Battling an autoimmune condition is difficult enough, but when my own brain decides to work against me, it can be even more challenging. Anxiety is one of my biggest foes, and while I have gotten better at handling it, I have yet to conquer it.
I went to my rheumatologist recently for my 4 millionth appointment — or so it felt. I have been seeing various rheumatologists for 19 years to treat granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), and I would think I would have been used to the appointments by now.
But no. Every time I go, I worry about it a week in advance. I have serious concerns: Will they find something wrong? Will they change my medication?
I also have ridiculous ones: What if my appointment is canceled and they didn’t tell me?
Anxiety is very good at creating these types of thoughts, which for me lead to sleepless nights and panic attacks.
I’ve had bad anxiety all my life. After my dad died in 2016, my anxiety became much worse. I started having panic attacks. The first couple of times I had them, I had no idea what was wrong, which creates more anxiety and worsens the panic attacks. Once, I ended up in urgent care at the hospital. I was shaking so badly I thought I was dying. I was not, but it wasn’t until later that I found out what was going on.
Not long after that, I developed high blood pressure. My primary care physician prescribed metoprolol, which also helps with anxiety. I don’t have panic attacks nearly as often as I used to, and my anxiety is better. Normally, I can feel an attack coming on, and I can handle it. But those appointments really hit me hard.
I usually have a panic attack before my appointment. That does not help my vitals. Nearly every time I go to the doctor, even my primary care physician, my pulse is high, my blood pressure is high, and I will have a slight fever. The pandemic has added more anxiety, as the doctors’ offices check for a fever beforehand. I stress that I will have one, and they won’t see me because of it. Thankfully, that has not happened.
For my recent appointment, I had a lot on my mind. I had to ask if I could get the COVID-19 vaccine, and I was concerned about lab tests for my liver. Last year, I had bad results, and there was a chance I would have to go off methotrexate. Obviously, I also was worried about any damage to my liver.
I also needed to request that I get my lab work done at a facility closer to my house, as the rheumatologist’s office is an hour away. I do not like driving that far after getting blood taken.
It turns out all the anxiety was for nothing, as is the case with me 95% of the time.
I can get the COVID-19 vaccine as long as I hold off on my methotrexate for one dose before I get it and one dose after. I am thrilled about that. My liver results were fine, as were all of my other test results. I was nervous about asking for a delay in lab work, because I thought the answer would be no. But it wasn’t, of course. Even my vitals were fine, somehow.
I have been successful in many battles with GPA, such as with fatigue, but the anxiety triggered by fear of the unknown surrounding this condition too often is too overwhelming for me. While I have gotten better at handling it, I hope to one day add this to my list of victories as well.
Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.
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