Last week I wrote about my knicker magnet, which was supposed to do marvelous things for my unbalanced hormones. Much as I didn’t expect instant results, I’ve been disappointed that the intervening days have been very hard going. Is it me? Is it the magnet? Who knows. My basic problem, as any of you who are regulars here will know, is that I suffer from a great deal of anxiety. The effects of extreme anxiety are rather similar to taking class A drugs for any length of time, speed in particular, and the chronic fatigue syndrome I’ve suffered from for many years is directly related to this. Anxiety turned inwards and muffled makes for exhaustion, I’ve discovered, as one’s internal processes, over-revving, over-extended and yet stifled and restrained, create a pressure cooker effect that has to be carried alongside everything else that happens in the day. I’m a classic case for anxiety in that I’m a perfectionist, I don’t like people seeing how I’m feeling and I tend to get very annoyed with myself when I bump up against my limitations. All of this has led me in the past to ride roughshod over my own feelings and to push on, regardless, into difficult situations. In fact, I’ve often sought them out to try to prove something to myself. Although all I’ve really ever proved is that they are debilitating.
But I am changing. You might think this is a good thing, and in the long term it is. But it turns out that change….well, change makes me anxious. In fact, my body greets change rather as if it were the four-minute nuclear warning. So much as I seem to be changing now, in a way that feels almost independent of my control, the old default settings are screaming on red alert because the new set of values seem selfish and dangerous and sort of wrong, even while I think they may ultimately salvage my wellbeing. The anxiety from all this, flushed out of its hiding places, brought into the light of my awareness and magnified by impending change, is definitely affecting my hormones. And the dodgy hormones of a 40-year-old woman are definitely increasing my anxiety.
When the magnet didn’t seem to produce even the smallest alleviation of my symptoms, I thought a lot about going down the alternative medicine route again. After years of chronic fatigue, I have tried most things. Homeopathy was a disaster, reflexology was good and I used it for many years. Shiatsu is as much fun as you can ever expect to have, face down on someone else’s carpet, while health kinesiology is just plain weird. I took Chinese herbal medicine, which is extraordinarily disgusting, but can be useful in some situations, and I took ordinary herbal medicine, which I probably settled with best of all. However, ordinary herbs do least for my hormones, and I’ve sort of promised myself not to do things that are akin to torture, and so that puts swallowing Chinese herbs out. I had narrowed my options down to acupuncture, which I’ve had before, and zero balancing, which I haven’t. Zero balancing, for those who’ve never heard of it, is a way of accessing trapped emotions in the body. Over the year of monitoring the way I inhabit my body, I have come to believe in the truth of body memories – that we store unprocessed negativity, stress, sadness, grief, anger, which can manifest itself as chronic aches and pains. It is particularly associated with women’s reproductive systems. Zero balancing involves very gentle movements to help release these feelings safely. I’m at least partly intrigued by this because the practitioner I’ve found is French, and what I love about the French is that they consider hypochondria to be a sensible response to physical suffering. Plus they are genuinely accepting of the bizarre links between mind and body that are often scorned by pragmatic Anglo-Saxons.
Acupuncture must be familiar to most people. The problem here is that I don’t want to return to the practitioner who did this for me in the past, even though he was very good. He also prescribed Chinese herbs and the experience of trying to treat me left him with a few unresolved emotions about me, most due to the fact he can’t forgive himself for not finding a cure. Plus he’s also just come out of a hasty second marriage; so, not back there, then. I had a look around at other possibilities and found a very nice looking young woman, who was quite cheap and quite new to the area, and a much older man, who had 30 years experience, but a hint of the serial killer about the eyes. Gosh it’s hard to know what to do for the best. Has anyone had any experience of either acupuncture or zero balancing? I’d be grateful for your thoughts.
Before I committed to any of this, however, I had a doctor’s appointment this morning. I had booked to see my doctor to check that I was reading my symptoms correctly, and that there was nothing that warranted further investigation. When I woke up this morning, I knew today was going to be a bad, bad day for anxiety, and much as I am very fond of my doctor, who has supported me through chronic fatigue with admirable patience, I am terrified of going to see him, out of the mostly irrational fear that he will find something fatally wrong with me. And I am more plausibly alarmed at the possibility of catching something dreadful from the waiting room. Some days these things are easier than others, but today I turned up with a pounding heart and restless legs and my fight or flight mechanism switched on to full blast. It did not help at all that when I arrived in the waiting room, it was like entering a blast furnace. I actually went over to the tiny window and asked if it were okay for me to open it (see? change – I would never have done this sort of thing before). In typical British style, everyone had been sweating it out silently. Then I opened the fire doors and the window on the landing of the stairs and stuck my head out. I was just getting to the point of thinking it was all unbearable and I might just sneak off home, when my name was called.
‘And what can I do for you today?’ my doctor asked with his usual adorable geniality.
“I’m gynecologically challenged,’ I replied, which made him laugh a lot. It’s a measure of how stressed out I was that I didn’t actually take pleasure from this. I usually put a little cabaret on for my doctor because I figure he must see so much that is depressing every day that it’s almost my civic duty. But as I say, I’m changing, and this was purely accidental.
We went through my symptoms while I had a hot flush on the spot, although it was probably due to the infernal central heating in a mix with all that anxiety. I kept shuffling in my seat and drumming my feet on the floor and trying not to register that I felt sick.
“I’ll quickly need to feel your tummy,’ said my doctor, and noticing my hesitation, ‘if you’re all right with that?’
‘Oh yes, yes,’ I replied. ‘I’m just having such a nervous moment.’
‘Aww, bless you,’ he said, with tender indifference.
In fact the whole business of getting on the couch and being prodded a bit was strangely helpful, and I felt a little better when I sat back up.
‘You’re fine,’ my doctor said. ‘I’d know if there was anything wrong because you are so thi- slim,’ he caught himself.
‘Yup, just a gift to your tentative medical student,’ I joked gamely, although if I had changed sufficiently to be fully congruent I might have burst into tears at that point. I would so like to put on weight.
So what he has ended up doing is giving me a prescription for some pills. I’m not very good at taking pills generally, which is why I expect he feels sure I can try them. But they are non-addictive and very low dose anti-anxieties, and a different kind of beta-blocker. I can just try them out and see if I want to take one or other or both. He agrees that I am basically fine, but that anxiety and hormones are creating a vicious circle, and he thinks this is just a tricky patch that needs to be negotiated, and there is hope. I told him he was marvelous several times over, and he modestly disclaimed and said he hoped he might be a little helpful, and I prevented myself from declaring undying love because Mister Litlove wouldn’t like it and I read somewhere that people are more attracted to one another in situations of terror, and I felt that might be a key factor in my feelings. So we’ll see how the tablets go, as I’m in no position right now to let someone stick needles in me, and in the meantime, I am quite wiped out from all this excitement and will go listen to a soothing audio book or something equally mindless. May you all have a stress-free weekend…..