Health Update

I've made no secret of my poor physical (and mental) health this year but one thing I have realised is that I've never actually spoken matter-of-factly about what exactly was happening to my body and how I was dealing with it. In all honesty, this is mainly because I wasn't dealing with it - I was anxious, confused and depressed because I just couldn't figure out what was going on but finally, eleven months later, I've gotten to grips with everything and can now talk about it (semi)confidently. I thought I'd write this post to keep you guys in the loop, to possibly offer help/comfort to anyone else in a similar situation and for myself to read back on whenever I'm having a shaky moment. Get yourselves comfy, it's gonna be a long one!

The Issue. 
At the end of November last year I went to the cinema with my boyfriend to watch Mockingjay Part Two and I experienced acid reflux for the first time. I was already feeling a little unwell and was considering just not going to the cinema altogether but this particular evening was the only day Luke & I could go unless I wanted to wait another week, which I didn't. Before the cinema we stopped into McDonalds and I ordered some mozzarella dippers. I managed to eat one but generally just felt a bit gross so I left the rest. I felt quite hot and flustered and a little shaky but carried on into the screening... and then instantly began to panic because it was literally packed with people. I began to get this weird sensation in my throat, like I was going to be sick, which pushed me to panic even more because I have a huge phobia of being sick. Fast-forward ten minutes and we left the cinema, I was crying, still had this weird pressure in my throat and we asked Luke's mum to come and pick us up. I got into the back of the car feeling a little anxious and soon after we left the car park I had this pressure again, like I was definitely going to be sick. I burst into tears and started hyperventilating, got Luke's mum to pull over so I could get out and proceeded to have the most intense and public panic attack I've ever had. Luke and I carried on and walked home, I was still crying, anxious, truly devastated because I had to miss the film (if you know me you know how much The Hunger Games & Katniss mean to me) but overall just passed it off as a weird experience.
 
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I couldn't get into a car without the pressure in my throat and the sensation I was going to be sick. Every time I walked into a shop it happened, so soon I was terrified to leave my house because I genuinely thought it was sickness. One night I ate a few chips from the takeaway (v oily and fatty) and spent the entire night physically shaking with such extreme terror because every time I'd lie down to go to sleep the regurgitation sensation started again. I quickly stopped eating altogether because at this point I thought it was just nausea and spent all of December just eating bread, crackers and rice which are my safe foods. I quickly fell ill because I was eating so little and I can't even explain to you how bad I was mentally. I spent hours every day Googling my symptoms but as I misperceived the acid reflux as nausea I didn't get very far until a few days after Christmas when I finally found some information on acid reflux. My mum went out and bought me a giant bottle of Gaviscon and I finally, finally was able to find relief. Looking back now I can now see exactly what caused the acid reflux to trigger each time: the fatty foods, lying down without my head raised, eating little but bread but the biggest trigger was my own anxiety. I was so confused and so genuinely terrified that I was lost within a haze of anxiety and depression and it took a really, really long time for me to find my way out of it.   
 
Once I'd spoken to my doctor (several months later, when I was finally able to leave the house) and was officially diagnosed with acid reflux I went on the most horrific diet switch up fuelled by my panic and many hours spent on Google. I read every single horror story and applied them to myself despite my doctor telling me over and over that it was mainly anxiety-induced. I cut out almost everything and spent several months on a bare bones diet that triggered my IBS and left me miserable and honestly suicidal. It took me months until I was able to leave the house properly, even longer before I could get back into a car without panicking and even longer still before my mind and body began to heal itself. I was so constantly terrified that I was going to regurgitate again because my mind saved that experience at the cinema as an anxiety trigger.
 
I've now finally figured out exactly what triggers my acid reflux and what doesn't and I know it would have been sorted a lot sooner if I hadn't been so anxious but I couldn't help it. I felt so damaged, so terrified and so traumatised so intensely for such a long period of time that it left me in the worst state of depression that I've ever been in. I felt like I was never going to get better and it was so difficult to heal my body when my mind was such a mess. I was so desperate and sad and suicidal that even the smallest task was difficult. I don't want to brand 2016 as the year I almost died, but it genuinely was. I was floating along in this little bubble and it's genuinely like I didn't exist, I was so blind to everything besides how awful I felt. I'm happy to say that this isn't the case anymore and I'm finally beginning to feel better but fuck, it was so hard to live like that. Every single day felt impossible to me and I don't even know how I survived, but I did.
Advice.
I'm now in a place where I can genuinely look back on what happened and pick up on all of the little triggers I didn't realise at the time and I know what I can do in the future to help myself if I find I'm in that state again. Firstly: go to the doctors as soon as you can. If you physically can't make it to your GP surgery, ask for a phone appointment or a home visit. I left it much longer than I should have and I suffered as a result. Explain exactly what is happening to your body and mind even if you don't understand it because they will. They're much more qualified than Google.
 
Which leads me on to my next point: avoid Google and health forums like the fucking plague. Health forums are literally a place people spread panic and they are NEVER helpful. They're full of horror stories and it's a very inaccurate place to gain insight into any given condition as the healthy people aren't there to show it's not the end of the world. Other people's stories are great but I found no comfort in them, they only fuelled the anxiety. An anxious mind isn't always rational so it's always best to go to a professional who can help you talk through things.
 
That being said, I do have a few little bits of advice that helped relieve my acid reflux then and still continue to do so: avoid eating too soon before bedtime. My body digests food within around 2-3 hours so I make sure I don't eat after 7pm to give my stomach plenty of time to do it's thang before I go to sleep. Following along that train of thought, I sleep with my head raised on a few pillows. This prevents the acid coming back up into my throat when I'm led flat and means I can sleep without needing to take medication. I'm not going to go into too much detail as far as my diet is concerned because that's where I personally got myself into a state and it differs with everyone, but I have completely given up dairy and fatty foods. This in turn has helped my overall health and IBS so it was a win-win, really. Gluten is still a funny one for me and I'm still experimenting but I found white bread was a huge trigger for me, so of course I've cut that out. Other breads like 50/50 or wholegrain are okay most of the time if I go easy and don't eat five slices a day like I used to.
 
P h e w. I can't even tell you how good it felt to write all of that! I almost can't even comprehend how awful I felt anymore - like it's something separate and other that happened that doesn't make sense in my life now. I'm glad I'm still here, I'm glad I'm getting the medical help that I need and I hope that somehow, eventually, this horrible period in my life will hold some meaning or will offer comfort to someone else going through anything similar. Thank you for sticking by me this year even though I've been a complete and utter mess - you da real MVP. xx
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If you liked this post, you may enjoy 4 Distraction Techniques For Anxiety or Things My Anxiety Tells Me.
 

8 comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I can't even begin to imagine how you must have felt going through all that. I think you are so brave, though, and I have so much respect for you for posting this on your blog so that others feeling a similar way can find some hope, or comfort. And I'm really glad that you are feeling much better now! x www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

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  2. I am so so so glad you finally got your diagnosis and are feeling better again. I can't even imagine how horrible it would have been. I get acid reflux, but only once or twice a week and it doesn't trigger my anxiety (thank god). Mine is usually set off by drinking a lot of liquid, and then eating dairy on top of that, and is definitely worse when I lay down.Thank you for all the tips on managing it!

    Steph - www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

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  3. I've been suffering with stomach and heart burn issues for a while (since last year) and my parents keep telling me that it's acid reflux. I haven't visited the doctor yet because I'm scared they will find something worse. I've researched online but I haven't found anything helpful. Does acid reflux effect your stomach and do you get any heartburn or do you think I have something else? I know your not a doctor but any advice would be nice. This post was already pretty helpful. ♥

    mooeyandfriends.blogspot.com

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  4. Lauten i am so proud of you for writing this; cannot imagine how hard it was but it's honestly helped me so much too. I actually have a lot of experience with acid reflux but have never really heard anyone talk about it before! It is partly recovery refeeding/IBS but also anxiety. PTW During hospital treatment i had a BIG problem with acid reflux after meals/snacks and i won't go into detail but i was unwell to the point of physical sickness, which distressed me so much due to my history of bulimia. like i said i wont go into detail as the LAST thing i want to do it trigger, but just to hopefully show you're not alone with this - it is HORRIBLE and until you've experienced it you can't ever understand. It's scary.

    Finding your blog has been a silver lining for me in the 2016 nightmare - i've basically written this year off for health reasons too. It does feel like a lost year but, like you, i have to look at the progress i HAVE made and keep looking forward.

    All my love xxx

    Ps: gavascon is a godsend! I also find peppermint tea helps me xxx

    Bumble and Be

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  5. Oh Lauren you poor thing :-( You're so strong getting through all this. I experienced anxiety, acid reflux & IBS all at the same time a few years ago and it was horrendous. And like you I have the phobia of being sick and it really does cause me to panic. I can totally relate to what you've been through. I'm glad things are getting better and all that we survive only makes us stronger. Thanks for sharing xx

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  6. Oh boo! That sounds horrible.
    I have the same type of issue where my mental health affects my chronic health problems, which in turn triggers my mental health and so on. I end up in a bit of a Catch-22 situation with it and it's so hard to pull yourself up. I'm so proud of you for getting through this!
    Imogen’s Typewriter. <3

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  7. Lauren, you are so so brave for writing about this! Reading this whole thing spoke to me so deeply. I struggle with anxiety too a lot of times, but I don't experience panic attacks and such. But I do know it can seriously get out of control sometimes. I'm not completely familiar with acid reflux, but what you went through must've been beyond difficult. I loved reading through the advice section, SO TOTALLY AGREE on the whole health forum thing. At my lowest point in depression, I would visit them *daily* and would literally feel panicked everyday thinking I was either dying or going crazy. There are so many that you can find online but they're honestly just going to make you feel like you're in hell and in a *horrible* situation, when there actually is a solution we have yet to discover.
    I know I've been following your blog for a while now but I can honestly say that you're one of the strongest people ever to be able to overcome this and find a way out, making your life better for yourself and now sharing about it. So glad that you're doing okay and I hope you always remember to be kind to yourself. You're going to inspire so many people in your lifetime. x
    Have a great rest of the week! <3

    Joanne | Life in Blue Skies

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  8. I'm so glad you managed to get the answers you needed. You've been through a lot this year, you've come out the other side and by sharing this I'm sure you've helped people. <3

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