Stressed and Anxious
I don’t know if this is the right group for this, but my life as I knew it seems to be gone. I’m 76 years old. I had a liver transplant in 2018. The year leading up to it was full of stress, anxiety, and depression. I received a miracle just when it seemed I would not survive. Since that time, my new liver has had no issues, for which I am eternally grateful. However, it seems the rest of my body is failing me.
I’m dealing with CKD, which I believe was brought on at least partially by the anti-rejection medication I’m taking (tacrolimus), and probably by damage done while my liver was failing. I’ve had to radically change my diet as well as take a potassium binder to keep my potassium level in an acceptable range. I recently had my aortic valve replaced due to aortic stenosis, and now I have thyroid nodules that were biopsied and de lared benign, but will be followed up for several years to keep watch on them.
I ask myself, “What’s next?” I cry a lot at night when I can’t stop thinking and wondering about what the next shoe to drop will be. Since all of my health problems began I’ve been living with intermittent pain that moves from my back to my neck and into my head. I’ve had neurological work ups that have ruled out any possible cause. Like everyone else, I’ve been living with the stress caused by lockdowns and isolation, but this started well before the covid panic.
I don’t know where to turn. I’ve lost my prior zest for life. I no longer want to go anywhere or do anything. The highlight of my day is my cauliflower tacos that I have for lunch, followed by bedtime, when I can put in my earphones (so I son’t disturb my husband) and listen to a meditation, music, or bedtime stories for grownups to help me fall asleep. I’m having to drink a LOT of water for my kidneys, so I’m up at least four times during the night.
I need to find a way to deal with what I’m feeling. My blood pressure is much too high. The only way I can bring it down is by taking a 45-minute walk whenever possible (weather is getting quite warm and humid now in FL) and by consciously deep breathing and meditating before taking my BP. But that leaves the rest of the day. I’ve stopped watching the news entirely, and only watch entertaining movies and TV. I’ve started watching meditations on YouTube, and I listen to soothing music during the day. I know my mind is my worst enemy.
If anybody has any suggestions on how they have dealt with similar problems, I am open to any and all ideas. I’m so tired of living this way. I used to be happy 😞.
Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Depression & Anxiety Support Group.
@karen1945 Hi Karen. I wanted you to know that you are doing a good job in advocating for yourself and that is something to be proud of! Certainly, all of us have health problems that come up unexpectedly and we do the best we can. I'm glad you reached out here so you are not alone with this.
You already know how to lower your blood pressure by controlling your thoughts, and with music and deep breathing. That is how music therapy works, so I encourage you to do that as much as you need to! I learned how to do that too when I was afraid of having spine surgery, and it took me 2 years to find a surgeon willing to help, and I found him at Mayo. During that time, I was doing a lot of things to confront my fears. I found that for myself as a creative person, that anytime I could engage in a creative activity, it let me escape from the fear of the surgery that I knew I could not avoid if I did not want to become disabled because of pressure on my spinal cord. I learned a lot of things about myself, and where these fears originated, and it helped me overcome it.
I think you may like this discussion. If you take some photos while you are on on your walks, you can share them here and see what everyone else is sharing. This might be something else to look forward to each day. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/whats-outside-of-your-picture-window-today/
I know as humans, our brains are wired to react to stressful things as a survival mechanism, and sometimes that just overwhelms us if we don't stay back and say… "OK now Brain, I heard your message, but now I am going to be busy doing something fun instead. I heard you loud and clear, so I'll just write that down in my journal so you can stop reminding me over and over." When our brains keep on ruminating over every problem we can't solve, it just increases our stress, and it's OK to do the best that you can. You don't have to stop and solve every problem on the spot. Just realizing this gives you a way to distract your brain from grabbing onto something and not letting go. What I think of here is a dog who thinks he can catch a car and grab it by the bumper and bring it to a stop. Well maybe if it is a toy car, the dog will be victorious. All you have to do now is yank the leash and get the dog under control.
I get a lot of tension in my neck and it is tighter in one side which is enough to start turning the vertebrae right under the skull just a little bit. When that happens, it stretches the muscles at the base of the skull and I get a muscular headache on the back of my head on one side. It sounds like you may have a similar experience. What helps is to reduce that tension and I have learned a lot of ways to stretch from my physical therapist who does myofascial release. Once I get the vertebrae facing forward again, the headache stops. Also taking a soaking bath with epsom salts helps because I will absorb magnesium which helps relax the muscles and me as well. Most of us are deficient in magnesium and this will allow you to absorb it through your skin. You may want to run that past your doctor in case this would affect your kidney disease.
This discussion will explain the benefits of stretching the tight fascial tissue and how loosening that up helps relieve pain. All surgery creates scar tissue that can bind to other tight areas in your body, and myofascial release therapy can help. There is a provider search at http://mfrtherapists.com/ I have personally benefited from MFR work and can do a lot of self treatment at home now that I know how to do it.
You might be interested in connecting with other transplant recipients.
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/liver-support-group/ In this group you can connect with @rosemarya who is very knowledgeable and experienced with liver transplants.
Here is another discussion for transplant recipients. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/this-and-that-and-talk-my-transpant/
This discussion may also be of interest about ways to cope with the fear of medical procedures. I wanted to share what I learned about facing fear and I included a video of a podcast interview that I did that you may find interesting. It is at the beginning of the discussion on the first page.
Of course it helps to know that you have good doctors at Mayo on your side to be there when you need them. I feel very fortunate to have had treatment at Mayo and it changed my life profoundly. Gratitude goes a long way in chasing away fear and reducing stress. Do you have something that you are grateful for that you would like to share?
Thank you for your thoughtful response, Jennifer. I appreciate you taking the time to give me so much information. I have been to chiropractors, a physical therapist, acupuncturist, and a myofascial release massage practitioner. I use essential oils in my diffuser. I’ve tried heat and cold to relieve the pain when it occurs. The description of your pain is very close to mine, which starts on the right side, at the very top of my shoulder at the base of my neck. It can move up the back of my neck and head as well. It used to also affect my mid and lower back, but I haven’t had that specific pain for some time. In searching for answers, and because I refused to undergo nerve-blocking injections (which was the best the neurologist could offer), I discovered the work of Dr. John Sarno, who identified Tension Myositis Syndrome, where the brain uses pain as a protective measure. Sounds way out, but if you read what he said, it makes sense for pain with no other explanation. I had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2011, and suffered neck and shoulder pain during treatment. Long after successful treatment, the pain would occasionally return. Now, after a successful transplant and aortic valve replacement surgeries, I’m back to suffering frequent bouts of pain. I’ve used Dr. Sarno’s technique for minimizing pain and trying to convince my brain that there is no organic reason for the pain I’m experiencing. After numerous ultrasounds X-rays, and MRIs, I know that to be true. An interesting phenomenon is that I can be distracted from the pain if it isn’t intense, and I’m engaging in a fun activity that requires concentration, or when I’m with friends having a good time. Another indication that the pain, although real, isn’t organic.
I used to find creative enjoyment by sewing and knitting clothing for collectible artist dolls. I have an extensive collection of “models.” I spent many happy hours dressing them and offering the clothing to other collectors on eBay, Etsy, and my own website. Since my transplant I have no interest in sewing or knitting. It breaks my heart to look at the dolls and my voluminous stash of fabric and yarn. I used to love to read. My desire to do that has gone as well. I feel like a different person.
I am grateful for many things in my life. I have a wonderful, devoted husband of 55 years, three great kids, and two precious grandchildren. My husband and I split our time between Maine and Florida, the best of both worlds. I have every reason to be happy, notwithstanding health issues, which I’ve been fortunate to have had successfully addressed by the excellent physicians and surgeons at Mayo.
Thank you again for your response and the suggestions. I will follow up on all of them.
I know that it's hard to deal with multiple health problems because I've had to deal with that as well.
But daily exercise has lowered my blood pressure by 20 points. There are online exercises for seniors that can be performed while sitting in a chair. I usually google "gentle chair exercises for seniors"
and have found many options. These classes have helped my balance and my knees, and I now even have bicep muscles! They also inspire me with more hope for the possibility of improvements! Good luck!
@karen1945 I was delighted to read your response today, and hear about your experience. I was not familiar with the work of Dr. Sarno. I know that Mayo has a pain rehabilitation program and perhaps that was mentioned to you.
What I learned in my experience is that pain and fear and interlinked. I had grown up as child fearing pain from medical providers and having adverse experiences like that in childhood left a learned pathway of all the stressful memories and pain in my brain. Every new worry about an upcoming event like a surgery triggered that memory of past emotional trauma and fear. I did a lot of work figuring out what was triggering the fear response and why, by looking at the relationship of what happened in my past that was related and how not receiving support for fears during my childhood contributed to this mess. Doing all of this changed my life and my outlook, and fear did not control me anymore. That has been tested a few times with other surgeries since my spine surgery, and each time, I faced it fearlessly and made choices to better my health.
My MFR therapist told me that often patients have an emotional release during treatment of stretching the fascia that is linked to past fears, and it becomes a way to unwind that past history as well as treat the physical reason the pain may be there. Writing down my own history of stressful and fearful events helped me see a pattern that helped explain my fears. That was a crucial step in deprogramming them. Certainly, the major surgery that you had created scar tissue and internal fascial scar tissue. Doing MFR therapy can help loosen all of that. Tight tissue can generate a lot of pain. It takes a while to work through fascial tightness as you work through to deeper layers.
Can you share some photos of some of your creative work? I would love to see that! I also ave a stash of fabric from sewing projects I have yet to complete, and paints and canvases and paper for paintings yet to be painted in addition to thousands of my own photo references of things that want to be painted. Sometimes interference of life just gets in the way for a while at least.
I know that I feel I am most alive when I am creating something if I can overcome my own inertia and just get started. I know you are doing a good job in focusing if you can reduce pain that way, and focusing on something creative could add to your success. It must be beautiful in Maine. I traveled through Maine years ago on a painting trip to new England and the Maritime Provinces. That was my first big adventure alone out on my own as a young person and I spent a month camping and living out of my car. I set up my easel and painted out on a rocky coast and returned from Nova Scotia by ferry.
Do you think that perhaps doing a small creative project may make you feel better? Listening to inspiring music helps me get into a mood to create. It is the "Zone" that artists try to be in when they are painting, and when I get into that zone, time passes without my being aware of it.
You may also enjoy this discussion and you can find me in some posts and pictures on the first page of it.
Here is a similar discussion about how music helps enrich our lives. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/music-helps-me/
I would love to see your dolls and their lovely clothing. Do you have a photo of a favorite place that makes you happy just to look at it? Do you have some good memories of a place like that?
If you need some good news, you are not alone and many times there is professional, effective help available. I do not give advice to anyone, however, I am happy to share some of the keys that helped me to unlock a major depression episode I went through.
Having a safe, comfortable place and a competent professional person for support was where I started.
Having a support group was helpful and helped me shed the shame and stigma I had. I learned my physical body, brain and soul were on extreme negative overload and I could not take any more emotional pain.
You mentioned that you are eternally grateful for your liver. Having gratitude is another one of the keys that helped me. You are already using one of the keys that helped me.
Without getting into detail I had several "keys" that helped me to unlock the depression, and I am willing to share more of them with you if you are interested. I also have a "toolbox" that I still use regularly to help me stay well.
You’ve been through a lot! I am 72 years old and have posted once about my experience with depression which is what you seem to be experiencing. I’m just learning this application so couldn’t figure out how to get to my previous post or would have just referred you to it. I’m not a counselor or expert but I know first hand how much anxiety and depression is involved when all of a sudden nothing interests you. I went from a mild case of that to the point of lying in my recliner every day, not reading or watching movies, not even listening to music. I didn’t want to go outside. I forced myself to walk short distances but would be filled with anxiety and couldn’t wait to get back in my chair. If you haven’t already, I would suggest group therapy and either a counselor or psychiatrist. Please don’t let it go like I did. My family finally had to Baker Act me (several times) because I started mentioning and attempting suicide. Mine was a lengthy recovery (almost 3 years) of trying different medications and therapy. I hope you can find a good group therapy situation that you can perhaps participate in and don’t be afraid to take medicine to help you. All of my interests are back and I wake up each morning feeling so grateful.
@crohr Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Thank you for sharing your experience and how you coped!
Each person has their own story when it comes to stress and anxiety. It is always helpful [for me, anyways!] to read what others go through, how they handle their triggers and how they work so hard to recover. It is inspiring, and has given me ideas for how to work with my own issues. As you pointed out, it is not always a simple solution, and can take several tries and many months, for that "just right" combination.
We're grateful you're here, too!
just happened upon this thread today! wow, I'm not alone! my happy spot is my recliner…. to listen to pandora while I make photo notecards to give to friends and strangers, and notes of encouragement. I've discovered rock painting too…. and I've gone to just printing words to now adding color. I place the rocks in neighborhood during my walks and leave with staff at many drs appts. I have major depression, taking antidepressant am and pm. I also use CPAP plus dr added a Rx of Sunosi to keep me from napping the day away. btw….I tried to attach photos but couldnt..
I have been suffering with an Anxiety disorder for years upon years and it's "cousin" Depression.
For the past 6 years I have been on prescribed Clonazepam for Anxiety but cannot take any anti-depressants. Currently, at my age of 62, I am caring for my husband who is now on long term disability and we are going through a great transition with health care coverage and so forth.
I understand how Anxiety and Depression can work together to play games with the brain.
I have empathy and compassion for all on this post. Leah09
Hey Leah, may I share with you what helps my anxiety and depression so much?