Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #12
–Onset of Symptoms
My symptoms are what caused me to go to therapy. When my symptoms started is, in some ways, where this story really started. I doubt I’ll ever forget the day they started, Monday September 1, 2008.
My wife and I were at lunch. I remember the restaurant and where we sat. No, I don’t remember what we had. We still go there and I enjoy it. But it is strange sometimes.
We had finished lunch. We were talking about something and then it happened. I’ve wondered for the last four years how I would write this part of the story. Out of nowhere, I felt as if I was being lowered into a pool. That sensation when you walk down the steps at the shallow end of a swimming pool. Your skin in the water feels very different from your skin that is still in the air. This sensation slowly moved up my body. I had no clue what was happening. It was just a sensation. There was no pain, no feeling of sickness. But my whole body felt different, strange, out of sorts.
I chose not to say anything because I couldn’t describe what was happening. As we left for home I noticed that walking was just a little more challenging than it used to be. I wasn’t falling down and I had not had any alcohol. I wasn’t dizzy. I was concerned.
I realize you may think I’m making this up — it just doesn’t make any sense — this doesn’t happen to normal people — but it happened to me. Even to me it sounds goofy. What would cause such a sensation to suddenly come over me? The day had been normal. There had been no traumatic events in recent times.
I know this description sounds silly, stupid and embarrassing. Like so many parts of needing, seeking and experiencing psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”), this experience was not something I wanted to share with anyone. If I tried to describe what I was experiencing, I was afraid I would sound crazy. This is why so many people are so reluctant to seek help for their emotional issues. They don’t want to tell anyone of their symptoms because their symptoms sound kind of scary.
This experience brought up many emotions, including fear, shame and guilt.
Fear because I didn’t know what was happening or what caused it. Was it going to get worse? How fast will this progress? Growing up I had been told that my mother had to have electroshock therapy. Wikipedia tells me that this is now known as electroconvulsive therapy, which I think sounds even scarier. Was I on a path that would include electrically induced seizures? Would my children be affected? Would I lose my job, my family? Fear builds on itself and only gets worse.
Shame because I was afraid of what anyone would think if they found out. Would they not want to work with me? Would my family be embarrassed to be associated with me?
Guilt because this must be my fault. I must have caused this to happen. If only I had worked harder, lost weight, been smarter, none of this would be happening. The feelings of guilt mutate into feelings that if I only try harder I can make this all go away.
We went home from lunch that day. Life went on. No one could tell that I was having a problem. At the same time I was constantly thinking about what had happened. I went back looking for anything that could be related to this event. At this point I thought it was physiological (medical), that this sudden sensation could be explained by some sort of cold, flu or perhaps food poisoning. I wondered if it could be seasonal allergies or a side effect of a medication. I found myself hoping I would come down with an ear infection because if I became clinically sick, then I had a cause that could explain why I was feeling so strange.
I reviewed recent events looking for anything that could be related. Had anything happened in the last few weeks that could explain what was happening to me?
There were two events that I remembered. I had been at a conference for the local Oracle user’s group. I felt unusually tired and weak. I couldn’t explain it. During a blood platelet donation I felt more tired than I usually do. Again, I couldn’t explain this level of exhaustion. I wanted there to be an explanation, but I couldn’t really come up with one.
Because I had been diagnosed with hypertension years before this I was in the habit of taking my own blood pressure. On this day it was 139/77. The second number (I can never remember which is systolic and which is diastolic so I just refer to them as the ‘first’ and ‘second’ number) was 77 which is lower than a ‘normal’ reading of 80. The way I was feeling and my blood pressure was low? If I was stressed, wouldn’t the second number be above 80?
Completely as a side note, please get your blood pressure, and the rest of your medical conditions, checked out. Roughly a third of adults in the US have high blood pressure. Most of them don’t know they have this condition. If you met me, I don’t think you would pick me out of the crowd as being the tense one. I had no clue I had hypertension when it was diagnosed. It is highly treatable and, based on my experience, the medication has no side effects. Most importantly, hypertension can lead to all kinds of serious medical conditions. Hypertension is a condition that you can’t detect on your own, can lead to serious health problems and is highly treatable.
I made an appointment to see my doctor. I started taking notes for each day that followed. I knew that something wasn’t right and I wanted to take as much information as possible to my appointment with Dr. Sue. I’ve summarized my notes for each day to show what my first week with symptoms was like. You probably think this is way too much detail. I want you to see all the steps that led me from the initial onset of symptoms to being in therapy. I didn’t just suddenly know I needed therapy, it was a process that took time. The details that follow show you, day by day, how I wound up in therapy.