Archive for September, 2011

Panic Attacks

My panic attacks were very severe.  They started with the development of tunnel vision, in which my peripheral was narrowed visually and I was unable to hear anything besides my own negative thoughts.  I then physically crumpled to the floor, often assuming the fetal position.  My breathing became rapid, my chest tight, my face flushed, and tears just flowed out of my squeezed shut eyes.  Often times, I would begin screaming as visual, verbal, and tactile stimuli from the trauma began to assault my senses.  I sometimes would begin choking, as it felt as if my airway was closing.  Twitching and facial grimace tics were also a very real and painful part of my panic, due to the adrenaline rush that was going through my body.

These panic attacks, or the very real fear that I was going to have a panic attack, kept me from my life.  They kept me from engaging in activities in which I perceived that there may be a trigger to the trauma.  These panic attacks caused me to live a very sheltered life at the height of my PTSD.  These panic attacks can only go away through skillful therapy in which your triggers are neutralized.

Here is a great article on Panic Attacks:  http://anxietypanichealth.com/2008/10/01/im-dying-what-a-panic-attack-feels-like/

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Food Numbing

Throughout my therapy, I have learned many new terms.  One such term is “food numbing.”  When I was pregnant with my daughter I gained about 60 pounds. (yikes!)  After I had her, I lost about 30, and then slowly crept back up another 30.  So, all in all, even after having my daughter I weighed about 60 pounds more than when I initially got pregnant.

Immediately after the trauma, I realized I was eating, eating, eating.  It didn’t matter what, as long as I was chewing.  High carbs and high caloric foods were my drug of choice.  Upon talking to my therapist I have realized that food can really truly function as a “drug of choice.”  When you are suffering from PTSD, the serotonin re-uptake inhibitors in your brain are not functioning as they should, essentially, they are broken.  This leaves one unable to complete the loop of the “feel good” serotonin that usually  provides a calming and pleasant kick back function for your personal wellness.  High caloric and high carb foods help to complete that cycle for the time being, they provide a temporary “food numbing” phenomenon that tells your brain, “this is good, keep eating, it calms you.”

Initially, I was only able to cut the “food numbing” vice when I went onto anti-anxiety medications.  The medications provided a “fix” for the “broken” serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and allowed the cycle to proceed as before.  In reducing and titrating off of my medications, I am finding that I am slipping back into a food numbing coping mechanism.  It is in realizing this that I will be able to replace my high carb and high caloric foods with other activities that produce serotonin in a non-detrimental way. 

One such way is exercise.  In joining a gym I have found that a good work out can produce those same feel good enzymes as medication and food.  Bonus-It helps me lose the weight too!

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Can YOU imagine?

Sometimes, when I explain incontinence to people, it’s hard for me to really understand that they can actually “get” the impact that this condition has on one’s life.  To suddenly lose the ability to function in an area that you take for granted is a nearly impossible situation to truly understand unless you have gone through it yourself.  So, I will try my best to explain my fecal incontinence to you:

Put yourself in this frame of mind:  Your worst day with diarrhea.  We’ve all experienced this.  Now, imagine that this happens every day, without warning, and instead of liquid shots of stool, you are passing full size bowel movements.  Now, imagine that you try to make it to the bathroom, but standing only allows gravity to assist you in passing more stool.  Now, imagine that you do make it to the bathroom sometimes, but lack the sphincter sensation to finish a bowel movement so it slowly leaks out throughout the rest of the day.  Now, imagine that this is happening at work, in the car, while you are taking care of your kids, grocery shopping, at church, etc.  I think you get the point.  It’s defeating.

That’s why I am so grateful and will continue to pass the word on about Interstim.  I can always imagine the incontinence issue, because I went through it.  I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.  I hope that you who only have to imagine it in your lifetime can gain empathy for those living with the situation with my above examples.  I hope that you who do more than imagine, who live with the incontinence, have success with Interstim. 

Thanks for Reading-

Lauren

Support Systems

This week I began my quest to set up a support system for those suffering with fecal incontinence.  The following is a flyer I distributed to my rectal surgeon’s office, another local rectal surgeon’s practice, and my physical therapist’s office.  If you are interested in the actual flyer for any reason, please contact me via e-mail and I will send it to you as a document.  Below is the flyer copied and pasted from my own document:

Dear Friend,

I suffer from Fecal Incontinence.

In March of 2008, I delivered my first born vaginally with the help of forceps.  I experienced a third degree tear in the process.  In the weeks following delivery, it became apparent that I had suffered damage to the rectal sphincter.  I was diagnosed with fecal incontinence and began physical therapy in May of 2008.

Because of the traumatic nature of my delivery, I also suffered emotionally.  I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with related anxiety disorder by the following year. 

The past three years of my life have been filled with endless appointments with physical therapists, rectal surgeons, OBGYN’s, psychologists, and psychiatrists’.  I ended up leaving work in April of 2010, after the physical and emotional stress resulting from the situation landed me in the hospital recovering from one of my many panic attacks. 

 I heard about Medtronic from my rectal surgeon in June and was ready to try anything that could possibly increase my ability to control my bowel incontinence.  Medtronic Interstim has changed my life.  From the moment of implant, I recognized changes in my function.  I could feel again.  I could clench again.  I could CONTROL my bowel movements again.  It is truly a miraculous therapy.  I have very little issue with bowel incontinence since the first implant.

Recently, I have begun blogging about my experiences with Interstim as well as the events that caused me to be incontinent in the first place.  My blog is called Peace out of Pieces and can be found at peaceoutofpieces.com.  Please feel free to read, comment, and pass along to anyone that may be interested.

My goal is to facilitate a support group that allows people who suffer with Fecal Incontinence, have had the Medtronic Interstim surgery for bowel incontinence, people who are considering the surgery, inquiring health care professionals, and the advocates that support Interstim to come together to talk about pertinent and practical issues surrounding the therapy and the situation.   Please contact me if you are interested at peace4Lauren@gmail.com Dates, times, and locations for the group to meet will be discussed via e-mail.  I look forward to hearing your stories and meeting you in the near future!

Thanks for Reading!

-Lauren

40 grams

40 seems to be the magic number.  I begin each day with 40 grams of fiber.  I should take out stock in All Bran, because I go through at least a box a week!  Eating fiber is essential, even with Interstim intervention.  Some ways that I have found to get 1 cup of Bran Buds into my mouth in the morning:

Bran Buds with Yogurt and Berries

Bran Buds with Chicken Salad

Bran Buds with Milk (not recommended, unless you like the texture of glue)

Bran Buds with Almonds and Chocolate Chips

Bran Buds with Peanut Butter

I find that if I don’t eat 1 cup a day, I seem to backslide with my continence.  Eating the same thing every day may seem easy, until you actually have to do it.  If anyone has any suggestions for future recipes, let me know!

Thanks for Reading!

-Lauren

PostPartum

Today my daughter started preschool.  3 1/2 years old, and my body is just beginning to feel better after the birth of her.   I would imagine that most women who have had a child start to experience this feeling maybe 6-8 weeks postpartum.  It’s really weird to have the delay, but, somehow I feel more grateful for the normalcy then I think I would have on a “regular” time schedule.  My mind is clearing, my body is physically returning to normal.  As much jealousy I feel for those who have an “easy” time of it, I feel extremely blessed that, unlike some women, I have not had  to experience the symptoms that I have/had for years and years and years.  Thank you Interstim! Thank you PT! Thank you therapy!

Thanks for Reading-

Lauren

Where’s the Cheese?

Before Interstim, before hope of recovery of the sphincter, I had become resigned, but not comfortable, with my new way of life.  Every day, I would wear an overnight pad (changing it of course when I had accidents).  I would often wear this pad backwards, placing the longer part towards the back.  Every day I would carry an underwear change, wipes, and extra pads in my purse.  Although I never explained the whole process to my daughter, she would realize that these things would need to go into my purse prior to us leaving the house.  She’d ask me if I had my underwear and my “cheese.”  I never corrected her on the “cheese” part, needing some sort of levity to the situation at hand.  But, now that you think about it, overnight pads wrapped in orange plastic do like surprisingly like slices of American cheese!  I am grateful that I can place real slices of American cheese in my purse (with an ice pack of course) and leave the pads at home now. :)

Thanks for Reading-

Lauren

Brain ZAPS

So, I have been kind of quiet in Blog land lately and the reason for that is the withdrawal has hit me.  I mentioned in my earlier post that it’s no picnic withdrawing from medications and in fact I have been out of it for the last couple of days.  My body is experiencing fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite, appetite for high carb. foods, headaches, body aches, irritability, nausea, and, oh yes, BRAIN ZAPS.  Brain zaps are aptly named because when you are experiencing one it feels as though your mind is being “zapped” by lightning, you’re short circuiting, and you have an excruciating headache.  I never knew what to call these until I started looking up my symptoms and found that other people have experienced this phenomenon.  Who would have known?  Hopefully, these will go away soon.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Titration

For a couple of years now I have been on medication for PTSD.  Under the watchful eye of a psychiatrist, I have been prescribed Prozac, Ambien, Xanax, and Venlafaxine in various doses and combinations.  Currently, I am “titrating” off of all of my medications, meaning, I am tapering off of them in a controlled and safe way.

The only medication I have left is Venlafaxine (Effexor) and I am currently on the lowest dose.  Getting off meds is not easy.  There is definitely a withdrawal component that makes you feel like an addict!  The addictive nature of these drugs is one that does not make it easy to just quit cold turkey.  Stepping down from the Venlafaxine has taken 3 months!  Side effects that I have experienced during my withdrawal are “brain zaps,” loss of appetite, hunger at times, fatigue, and generally not feeling well.  However, it really is worth it to withdrawal if you and your psychiatrist deem it appropriate.

If you have PTSD, you generally need medication to help support your psychotherapy.  They go hand in hand in my book.  The best advice I can give on this subject is to take medications and titrate off of medications with the help and support of a good psychiatrist.  For me, now is the time to get off all of these medications and I really am looking forward to not needing them anymore!

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

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