I often have talked about how careful I must be to monitor my stress. Stress leads to anxiety which leads to panic which leads to an increase in hallucinations/delusions/paranoia, which finally leads to outright psychosis and/or suicidal ideations and attempts. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve been able to manage my stress enough so that I can prevent the cycle from getting past general and specific anxiety. General anxiety is simply anxiety that has been generalized to the world around me but has no specific focus. Specific anxiety is anxiety about upcoming events or anxiety as a response to individual triggers.
I’ve had plenty of triggers lately but I’ve been repressing a lot of my fears and worries so that I don’t have to deal with them. This is really a terrible way to go about things because eventually I must confront the sources of stress, but lately I have been unwilling to do so. There are two major areas of stress that I’m most concerned about.
First, the dentist. Dentists are my biggest phobia, which says a lot given that I have quite a few phobias. I haven’t had my teeth cleaned since I was 15. I don’t floss on a regular basis. All of my wisdom teeth are in. That said, last week I woke up as 6am with the most excruciating pain on the entire left side of my mouth. I have never been woken up by pain before. I took some Tylenol and begged God for the pain to go away so that I could go back to sleep. Neither worked in the slightest. By 9am I called my mom and told her that I needed help. She advised me to start calling dental offices in town and try to find one that takes Medicaid. So I got up, got dressed, walked Sheriff, then found the phone book. I called office after office with no luck. Finally, I found one that could get me in to see the dentist in about 2 hours. I told my mom and she said she would meet me there.
On the new patient form, I listed that I have paranoid schizophrenia at least 3 times. I wanted to make it very clear that not only was I phobic, but my paranoia played into my fear as well. I’m phobic that the dentist is going to cause harm to me or accidentally poke me in the gums or tell me that I need some painful procedure performed. I’m paranoid that the dentist wants to cause me as much pain as possible just for the heck of it. When the hygienist came in, my mom asked her if she had read my chart. She had. My mom then explained that anything that needed to be done should be explained to me first so that I would understand what was going on and therefore be less fearful. I believe this overwhelmed the hygienist because she simply left the room and came back with the dentist. My mom gave the same speech to the dentist. I was occupied with my entire body shaking and trying to prevent a panic attack triggered by simply sitting in a dental exam chair.
The dentist simply looked in my mouth with his mirror then tapped on my teeth to make sure I didn’t have a fracture or a specific tooth that was causing the pain. None of his tapping made the pain any worse. The dentist said he wanted to get some x-rays but he suspected my wisdom teeth were causing the pain. The x-rays confirmed this. He said the only solution was to have them all removed. Ladies and Gentlemen…this is the worst news I could have received. Now, not only to I have to live with this pain…but I have to go through more pain to get my wisdom teeth removed. Since no oral surgeon will take Medicaid in my city, I have to go to a town that is over an hour away. So in two weeks, they are going to do a consultation and then apply for Medicaid to approve of this procedure. The dentist stated that this process usually takes months. Great. Not only am I living with the knowledge that I have to have this done, I get to freak out about it for months.
Actually, I’ve talked to several people about it and they have all been very reassuring about the entire process so I’m feeling less anxious about the procedure. The most scary part at this point is that they are going to put me under with an IV which means a big needle which…Hey!…that’s another one of my phobias! Sigh.
I also am scheduled for a cleaning a week from today. My mom wants me to take all 3mgs of Xanax that I am allotted each day so that I will be super sedate for the cleaning. She doesn’t think I can handle it on my own. I’m not exactly comfortable with this so I think this will be a discussion point between me and her.
So that is half of my bottled up anxiety.
The other half involves the fact that I graduate in 2 weeks. All I have left is writing a paper and taking a final exam and I am through with being a psychology major. Why does this cause anxiety? Because that means I have two more sessions with my therapist. This I have really, super duper, been repressing. However, my therapist isn’t and so she tried to talk to me about it last week. I wouldn’t have anything to do with the conversation. I figured out what I have to do. Stay in college! So, I am going to pursue a second degree! This time, in Animal Science. I view this major to be significantly more difficult than a psychology degree because it is very heavy handed with the sciences. I’ll have to take Chem 2 (barely make it through Chem 1) and Genetics (scary!) and some other classes that really intimidate me. However, I feel that since I will have already earned one degree…I have little to worry about because they can’t take away my first degree just because I do poorly in my second degree. It involves a lot more freedom. It also involves the ability to keep seeing my current therapist! I fixed the problem and here we are.
Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. After my therapy session last week, I went to the movies with a friend and we saw Transformers. Halfway through the movie…it hits me. I’m going to lose my therapist. Immediately I’m trying to prevent myself from crying in the middle of an action movie. Then I’m trying to prevent a panic attack. My friend had no idea that this was going on. Then, I went so quickly through the cycle of stress–>anxiety–>panic that I also hit the delusion part. While trying to prevent a panic attack, I’m also fighting my brain which is telling me that Autobots and Decepticons are real and that they are going to try to take over the planet just like in the movie. I start fearing for my life because I don’t want some mean Decepticon shooting me with its giant gun. At that point, I knew I had a problem that needed to be addressed.
I went home and explained to my mom what was going on. I’d been working on trying to get some information about scholarships for mentally disabled people or people who specifically have schizophrenia. However, it was appearing to be the Spring semester before I could get those scholarships. Therefore, my mom and I worked out what my second degree should be in (Animal Science) and she agreed to pay for me to take one class through the Fall semester. By doing so, I stay enrolled as a college student and can continue therapy.
What really alarmed me about the entire process is how quickly my mind twisted the movie into a delusion. How quickly I went that far into the cycle. It was as if my mind broke open and was suddenly open to suggestion as far as what delusion I should suddenly be troubled by. I had known that losing a therapist would be difficult. Heck, when it happened two years ago I attempted to kill myself and spent a week in the hospital. I knew it would be problematic but I didn’t anticipate it to work that quickly.
I rarely whine about having schizophrenia. Instead, I try to embrace it and use it as a positive tool and aspect of myself. However, it is a real reality check when you chug along great for weeks and then suddenly have to deal with a new delusion. It only took a day to rationalize that delusion away but still…it was a big time reminder that I really have to watch myself. I really have to keep my stress and anxiety under control. It is also probably a warning about repressing such emotions.