Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Quick Update (I'm not dead!)

Hey guys!

I know that it's been almost an entire month since my last blog post! Trust me, it eats at me every day that I haven't updated you all, especially because I have at least two blog posts floating around in my brain that I want to get done, including one that I "promised' to someone within a week... And it's been like three weeks since I said that. Nichole, I'm getting to it, I swear!

I just want to reassure you all that I'm not dead or missing! I have been feeling really under the weather lately. Last month I got pretty sick with just your basic cold/flu, and since then I really just have not been up to par. I'm not getting very much sleep (or, well, I am but my body thinks I'm not) so I'm exhausted, I'm often nauseated and have very little appetite (I've been living off of a lot of string cheese, tangerines, and chicken broth-- which is terrible, I know, but there are now more days where I am completely fine and can eat some full meals with no problem) and I have a headache every single day.

All of these seemingly basic symptoms appeared to just be really random-- until about a week ago, when I leaned over to pick something up off of the ground and a ton of clear fluid gushed out of one side of my nose. It absolutely scared the bejeezus out of me. I immediately asked Patrick if it was possible for your brain to leak out of your nose, and then I ignored him and started Googling and found that it actually IS possible for cerebral fluid to leak out of the nasal passage, and every one of the random (or so I thought) symptoms fit the scenario. This condition is called a Spontaneous CSF Leak, and even though I'm probably just being a hypochondriac, hearing this really scared me and I had a panic attack in the middle of Patrick teaching a class. He actually had to pause for a moment so he could make sure I was okay and calm me down because he could hear me gasping for breath from in his office. I can't remember the last time I was so absolutely terrified. I was shaking, sobbing, and I could not regulate my breathing. Unfortunately, the very first article I read on the subject was about a really severe case that ended in surgery, which is in my top five or so fears, and my anxiety shot through the roof. I really thought I was going to pass out from the panic attack. Eventually I ran out of energy and I stopped physically panicking, even though my brain was still going a thousand miles an hour, and I was able to keep reading up on the subject.

With a little bit more research, I found that is not super common but it is possible for you to experience a tear in the nasal cavity, especially after trauma to the head or face or even after having a severe cold (especially after taking a lot of cold medication and allowing the nasal passages to dry out, much like your skin would crack when it lacks moisture during the winter, combined with a lot of nose blowing-- which is something that I normally don't have an issue with when I have colds, but this one was really severe and I was blowing my nose constantly). This tear can cause cerebral fluid to leak out of the nose in short gushes when you bend over, and the frequency of this event is really what determines its severity. The tear itself is not much of a risk, but the outside access to the area surrounding the brain makes infection a concern-- but that's only if the tear doesn't heal, and judging from the amount of fluid that I experienced (I'm so sorry if this is TMI) combined with the fact that I only experienced this phenomenon once, I feel extremely confident that this will clear up on its own-- if that is even what's going on. Because I don't have health insurance (for a number of reasons that I would rather not get into), I'm doing everything I can to just take it easy. If the issue happens again, I will definitely seek medical assistance, but I would rather not spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for them to shove a camera up my nose just tell me that I need to rest.

I know that this is absolutely not confirmed, but I have not found a single alternative explanation for the sudden rush of fluid from my nose (it was definitely not a runny nose-- this is something I am 100% sure about), and all of the symptoms I've been having-- such as headaches that get worse throughout the day but feel better when you lay down, exhaustion, lack of appetite, and nausea-- are all explained by this issue. The interesting thing is that my symptoms were present for about two weeks before the leaky nose thing even happened, so it feels good to have a possible explanation for why I've been feeling like such crap. The best news is that this issue most often resolves itself with bed rest and staying hydrated, so that is what I've been trying to do.

I'm constantly exhausted. I actually have a new thing going on-- terrible dark circles under my eyes. I can't tell if this is because I'm getting older and my genetics are ganging up on me (my mom has terrible dark circles and has since her 20s), my allergies are going berserk (and allergens here in the Bay Area are pretty terrible right now), or if it's because of the above mentioned brain leaking issue and my lack of energy. If anyone has any tips or suggestions, please let me know! On a good day, I look sick. On a bad day, I look like a corpse with rosy cheeks. It's not pretty, and it's something that I'm struggling to battle with new makeup techniques, healthy foods, and proper hydration.

The other issue I've been having is that my anxiety is at an all-time high. I can't tell if this is because I'm just generally not feeling well and my body is out of whack or for other unknown reasons, but it seems like everything causes me pretty bad anxiety lately.

For example, Patrick was going to be in Sacramento for work this week (about 1.5 hours from our house), and it did not make sense at all for me to go so we decided I would stay home. Ever since we made the decision for me to stay home, I had a really nervous feeling about being alone and not being with Patrick, even though it was just a Monday afternoon through Thursday evening trip. I could not put my finger on why I was feeling this way (and I still can't), but I tried to swallow the feeling and just convince myself that going with him would be ridiculous and it would be much better if I stayed home. My hope was that the feeling would go away once he actually left.

My plan of "ignoring the problem until it goes away" did not work. As Patrick was loading his things into the car to leave, I called him panicking, absolutely freaking out, and unable to calm down. This is the hard part about anxiety. It's feeling that something terrible is about to happen and having no idea why you are feeling that way and knowing no way to fix it. It's watching a meteor come straight at the earth and having nothing to do but run around in circles and cry because life as you know it is about to end, which may seem like an exaggeration but to someone who has such severe anxiety, it is a very realistic scenario to compare the feeling to. When I was younger, I chalked it up to having somewhat of a "6th sense." If you've been friends with me for a long time, you may remember seeing texts or Facebook posts from me in the past asking for confirmation that you are alright, because I was absolutely convinced that these "bad feelings" were legitimate and that someone I knew was in grave peril. Now, I understand that it is just uncontrollable anxiety and no one is actually in danger (most likely). But I couldn't shake this feeling.

And so I am writing to you from Sacramento.

I don't know how I got so lucky, but I have a husband who is incredible when it comes to dealing with me and my anxiety. He doesn't quite understand it, and so he does get frustrated sometimes (understandably so, especially when it affects his plans-- specifically work plans that have little to no wiggle room), but he is always there to walk me through it and do whatever it takes to work with me-- even if it means dragging me with him on a business trip that I had no reason to go on and delaying him from getting on the road for about 45 minutes, which I know really stresses him out.

So anywho, this post is not to receive sympathy or well wishes-- I know anyone who is actually reading this cares about me and my well being, and as always I care about you all so so much. I know I am probably over reacting about the brain leakage and it's probably something completely explainable, but better safe than sorry. I just wanted to let you all know what's going on and why I've been a little but MIA lately so that no one worries. This also goes for people who I've recently had very little contact with on a regular basis. I'm sorry! I haven't forgotten anyone! Most of the time I'm just sitting in my PJs on the couch, sipping ice water and watching TV, trying to rest. Patrick and I will be in Pasadena at the end(ish) of the month, and we're fortunate enough to definitely have time to hit Disneyland and DCA, so at least expect a post about that in the near future! I hope everyone is keeping well!

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