Anxiety bites

Fowlmere nature reserve on a beautiful autumn day

I think I’ve touched on my heightened level of anxiety during miscarriage in a previous post. I often see women in my Facebook support group talk about how they are feeling much more anxious in the time after their miscarriage, and it has been so comforting to see that I am not alone in this.

Recently, I read something about a correlation between grief and anxiety. It felt reassuring to read something written by a professional, which explained the link, and it reminded me of how little control we as humans have over our complicated emotions,  but how these emotions are something that link us all.

I had been aware of a feeling of anxiety since the moment I felt something wasn’t right with my pregnancy, but I could always relate it to something. I was anxious about the scan as I was dreading the outcome, I was anxious about the medical management of my miscarriage, I was anxious when they sent me home as I’d read about haemorrhaging. I was then anxious that the treatment hadn’t worked, and I was anxious about the next scan. I was anxious about the surgical management when it was confirmed that medical management hadn’t worked. You get the idea.

I devised little strategies to get me through the short term. I’d get my husband to phone me regularly if I was on my own in the house; I would make sure I went out for regular little walks as I thought at least if I collapsed in public someone would be able to do something; I took my phone to the toilet with me as I had overheard a nurse in the hospital talk about a patient who had gone to the toilet and haemorrhaged.

My relief after the surgical management, when I was assured the pregnancy had now passed, was tainted by an ongoing feeling of anxiety that I was going to get an infection, and I was constantly looking out for symptoms. The rational part of me knew that there was a really small chance of getting an infection (I think a 3% chance), but another part was was saying “yes, but there was a really small chance of the medical management not working, and that’s exactly what happened. So maybe chance isn’t on my side!”

One day, about a week after having the surgical management, I was working from home. I had done my usual thing of smugly waving Dave off whilst still in my dressing gown, then making a decadent breakfast for myself and going to choose a non-office based outfit for my comfy day at home. As I was about to go up the stairs, I suddenly felt a bit dizzy. As quickly as it came on, it was gone again. But then, about half an hour later, it happened again, and this time I felt quite light headed.

Now at this point, I did one helpful thing, and one thing which I can now see was very unhelpful.

Firstly, I took some paracetamol, with a sugary coffee, as I remember my mum telling me that this is the best way to get rid of a headache, as the paracetamol works with the caffeine, and the sugar perks you up and boosts your blood sugar levels (I’m not sure if that’s actual health advice but it certainly works for me!).

Next, I set about googling the symptoms of septicaemia.

Reader, I’ll let you decide which was the unhelpful thing.

Anyway, fast forward an hour or so, I had taken my temperature about twenty eight times, and it was recording anywhere between 35c and 36c. I was still feeling light headed and headachy and I could feel my heart racing. I was seriously panicking so I phoned the doctor and made an appointment, and cried at the poor receptionist when she asked if it was an emergency and whether I needed an appointment that day (top tip: crying down the phone will get you a doctor’s appointment pretty pronto!).

I remember my hands shaking as I put the phone down, and wondered if I would ever be able to say the word “miscarriage” without bursting into tears. I had another little cry, and then, just like a toddler who has a melt down and suddenly snaps out of it, my heart rate suddenly slowed down, and I felt a bit less worried that I was going to die.

I’d done all I could at that moment, and I was pretty sure I’d make it to 4.15pm, when I could see the doctor and let them decide if my symptoms were akin to septicaemia. I reasoned that if I keeled over on the way, someone would find me, and the fact I could see the hospital from our house has always given me some piece of mind that if shit really hits the fan, help isn’t too far away.

As is often the case when booking a doctors appointment, throughout the afternoon I started to feel better. But I was too embarrassed to phone and cancel the appointment, in case I spoke to the same receptionist who I had cried at and she thought I was a total loony and put some black mark on my record.

The doctor did the usual checks and said he didn’t think it was an infection. He didn’t know why I had felt unwell earlier but suggested that it might be anaemia caused by prolonged blood loss over the weeks it took for the miscarriage to finally have a physical end point.

The doctor then asked me, in a sort of sheepish, embarrassed tone, whether I wanted to “talk about the um…*cough*…emotional side of things?” It wasn’t lost on me that talking about my mental health made him more uncomfortable than asking me whether I had noticed any foul smelling discharge coming from my vagina. However, I can’t fault him, and actually I have so much respect for the fact that even though he felt visibly uncomfortable asking, he still asked. I think that was a good take home message – if talking about mental health makes you feel uncomfortable…do it anyway!!

Of course, I cried again, more out of relief that I wasn’t dying, and embarrassment over wasting the doctor’s time, than anything else, and through my hiccupy, snotty tears, I told him that I thought I was “still a bit sad”. The doctor told me that this all sounded totally normal, but to go back if I had “more down days than up days as time goes on” (good advice people!).

Looking back, I think what happened that day was actually an outpouring of anxiety. I think perhaps I felt a bit light headed, but then my mind went crazy with “what ifs”, and caused me to have an absolute meltdown.

I’ve since read that one of the reasons grief breeds anxiety (there are many reasons!) is that your grief has taught you that the worst can happen. So the part of my brain which normally tries to quell my anxiety by saying “what are the chances?” had now been silenced by the part of my brain which was saying “see, statistics aren’t on your side! Now keep googling so you can be fully clued up on all the other things that could go wrong”.

Walking back from the doctors that day, my thoughts slowed enough for me to gain a bit of clarity. I realised that I had been feeling hugely anxious up to now, and I was finally able to breath a bit and see that, for now, things were ok. And as the doctor had said, with time came more up days than down days, and with the up days came more clarity, and calmer thoughts.

So I guess what I’m saying is: stick with it people! All of these feelings will reduce with time, and are a totally normal part of your healing. Having said that, if you find this isn’t happening, heed the advice of my doctor and make an appointment to talk it through.

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