panic, anxiety, and sinus infections

So, the thing that has pushed me into this transformation season is a sinus infection that led to something else that led to a nerve in my face getting angry. That nerve just so happens to be the trigeminal nerve– the one in charge of three areas of your face and can effect your eye, nose, tongue, and jaw/chin. What I have experienced so far with it is a lot of pain and pressure and burning in the sinus area. When I get a headache, the inflammation causes the nerve to inflame as well and can ache along with the headache. I want to be completely honest and open about how this new experience has affected me. Perhaps you’re also in a similar situation, experiencing something new and totally freaked out about it. Well, you’re not alone, friend, be it emotional, spiritual, physical, or all of those things. This experience has connected me more deeply with the human experience, which is a good thing because I know it is developing deeper compassion and empathy in me, and for that I am grateful.

This all started back in November after the sinus infection and whatever else I had going on in my body at that time, although it is a mystery. I went on an antibiotic and that helped the sinus infection clear up, but I still had fluid backed up in my ears, and an ache in my left ear, particularly. I went to see an ENT doctor and he couldn’t find anything wrong. I went to the ER twice and the second visit got me closer to where I needed to be, which was a neurologist, which was super intimidating. Before I move on, I’ll say that the sinus infection (first time for one of those, by the way) triggered my sympathetic nervous system and I went on high alert with panic attacks and anxiety reaching a level I don’t remember experiencing before. I was very close to putting myself on anti-anxiety medication. I went through several weeks of that. I couldn’t sleep. My body was pumping out adrenaline keeping me awake, and I was frustrated at my body for not letting me sleep. I experienced all kinds of emotion. Eventually, the panic attacks lessened and my body has been recovering after this period of about two months or so. During that period I was also performing my own investigation into this trigeminal nerve situation. I was reading stories and experiences other people had with this nerve and it was terrifying. In short, I was stuck in this vicious cycle of panic, fear and anxiety.

I went to see the neurologist, who doesn’t think this is anything serious. So my analytical mind took over, based on my own investigations. How can she know for sure this isn’t something more serious? This “research”, a.k.a. typing my symptoms in Safari on my phone, has shown X, Y and Z can be happening, doesn’t she know that?! She put me on some medication and told me to call her back in a month to let her know how I am doing. I call back because I desperately want to stop taking the medicine, and she says to keep taking it for three months and to call her again at the end of March. Ugggghhh! In other words, she needs to wait and see how my body responds to this. It is in an unknown stage for now, which means I have to wait. Wait and trust and cultivate patience. It was very hard for me at first, and it is still hard. It is only February 10th for goodness sake! We’ll see what she says in March, but I will be going back in for a follow up in person in June.

What have I learned from this? Well, for one, Dr. Nicole La Pera who calls herself the Holistic Psychologist, says that anxiety and panic are our teachers. Anxiety comes up to show us what needs healed, that we have work to do to face it and then work to do to heal it. She teaches methods that help individuals do their own soul work, and recommends doing breath work, meditation (which I will talk a lot about soon), mindfulness/awareness, exercise and nutrition. She also recommends doing these things daily which is something I have had a hard time with ever since I started a few years ago. Consistency is important for producing lasting change. But it’s hard to start a new regimen without our own inner resistance. And resistance has definitely come up for me.

So what I want to emphasize here is that I am learning that this requires a lot of work, that anxiety, fear and panic have surfaced to show me something else below the surface. For me, it has been facing fear of death and illness and recovering from an overload of accumulated stress from 2019. The anxiety was also present because it is the start of a brand new decade and we are currently in a season of transition as a family. All I can see in front of me is the great, vast unknown. But as I wake each day and step into the unknown, I am learning that it is okay to settle in to this discomfort of not knowing what is ahead. I am learning that real peace is experienced even inside of the tornado and that God speaks out of the storm. After three months, I am more at peace as I wait and actively participate in the unfolding of life. I had a dream a few weeks ago that Andy and I encountered this massive tornado. In the dream, I was completely at peace, even with this tornado in view ahead, a direct threat to our safety. We turned the car around and went back to the house where we were. As we checked the house for a storm cellar, suddenly the sky turned blue and the sun came out and the threat vanished completely. I have prayed about this dream, seeking God for meaning and application to this current experience. All I can muster is the wisdom that tells me that the thing I see as a threat might not actually be a threat at all and that I can trust in Divine Mystery, the Source of Love, to guide my life. I plan to update the blog as life unfolds this year. We are on our own journey and I know you are, too. It’s good to be on this journey with you.

In the meantime, to be an active participant in life’s unfolding, I have been focusing on nutrition. I’m learning some things about the gut-brain connection and about the importance of nutrition. So what I am doing is cutting out sugar (almost completely, except for fruit), increasing the amount of vegetables I eat, and cooking all of my meals at home. I have tried the meal planning thing before, but failed while listening to Penelope who is that limiting narrative in my head, telling me “I can’t”. Well, maybe Penelope can’t, but my True Self knows I can. So I printed a meal planning sheet, and have begun to plan out our meals ahead of time. I am also incorporating exercise and yoga, and lots and lots of contemplative prayer and meditation. Again, I will talk about meditation in another post. As I get into the swing of meal planning and prep, I have given myself until the start of spring to keep this as a focus until I feel more comfortable and it becomes my new habit. After that, I will begin to focus on yoga and exercise. My goal with exercise is to develop a daily regimen. I still have to figure out how it will work for me, but that will be what comes next this year. I have to say, I am finding myself thoroughly enjoying the meal planning and prep project! It’s fun perusing Pinterest for inspiration and I am opening up to creating new dishes that are good for our bodies. And I am learning new things as well. Asher isn’t enjoying this project at all, though. He is challenging with his eating, so I need to get creative and figure out how I can disguise his veggies. I found a recipe for chocolate spinach muffins. I’ll let you know what he thinks about them!

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