I've browsed these forums many a times for reassurance but was hesitant to post (OCD thing). I'm at my breaking point and it looks like this is a very supportive community and I have a lot I want to get out. It will be nice to share my experiences with others who understand. I apologize in advanced for this being a little long but I thank anyone who will take the time to read my story and hopefully provide some insight. I've read some posts where responses are "You didn't really provide enough of a background" and I didn't want to be that guy. There should be more than enough information below!
A little background on me. My name is Chris (everyone calls me CJ). I'm 30, happily married to a VERY supportive wife that I met freshman year of highschool and we have 2 children (5 year old daughter and 6 year old son). I try to lead a normal life. I play lead guitar in a local cover band, ride a motorcycle, play ice hockey, studied martial arts for a couple years, love video games, read comics and books, shoot pool, play table top games and collectible card games like Magic (I have a nerd side, I値l admit it
). But I have had Anxiety/OCD my entire life with little periods of panic attacks that take place over the course of a couple months then go away for a few years only to come back. I've come to the conclusion it was due to my parents getting a divorce when I was 2 and my mom sending me to my grandparents the majority of the time (Who I loved). I have great memories of my dad being around until I was around 7 then once he left and I started noticing the issues begin. My dad is back in my life (met back up 10 years ago) and we have a great relationship but he is VERY old school and is all about mind over matter and NEVER believes in pills for anything so it's tough to talk to him about my issues. Still a great guy though and does provide support in his own way.
First thing I can remember is the panic attacks. These started when I was a child (7-8ish) but was misdiagnosed as night terrors. I know they are panic attacks now because I still get them to this day. Being a kid having to go through that was very scary, especially when no one understands what you are going through. Plus my family never wanted to deal with the fact I could have something mentally wrong and always blew it off and kind of gave me the "tough it out, you have nothing wrong with you, just be thankful for what you have" attitude. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and they are not bad parents/people by any means. My stepfather is a great guy who got me into ice hockey as a kid (which I still play to this day) and I met great people playing who I am now best friends with to this day (One was my best man and my daughters godfather). But when it came to my mental health, I always dealt with it by myself. They never wanted to face it and never seeked help for me.
The OCD started shortly after these night terrors when I was 8-10. It mostly consists of checking, counting and the intrusive thoughts that would drive me insane until I complete the little "rituals" that give me the relief I need. Spending 20 minutes in a snow storm checking my car doors and washing my hands endlessly type of OCD. Every time I enter a bathroom or the kitchen I have a complete ritual I need to do before I can leave it and if I don't, bring on the anxiety! Throughout my life I have stopped doing one ritual only to have a new one take its place. This is all I can remember and all I know so it is just a part of who I am. I honestly didn't think much of it and thought it was normal for the longest time until my PCP as a teen told me it's OCD and sent me to a psychologist. They wanted to put me on pills and I refused and walked out. I was about 16 at the time. The biggest turn off was the fact it might kill my sex drive. Not something a teenager wants to hear!
I also developed cluster headaches during my teenager years that come and go. Sometimes I will get them every day for 2- 3 months, then go years without them. Very painful and scary.
Once I got my license, enter the party phase. Smoke, drink and party endlessly. It was my escape. I quit smoking around 20 but drank pretty heavily throughout my 20s. Again, it was my escape and it gave me that "I don't care about anything!" beer balls attitude. It caused a lot of arguments with my then girlfriend turned wife, family and friends. Everyone knows I was a pretty angry drunk and everyone jokes about it. "Oh Beer, CJ will be there! Just don't give him whiskey!". It's all a big joke, all fun and games but no one knew the pain I was going through, I kept it to myself and always gave out this happy go lucky attitude about me (minus the drunken rages
). Even my neuro first time I met him said "For someone with all these issues, you are a pretty happy guy and have a great attitude about it. I know people with 1 of your problems that are a depressive wreck and you are still going strong". That's the persona I put off but on the inside I'm a wreck. No one knows the pain I live with. I developed terrible sleeping habits that are still with me to this day. Stay out until 2 getting drunk, sleep 12 hours and wake up in the afternoon. Someday I sleep 10pm - 6, other days it's 12am - 6am, 2am- 8am, 2am - 11am, etc. I hit snooze constantly (2 hours some days) because I don't want to deal with my issues. I've had sleep paralysis before and lucid dreams. My wife sees me very tense in my sleep, arms up in the air, twisted and in all weird tight positions. I have woke up with hand-prints on my stomach like I have been pushing down on myself. Sometimes I wake up with pins and needles in extremities and chest pains which freaks me out. Not getting enough sleep doesn't help the anxiety either. Luckily my neuro is also a sleep doc so we are working on that but he believes if we can get me out of this anxiety funk my sleep will get better and I believe him because I have had good sleep in the past.
At 26-27 I developed this weird having to urinate issue where it feels like I broke the seal after drinking. Sometimes I go ALL THE TIME for an hour or two. After a lot of research, I pinpointed it to anxiety. If I知 in a meeting, or I hit traffic or somewhere where I know I might not have access to a bathroom I start freaking out and have to go. When I知 home, I can go 5-6 hours without issue. I ended up learning to deal with it saying "Hey it can be worse.". Biggest problem I might have is peeing myself and my friends laugh. A problem that I can live with considering the other terrible issues people can have.
From 27-30 I went through this awesome period in my life where I was very happy. I really enjoyed my job, things were going great at home and the OCD was under control to a point where even if I didn't complete one of my rituals I could blow it off. Band I was playing with was taking off and we were packing bars having a blast. I was really enjoying my time with the kids as well. If I only knew how close to the edge I was dancing. Once I hit 30, I had a ritual I didn't do correctly and only had 1 chance at doing it that sent me on this downward spiral. I turned 30 on June 1st, it's been a nightmare since. I couldn't get the thought of me turning 30 out of my head. I looked around and my kids are starting kindergarten, a good friend of mine I grew up with (who was dating my wife in high school and was how I met her) was diagnosed with a brain tumor. They removed it and he was doing much better. He got back in wicked shape (he is a firefighter) and he got married and his wife was pregnant but then the tumor grew back and they told him it's terminal and gave him 1 year to live. This was about 6 months ago. His kid was born about 3 months ago and he might not make it to his own child's first birthday. It breaks my heart to think about that and scares the hell out of me seeing how anything can go wrong at any time. OCD doesn't help because I obsess about it constantly. It's depressing me to the point I知 getting sick. I look at my wife and kids and try my best to relax and enjoy this time now but am so obsessed with my own health it's killing me.
Everything took a turn for the worst with me around August. After 2 months of non-stop anxiety (worst it's ever been in my life and my wife can see it too. Says she never seen me this bad) the panic attacks started up again. I got bit by a mosquito and got cellulitis which started my google searching. One thing led to another and to another and to another. Next thing you know I have headaches that I thought was an aneurysm or tumor so I went to a nuero who did an MRI. All checked out fine. Then it was chest pains that I was convinced is my heart, full heart workup done (stress test, ekg and electrocardiogram) all checked out but I am still convinced I have massive clog that was missed because internets says these things can be missed! I've always had IBS issues and digestive problems and that's acting up. I always am afraid of my appendix bursting. I have hemorrhoids and sometimes get an electric shock sensation during a bowel movement which is strange. That started this year and is VERY rare. Seems to only happen during stress when the hemorrhoids are flared up and after long periods of sitting down and only at my work toilet (maybe something with the way I am sitting and a nerve being hit). I have terrible pains in my stomach right below my breastbone. ER did full abdominal scan and it was clean. I'm having a scope done to check the stomach and am on Omeprazole for acid reflux and it seems to help, appetite is coming back. I remember in September/October I started losing my appetite but when I popped a Xanax after an hour or so I would be STARVING so that leads me to believe it's definitely anxiety related. I have terrible tinnitus (ringing in my ears) from damage (loud music/motorcycles). I've lost about 30 pounds since June. I was 175 and now I am down to about 145. I can feel my bones in my feet and butt when I知 walking and sitting down because I致e lost so much weight. I broke down and my doc gave me pills and for the first time in my life I took one. Alprazolam (Xanax). I knew nothing about the drug before I started and all I know was wow did it work and make me feel better! So guess what happened? I become hooked. Never took more than 1mg a day and the majority of the time it was only .50mg or .25mg but it was every day for a 4 month period. Work stress was also a factor and I was finding I needed to take them to get through a day of work. Now I am having difficulty concentrating and remember things. I'm a programmer so I need my mind! I took Xanax from September through December and am trying to get off them now. Doc has me on a low dose of Prozac (20mg) to help stop the OCD but I just started not even 2 weeks ago at a low dose. It definitely hasn't kicked in yet I feel terrible and depressed. I haven't cried in years and I've broke down multiple times. I have a friend who is a paramedic and 2 more that are nurses and they say Xanax is bad and what I知 experiencing is all anxiety related. Months of stress on the body can cause all sorts of crazy things to happen.
I could deal with all of that until the cramps and twitching started. About 3 years ago I got sick (bad flu) and my left arm became so weak I couldn't push the strings on my guitar down or pick up a glass. ER said it COULD be neurological but my strength came back when I got better so my PCP wasn't concerned. Said that can happen when you池e sick. Up until that point I had no idea what a neuro issue could be but thanks to Google I found ALS/MS. My mother in law has MS and has been around for almost 30 years with it and is still alive. She also has Trigeminal neuralgia and my cluster headaches are because of the Trigeminal nerve so that scares me as well. MS isn't my main fear, ALS is my current obsession and going into the ALS forums was one of the worst things I could have done at this point. That weakness is in the back of my mind and I am constantly doing the strength tests. I also never knew about tongue issues and ever since I read that I swear my tongue hurts. Same thing with difficulty swallowing. My doc one time said he went through a stressful time and had this "legs on fire" feeling that can be a sign of MS. That same night I felt my legs on fire! Like my sub-conscious is messing with me.
My current ALS fear started with this weird cramping behind my left knee while doing p90x, then left hamstring, then left calf, left foot, then twitching and weird feeling in right forearm, then cramp in left hand, then right leg hamstring, then right calf, now I swear my left hand is getting weak playing guitar, then cramping/twitching ALL OVER! This all happened over the past 2 months with it on and off. Then I got sciatica pains in my left leg with pins and needles in my foot. I've noticed this pain before while riding my motorcycle (sports bike) for extended periods of time, shooting pain down left leg but I always blew it off. I think I知 just obsessing over it now so I feel it ALL THE TIME! I can't get comfortable. I've always had back issues from playing hockey and playing guitar standing up for too long hurts it. I constantly hurt my tailbone as a kid falling on the ice and riding a bike. My wife has a herniated disc and my symptoms sounded like what she dealt with. I had a lower back MRI done confident it would show a disc issue. Nope, came back squeaky clean which freaked me out even more! Doc says it's probably muscular. Theory is from months and months of stress and being so tense it's pinching the nerves. Plus I sit down all day in-front of a computer all day which doesn't help. Very scary and I can't get it out of my head! Normally I would work out but the sciatica pain is killing me plus my energy levels are depleted. I can still bang out pushups, curl 30 pounds and do pull-ups but I just have no endurance. I also shake and twitch after even the smallest workout. All very concerning! But again, I'm not eating or sleeping right.
I also cut my finger at a strip club a couple years ago drunk and couldn't remember how it happened (my friends said we broke a glass) I was afraid someone stabbed me with an HIV needle or something crazy like that but my doc said the cut isn't what a needle would look like. All I know is I went to the bathroom and I was bleeding. I freaked out and became obsessed with HIV/AIDS. My doc laughed (he is a funny guy though and I love him, really nice doc). He made me wait the 3 months for the incubation period and sent me for testing (3 months with OCD and no meds was NOT FUN). Blood work came back clean but I still have the thought that they might have missed it. I read online (again with the googles) that it can sometimes take longer to show up. Now that I知 losing weight and getting sick I知 worried about that too. Oh the joys of OCD and anxiety.
I am typing this while at work. I am so distracted by all of this I can't deal anymore. From the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed I am non-stop obsessing about ALS. It's starting to even affect my dreams. I dreamt I had a stroke (which I read is a sign you are not happy with an aspect of your life which makes sense). I non-stop google my problems and then when I get home, instead of spending time with the wife and kids I isolate myself in-front of my computer in the other room and google more symptoms to the point of panic attacks. I currently play with a great cover band that doesn稚 a lot of shows but am thinking about quitting because of this. I barley play video games or read anymore. My life has become obsessed with my health. Not a day goes by that I don't think about death. It's not a healthy way to live and it's becoming more and more of a problem.
Of course the logical explanations for all of this is the fact I致e been dealing with months and months of stress, anxiety and panic attacks. Actually, my entire life has been filled with anxiety and living with it coupled with bad sleep and a destructive lifestyle could be finally catching up with me. Sleep deprivation (and my nuero/sleep doc said this) can cause all sorts of crazy physically symptoms including something he said was "Exploding head syndrome" where it feels like your head explodes. Crazy! (Just as an example). I just hope that it's not too late and I hope I didn't do anything that is irreversible to my central nervous system/brain. That's another OCD fear of mine that I been having.
This is the worst anxiety I've ever dealt with in my entire life. I also believe maybe the Xanax caused the muscle/appetite issues (or made them worse) and I知 having some withdrawal trying to get off them. I did notice the .50mg stopped working like it used to. At first .25 would work now .50 barley does. I haven't been eating or sleeping right (barley eating 1,000 calories a day). I was doing p90x and intense workouts and instead of doing my usual protein shake after I was popping a Xanax which can't be good for my muscles. I would pop a Xanax and sit in a hot tub for 2 hours watching football. No wonder I am having weird muscle issues and cramps. Plus I'm not drinking right either. But no no! None of that matters because (and I read Pan's ALS/MS post) I am now in the loop! Stuck in that downward spiral. Some days I feel like "What's the point of it all, we are all going to die one day and if I have some deadly disease what's the point of fighting?! I see so much hate in this world, what is the point of it all? What's the point of life?!". It's a terrible way to think and can't be good on my mind.
I just can't get out of this hell I am in but one thing is for certain, I needed to make lifestyle changes for a long time and I don't think I would have actually done it unless something drastic like this happened to me. I told my wife many a times "Yeah I値l cut back on drinking, yeah I'll help with cooking and dishes and laundry etc." but I never followed through for more than a few days. I can tell she is getting to her breaking point and can only put up with so much before she loses it. She's already told me she will always be here for me and I'm not worried about her leaving with the kids (no questions about that) but I fear she might have a nervous breakdown too.
Funny thing is while I have been dealing with this, I'm making improvements in other areas of my life that I NEVER thought I would have done. I haven't had a drink since early December. I no longer fly down the highway and flip people off who are on their cell phones cutting in between lanes (New England is very go go go go go go go!!!!). I don't get mad when someone cuts me off and traffic doesn't bother me like it used to. I'm not as angry as I once was and I find myself smiling more. Just the other day I saw an elderly couple at the mall holding hands that almost brought a tear to my eye. I look at my wife and kids and realize how lucky I have it and really try my best to appreciate everything while I can (easier said than done). We all have to go one day, I would just love another chance to get my life back on track and start stepping up and taking care of my wife and kids. Be the father I never had.
As a side note, I started studying Qigong and soon Tai Chi with a great instructor in my area so I am hoping that will help me ease my mind. His name is Master Wu, he is an internationally known instructor and I am lucky to have him in my area. He is considered one of the best Qigong instructors in North America so I am excited about that. I had my first class last night and felt very relaxed during it. At the beginning I had to pee (new class, new people, anxiety) and halfway through nothing mattered, I was very relaxed in that moment. Of course as soon as I left all symptoms came back
So there is my story. I hope someone on here took the time to read this. If you did, thank you. I wish you all the best and you will be seeing me more on these forums. If this isn't the beginning of the end of me and this really is all anxiety related, once I get out of it I will be in such a better place in my life both mentally and physically. If that happens, I am hoping to one day use this thread as a reference for other people to read who are going through similar issues and hopefully provide comfort in knowing that anxiety CAN cause pretty much anything imaginable to the body, both mental and physical.