Greetings to all,
I am new to this forum, and just wondered if anyone can relate to my story.
First of all, I am a 32-year-old woman who has always been "sensitive" and "highly reactive" to stressful situations. I'm one of those types that can pick up an energy in a room and really empathize with people's moods. Sometimes I feel the need to distance myself from things just to form a psychological barrier, if you will.
I am deeply affected by major life changes, as I suppose we all are to varying degrees. The onset of my mystery aliment began in 2000 after my beloved maternal grandmother died of pancreatic cancer (though not unexpected, it was very difficult for me. I was almost 23 at the time). That year, I was also facing a lot of other life changes: Graduating college, my younger sister was getting married, and I was moving to a city a few hours from the only home I had ever known, hoping to find my first job out of college). At any rate, after my grandma's death, I began having more frequent panic attacks (I used to even have them now and then as a child). Convinced I was suffering from cancer like my grandma had, I began having "phantom pains" in my side and even had an upper GI done, and they found nothing. The pains subsided over time. In the meantime, I developed something like an anxiety-related eating disorder, where I was convinced I would choke on my food unless I smashed it up and ate really, really slowly. A few times, I had panic attacks while eating that really freaked me out. Already naturally thin (at the time, I was 5-foot-six and weighed 110 pounds) I really couldn't afford to lose weight. Yet, eating was very difficult because I always felt "threatened" by the experience: What if I choked?
Over time, this issue subsided somewhat, but I still don't take a whole lot of joy in eating --or at least in making food for myself. Stuff just sits and sits in the refrigerator after I eat it...I often have to throw things away. I feel ashamed of this. However, I am now at a healthier weight (120 pounds) and don't look malnourished.
I'm married now to a wonderful guy, but there is some stress in our marriage related to intimacy (I'm often "not in the moood" and tense about things; this frustrates both of us). He wants to have kids right away, but I am rather traumitized about the idea of giving birth (I was a premature baby in the 1970s-only weighed 1 Ib. 15 oz at birth, but survived without longstanding complications). At any rate, medical environments in general freak me out...I think doctors think I'm a hypochondriac.
So, there is stress in that situation. I work part-time in a public library, a job I like, though it is not as mentally-challenging as I would like.
Meanwhile, over the course of the last 10 years, I have had the following chronic symptoms:
1. Muscle aching and pain, particularly in the upper back/shoulder/neck area, worse in the morning, feel like on old person even though I am only 32;
2. Pressure in sinuses; antibiotics don't seem to help; if I lay raised up on lots of pillows the pressure seems to worsen; occasional sneezing, no itching, swollen glands feeling, no temperature;
3. Constant fatigue; non-refreshing sleep; quick to awaken in the middle of the night;
4. IBS symptoms that seem worse in the morning after dealing with congestion at night, alternating diarreah/constipation...may also have lactose intolerance because my mom has a severe case of it starting when she was about my age; my nasal congestion and the spastic colon thing seem linked;
5. I always look tired: Dark circles under my eyes, looked "dragged down"
6. Tight muscle knots in back, mostly, that I can feel when pressed upon; fibromyalgia-like tender points, seems to wax and wane according to the day; I can still function but just don't feel very good most of the time...
7. Am on Atenolol for potential high blood pressure and also related to anxiety attacks...don't have panic attacks as often anymore, but still have anxiety...last blood pressure check at the doctor's was 130/78...
So, that is basically it. The overall feeling I have is that I seem to react to stress more severely than perhaps the average person, and over many years, this has seemed to wear me down. Even just a slightly catrostrophic thought and I can feel my body start to get anxious. It's just like flipping a switch.