I have two chronic conditions and they interact.
I learned in the last year that I am subject to panic attacks. It isn’t regular but when stress gets to me, I have issues. They aren’t hugely severe in a physical sense, but emotionally I become detached and feel like I’m floating or like my head is going to explode. Disconnected. Disembodied. Buzzing in my ears. Can’t make decisions. Even basic things, like getting dressed, become huge trials when you can’t figure out how to put together an outfit. What shirt to wear with what pants should not be overwhelming, esp. since most of pants are black and anything that’s not a t-shirt is fine for work.
Fortunately they make a medicine for this. They probably make several medicines for this, but the one I take is Prozac. Works pretty good. Now I am not a huge fan of medicines as the best answer for everything so I went years of not feeling optimum because I was trying other methods. But sometimes you can’t control your brain, which means you can’t control your thinking.
The body is an organic electromechanical interface between what we think of as self or soul and the physical world. Not going to get metaphysical about the idea of self here, though I could, but it’s not my point today. Sometimes the equipment fails. Maybe it was flawed from the beginning or maybe I did something that caused damage. In either case, functionality was less than peak.
Now that isn’t necessarily bad. Any engineer will tell you that a machine can sufficiently well at less than 100% I mean, if I could feel 90% on an average day, that seems acceptable, It’s not a peak if it is, in fact, a plateau. And a plateau can be a great place to pause, rest and reflect before pushing on again.
Anyway, with regard to brains. Brains need a certain balance of chemicals in order to function properly. If the chemicals are out of balance, your brain doesn’t work well. All the positive thinking and motivation in the world are not going to help a brain that misfires. I tried many kinds of self-improvement which did not solve my problem. Medicine helps. So I take it, and feel disbelief that it works because life should not become manageable due to taking a pill. But it does. (See the title of this post again, mind and body are one, because changing the chemical situation in my body actually changes my mind.)
The other condition is a highly acid stomach. I apparently don’t have an ulcer, but I do take medicine. It stops my stomach from hurting. Since this crept up on me, I didn’t realize I was in so much pain until I started taking the medicine. Now if I miss a dose, I have PAIN. Eating sometimes helps since anything bready soaks up the acid and moves it out of my stomach, so for a long time I was frustrated by trying to diet (since I am a person who should really lose a few pounds) and the fact that restricting food intake made my tummy hurt. Now I have medicine that stops the pain. It’s kind of amazing.
Again, I’m not a huge fan of medication for no reason, but the right drug at the right time is a real blessing.
So how do these interact?
I don’t get big physical effects from the anxiety, just a little shortness of breath sometimes and a sort of butterflies in the tummy feeling. Stress goes right to my stomach, always has, my mom even commented on it when I was a kid, and the way to help was to eat something.
Wait now. Physical symptoms of stress can be resolved the same way high stomach acid was resolved? So, yes, my emotional state affects how my body works. Treating the anxiety helps the stomach problem. That doesn’t seem so hard to understand.
It’s the fact that it works in the other direction that astounds me.
If I miss my stomach meds, I become anxious. This is not because I am somehow concerned that I’m sicker than I am. It’s because my body reacts very similarly to missing this medicine as it does to anxiety. Close enough, in fact, that my subconscious interprets the symptoms as being upset and will add in the other signs of anxiety. I can be aware that I do not feel emotionally bothered at all, but my body is acting like I’m really freaked out about something.
For example, I might have a cup coffee at breakfast and at lunch have a sandwich that had a tomato on it and a pickle on the side. These are all common foods, all of which I enjoy, any of which I might eat on a typical day. Only, all together, it’s too much acid and my stomach is already highly acid, so now I have butterflies and tension. Then my subconscious decides this is a sign of anxiety, and suddenly I feel like I can’t breathe properly and I can’t focus on my job. Not bad enough for me to call it a panic attack, but enough to distract me and affect performance. Then I do become stressed, because I realize I am not doing as well as I could and I know I can do better, and the stress increases the acid.
It’s all connected, body and mind, mind and body. What affects one, affects the other. Finding balance becomes very important. Sometimes it seems impossible. Sometimes I have to be very regulated, even though it means I look like a party pooper, because for me the consequences are greater than simply being tired the next day. Sometimes I get frustrated with restrictions and limitations. Yet the most beautiful Shakespearean sonnets are created within specific guidelines, so knowing your functional boundaries can be a great thing.
Tomorrow is Christmas and then we are heading into a new year. What I wish for you, is finding your balance.