I was thinking about anxiety attacks today. I had one on Sunday in the taxi on the way to the neurologist. I was sick to my stomach, sweating and my chest felt painfully tight. I hadn’t been expecting an anxiety attack, so I didn’t recognize it at first; I thought I was car sick. I opened the window a bit (even though it was raining hard) and slowly breathed in the cool, fresh air. As I slowed my breathing I realized that I was not car sick, but anxious.
The thing is, I didn’t change anything I was doing. I kept slowly breathing in the cool fresh air and as my breathing calmed, so did my emotions. Our minds and bodies are so closely intertwined – I’m always awed by how that works. I kept breathing slowly, slowly and allowed my body to relax. In a short time, I felt much better.
So I was thinking about that today. I was thinking about how dealing calmly with the anxiety attack (is that contradictory?) kept it short and undramatic. There was something in there about acceptance, too. I’ve written about my concept of acceptance before:
Next to humor (and I make some pretty awful jokes), acceptance is the coping technique I do my best to cultivate. Accepting an unpleasant or bad situation – war or abuse or cancer, for instance – doesn’t mean that I endorse it or like it. It just means that I have looked at reality and noticed that it is real. Not accepting reality is fairly insane. I can’t even work to change something until I have noticed and accepted that it is real.
Last night I was feeling sad and upset. There’s a lot going on at the moment and I won’t go into all of it.(*) The part that is relevant to this blog is the part about my neurological status. As I tweeted(**) on Sunday, the neurologist discharged me from follow-up. This is good, in that she doesn’t expect any unpleasant developments in the short term. It is bad, in that she cannot treat the deficits I have.
Those deficits are the “new normal” in the post title. I wrote about them in my post Chemo Brain. Some of them are more serious than others. Not being able to find words on demand, even in my mother tongue, means that I can no longer do simultaneous (or even consecutive) interpreting. It means that I cannot accept rush jobs in textual translation, either. Since I was a professional translator, this is a problem.
I forget things. This is easier to manage, especially with the wonders of modern technology. I use notes and calendars and reminders and alerts and alarms and suchlike to keep my life going.
My hands shake, so I cannot do the fine lacemaking I used to enjoy so much. I’m managing that by taking up knitting again and trying my hand(s) at knitted lace, since the finest wools for lace knitting are much coarser than the fine threads I used for bobbin lace.
I lose my balance, so I stay off ladders and have put up a grip rail in the shower and next to the toilet. I lose track of time, so I keep my medicines in a pill organizer.
And so on.
I’m “managing” the deficits and using the skills I honed back when I was a nurse to find and develop strategies for independence. I hate it that I have to do that; I am grateful that I am able to.
When I wrote my first “new normal” post, I was sort of assessing the changes to my baseline functioning since my diagnosis. Today’s post is more ponctuel, in the French sense, dealing with this particular point in time. (Not showing off this time; I just can’t think of an appropriate word in English.)
My challenge now is to apply the same acceptance to these cognitive deficits that I applied to the anxiety attack. They are present in reality. My goal is to accept them calmly and deal with them appropriately and get on with my life.
* As self-revealing as I am in this blog, there are still some things I won’t tell you, Internet. (Boundaries. I have ’em.)
** If you want to follow me on Twitter, there’s a button in the sidebar or you can just follow @knotellin.