I have suffered from anxiety my whole life. MY WHOLE LIFE. This is who I am naturally, but add 3 grandparents passing away from cancer, you’re mother having stage IV ovarian cancer, and while your mother is fighting cancer, your uncle who you were close with suddenly passes away- recipe for a super anxious kid. I know now looking back, but no one, including myself, really understood why I didn’t want to go to school as a kid. I felt like if I left my family, even by going to school, that they would leave this earth- middle school kids didn’t exactly make it easy either.
Eventually, I gained somewhat of my footing in high school, which I really enjoyed for the most part. I was doing well at soccer and got a scholarship, but little did I know that the anxiety would return with a vengeance. I LITERALLY cried every single solitary day of pre-season in college…and beyond. Honey, I don’t mean getting slightly emotional, I mean full on ugly cry. The girl who wouldn’t want to be at school just a few miles away, decided it was a FAB idea to go to college 6 hours away from home. Needless to say, this challenged me to my absolute core and my athletic and academic performance suffered all because of it. As terrible as it all was, I wouldn’t take it back, it truly made me who I am today. College broke me, I put myself back together and I’m stronger for it.
During my college years is when I found out that I had the BRCA gene mutation as well, and I would fly home every few months to get checked out by MD’s. I don’t think the reality of the gene mutation had completely permeated my brain at this point. Don’t worry, it eventually does.
Throughout my 20’s I would for sure be a psycho about feeling my breasts for lumps and I would be at the gyno a ton, because I NEVER got my period (undiagnosed PCOS). I would have to say my anxiety really hit a high when I found the lump and scheduled my mastectomy—whose wouldn’t?
And then…I had my surgery and that’s when it REALLY set in. You see, and some may already know, when you have a mastectomy they take everything out and your muscle gets really tight and on top of that, if you have reconstruction, you have two heavy paperweights strapped to your chest. PERFECT. So before, my heart would just beat fast and I would breathe heavily, but now I have extreme tightness in my chest with what feels like a small baby (or dog) laying my chest. Cute.
Eventually, my anxiety sort of baselined out, as my chest began to loosen and I got used to the feeling of the heaviness. I was on my merry way with myself and my implants and then WHAM! My ta-ta just freakin blows up. Literally Biggy Smalls (more info in my last blog post). I find out I need to have another surgery and what do you know? My anxiety rears it’s ugly head again (let’s not kid ourselves, it never really went away). This time it’s a different kind- I freeze, I don’t talk, and often times no one can tell I’m having an anxiety attack, because I “push it down” just keep pushing it down into my stomach, until I feel like I’m going to vomit. After a few hours, it will eventually subside to a tolerable level.
I want you to know if you feel this way you’re so not alone, it’s completely natural to have all the feelings you feel. Either you’re high risk or have/had cancer, which is enough reason to have anxiety in and of itself, but when you add all these physical and metabolic changes, it’s a recipe for disaster. Take all things into consideration, when you have anesthesia it can have a depressant cardiovascular affect on you. Meaning, the anesthesia makes your heart slow down and then if you’re on pain killers on top of that, which is also a depressant, chances are you’ll feel some type of depression and/or anxiety.
Here are some tips to deal with your anxiety/depression that I’ve found helpful:
Magnesium Citrate: This may be a surprise to some, but magnesium can make a ginormous difference when you’re on it, especially if you have a major deficiency. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer, so us gals who have had a mastectomy and/or reconstruction, this may help your chest muscles really relax and not feel so tight—like you can’t get enough breath in. Give it a try, but always check with your MD first!
Caffeine: Ugh. WHY??? I LOVE my cup of coffee in the morning, but I have been finding my anxiety goes through the roof when I drink it and if I drink too much, you might as well steer clear of me for the whole damn day, because I will be bugging outtttt and worrying about dumb crap the whole day. But seriously, caffeine raises your heart rate and while some people feel better after they drink their coffee, others have a nervous breakdown, like myself.
Run: (shocker) But seriously unused energy can become anxiety and actually create anxious thoughts, unused muscles may become more tense and cause more anxiety symptoms, and those who don’t exercise are more prone to hormonal fluctuations and nutritional imbalances. Also, ENDORPHINS! “Because exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy and happy people just don’t kill their husbands”. If you find yourself getting a panic attack at work or somewhere where you can’t just go run, go somewhere private and run in place. Deep breathing during a panic attack has never helped me. Who can breathe when their world is exploding? But I can run, it’s part of our fight or flight response system.
Vitamin Deficiency: Deficiencies in Iron, magnesium, B12, D, and selenium can all cause anxiety and/or depression. At one point when I was on blood thinners I also developed antibodies that were blocking the absorption of the nutrition in my food and I was seriously deficient in B12, D, and iron…GOOD TIMES.
A Friend: sometimes we just need to talk it out with someone we trust. It’s usually my mom and even if she doesn’t say anything, just getting it out there and off my chest helps me feel better. She also validates my feelings, because she knows what I’m going through. If you don’t have a family or friend you feel comfortable talking to, you can journal or reach out to me, I’m ALWAYS happy to help and be there. If you’re thinking about harming yourself or others, it’s always imperative you speak with a licensed professional. There’s no shame in seeing a psychologist, I have seen one practically my whole life
I hope my story and tips were helpful. I really pour my soul into my blog posts in hopes that it helps someone. If you think this would be helpful to someone, please share it.
All the love,