinced everything would make me sick. Ok, so I guess most of them are related to that. I mean I don’t worry that I am going to have cancer and die, I am worried that I will get cancer and get sick from the treatment!

Oh I just remembered that I did one thing that is even better than visiting Dr Google. Two years ago I obtained a copy of my medical records for a certain period in my life. It cost me £20 but I felt it was worth it at the time as I wanted to work out what was going on. So I was looking at them late last night studying everything that has happened. Off course it seems obvious to me that my high anxiety levels and stomach issue flare ups are all related to my period but the GP never seems to have noticed that. There is even a record on there of me asking for a gyno referral but it was refused and I was told to keep a diary of what happens to see if there was a link.

I am still convinced that I have female issues because I do get so sick when I am off the birth control pill (I remember my stomach issues continuing for ages a few years ago when I was off the pill for several months and they didn’t settle until I had been back on it for a few months) and it will need addressing as I want to have a baby. But I know I should stop visiting Dr Google and perhaps even give my real GP a bit of a break as they are probably sick of seeing me! I doubt I will as I have an appointment with me GP in a few weeks time and I will probably bring the subject up. I just want to know if it is normal to have all these issues with the female cycle (sometimes I think it would be easier to be a man!).

I notice I have turned this blog into a bit of a case study for Dr Google which is not what I intended! You see how easy it is to get into that trap! I need to start living my life by finding something else to worry about and stop visiting the Dr Google and the GP!

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Anxiety flare up and SAD

I am having a terrible anxiety flare up at the moment. Everything is getting my going. I think it is the time of year though. Although neither of us have been diagnosed, I believe both my husband and I suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as we both have depression and/or anxiety issues at the same time each year. Mine begins in September and is worse in the Autumn months. My husband’s is worse in January after Christmas. We both suffer from excessive tiredness and irritability but he mainly suffers depression and I suffer with both depression and anxiety. Oh how lucky I am.

I was researching SAD yesterday and discovered that sometimes it is triggered by a stressful event or an illness. I think that is why mine always happens in September/October. Part of me thinks it is because we went back to school in September but I think it might be more than that. I had Glandular Fever (Mono) in September/October and went on the awful holiday to Ibiza when I had it. Anyone who has had Glandular Fever knows that it takes months to recover. I remember thinking that I was never going to get better. Especially as they didn’t discover it was Glandular Fever until two months later (that was a mistake of the receptionist at the Doctors telling me my blood test was negative rather than positive!). I had an awful time as I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I stayed at work, went on holiday (as mentioned above) and I remember going to my Dad’s 50th birthday party (as well as both my sisters’ birthday meals) feeling like death warmed up. Christmas was just as bad but at least I knew what was wrong with me by then.

I think I subconsciously remember that experience at this time of year each year. Some years I can cope with it, others it has an impact on me. It was 2005 that I got sick with Glandular Fever and I have had three major flare ups since then (2009, 2012 and 2014). Along with the anxiety comes the stomach issue flare up. It’s hard to say which one causes the other but my doctors and I all believe that the anxiety causes the stomach issues not the other way round. Though I do think it is a vicious circle as thinking about the stomach issues makes me more anxious, which in turn makes them worse.

I am finding at the moment that I am pretty much agoraphobia. I just want to stay at home where I know I am safe. If I have to go somewhere, I want my hubby or Mum, Dad, or sisters with me to keep me safe. But mainly I want to hide away at home where I will be safe if I get sick and it won’t affect anyone else. But then I worry that I am letting people down. I have already had three days off sick in the last two months and it has made me even more scared that I will get a stomach bug as I would probably have to go to work with it as I would get into trouble with more time off sick. Not that my boss has ever suggested that she has had a problem when I have been off but I have only been working for the company seven months.

Sorry I went off on a tangent there!

In the news this morning there is a story about SAD and how scientists believe they have discovered the cause of it (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29691479). The scientists have discovered that those who suffer with SAD have higher levels of the serotonin transporter (SERT) protein which means they have a greater removal of serotonin in winter. In the BBC news article, Lead Research, Dr Brenda Mc Mahon said, “We believe that we have found the dial the brain turns when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons. The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active – so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin. Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.” Dr Mc Mahon then goes on to say that people who are not affected by SAD do not have the increase in SERT activity (www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29691479 – 21st October 2014).

But how then do we treat SAD. If we take an SSRI (as I do), does that actually help or will the levels of SERT just get higher? SSRI’s work by stopping the reuptake of serotonin to the brain therefore meaning there is more Serotonin in the body. Is it SERT that they are stopping?

All I know is I would benefit from upping my dosage. I was coming off them in June ready to have a baby before everything went wrong (my hormones also have a big part to play in my anxiety). I was actually at a stage when I wasn’t taking any but was having daily panic attacks! I am now on 10mg and thinking I need to go back up to 20mg which is where I am normally happiest. Going to start upping it slowly at the weekend.

The other thing I know for sure is I must save some annual leave for this time of year to make sure I have plenty of time to rest at home!!

How it takes hold

It eats at you from the inside.
The knot in your stomach.
It gets tighter and tighter until you can’t take anymore.
You snap. You give up. You hide in the bed.
Hide from the world that causes this pain.

Is it because I’m bored? I ask.
My brain isn’t being used.
I just sit and stare at my screen waiting for work to appear.
All the while the bubble inside gets bigger and bigger.
Still eating away at me.
Am I hungry or sick? I just don’t know

My stomach is the first to tell me how I am.
To tell me that depression and anxiety have taken hold.
My stomach lurches as the butterflies flutter.
The world spins as my head struggles to cope.
I’m lightheaded and faint. My heart starts to race.
I need to get out. I need to hide away safe in my bed.

But I must fight. I will make the change.
Sort out my job and my head.
Find something to keep my mind active.
Not worry about worry, but work instead.