My name is Elizabeth... and I am a control freak. There... I said it. I have been a control freak for as long as I can remember. I am not really sure what causes it, but it is something that I am exploring. To start out, I was a kid born with a lot of allergies. I have several severe food allergies (peanuts, pineapple, coconut), as well as other allergies to internal and external allergens. When you grow up around things that can kill you, you really learn to control what happens around you. I have always been very cautious about what I am eating, drinking, or breathing. I was also a child with asthma. When you do anything that a kid normal does, and you can't breathe... it is a nightmare. I grew up always worried that something would happen and I wouldn't have my rescue inhaler... and I would be screwed. I also grew up in a less than harmonious household. My parents argued a lot (although they did not divorce until I was 20 years old), and I was always nervous about what was going on.
I have also discovered that I was probably suffering with varying degrees of depression when growing up. Talking to different family members - this is something that many of us are dealing with. It is an interesting concept to think about - the link between depression and control. I think that when you start to see all of the things you don't have control over, you do anything you can to take control. My mother will tell you that I was a mother from the time I was born. She also calls me bossy - whatever. I have been told that on my first day of Kindergarten, I sat all of the kids down and started reading them a book. I don't remember doing this, but it sounds like something I would do.
I think that no matter what you call it - controlling, bossy, assertive, leader - there is always something you are trying to overcome. I think that when I get nervous, or feel out of control, I try to do whatever I can to make that situation less uncomfortable. Most of the time, that entails taking over and making it work in a way that makes sense to me.
In late 2002, I started getting sick, and I didn't know why. Around Thanksgiving, I just started feeling an overwhelming sense of nausea and misery. I would break out into a cold sweat and get very nervous, and just do anything I could to get out of whatever situation I was in. Somewhere around Christmas, I decided that if I could just throw up... I would feel better. So I did. A lot. Once I started, I wasn't able to stop. For the next few weeks, I was stuck in a terrible cycle of feeling panicked and then throwing up. At first, I did feel better. Then I didn't. By the end of January, I was terribly sick. One day, I started throwing up and just couldn't stop. I remember it was the day before the Super Bowl, and my husband told me that he thought I needed to go to the ER, and he wasn't going to take me during the Super Bowl (wouldn't want to ruin his big day!!). So about 9:00 pm, we walked into the ER. They weighed me in and I had lost 15 lbs from my doctor's appointment around Thanksgiving. It took hours to get seen. I spent all of that time back and forth from the uncomfortable plastic chair in the waiting room to the uncomfortable bathroom stall in the Emergency Room. They finally brought me back into the triage area and proceeded to do some tests, and left me alone for hours. I remember throwing up in a giant trash can for hours... until they sent me home. I was still sick, but they sent me home anyway. They told me to go to my regular doctor on Monday. I did. By Friday, I was back in the doctor's office. I had lost an additional 20 pounds from the previous Saturday night. My doctor sent me to the hospital and had me admitted. 5 days later, I was no longer sick, but had never been told what was happening. They treated my panic attacks and got me back to normal blood chemistry. I became excessively paranoid about throwing up, and avoided it at all costs. I never connected anything, since they never told me WHY I was so sick.
In 2006, I made the decision to undergo the lap band surgery in an attempt to get my weight under control. I researched it and thought this would be the best option for me. I had the surgery, and from there my nightmare began. I thought that the throwing up was just a side-effect of the surgery and that I just wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing. But it didn't make any sense... I would eat a bite of something and would immediately become ill. I started suffering from panic attacks on a daily basis. I was sick all the time and completely miserable. I didn't know what to do. Over the next year, I ended up in the emergency room 5 times, with two hospitalizations coming from those trips (Twice transferred from my doctor's office to the hospital via ambulance). I couldn't get the panic attacks under control. The last trip (March 2008 - 5 days in-patient) was the last straw for me. I just couldn't take it anymore.
Talking to different family members, I have learned that a good number of them also suffer from panic attacks, in varying forms, and with various triggers. But, I really think that those attacks come from a lack of control over some aspect of your life. In 2002, I was not working full time. I was doing consulting work for a hospital, but the work was sparse and I wasn't making a ton of money. My husband would often ask me why I had a Master's degree and couldn't earn a living. I think he was trying to understand it himself, or maybe motivate me to do something more. It was incredibly humiliating, and I think that is about the time I started getting sick. After my surgery, I think the fear that I would do something wrong actually propelled me to do the wrong things and caused the panic episodes. Thank God I did not have the bypass... I would probably be dead.
If you have never suffered a panic attack - Please understand that they are serious business. It feels like a heart attack. Your body goes through the same reactions as something that severe. They are physically and emotionally draining. Your immune system begins to shut down, and you just can't fight off illness. I have heard so many people dismiss panic attacks - but they are something I wouldn't wish on anyone.
I am starting to trace these things in an effort to keep from slipping into bad patterns. I need to learn better defense mechanisms for feeling out of control. I need to learn more about myself and why I take these things so personally. I think that will be the beginning of the healing process which will allow me to have a full, healthy life. I am also learning that a lot of things I thought were asthma attacks as a kid were probably actually panic attacks. I always wondered why the inhaler wasn't helping. I have outgrown the asthma in my adulthood, but that same feeling still comes around when the panic takes hold.
I know this blog is a departure from my normal posts, but I think it is important to share these things so that others can learn from them. I hope you don't go through these same things, but I know that there are more people than we think going through these same problems.