One week ago today I was barely able to get out of bed. I was in constant torment and could barely eat. My family was seriously discussing checking me into an inpatient program at the mental hospital.
Three days ago I was mobile and up watching TV for much of the day, and even got out of the house for two little five-minute walks around our property. I was afraid to climb stairs because the last time I climbed a flight of stairs my heart started racing. But I did it. I climbed up and down the three little stairs that are built into the walkways around my building, and felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
Two days ago I got dressed and Ken drove me over to my parents' house. I brought an extra plastic bag in the car in case I had a panic attack that made me sick to my stomach. (I hadn't actually hurled but was into some serious retching as part of my panic symptoms, as recently as that very morning.) I was nervous but OK during the car ride. It was the first time I'd been anywhere in two weeks.
I sipped watered-down scotch and let Ken do all the talking. Mostly I held myself very still and tried to breathe through the panic, or tried to hang on to what delicate state of relaxation I had achieved by not moving and not talking to anyone. When I did start talking a little later in the afternoon, it came out mostly as incoherent sobs. I cried all over my mother and all over Ken, telling them everything I was afraid of, which was basically everything in life, while they gave me lots of hugs and tried valiantly to reassure me.
That evening, still at my parents', I ate dinner sitting up at a table for the first time in two weeks.
Yesterday morning the panic was still there, but no retching. Ken went out on an errand and I didn't melt down from fear of abandonment. Then Ken returned and asked me if I wanted to go out for lunch. I figured that if the panic is all in my head there's no time like the present to get back on the horse, so to speak, so I got myself presentable and we went out.
We were seated in a friendly all-day-breakfast restaurant with brightly cheerful decor including a wallpaper border of chickens running all around the walls and booth dividers. A chipper, blond waitress brought us menus. I was as terrified as I might have been in a dark, slimy dungeon being confronted by a jailer-torturer. At first I wasn't sure that I could manage to stay. Then it took all my effort just to choose something from the menu and ask the smiling waitress for it. I wanted to run home and hide under the covers. However, I managed to eat around half of my western omelette with fried potatoes, and the fear did ebb away a bit after the first 20 minutes.
We went to the bank and I deposited a birthday cheque from my grandmother that had been sitting in my wallet for two-and-a-half weeks, since getting to a bank had been out of the question. That was another major accomplishment.
Then we went back to my parents', where, exhausted by the effort of eating lunch out and going to the bank, I fell asleep on their couch. Later that evening I started feeling almost like myself again.
This morning I woke up feeling better yet again. The panic is still there, and always worse in the morning, but this time it was just uncomfortable, not disabling. I didn't feel the need to dissolve in floods of tears when Ken asked me how I was feeling. I have left a message for a well-recommended psychiatrist, so it won't be long before my medication habit is being professionally evaluated. But it's pretty obvious to me that it's working.
There are a couple of good things that are coming out of this ordeal. The first is that I'm renewing my relationship with my mother. I've always been on pretty good terms with my step-dad, as we sometimes work together, but I had been keeping my distance from my mother over the past couple of years, due to self-preservation, as my parents went through their separation and reconciliation. I couldn't spend too much time with her during that phase - it was literally exhausting. I felt that she needed so much from me and I couldn't ask for anything from her in return. Now she is supporting me, and the balance is returning to our relationship.
She's also really happy to have me and Ken hanging around her new house every day. Since she moved a month ago she hasn't felt very at home in the new place, but she says now that it's filled with her family she's starting to feel settled-in. We're going back over there for dinner tonight, and my step-dad is happy to have us too. We're breaking in that new house and making it into a home.
The other thing might turn out to be even bigger. Now that I see the power of mental stress over my physical health, it's making me question where my ME symptoms come from. It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation because ME can cause anxiety and depression, and anxiety and depression can cause physical symptoms, so it may be impossible to sort out which came first. However, the question is: if a capable psychiatrist can supervise a proper course of medication for my poor, bustificated brain, will that cause my ME symptoms to lessen or even disappear?
I mean, think about it. If pure stress was enough to weaken me to the point where I couldn't get out of bed for more than a few minutes without collapsing, certainly it could be at fault for any of my lesser symptoms. There's only so much will-power and positive thinking can do to fight that kind of problem. The undertow of my subconscious mind is frighteningly powerful. If those fear reactions can be tamed, will that release me from some or all of my physical restrictions? If so, this whole ordeal will have been well worth it. A week of hell is a small price to pay for increased freedom for the rest of my life.
Some people need to bottom out before they can get off drugs. I had to bottom out in order to learn that I should be on drugs. This may turn out to be a turning point to a much more positive future. One of the best things to ever happen to me? Let's hope so. Keep your fingers crossed.