Do you suppose that there are times in our lives when we are just more sensitive to the challenges that lie before us? Or are there just times when the numbers of challenges we face multiply compounding the stress in our lives exponentially? I am two and a half weeks removed from my last antidepressant medication dose. During the last two weeks I have been faced with an endless barrage of challenges that pick away at one of biggest anxiety vulnerabilities: illness.
I have written at length on this blog about the paralyzing fear I deal with when faced with the urge to vomit. Even after hours of therapy sessions spent talking about it, and hundreds of words written here about it I still feel ridiculous talking about it; however, the truth remains that it regularly effects my day to day life. I can get pretty paranoid about various stomach upsets, but I also tend to get worked up about your day to day cold type problems. Over the past two weeks I have been forced to deal with not only a nasty flu like cold rampaging through my family, but also a couple of the less common infections. I think we are finally nearing the end of this round of illness and none too soon.
It started early last week at the dinner table. My wife who was sitting at the head of the table begins talking about how one of the kids at day care has conjunctivitis. While she is telling the story I am watching my son who is sitting across from me. As the story continues I notice a little deposit of goop in the corner of his right eye. Had she not been telling this story I would have assumed it be little sleepy seed or something, but in the context of our current conversation I point it out. She wipes it away and within a half hour it has returned. She wipes it away again and a few minutes later comes the two year old sniffle “my eye hurts”. The next morning his mom rousts him to make it to the walk in hours at the pediatrician’s office, and yells into our room that there is nothing in his eye. Hearing this my two year old proudly reports that he “already picked the lint out of his eye”. I closer inspection of the bed reveals a pile of dry crusty nastiness next to his pillow, and in good light it is clear that his eye is red and swollen. The doctor confirms the diagnosis and we begin seven fun filled days of putting medicated drops in the eyes of a fighting, and surprisingly strong, toddler. Of course I, having just a smidge of hypochondriac in me, begin to have an itchy eye before we are away from the dinner table. My itchiness persists for several days to the point I seriously consider visiting the doctor, but I don’t and it passes.
During this same timeframe my father, whom I have been helping get ready for another commercial fishing season, and my mother both catch and awful cold. My wife and I have been spending a lot of time there lately as I work with my Dad and by the end of last week she is laid out by it.
As I am tiptoeing around eye gunk and snot my Dad develops a spot on his forehead. He initially says he hit his head on the boat and I don’t really worry about it. Several days of us working side by side go by when last Friday he finally asks my mother to take him to the ER. My dad is one of those goes who never sees a doctor so when he asks to go you don’t ask questions you just take him. That evening I get a call from my mother in the Hospital reporting my father has shingles and that because he had been picking at the rash it has become badly infected and they have started and IV antibiotic. She also tells me to keep an eye on my boy because you can catch Chicken Pox from Shingles.
So here is the thing. My two year old has had the Varicella vaccination. He is fine. My 35 year old self on the other hand has never had them. In my twenties I had a coworker get them and after I didn’t catch them I had a blood test to see if I was immune and I was not. Shortly after I had a vaccination shot. Ironically it wasn’t more than a couple months ago that I was casually reading something and stumbled across information that the adult vaccination consists of two shots six to eight weeks apart. I only had one. I figured on mentioning it to my doc next time I was in the office. I didn’t figure on my father getting shingles. My dad and I had planned to go out fishing over the weekend. Saturday was shot so he could return to the hospital for another IV, but Sunday looked good. I figured I had been pretty heavily exposed to the Shingles for nearly a week before I even knew what it was so I went ahead and went with him Sunday. I also saw him Monday though my exposure was quite limited. I haven’t seen him since and Sunday being the last day I had any real exposure it looks as if that I may be in the clear. Another couple days should tell the tale.
The result of all these happenings had been a marked increase in my anxiety. Monday was really bad and I had to fight off a few mild anxiety attacks. I could feel the panic rising in my chest, but I kept it in check. Tuesday and Wednesday saw the return of my gastrointestinal challenges, a problem I haven’t dealt with in months. Today was better, and I suspect that each day that passes without contracting an illness will lead to improved anxiety levels.
At this point I am not entirely sure how to feel. Dealing with all the sickness drama did not go as well as it would have when I was fully medicated with Klonopin, Wellbutrin, and Lexapro. On the other hand I am not sure it went a whole lot worse. There were a couple times when I felt things slipping, but I was able to reign things back in. At this point the good still far outweighs the bad, but if there was going to be a test to see if I could hack this I wish somebody would have told me